If Donna Willingham could choose to be anywhere in the world, she would choose any location where she could be fly-fishing.
Willingham is a lifelong resident of Yadkin County. She is married to John Willingham, the owner of the Yadkinville company Indera Mills.
Willingham grew up in Boonville on a tobacco and dairy farm. She graduated from Starmount High school and went on to UNC-Greensboro where she majored in business and economics. After graduating from college she went to work at a company called Bloomer Wear in Elkin.
“I was a production manager there,” Willingham said. “We were doing work for a company in Winston-Salem called Indera Mills. Eventually I was offered a job there doing the production scheduling.”
Now, 29 years later, Willingham still works for the company. It was through her career that she met her husband of 17 years.
“I met John right here at work,” Willingham said. “I fixed him up with my sister, and I went along to introduce them. Then suddenly we realized that we had some interest in one another. That was a good deed that wound up paying off in the long run.”
Since marrying John, Willingham realized that she was going to have to start pushing outside her comfort zone and venturing into more outdoor related hobbies.
“His lifelong hobby has been fly-fishing,” Willingham said. “I learned pretty soon after I started being with John that I would have to learn to fish or be left behind, so I learned to fish. I love it now and he has a hard time going on any trips without taking me because I like it as much as he does I think.”
Their fly-fishing passion takes them all over the globe on trips. They’ve been to Alaska, Chile and the Bahamas. After 12 years of visiting the Bahamas for their trips and staying in the same house they decided it was time to commit and buy the home so they would have a nice place to stay whenever they wanted to visit.
The couple has also made two trips to Argentina to fly-fish. Willingham says that these trips have been her favorite to date.
“We’ve been to Argentina twice now with five or six couples on a fishing trip,” Willingham said. “It’s fun to find women who are interested in fishing. We are a close-knit group.”
When Willingham isn’t at her desk or casting a fishing pole, she is often donating her time to her community. Willingham has just finished a term as president of the Yadkinville Rotary Club and still serves as the club’s projects chairperson.
“In my year as president I am really proud that we helped with the children’s center,” Willingham said. “We helped fund their “all about respect” camp. We also started working closely with the Yadkin Early College’s Interact Club.”
Willingham has also served as the president of the Yadkin County Chamber of Commerce and served on a board with the Salvation Army.
“The reason John and I have been able to be so involved in the community is because we have our own company, and we can take some time off in the middle of the day to go to meetings and serve on boards,” Willingham said.
Willingham said that being the leader of these organizations has helped her to grow personally. She confesses that she has always had a fear of public speaking and that was something she had to overcome in her leadership roles.
“We’re a club of 24 members, and we’re all together once a week on Tuesday mornings and we are close friends now so there’s no reason to feel ill at ease to stand in front of a group trying to lead a meeting,” Willingham said. “That is another one of those things that you benefit from in pushing yourself past your comfort zone. You don’t grow if you don’t push yourself beyond what you’re comfortable doing.”
Willingham said that she would like to see herself working less in the next few years and spending more of her time volunteering and catching up on her reading.
“I like reading bestsellers and whatever is on the list,” Willingham said. “I really like mysteries that have to do with espionage and that kind of thing; those books are always a lot of fun.”
Willingham says that that it’s important to her to give back in whatever way that she can. She feels that everyone should remember how blessed they are and do what they can to contribute to other around them.
“We are so blessed in so many ways that sometimes we’re in a bubble and we don’t realize that there are people out there in need,” Willingham said. “A small effort on our part can make a big difference in somebody else’s life if we just find it and help do it.”
Reach Lindsay Craven at 679-2341 or at email@example.com.