In years past, the large colorful inflatables in the front yard of Dr. Kenneth Wilkins Sr.'s Mulberry Street home celebrated different holidays and his family.

This week, his family is using those same decorations to celebrate the life and legacy of the man they knew outside of the doctor's office.

Wilkins died Wednesday morning at Kitty Askins Hospice Center.

He was 96.

The funeral service will be held at 11 a.m. today at St. Paul United Methodist Church, 204 E. Chestnut St.

Gathered at the home Wednesday afternoon, his children and grandchildren shared some of their favorite memories of the man known to many as "Big Ken."

Wilkins opened an obstetrics and gynecology practice in 1953 in Goldsboro and delivered more than 10,000 babies during his career.

He continued working after retirement as the medical director at the Wayne County Health Department.

His children spoke of the many times they were asked if Wilkins was their father.

Also, it was not unusual for someone to tell them that Wilkins had delivered them and that their grandfather, Dr. John William Wilkins, had delivered one of their parents or grandparents.

They said if there was anything they wanted people to remember about their father it was his generosity and compassion.

He was a lifetime learner as well, said his son, Dr. Ken Wilkins Jr. of New Bern.

Wilkins most recently was learning to knit even though his eyesight was failing, he said.

He also loved technology even though he didn't always know how to use it, his children said.

It was while studying medicine in Maryland that Wilkins met Betty Brandt Snider of Salisbury. They were married in 1953.

They met, his children said, because of a chicken.

"Mama and her girlfriends were having chicken, and they needed somebody to cut the chicken," son John Wilkins said. "One of the girls knew daddy -- he was a doctor so he ought to be able to cut the chicken.

"So they invited him over to cut the chicken. And that's how he met his wife of 65 years."

All the siblings attended Goldsboro High School where they played various sports, John Wilkins said.

They laughed when they recalled how their father would show up to their games in his green hospital scrubs.

The children said they would ask him, "Where are your patients?"

"Then he would say, 'Waiting in the waiting room,'" they said.

Wilkins enjoyed traveling and visited all seven continents.

The siblings laughed as they talked about a photo of their parents that was taken in Antarctica with penguins at their parents' feet.

But based on what could be seen of their mother's face through the large parka, it did not appear she was excited about being there, they said.

Wilkins also was known for sending his young sons out to do things that he knew they could not do just to get them out of his hair.

"He told Ken if he could go put salt on a bird's tail, he could catch a bird," John Wilkins said. "God knows how many days Ken spent running around Goldsboro with a salt shaker."

"I never caught one," Ken Wilkins Jr. said.

"He told Charles and I one time -- me, excuse me -- that if you go outside at night and throw a tennis ball in the air, a bat will follow it down and you can catch it," John Wilkins said.

They went outside, threw the ball up two or three times. The next thing they knew, a bat followed down and landed on Charles Wilkins' leg.

"Charlie grabbed the bat, walked inside and said, 'Is this what you wanted?" John Wilkins said.

However, the best story is the bullfrog story, he said.

The family was returning home from Beaufort one night in the 1970s. It was raining hard, and there were so many frogs on the road it looked as if it was raining frogs.

His brother Brandt wanted to stop and get a frog, John Wilkins said.

But his father knew he could not pull over because of the traffic and there was no shoulder.

Wilkins told his son he couldn't stop and Brandt asked if they could pull over if they saw a bullfrog.

His father said yes.

"And there hasn't been a bullfrog in the road before and since in the history of the world but we came across one," John Wilkins said. "On the next hill sitting on the yellow line with a spotlight shining on him was a bullfrog."

His brother saw the bullfrog, but his father couldn't stop, he said.

"He was making up something that he thought was impossible," John Wilkins said.

He said his brother's bottom lip was hanging out so far he probably tripped over it when he got out of the car.

Wilkins also enjoyed taking his children and grandchildren to Washington, D.C.

Granddaughter Eva Cook has fond memories of her trip to the nation's capital.

"He took us to this Ethiopian restaurant, two 9-year-old girls, and we were not feeling it," she said. "We sat down and (were) like, what is this? So we got up and left and went to a Hard Rock Cafe."

People at the table behind them got a free dessert because it was someone's birthday.

"This was like the middle of summer and my birthday is March 1," she said. "He goes up to the waitress and goes, 'I just wanted you to know it's her birthday.'

"I said, 'No it's not,' and he said, 'Just be quiet. We are getting a free dessert. Just act like it is your birthday.'"

Each morning about 7 a.m., Wilkins would email each of his children, grandchildren and many friends.

Each message included a riddle called an Ink Stink, which was the name of his boat, and everyone had to try to solve the riddle.

He made them up himself.

Wilkins was born to Dr. John William Wilkins and Eva Jurney Wilkins in Mount Olive where he grew up with his older brother, William, and best friend, Morrison Smith.

After graduating from Mount Olive High School, he attended UNC Chapel Hill to study medicine and finished his medical degree at the University of Maryland.

He served in the U.S. military before opening his medical practice.

In addition to his wife, Betty, he is survived by their five children and families: Ken and Dru Wilkins, New Bern; Hannah and Charlie Rouse, Goldsboro; Brandt Wilkins and David Alexander, Denver, Colorado; Charles and Sandra Wilkins, Goldsboro; John and Pat Wilkins, Raleigh; 13 grandchildren; and nine great-grandchildren.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made in Wilkins' name to the St. Paul UMC Shepherds Fund.