Giants, Folk Artists and Dick Trickle: 6 North Carolina Graves to Visit

To commemorate the first few lines of his short story "The Gift of the Magi," fans still leave $1.87 in change on the North Carolina grave of legendary writer O. Henry. (Image via Historic Riverside Cemetery in Asheville)

By Billy Ball

October 4, 2021

North Carolina has had its share of big names buried here. But Cardinal & Pine takes you to some of the lesser-known resting places.

If life is a book, cemeteries are the index.

They’re not particularly festive places, sure, but they are rich in history. (Side perk: They’re about as peaceful a place as you’re going to find in our loud world.)

And if you’re the slightly morbid type, they’re also a great place to find the people who impacted our world in ways big and small. 

North Carolina has its fair share of famous final resting places, but we wanted to spotlight some of the lesser-known places as well as the giants. Like, literally, the giants. 

Find the resting place. Check out the memorials left there by fans. And please, above all, be respectful. 

Elizabeth Duncan Koontz, Education Reformer

The education reformer Elizabeth Koontz is a Salisbury native who hasn’t gotten her due yet outside of North Carolina.

Koontz spent three decades as an educator in North Carolina, but before that she grew up in the state’s segregated schools in the 1930s. Her experience informed her work in education. She was a deeply respected advocate for racial and gender equality. 

Along the way, Koontz broke big barriers, becoming the first Black leader of the National Education Association in 1968 and a year later being named the first Black head of the US Department of Labor Women’s Bureau. One of her biggest accomplishments with the NEA, which advocates for teachers across the nation, was creating a division specifically to consider civil rights.

“Whether it is in education or in other aspects of life, complete integration must become the goal of all Americans,” Koontz wrote in an essay in Ebony magazine in 1970.

Koontz is buried in Oakdale Union Hill Cemetery in her native Salisbury. Fittingly, her hometown named a new elementary school after her in 2006.

Andre “The Giant” Roussimoff, Wrestler & Actor

Ok, so it’s not technically a grave. But the French wrestler and actor’s remains were spread at his Ellerbe, N.C., ranch after his death in 1993. But this one still counts. 

To my generation, Andre was an icon. 

Standing at a towering 7’4,” he earned a massive following as a pro wrestling star, squaring off with the likes of Hulk Hogan in record-breaking pay-per-view events of the 1980s. His favorite role, however, was playing the gentle giant Fezzik in the 1987 film “The Princess Bride.”

On that note, “Anybody want a peanut?” is still one of the best lines from a movie with a boatload of great lines.

O. Henry, Writer

Born William Sydney Porter, this native of Greensboro better known as “O. Henry” was one of America’s greatest short story writers. He lived a short life too, dying at the age of 47 from alcohol-induced cirrhosis of the liver.

Along the way, he published hundreds of short stories, including classics like “The Gift of the Magi” and “The Ransom of Red Chief.” Henry was known for his surprise “a-ha” endings. It’s the twist that gets you, isn’t it?

He’s buried in Riverside Cemetery in Asheville. Fun fact: As a shout-out to the opening lines of “The Gift of the Magi” — “One dollar and eighty-seven cents. That was all. And sixty cents of it was in pennies.” — folks have been leaving exactly $1.87 in change on Porter’s grave for decades. 

Minnie Evans, Folk Artist

A brilliant folk artist born in Pender County, Minnie Evans is known for her brilliant (and colorful) depictions of nature and Biblical scenes.

Evans grew up in the Wilmington area. She was an imaginative child, but she didn’t begin making art until later in life at the age of 43. Evans said she wanted to capture her dreams and visions, initially working with wax and crayons before moving into oils and graphite. 

Today, her art is extraordinarily rare and difficult to obtain, but highly regarded for its whimsy and imaginative design. 

She’s buried in Calvary Memorial Cemetery in Wilmington. 

William Hooper, Declaration of Independence Signer

Hooper was an American lawyer and politician who grew up in Boston, Mass., but he’s best known for being one of a couple North Carolina residents who signed the Declaration of Independence. 

Hooper’s political career was marked by his support for American freedom from Britain. He was an elected member of the First Continental Congress representing North Carolina. During the war, British loyalists torched his home to the ground and he was forced to flee into the woods.

He died in 1790 at the age of 48 and is buried in Hillsborough Old Town Cemetery in Hillsborough. 

Dick Trickle, Race Car Driver

For those of a certain age, Dick Trickle — born Richard Leroy Trickle in Wisconsin — was known for his career as a race car driver and legendary short track racer in the hotbed of North Carolina.

Trickle grew up in poverty and escaped it as a successful driver, rising to prominence in NASCAR’s booming late 1980s and 1990s. Some might remember him best for his “old-time” ways. It’s said that he drilled a hole in his race car helmet and installed a cigarette lighter in the car so he could smoke during a race.

But he’s also widely known for being a punch line because of his … amusing name. During their recaps of NASCAR races, ESPN “SportsCenter” anchors Dan Patrick and Keith Olbermann usually gave Trickle’s finishing spot (video at the 1:30 mark) regardless of whether he was competitive.  

After his death in 2013, he was buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery and Mausoleum in Lincoln County, N.C.


  • Billy Ball

    Billy Ball is Cardinal & Pine's senior community editor. He’s covered local, state and national politics, government, education, criminal justice, the environment and immigration in North Carolina for almost two decades, winning state, regional and national awards for his reporting and commentary.

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