The Heart of Kernersville: Bill Apple

By NJ Clausen

Happy, healthy New Year to all! As we start the new year, I expect many have made resolutions perhaps a bit different from previous years. Maybe to look for the positive amidst challenging times, or to be more patient, more kind…the best version of ourselves. Allow me to introduce you to a man of integrity with an admirable work ethic…Bill Apple.

Bill was born at Baptist Hospital in Winston-Salem to parents from Monroeton. He was brought to Baptist due to some medical issues….and with a laugh he shared that it was after his birth that they stopped delivering babies there for several decades.

Bill’s father ran a Country Store for 52 years in this small rural community, which sold a variety of groceries, tools, farm implements, fertilizer and ‘chicken scratch’. This store was also a social gathering spot for farmers and was helpful in the development of his outgoing personality. One of the biggest life lessons he learned came at the age of 10, due to his Boy Scout flashlight. The bulb had burned out, and although his father had never refused a legitimate request for a needed item, Bill got it into his head that his father was not going to give him the bulb. Looking both ways, he reached for the bulb, stuck it in his pocket, and bolted out the door. About halfway home, Bill heard his father call his name. He froze, then turned. His father walked to him without saying another word and held out his hand. Bill reached into his pocket and handed over the bulb. He could see the disappointment in his father’s face, which had a lasting impact on Bill’s life. Although Bill had never done anything like this before, he never again took something which did not belong to him, acknowledging that moral fiber is formed in strange ways.

Bill worked at a men’s clothing store during high school. When he graduated and headed off to Chapel Hill for an undergraduate Business Degree, he was able to procure a position at another men’s clothing store in Chapel Hill. In addition to studying, working, and marrying his high school sweetheart before junior year, Bill was a 4-year ROTC cadet and was named Cadet Commander of the Corp, Air Force, his senior year. Bill was on active duty for 3 years, then decided he wanted to go to law school. He left active duty, however stayed in the reserves for 23 years. Bill retired in 1999 as a Lieutenant Colonel JAG Officer, from the reserve. During Desert Storm 1, he felt called to assist with preparing the necessary documents for a deploying National Guard unit. The looks on the faces of departing military and those of the spouses when they met the following day was life changing.

In 1980, Bill graduated with both a Law Degree and MBA, and joined a law firm in Reidsville. In 2002, following his divorce and then new marriage, Bill left Reidsville and moved to Kernersville where he continued in divorce practice for an additional 18 years. What words of wisdom he could impart? Bill stated that child custody cases are high stakes. He would tell clients when they got into the heat of battle, “Listen, the two of you are either going to send my kids to college or yours. Why don’t you settle this case, put $20,000 each in a college fund, and send yours?” Bill also added that although the law profession does not enjoy the best reputation, the vast majority of attorneys are honest, capable, and people of integrity.

During his time in Kernersville, Bill has been active with the Lion’s Club, the Kernersville Downtown Preservation and Development Council, the Kernersville Foundation, the Shepherd’s Center, and the Kernersville Little Theatre. Although retired from his law practice, Bill uses his expertise in a new mediation business. What brings him fulfillment in this new venture? He responded, “When both parties sign a written agreement the same day and as many of the objectives the two have are as satisfied as possible allowing them to move on.”

Tragedy struck Bill’s family when his daughter committed suicide. After many years, the unexpected loss is still keenly felt. When asked if there were any suggestions he could offer, he had several. Listen to the concerns about life your loved one has and is willing to express. Be aware of depression, sleep changes, losing enjoyment of life, and anxiety attacks. For the ones left behind, consider grief counseling or seeing a psychiatrist — realize that seeing a mental health professional is not the stigma it once was, recognize that it is a new day. There is also a wonderful organization to help, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

I asked Bill, “What would you like to share with your friends and neighbors as we head into 2021?” He responded that he would like to see a refocus on kindness. If we do not look after each other, there will be those who will not be looked after. We need to get back to taking care of each other, acting with integrity, and not accepting the lack of it…. we need to be kind again.

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