YOUR FRIENDS AND NEIGHBORS: Wanda Stalcup
This is one of an occasional series of articles that draws attention to ordinary Cherokee County residents and their extraordinary lives.
Murphy – Wanda Stalcup, born Wanda Rolland, was raised by her grandparents after her mother and father separated when she was only 2 years old.
“When my mother and father separated, they were going to put me and my two other siblings in an orphanage,” Stalcup said. “They couldn’t find an orphanage that would take all three of us, so they wanted to separate us and put each in a different one. My grandfather didn’t want us separated, so he took all three of us.”
Her grandparents already had 13 children of their own. Once Stalcup and her siblings joined the family, 16 children were being raised by her grandparents. Stalcup is the youngest.
“Even though I didn’t have a mother or father, I had a grandfather. He was my mother, father and best friend,” Stalcup said. “I was never close to my grandmother because I always followed my grandfather. Everywhere he went, I went.
“He was always so honest. When people bought a bushel of beans, they would really be purchasing a bushel and a half. That’s what kind of man he was. He was honest and hardworking.”
Stalcup’s grandfather was an old-fashioned Baptist preacher and always pastored a church.
“On Sundays, we never got up and wondered if we were going to church. We knew we were going,” Stalcup said. “We may not have known which church, but we knew we were going.”
Stalcup went to Peachtree School until eighth grade. She had speech problems and took classes for seven years. Stalcup played basketball and softball.
“For our softball games, they would put us on the back of a truck and we would ride to other schools,” Stalcup said. “In basketball, we had rovers. It’s different now, but back then we had rovers who could run fast but couldn’t shoot the ball in the basket. I was a rover because I couldn’t shoot, but I could run.”
Stalcup has always understood the meaning of hard work. To afford breakfast at school, she cleared tables, straightened chairs and swept floors after meals. From grades 1-8, she would help in the lunch room.
Her hard work didn’t stop there. During high school, she continued to put in extra time and effort into every aspect of her daily life.
“I graduated from Murphy High School in 1973,” Stalcup said. “I took distributed education through school, and I started dating my husband. We dated until I was a senior in high school, and got married during my senior year.”
Stalcup was still taking distributed education and got out a half day of school during her senior year. The rest of the time she worked the nightshift at Clifton.
“Through my senior year, I would get up every morning about 6 from mine and my husband’s home in Andrews and get to Murphy for school by 8, leave school at 12, drive back to Andrews and do my housework, leave at 2:30 and drive to Peachtree to work, and then I wouldn’t get off until 11 every night,” Stalcup said. “I didn’t get home until 11:30 or 12 every night.”
After Stalcup graduated, she started doing home vendor work, which she continued for about 20 years so she could stay home with her children. Once a week, she would take her work back to Clifton and pick up more.
“My husband is Bobby Stalcup. We’ve been married 44 years,” Stalcup said. “He worked at Ingles for 20 years and managed Ingles in Robbinsville for a while. When he retired from that, he went to the school system and drove a school bus for 20 years. He is now retired.”
Stalcup would go on to do bigger things by becoming director of the Cherokee County Historical Museum downtown. The museum opened in 1977, and Stalcup is going on her 20th year.
“Herman West purchased Mr. Palmer’s museum collection at Marble. Mr. Palmer collected it for over 50 years, and Mr. West made it available to us, so that’s how the museum got started in 1977,” Stalcup said.
“When I came here, about 80 percent of the items were Mr. Palmer’s. But over the 20 years I have been here, only probably 20 percent are Mr. Palmer’s, and the rest have been donated.”
By working in the museum, Stalcup believes she has learned even more about history, which she loves.
“I have learned a lot about history, and I have always enjoyed it,” Stalcup said. “When I graduated eighth grade, I received an award for loving and enjoying history more than anyone my teacher had ever seen. I am also fascinated with artifacts. I collected Native American beads for 40 years.”
Another accomplishment for Stalcup is the writing and publishing her own book, How I Saw Cherokee County.
“I wrote the book in memory of my grandfather. The book tells how we were raised, how we worked on the farm,” Stalcup said.
“My grandfather traded a T-model for 80 acres. We farmed the acres and raised basically everything we ate. We caned it, dried it, put it in a hole and buried it. Our only cash crop was tobacco. My grandfather raised it, and every year at Christmastime he would take it to the tobacco market in Asheville and auction it off. He sold it to help pay for taxes and things we didn’t raise, like sugar.”
When asked how she wants to be known, Stalcup said, “I want to be known for being a caring person. I usually think of others before I think of myself. I like to give people the benefit of the doubt. I do believe in honesty, and I don’t tolerate thieves or liars.
“I like to think I’m a good wife and mother, and most of all have done what the Lord would have me to do. I think I’ve made an impact on the people around me by helping others. Like the Bible says, it’s more of a blessing to give than receive.”
Stalcup’s grandfather shaped her into who she is today. “He taught me the value of life. He was a Christian, and had morals and standards, and he lived by them and expected us to live by them, too,” Stalcup said. “He was the best Christian man I have ever known.”
Stalcup’s favorite quote is, “Do good for evil and overcome evil with good.” “It’s easy to quote, but hard for most to live by,” she added.
To nominate someone for Your Friends & Neighbors, please call Editor Matthew Osborne at 837-5122 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.