Winston-Salem legend Art Blevins loses battle with cancer

Art Blevins

Winston-Salem legend Art Blevins loses battle with cancer
September 16
15:45 2020

Known for his kind heart and giving nature, Art Blevins impacted the lives of countless children throughout his nearly 40 years of service in the Parks and Recreation Department. After a brief fight with pancreatic cancer, Blevins passed away last week in hospice care at the age of 62.

Blevins spent time in several recreation centers during his tenure with the city, but is best known for his time at the Hanes Hosiery Recreation Center, where the gymnasium is named in his honor. He was beloved by everyone he met and had a heart for giving that was unmatched.

“It was a little overwhelming, not that it wasn’t totally unexpected, but I think you continue to hold out hope until the end and then when you finally get that news, you are overcome with a rush of emotions,” said Gary Lash, district recreation supervisor for the Parks and Recreation Department.  

Lash recalled the conversations he had with Blevins when he was first diagnosed with cancer in May of this year.  

“When he called and told me, we basically just cried together on the phone; it was kind of devastating,” Lash said of the conversation. “He helped me get through a lot during my illness last year and I felt it was my turn to return the favor.”

During his time with the city, Blevins positively impacted the lives of thousands of children. His wisdom, kind words and selfless acts of kindness are routinely brought up when people speak of Blevins.

“Given the fact he lived in the neighborhood I grew up in, we were around each other a lot,” said Ameer Watkins, who was coached by Blevins at the South Fork Community Center. “He was just the kind of person with a wealth of knowledge and was willing to give it to you at any time.  

“He would pick us up, drop us off and even feed us. When I got to high school, he used to stick my newspaper clippings in my mailbox and tell us how proud of us he was. As a high school coach, now I see, looking back, that’s the type of person you want your kids to be introduced to before they get to you on the next level.”

Watkins said it touched him when he heard Blevins had cancer due to the fact he lost his mother at a young age to the disease. He said Blevins was always a fighter and was hopeful he would pull through, but once he heard of Blevins’ passing, he had to take a few minutes to compose himself at work.

Even a brief encounter with Blevins would leave a lasting impression. Jamaal Fowler, a Winston-Salem native, says he met Blevins on a few occasions and could see immediately why he was so beloved by the community.

“He was always nice and always had great things to say about everyone,” said Fowler. “When he came to games, he always supported whichever team that was playing. Even when they messed up, he still kept encouraging them. I never heard him say a negative word about anyone and in today’s climate you will not find too many people like that. It’s not just Winston-Salem, but the world lost a great one.”

Blevins was not only well respected by the kids he coached, but also by his peers. Ben Piggott, former senior supervisor at the Carl H. Russell Sr. Community Center, worked closely with Blevins for nearly four decades and had nothing but high praise for Blevins.

“Art loved children and he never looked at it as a job, it was a ministry for him,” said Piggott. “We always talked about the kids and what we could do to improve the life of a child.”

Piggott and Blevins retired around the same time and stayed in touch through phone calls and text messages.  

“Art will always be in my heart for the rest of my life,” Piggott continued. “When I heard that he passed, I was driving and I had to pull over on the side of the road, because it hit me hard. Art loved people and he will always be missed. I am just really glad he was able to see the gym named after him. Art Blevins will always be an icon and a great role model.

“He will always be my brother and he will always live within me, because we related so much together. I just thank God he was my brother and it was an honor and a pleasure to walk down that aisle with Art when we retired together, but Art’s spirit is still here.”

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Timothy Ramsey

Timothy Ramsey

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