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‘Bill’ Pannill: ‘Everything he did, he did really well’ — son
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Hundreds of people attended the graveside service for William G. “Bill” Pannill on Friday at Oakwood Cemetery in Martinsville. From 1966 to 1988, Pannill was president of Pannill Knitting Inc., which his father founded. (Bulletin photo)

Sunday, June 15, 2014


Family members of William G. “Bill” Pannill remember him as a talented man with a charming, magnetic personality.

Pannill, who was president of former local fleecewear manufacturer Pannill Knitting Inc. — a company founded by his father — for more than 20 years, died Tuesday at his home in Roaring Gap, N.C. He was 87.

Although the Pannill name is synonymous with Martinsville’s textile industry of yesteryear, speakers during a graveside service Friday morning at Oakwood Cemetery highlighted Pannill’s life away from the factory.

His son, William Letcher “Will” Pannill, recalled his father as being a great man in many ways.

“He was not a perfectionist,” Will Pannill said, “but everything he did, he did really well.”

One of those things was caring for daffodils. According to Pannill’s website,, he had grown, showed and hybridized daffodils for more than 60 years. He registered 210 varieties with The Royal Horticultural Society.

Will Pannill recalled that his dad’s love for daffodils started after he received an unexpected box of bulbs. After one that he decided to grow earned a blue ribbon at a flower show, he was hooked on growing them, the son said.

Pannill also was a great photographer, computer user, trout fisherman, quail and grouse hunter, skeet shooter and golfer, Will Pannill said. He added that his father’s initials, WGP, could mean “world’s greatest putter.”

In his later years, Pannill also was “a great fighter” who battled several health problems, Will Pannill recalled.

“But he never complained,” he said, noting that his father always maintained a positive attitude through those ordeals.

“God blessed Bill in so many, many, many ways,” said the Rev. Dr. John R. Monroe, who officiated at the service, which drew hundreds of people.

Pannill’s grandson, William Gordon Pannill II, said “Daddy Bill” made him realize the difference between living a long life and living a fulfilling life.

Another grandson, Kenneth Stuart Pannill, said Pannill “commanded respect” through not only his words and actions, but also his personality. When people saw Pannill in a room, his grandson said, they felt that they just had to meet him.

“It would be an impossible feat to match” Pannill’s stature, Stuart Pannill said, adding that he hopes to be “half the man” his grandfather was.

Pannill’s father, also named William Letcher Pannill, founded Pannill Knitting Inc. in 1925. Bill Pannill headed the company as president from 1966 until 1988 when it was taken over by the Sara Lee Corp.

The fleece-lined sweatshirts made by Pannill and other local textile companies eventually made Martinsville known as the sweatshirt capital of the world.

Pannill was the youngest of the six children of William Letcher Pannill and his wife, the former Adele Dillard.

Pannill’s death leaves a void in the hearts of everyone who knew him well, Monroe said.

However, “Bill Pannill has not gone away so much as he’s gone home” to heaven, the minister said.

For Christians, death is “not so much an end as it is a new beginning” in a place that makes Earth “pale in comparison,” Monroe said.

Still, “he had a great life” while in this world, Will Pannill said of his father, fighting back tears. “I’m going to miss him.”


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