LUMBERTON — Gilbert Terry Stewart and Rudy Paul, both of Lumberton, were recently awarded the Order of the Long Leaf Pine at a ceremony at the Robeson Regional Agricultural Fair board’s meeting.
Rep. Garland Pierce presented the award, which is issued by Gov. Bev Perdue and considered North Carolina’s highest honor for a civilian. It is given to individuals with a lifetime of service to the state.
Stewart has a 32-year record as an employee of the North Carolina Department of Public Safety.
“It was enjoyable,” Stewart said of his career. “I moved up through the ranks … and I retired as an instructor with the office of staff development. I taught all over the state and the people I met, the experience I had training people in different agencies, was great.”
Paul recently retired after 35 years as the director with Robeson County Parks and Recreation.
“I started working with the county in 1975 as a coordinator,” Paul said. “The department was just getting started at that time — only three employees. Our job was to develop a recreation program for the county, and after a few years, we got a full-fledged recreation program. We soon offered programs for youth, adults and seniors. As time went on, I made it up to director and I enjoyed that until I retired.”
The two were both surprised to receive the award.
“I was just stunned,” Paul said. “I just didn’t know what to say. It was a wonderful thing to receive.”
Stewart said his award is proudly displayed in his home.
“I was so surprised, and I was really excited,” Stewart said. “To me, I’ve always thought that was a prestigious award.”
They both serve on the board for the Robeson Regional Agriculture Fair.
“That keeps me busy,” Stewart said. “As you know, it’s getting to be about fair time.”