Celebrating Wilton

Wilton Lanning Jr. richly deserved the tribute contained in your eloquent editorial of Sunday, Jan. 14. Notwithstanding Wilton’s venerable age of 81, I was stunned to hear recently from beloved Sue Getterman that Wilton had been at church that previous Sunday (Jan. 7) but was not doing well. She seemed pessimistic about his prospects.

Sure enough, consistent with his ardent devotion to Dr Pepper and its 10-2-4 slogan of yesteryear, Wilton passed from his life around 10 a.m. the next day. His funeral service, which was a glorious celebration of a life greatly lived, started promptly at 2 p.m. at the church he loved, Columbus Avenue Baptist. We were assured by Pastor Ron Durham that the celebration of Wilton’s good life would conclude no later than 4 p.m. Wilton would have loved the connection back to his favorite beverage, now enduringly honored — along with the spirit of free enterprise — in the iconic museum that Wilton, above all others, made a reality.

Your editorial beautifully captured the goodness and greatness of one of Waco’s giants. He was a magnificent contributor to what sociologists call “social capital,” tirelessly building the moral and social fabric of life together in our community. He remains a towering example to all of us that a life lived in full means dedicating oneself to strengthening the bonds of family, church and community.

He will be sorely missed.

Ken Starr, Waco


The Waco community recently lost one of its finest citizens in the passing of Wilton Lanning. Many of his outstanding civic and business contributions have been noted in several articles in the Tribune-Herald.

However, to really know what made Wilton the man he was, you had to attend his memorial service and know him personally. When an individual’s grandchildren and children give testimony to one’s life and character at their service, you know there is something special.

They noted that at family gatherings he clearly spoke of his Christian faith and commitment. And that this faith was to be lived: Treat all equally and fairly and love your fellow man. He did not have to preach what he believed, he lived it. He always spoke positively of others, never the negative, and in a calm voice.

Well, yes, there were some sporting and Dr Pepper-related events where he may have raised his voice slightly in joy.

Now for another part of his story. He lived in an area where some wildlife could be found. He told me one Sunday morning at church that the day before he was on his knees in his yard working. He felt a tapping on his shoulder and turned to find himself face to face with a very large raccoon. At first startled, Wilton soon realized this was just a friendly reminder that it was the time he normally put out bread for the critters.

Don Hardcastle, Emeritus Professor of Physics, Baylor University, Waco