Outgoing Schley Grange President receives N.C.'s highest civilian honor

This month Katherine Cheek stepped down after 38 years as president of Schley Grange. David Latta, a teacher at Orange High School and leader in the Northern Orange agricultural community will take over as Schley Grange President in January. In a December 10 ceremony in Hillsborough, NC Rep Graig Meyer surprised Kat with the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, North Carolina’s most prestigious civilian award. NC Grange President Jimmy Gentry and Sheriff Charles Blackwood added personal messages about Mrs. Cheek and the impact that she and the Grange have had on our community.

This month Katherine Cheek stepped down after 38 years as president of Schley Grange. David Latta, a teacher at Orange High School and leader in the Northern Orange agricultural community will take over as Schley Grange President in January.  

During her tenure, Mrs. Cheek grew Schley Grange from 6 to 150 members, one of the largest in the state, while restoring the stature of the Grange Hall, which was built in  1948. Today the Grange supports the FFA-4H activities including the Jr Livestock Show (73 years and counting). The Grange also gives dictionaries to third graders in OCS. Over 15,000 and counting. 

In 2018, Mrs Cheek was recognized by the Chapel Hill Historical Society as a "community treasure".  She joins Grange members Bob Strayhorn, Gordon Neville, Bob and Chris Nutter, and Norma White who are also recipients of this prestigious award.

To add to the festivities, NC Rep Graig Meyer surprised Kat with the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, North Carolina’s most prestigious civilian award. NC Grange President Jimmy Gentry and Sheriff Charles Blackwood added personal messages about Mrs. Cheek and the impact that she and the Grange have had on our community.  It was a very special night.

Katherine Thompson Wilkerson-Cheek was born in Hillsborough in 1937, and has lived in Orange County all her life.  She is a mother, grandmother and great-grandmother to over 55 children, grandchildren and great grandchildren most of who live in the area.   She is a staunch advocate for children, public schools and groups like 4H and FFA, which teach our youth about farming, diversification of agriculture and their important roles in the community. She is a member of Mars Hill Baptist Church, and actively involved in many of the faith and civic groups in our community.  

Katherine’s commitment to farmers and rural communities started early in her career where she measured tobacco allotments in Orange and surrounding counties.  She was the only woman on the team.  Later, she was promoted to the Farm Service Association (FSA) in the Hillsborough office.  The FSA, in part, administers tobacco, cotton, and grain allotments for local farmers --- as well as qualifying farmers for emergency payments for droughts, floods, and other national disaster relief programs. 

Schley Grange was founded in 1931 and operates out of the Schley Grange Hall on Schley Road in Northern Orange County. The Grange Hall provides space for 150-200 people for local meetings, community events, weddings and family reunions, etc.  

The Hall was built in 1948 using funds, which Schley Grange won in a contest. Schley Grange was selected from over 500 Granges in the nation to receive a $50,000 prize from Sears & Roebuck.  The Grange Hall has just been approved to be on the National Historic Register.   A celebration is planned for the spring.