Randall Gravley always pictured Hillsville as a Norman Rockwell painting. Sadly, one of the men most known for helping portray that image is no longer with Hillsville.
Gravley passed away Friday morning in Pulaski County at the age of 65. Few people have had such a positive impact on Hillsville and Carroll County as Gravley, who served as Hillsville’s Mayor from 2004-2008. Gravley was also the owner of Nuckolls Drug for 32 years, served as the chairman of the Carroll County School Board from 1981-1988, and was one of the founders of the Carroll Wellness Center, where he still served as Chairman of the Board of Directors. He was also heavily involved in the Rotary Club, Jaycee Club, Hillsville Christian Church and many other endeavors during his time in the community.
“When somebody passes away it is always heartbreaking, but especially when it is someone like Randall,” said Hillsville Councilman Greg Yonce, who served for several years with Gravley on town council. “If anyone ever had the true concerns of the town and its citizens at heart, he did. That is why he did the job. There has not ever been a mayor like him and I don’t think there will ever be a mayor like Randall.”
As owner of Nuckolls Drug for more than three decades, Gravley was always the smiling pharmacist behind the counter. While a trip to see him there usually meant you were sick, Gravley just had the ability to make you feel a little better when you walked into his place of business.
“We admired and respected him so much. He was like a father. He will be missed by all. He was just a great man,” said Angelique Phipps, who now owns Nuckolls Drug. “Whenever the funeral is, we are going to close the store out of respect for him and so we can all attend.”
Elected to the Carroll County School Board in 1980, Gravley took over as chairman one year later in 1981. He was so well-respected in that role, he stayed as chairman until he resigned from the position seven years later in 1988 to devote more time to his family and other endeavors.
According to Margaret Martin, her husband Bob was one of three graduates along with Gravley of the last one-room school house in Carroll County. Bob Martin and Gravley graduated from the seventh grade together from Shorts Creek School in 1962 before moving on to Hillsville High School.
“Coming from their backgrounds of such a small school, they both wanted to upgrade the schools in the county so badly and give the kids a good education,” Martin said.
Gravley never stopped in that effort to better the community. In fact, he was one of the founders of the Carroll Wellness Center, an endeavor he personally took upon himself after he moved his son to Pulaski so he could participate in a swim team, something Carroll County could not offer at the time.
“Randall was the backbone of getting the Carroll Wellness Center. If it hadn’t been for Randall, we wouldn’t have gotten it in my opinion,” said Hillsville Town Councilman Bill Tate, who also served with Gravley on town council. “He was a highly-respected councilman and mayor. He was the backbone of the Town of Hillsville and he was a great leader.”
Both Yonce and Tate said Gravley so dearly loved Hillsville, he would take the earnings he made as mayor and councilman and pump them right back into the town.
“He never took a cent from the town as long as he was councilman or mayor. He gave it all back,” Tate said. “He will be greatly missed.”
“The small amount we received as being mayor or on council, he gave it back for scholarships or organizations that asked for donations from the town,” Yonce added. “Of course, none of us do it for the money, but what little money he was paid, he put it right back into the community. And if ever there was a need in the community, he would encourage other council members to donate to whatever cause was worthy.”
Gravley moved away from the area after selling Nuckolls Drug, but still came back on occasion and still kept Hillsville in his heart as he continued to serve as Chairman of the Carroll Wellness Center’s Board of Directors.
“Randall was about as fine a person as you could find in Hillsville and he is going to be sadly missed even though he wasn’t in Hillsville as much,” Yonce said. “He still made trips back and was involved in the Wellness Center and it was always a pleasure to see him when he was in town. The thing it boils down to is my thoughts and prayers go out to the family.”
Gravley served one term on town council for the Pine Creek District from 2000-2004 before his election as mayor. Upon his retirement, he donated a Ron Leonard painting of the Town of Hillsville to the town to hang in its offices.
“He always said he pictured Hillsville as a Norman Rockwell town and Randall referred to the painting as being in Norman Rockwell style,” said Yonce’s wife, Vickie.
“Randall, in my opinion, was the people’s mayor. He did what he did for the people, the town of Hillsville. I don’t think anyone ever questioned his motives or integrity at all and it was an honor to serve with him,” added Greg Yonce. “That is how he looked at it, as a service, not a job. There is not anyone more dedicated to their community than Randall was. That was shown through the Carroll Wellness Center, Town Council, as mayor, working with Jaycees and all the groups he was involved with and all the positive things he brought to the community.”
Gravley’s visitation will be from 1:30-3 p.m. at Hillsville Christian Church on Sunday, August 24 and a celebration of life service will follow at 3 p.m. at the church.