We Are Improving!

We hope that you'll find our new look appealing and the site easier to navigate than before. Please pardon any 404's that you may see, we're trying to tidy those up!  Should you find yourself on a 404 page please use the search feature in the navigation bar.  

Star InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar Inactive

Roanoke Rapids parks and recreation today officially dedicated the Aquatic Center in honor of the department’s retired director Chris Wicker, who was instrumental in bringing the indoor pool to the city.

“It’s an honor for me to stand here before you,” current Director John Simeon told Wicker during the ceremony. “You’ve been my mentor, my leader and my friend for 28 years.”

Mayor’s remarks

Mayor Emery Doughtie said, “It’s a joyful day in the life of our community to rename the Roanoke Rapids Aquatic Center in the honor of our former director of parks and recreation Mr. Chris Wicker.”

Doughtie said, “The way this came about there were a lot of requests from people just like you all who are here today and contacted our city council and our city leaders and asked that it be named for Chris. I think that speaks volumes of the work that you have done over your career here.”

In November, when the council approved a resolution to rename the facility, Doughtie said he remembered Wicker’s words “that the parks, the aquatic center, the trail — all the things he worked very diligently on — are things that help families be able to ‘re-create.’ Think about today’s world where we try so hard to find things that will help our young people or help our old people, help people who are working, help people that are out of work.”

The mayor said it does his heart good to hear people like Wicker acknowledge where their inner strength, where their joy in life comes from — that being his strong spiritual faith.

Doughtie described Wicker as a man who will humble himself to help his neighbor. “I believe that Mr. Wicker will work until the end. I believe he knows that’s what we are commanded to do. I think this community has made you feel honorable, respected and we appreciate all that you have done.”

‘I think of a good Christian man’

Roanoke Rapids City Councilwoman Sandra Bryant, who serves on the parks and recreation advisory board, said when she hears Wicker’s name, “I think of a good Christian man, a man with good character.”

Bryant and Wicker’s children attended school together and played soccer together for a while, she said. 

She described Wicker as a person who has a vast knowledge of the Roanoke Valley and its history. “Chris just has a wealth of knowledge and has shared so much of his life with our community. We honor you today with this small contribution of naming the aquatic center after you.”

City manager’s comments

City Manager Kelly Traynham, who Simeon credited for assisting the department in preparing for the ceremony, said, “I stand up here and think about Chris and the things people are saying and at times you probably thought I’m just doing my job. You have a part in changing people’s lives — not just with the children but with the adults that come in.”

Traynham said her son had suggested calling the center the pool of life, which led her to think of ways a pool can affect a community. “When deciding to relocate to Roanoke Rapids, the fact that the city has an indoor pool and an outdoor pool made it encouraging. It was one of the reasons I said we should move here.”

She said in 1992 when the idea for an aquatic center came to the forefront, it was done so not just by an individual but the community through a referendum. “This facility is here for everyone. This pool is in a residential community. People can walk here. They can drive. They can ride their bikes. You have a pool basically in your backyard.”

The city manager said, “Pools improve community bonds. It allows people to come together. They serve all people.”

Facilities like the aquatic center add to recreational and property values, she said. “A swimming pool allows for fitness, allows for family time. It allows something for people of all ages and abilities.”

Traynham told Wicker she appreciated that the facility was here. “You’re an outstanding public servant and from one public servant to another, thank you. We don’t often realize the impact we have on the lives around us just by doing our jobs, but it takes a special person. To be a public servant often requires you to think about others instead of yourself first.”

Thoughts from a son

In introducing Wicker’s son Lee, Simeon said he has “seen everything that his father has done when he was here growing up whether it was on the soccer field, the walks on the canal trail, the family time you had.”

Lee had to check his emotions before he began speaking about his father. “Today is a very proud day for our family,” he said, choking back tears. “After hearing about dad and the honor of the aquatic center being named after him, I’ve been reflecting about the impact of the parks and rec department on my life and Roanoke Rapids over the past few months.”

He said he saw many changes in the city over the years. “I got to see the expansion of the T.J. Davis Center, I got to see the aquatic center being built. Dad and I went down to the canal trail and he showed me some of the old infrastructure and I got to see the canal trail being established.”

He recalls seeing the Roanoke Canal Museum transformed from “a dilapidated, old rundown building to a really nice museum. It’s kind of neat to see that impact in the town over the years.”

Lee said his first steps were in the baby pool where he would take a few steps forward before falling and having his mother Jan be there to pick him up. “I learned to swim in the outdoor pool and took many laps in the aquatic center.”

As he choked back tears again, he said, “I can hear dad saying ‘but all that was a team effort,’ so I just want to say I’m proud of my dad and his part on that team and to say it was a career well spent.”

‘Chris saw potential in me’

Wicker hired Assistant Parks and Recreation Director Kelly Daughtry for a summer job in 1998 and then in 2000 as the program assistant at T.J. Davis. 

She said it was Wicker who encouraged her to apply for the senior center supervisor job. “It really turned out to be one of the best things to happen to me professionally because I learned a lot in that role. I learned a lot from the seniors.”

Daughtry attributes her ascension through the department to Wicker. “Chris saw potential in me that I did not see in myself at the time. I respect him so much as a professional and a person. He worked tirelessly for the city and he provided excellent opportunities for our citizens and I admire him so much for that. He was a great mentor.”

Even though there were times they would agree to disagree, Daughtry said Wicker “worked harder than anybody to make sure everything was done for the citizens of Roanoke Rapids through parks and recreation.”

Said Simeon: “When you came here you had a vision. You talked about honesty, integrity, and to treat people equally and with respect. Every day we put these shirts on, we still follow your guidance. It’s been 14 years since you retired but over those 14 years, you were a big impact and are still with us every day.”

‘Blessed to work’

Wicker took the microphone after Daughtry read key parts of the resolution honoring him. “I feel very blessed that God called me to this career. I was blessed to work on a lot of great projects, a lot of great programs, but I never did anything by myself. It was always with a great team.”

The aquatic center is a benefit to the community, he said. “We’ve had people come into this center who had to have assistance to get into the pool to an arthritis program and within a few weeks some of them could end up driving themselves here and then go shopping by themselves which they could not do before participating in the arthritis program.”

Wicker closed, saying, “I have been richly blessed. I never thought in my wildest dreams when 45 years ago when I was going down to an interview in Moore County God laid this proverb on my heart — Trust in the Lord with all your heart, don’t lean on your own understanding, acknowledge him in all your ways and he may split your paths.

“I felt called to be an athletic director and he (God) has done amazing things in my life through the privilege of working in parks and recreation. The service we provide is a chance for people to ‘re-create’ themselves in body, mind, and spirit.”

Said Wicker: “I felt it a privilege to work here and blessed to be working as if I was working for him.”