DUNN – Freddie Williford, the founder of Sherry’s Bakery and a man known for helping shape downtown Dunn, died early Tuesday morning.
He was 88.
“It’s a shock for sure,” said Fred Williford of his father’s death. “But he lived a good life. We’re very proud of him.”
Freddie Williford opened Sherry’s Bakery in 1967 while still working full-time for Sunbeam Bread company. Williford pulled double duty for more than a decade, working 12-hour days before finally shifting his full-time focus on Sherry’s.
“He would run his bread route and come back here and run the grill at lunch,” said Fred Williford, the current manager at Sherry’s. “He made supervisor at Sunbeam before retiring in 1983 and coming here.”
Throughout the years, Freddie Williford played a pivotal role in growing the downtown area, joining other like-minded business owners who believed in Dunn’s potential. He eventually developed the nickname “Mr. Community Pride” for his work with both the city and Harnett County.
“He’s been involved in so much stuff downtown,” said Fred Williford. “So many people thought so much of him. He did so much for so many people that no one knew about. He was involved with the church, and here and with the city. There are so many projects around here he’s been involved in.”
Freddie Williford stayed active throughout his life. When he wasn’t at Sherry’s, family could find him in his garden, planting corn, peas, butter beans, okra and collards.
“He would work a 4-acre garden and would give most of it away,” Fred said. “He would give to anyone who wanted it. He would plant 400 to 500 heads of collard greens. He would leave here, go home and he would stay in that garden until 8 or 9 o’clock and be back up here at 3 the next morning until he was 80-something years old. You would see him out there crawling down the rows with the sweat just pouring off him.”
He suffered a fall nearly two years ago that limited his mobility and eventually led to him stepping away from the bakery after five decades.
“He fell and had a concussion and had to stay at home,” Fred said. “Once he got to staying at home he realized he wasn’t able to go back. He had trouble getting around and accepted being at home. He’s always had good health. He took hardly any medications and his blood pressure was good, but it was just old age at the end. He was just wore out.”
Williford instilled that work ethic in his three children.
“He was just a fair person and he loved the city of Dunn,” said Sherry Baysa, one of Williford’s two daughters. “He loved to do for people. He was such a hard worker. He worked until he was 86 years old.
“He was just a good guy and he loved people. He loved to give, he loved his church and his family.”
The family tentatively scheduled a funeral service for Thursday morning at 11 at Spring Branch Baptist Church. Condolences started pouring in early Tuesday morning as word spread of Williford’s passing.
“I’ve been answering texts and phone calls all morning,” Fred Williford said. “News travels fast. We’re taking it pretty well and we know he’s in a better place.”
Freddie Williford’s wife, Mary, passed away six years ago. The couple had three children, three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
-Dunn Daily Record