By Michael Howlett firstname.lastname@example.org
February 27, 2014
Since February is the month of Valentine’s Day, Hillsville Town Councilman Greg Yonce said it was only fitting that a couple be named Citizen of the Month. He announced his choice of was Sebert and Ruth Sisson during the Feb. 10 council meeting.
During Sebert’s graduation from Virginia Tech in 1942, Yonce said a line from the commencement speech - “In whatever community you choose to establish your roots, get involved in worthwhile community activities” - apparently took hold, considering the honoree’s involvement in Hillsville throughout his life.
“The Sissons were truly a Main Street family, when in 1950, they built their home on South Main Street,” noted Yonce. “They lived there until three years ago when health issues resulted in the Sissons selling their home and moving into an assisted living facility, but rather than move closer to family, they chose to stay in their hometown, Hillsville.”
Sebert taught vocational education at Hillsville High School before joining Appalachian Power Company as a marketing representative, promoting rural electrification and economic development before retiring until 1982.
Among his endeavors are being a lifelong active member of the Hillsville Rotary Club, the Hillsville First United Methodist Church, the Carroll County Industrial Authority, the Carroll County School Board, the Wilkinson Cemetery Board, and a Mason. He also served as president of the Hillsville Chamber of Commerce and was mayor of Hillsville from 1956-1958. It was during his time as mayor that the town began garbage collection and the sidewalks were extended throughout town, according to Yonce.
Yonce went on to say that Sebert’s “greatest satisfaction, both professionally and personally, came from successfully recruiting businesses that would create jobs for area citizens.”
Some of those businesses were Virginia Lee Hosiery, Sprague Electric, Quality Mills, Oster Corporation, Blue Ridge Woven Label, Lees Carpet, Bassett Walker, Burlington Mills and Long Airdox.
Sebert wasn’t all work though, said Younce. “His hobbies included extensive research and writings concerning George L. Carter, the builder of the Carter Home. He also provided research that helped the Town of Hillsville develop its Historic District. He provided many of the photos of past mayors of Hillsville that are displayed here in council chambers.”
After Sebert’s retirement, he spent much of his time working with the Carroll County Historical Society and Museum. He gave tours and provided information on the exhibits, some of which he provided himself. Another hobby of Sebert’s was local Native American archeological excavations, which led to the creation of the Upper New River Chapter of the Archaeology society of Virginia. He also managed the Nature Conservancy’s Mt. Meadow Preserve, which is now the location of the Carroll County Governmental Complex, the Carter Pines recreation area and the Beaver Dam Trail.
Yonce said he first met Sebert while he was working to get a certificate of need for what is now Trinity Mission.
“All of the adjoining property owners to the proposed site needed to sign a petition of support for rezoning,” said Yonce. “I was told that if I could get Sebert to sign it, I wouldn’t have any trouble getting the other owners to follow suit, and that was true. Sebert told me how important it was to bring in a facility such as Trinity, and he was glad it was being done. In looking back at the many contributions that Sebert has made to Hillsville, it is obvious that on that spring day in 1942, that at least one person was paying attention.”
“But the story doesn’t end there,” Yonce continued. “As I have heard and been told many times, ‘behind every good man is a better woman,’ I can’t stand before you tonight and recognize Sebert without mentioning his wife Ruth.”
Ruth taught bookkeeping, shorthand and typing at Hillsville High School until the early 1960s when she retired to raise her and Sebert’s two daughters. She later commuted to Radford University, earning her bachelor’s degree in 1969 and her master’s degree in 1972. Ruth then went to work at Carroll County’s Career Development Center, and later taught elementary science before serving as a guidance counselor at St. Paul Elementary School, Woodlawn School and Carroll County High School.
When her children left home, Ruth became more involved in the community, preparing and serving meals at the Hillsville First United Methodist Church, the regional arts council, the regional library board, the Hillsville zoning board, and the Carroll County Department of Social Services’ Family Assessment and Planning Team. She also volunteered at Twin County Regional Hospital.
Yonce added that perhaps Ruth’s greatest achievement was being one of the founders of the Carroll County Wellness Center.
“She spent 10 years planning and raising funds along with the other members of the board, and to this date still serves on the board,” he said.
“I feel that since February is known for Valentine’s Day, it is appropriate to present as Citizen of the Month not a single individual, but a couple who is not only known for their devotion and caring for Hillsville, but for their devotion and caring for each other over the past 67 years, Sebert and Ruth Sisson.”
Michael Howlett can be reached at 276-728-7311 or on Twitter@MikeEHowlett