John Adams Eldridge lived his entire life in the shadow of the Blue Ridge Mountains, in a small North Carolina community called State Road. Born as the only child of parents Will and Nell in 1935, he lived adventurously as a boy, spending most days on a bike or in the woods or in some other way under wide open skies.
After graduating high school, he followed the reliable path that many Southern men of his generation did by punching a time card at Chatham Manufacturing, the local textile mill booming in the manufacturing heyday of the mid-1950s. Soon after, he married his sweetheart of many years Donna, and they built a family on a 15-acre bluff of land on what would later be known as Adams Ridge Road, so named for his mother’s family, and making them the fifth consecutive generation of his family to live on that land.
John rose through the ranks to the role of Dye House Supervisor, and became adept enough at the job to see seven different shades of color in a swatch where most eyes would only see one. But he was still happiest when outdoors, whether taking road trips with his family, in a dove field with friends, or simply a neighborhood stroll with Donna.
His one abiding hobby was collecting classic firearms, beginning with what he could afford as a young man, but eventually evolving into an affection for Winchester pieces, particularly the Model 42. His interest burgeoned following several summer trips to the AWCA show in Cody, Wyoming, and by the time of his death he had amassed one hundred Model 42s, along with a variety of other interesting pieces.
John’s collecting days ended in 2014 when his companion of 57 years passed away. Donna’s power and presence as both a wife and mother outweighed any normal understanding of those roles, and her loss was one from which he never really recovered. In declining health but still sharp of mind, he passed away four years after her at the age of 82. In gratefully reuniting with his lifelong love, he leaves behind twin legacies; a beautiful firearms collection steeped in history and unrivaled by few, but more importantly, two children, four grandchildren, one great-grandchild, and many friends who are better for having known him. They will all miss him.