David Weil honored with 2008 Cornerstone Award
By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on January 11, 2008 1:46 PM
Wayne County's most prestigious recognition -- the Cornerstone Award -- was given out Thursday to a man many thought might not even show up for the ceremony.
They didn't know where else he would have been -- perhaps at the Paramount, the project that has occupied all of his time and much of Goldsboro's attention for the last 12 months -- but nobody would have been surprised if David Weil hadn't been at the Goldsboro Country Club for the Wayne County Chamber of Commerce's annual banquet.
"Given a choice between having a root canal and being here to receive this award today, I suspect he'd take the root canal," said former Chamber President Charlie Gaylor as he opened his remarks.
As Gaylor spoke, Weil sat at a front table, occasionally smiling and shaking his head at the pictures from days past that flashed up on the screen, but mostly looking slightly down at his hands folded together, resting on his crossed legs.
"Only one person in the audience or throughout this community will be surprised at the choice for this year's Cornerstone recognition," Gaylor said, reading from a letter by long-time friend and former News-Argus editor Gene Price. "During my 79 years on this earth, I have never known anyone so sincerely humble or genuinely self-deprecating.
"None of us will ever know the full extent of this man's contributions to his community and to individuals.
"David Weil leads in a unique fashion. He doesn't shove to the front of the crowd, waving his arms and shouting, 'Follow me!' He leads by quietly and methodically doing things that elevate the sights and hopes and expectations of all of us."
Weil, Gaylor continued, is a Goldsboro native, who grew up on Mulberry Street.
But it was at age 13, he said, that Weil's life was changed forever during a solo trip to New York City.
It was there that he got tickets to see the musicals "South Pacific" and "Guys & Dolls."
"It was those plays that had a dramatic effect on him," Gaylor said. "His love of the arts began."
In school, Weil played the trombone and ran track.
Later, when he graduated from the University of North Carolina in January 1957, he came back to Goldsboro to the family's business -- the Weil's Department Store. Venturing out on his own, he then became partners in Weil Oil Company and a development company. He also started and is a partner in Southco, after the purchase of Southern Wholesale Co.
He has served on the boards of Wachovia Bank, BB&T, Mt. Olive Pickle Co. and many other businesses.
He has owned multiple radio stations and is a partner in Salem Senior Housing.
In short, he has been a businessman.
But he's also been active in the community.
He is a member and president/treasurer of the Temple Oheb Shalom -- the second oldest Jewish Temple in the state. He has been a member of countless community organizations, including the Goldsboro Rotary Club and the Goldsboro Elks Club.
He has served on the Goldsboro Parks and Recreation Commission, as a Boy Scout leader, and with the United Way of Wayne County.
He was an organizing member and past president of the Community Arts Council, now known as The Arts Council of Wayne County.
Additionally, he served on the Wayne Memorial Hospital Board of Trustees, and played an active role in its transition from a county-managed facility to an independent, non-profit organization.
He has received both the Advocate of the Year and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Downtown Goldsboro Development Corp.
"(Weil) learned from his family the importance of giving back to the community, and he has always been involved in our community in many diverse capacities, and mostly in a quiet, behind the scenes approach," Gaylor said.
But, he continued, of all those, perhaps Weil's greatest accomplishments have been in the preservation of Goldsboro's historic downtown.
"He is a life-long supporter of downtown Goldsboro and the greater community at large. He is an advocate to preserve our history. He sees potential in the historic structures and knows there is an opportunity to blend profitable business with community preservation," Gaylor said. "There is no one we know that is more dedicated and involved in creating a better Goldsboro.
"His commitment has sustained over decades of community service. He is totally devoted to his community and protecting our historic resources for future generations to appreciate."
Among Weil's projects have been the Waynesborough House, the former Goldsboro Hotel turned multi-residential building for the elderly, the Wachovia Bank Building and the Jeffrey's building.
Most prominent, though, has been his involvement in the Paramount Theater -- first in 1993 with the original restoration and now again after it burned in 2005.
It's a subject, Mrs. Weil said, that has been and still is constantly on his mind.
"When he's in the middle of a project, he gives it all his energy and time," she said. "Even at night, he keeps a pad by the bed and writes down notes all night long of things to do.
"It's awesome when he's in gear."
The Paramount is scheduled to re-open the weekend of Feb. 15-16.
"People of every type attended events there, and everyone who attended or performed on that grand old stage was touched by the opportunity. It made a difference in people's live," Gaylor said. "(Now) Every child that performs on the stage and experiences the Paramount magic will have their life touched. Every person who attends a performance will want to thank (him) for what he helped bring back to Goldsboro -- a piece of our past for everyone in the community to enjoy."
And on Thursday, thank him the community did.
After the speeches were over, as people streamed by shaking his hand, Weil was overheard telling somebody that he would rather be attending a play somewhere -- that it would "be more fun."
"I don't like surprises and I never know how to deal with compliments," he said.
But he had a bit of a smile on his face, perhaps looking forward to Monday when the theater's seats should arrive -- in plenty of time for opening weekend when he will be giving personal tours.
"I hope you're going to be pleased with the new theater," Weil said. "I think it's going to be a beautiful theater and I think it's going to serve this community for the next 50 to 100 years."
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