Earley Gene Wilder

Earley Gene Wilder

Earley Gene Wilder
September 12, 1937 – April 9, 2023

On a beautiful Easter Sunday afternoon, doing what he loved, in a place he loved, Earley Gene Wilder went to heaven to rest with the Lord.

Earley was born in Johnston County to the late Everette Loomis & Ihire Smith Wilder.  Earley served his country in the United States Army and later went to work with Carolina Power & Light. He retired from Carolina Power and Light after 41 years of service, working in Henderson, Oxford, Riegelwood, Zebulon and Raleigh. Earley was a man of faith who spent countless hours of his life working in and for the churches he attended. He did everything from mowing the grass when it needed mowing to serving as a Deacon and leader in the congregations. He was faithful to the Lord and a loving husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, son, brother, mentor and friend to many. Since his death, so many people have come forward to say what an impact he had on their lives. His gentle, kind heart and friendly nature was evident in everything he did and every decision he made.  He not only taught his children how to live a life of faithfulness and service to others, he also taught his grandchildren. Earley never shied away from hard work or a good time. He often sat on the back porch telling stories and jokes to anyone who would listen. Many of his stories were about his time spent on the Appalachian Trail. He and his dear friend, Bob Lively, section-hiked the entire trail, completing it in 1996. Other than the Lord, his family and friends, the Trail was one of the great loves of his life. He taught all of us to appreciate Spam and eggs, water sterilized with iodine, and to always remember “a little gnat in your food is just a little more meat”. He made life fun for us all, and although he will be desperately missed, we each carry a little bit of him in us and we are so grateful he was ours.

He was preceded in death by his brother, James Wilder, son-in-law, Stephen Slater Lentz.

He is survived by his wife of 65 years, Rebecca Wise Wilder. They met in grammar school and she was his high school sweetheart. She was his best friend and he adored her. He is also survived by his beloved children, Jeff Wilder (Lou), Jean Wilder Waugh (Phil), Ruth Wilder Lentz. Three children have never been loved more. He is survived by his grandchildren, Lindsey Wilder Gatewood (Patrick), Lisa Waugh Gibson (Tom), Philip Wilder Waugh, and Stephen Earley Robert Lentz. His grandchildren adored their Papa as much as he adored them. His great-grandchildren, Mary Ella Gatewood, Whitaker Wilder Gatewood, Max Wilder Gibson and Hayes McNair Gibson were loved beyond measure.  He is also survived by his siblings, Ray Wilder, Becky Brown (Harold), Linda Collier (L.D.), as well as many nieces and nephews.  Flowers are welcomed, or memorials may be made to Thanksgiving Baptist Church, 6701 NC Hwy 42 E. Selma, NC or the Appalachian Trail Conservancy at appalachiantrail.org.

A celebration of his life will be on Sunday, April 16, 2023 at 3:00 pm at Thanksgiving Baptist Church, 6701 NC Hwy 42 E, Selma, NC.  Visitation will be held in the Church Fellowship Hall before the service from 2:00-3:00. Burial will follow in the family cemetery.


  • Gina Dew Taylor Posted April 14, 2023 2:24 pm

    What a kind, wonderful man! I have many fond memories of him and the family when they lived in Riegelwood. He will be missed.

  • Brenda Brown Batten Posted April 15, 2023 10:42 am

    So sorry to learn of Earley’s passing. He was a very friendly and outgoing person. I am so thankful he shared his sister Becky with our family. Thinking of his family with love.

  • Worth & Gail Hinton Brown Posted April 15, 2023 11:29 am

    So sorry for the loss of a dear friend. He was a very likeable person and will be dearly missed by all who knew him. Praying for his family.

  • Corinth Class of 1957 Posted April 15, 2023 11:31 am

    So sorry for the loss of Your loved one. May God bless each one.

  • Kimberly Meggs Rabon Posted April 15, 2023 5:26 pm

    I remember Mr. Wilder when I was growing up in Riegelwood. My condolences to all of the family as I know that he will be greatly missed by many

  • Lloyd Graham Posted April 16, 2023 9:42 pm

    To Jeff and family, it is with my deepest sympathy and condolences. You are in my thoughts and prayers and the rest of the class of 77

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