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September 30, 2023

2023 Father of the Year named

OUR DAD — Ellendale resident Fred W. Bumgarner, 90, is the 2023 Times’ Father of the Year, following the winning essay submission by his children, Sharon Bumgarner Sharpe and Frankie Bumgarner. Pictured above, left to right: seated – wife, Shirley, with Fred; standing – Sharon Bumgarner Sharpe and Frankie Bumgarner.


“I had a wonderful childhood. I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” said Frankie Bumgarner, who along with his sister, Sharon Bumgarner Sharpe, submitted the winning essay in the Times’ 2023 Father of the Year contest.

Both agree: their dad, Fred Wilson Bumgarner, is tops. At 90, Fred is a family treasure, having not only provided for his family for a lifetime but also for his community in many ways.

Fred lives in the Ellendale Community with his wife, Shirley, mother of Frankie and Sharon. They live just across the road from where Fred grew up.

Fred’s parents, Frank and Thelma Bumgarner, raised five children, including Fred. He recalls his father sold apples and peaches at a fruit stand on NC 90 West in Ellendale near the family home. Fred also traveled with his father to sell fruit at various locations in the region.

As an adult, Fred worked as a truck driver and also had a body shop behind his home, where he worked long hours to repair vehicles for customers in the area.

“He was the community fixer,” Sharon said.

“If anyone needed a lawn mower fixed or blade sharpened, they came to see Dad,” Frankie recalled.

Anything with a motor fascinated Fred and the kids. Whether it was go-karts, motorcycles, or when they were old enough, cars, Frankie and Sharon embraced their father’s love for motorized things.

“We’d take an axe with us and go off, making dirt bike trails, we’d be gone for hours, having a great time,” Frankie recalled.

After worship at Mt. Herman Baptist Church on Sundays, the kids and Fred would ride motorcycles through the woods up into Wilkes County, staying gone most of the afternoon.

There were neat family trips to Playmore Beach between Lenoir and Morganton, where Fred had a trailer, for getaways. Nearly every Saturday, the family went to Hickory Motor Speedway and watched races.

“We missed maybe one race a year from the time I was little until I got my license,” Frankie said.

Sharon recalls that her first car, a Fiat repaired by her dad, was painted Hugger Orange because that was the color of Harry Gant’s race cars and she was a huge fan of Gant.

Because their dad was a truck driver, and gone from home a week or two at a time, it make his returns home cherished events.

“We would stand at the big picture window listening for the sound of his truck bustling up the dirt drive, finally he was home after a long week of travel. We did not think about the miles he traveled, or the financial concerns of supporting a family, dad never complained,” Frankie explained.

Fred conversed with truckers, relatives, and friends over Citizens Band (CB) radio, which many motorists had in their cars in the 1970s and 80s. His “handle” on the air was Log Hauler.

Frankie remembered a big antenna his father placed next to the house, connected to a white faced Johnson CB base station.

Despite having health complications from bladder cancer since 1988, at age 55, Fred went on to begin a towing business, Bumgarner Towing. He kept hauling vehicles for folks across the region up until age 81, when he sold the business and retired.

“He gets along good, and still drives inside Alexander County,” Frankie explained.

Fred loves to ride along his street in his golf cart, visiting neighbors and taking the grandchildren for rides, too.

Just three years ago, the family had a scare when Fred suffered a “widow maker” heart attack. Only about 1 in 8 patients survive such an attack outside a hospital.

Fred also had a rough bout with COVID and took pneumonia, requiring a ten day hospital stay.

“We never heard him complain,” Frankie said.

“He is defined as a walking miracle,” Sharon said. “God’s not done with him yet.”

With Father’s Day coming this Sunday, the family plans to gather at Frankie’s home in Hiddenite to celebrate with a luncheon.


  1. Lisa Fisher on June 14, 2023 at 5:40 pm

    I am so happy for this great man! I hope his Father’s Day is great. But to me you can’t have a father of the year for most children think of their father the same. I do. So Happy Father’s Day to all Father’s and to mothers who play both rolls.

  2. Sharon Pennell on June 14, 2023 at 6:06 pm

    No one deserves it better love being around Fred and Shirley.No finer people!!!!

  3. Donna Munday on June 16, 2023 at 12:36 pm

    Congratulations Mr. Fred on Father of the year 2023. You are a kind beautiful Father, Husband,Papa, and friend to many. 💕 Donna Jo Munday

  4. Jackie on June 18, 2023 at 6:31 am

    He is well known in ellendale community him with Shirley by his side in the tow truck!!

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