William “Bill” McCrary

American Holly (Ilex opaca)

Given in memory of Bill McCrary by The Reverend Bob and Donna Sessum, October 2019. Biography can be found at the bottom of this page.

Description:  This lovely slow growing evergreen tree can reach heights of 30-50 feet with an overall shape that resembles a pyramid.  Older trees become less pyramidal.  It can be single or multi-trunked.  It is more likely to be 15-30 feet under normal landscape conditions.  There are more than 1000 named cultivars of this tree.

Leaves:  Deep green, thick and leathery, 2-4 inches long with spiny marginal teeth making gloves a necessity when handling them.  

Flowers:  The American Holly is dioecious (male and female flowers are on separate trees). The greenish-white flowers bloom May-June (male flowers in 3-12 flowered clusters and female flowers solitary or in twos or threes). It must have trees of both sexes in order to produce its fruit.

Fruit: Bright red or orange berries (drupes to 1/4- 1/2 inch-diameter) which ripen in fall on pollinated female trees and persist on the tree through the winter. 

Habitat: The American Holly is native to the eastern United States and is found from Florida to as far north as Massachusetts. This tree thrives in the mountains, piedmont, and coastal plains of North Carolina. 

The leaves will yellow in alkaline soils.  It grows in full sun to part shade but will do best if it receives part afternoon shade in hot summer climates, and protection from cold winter winds. 

Wildlife value:  It supports several butterflies and insects and the red berries are eaten by birds, deer, and small mammals. The berries are toxic to humans if ingested in large quantity.  

Uses:  The evergreen attractive deep-green leaves and bright red berries make this a popular specimen tree in landscape designs.  It is widely used in Christmas decorations.  

History: When the pilgrims first landed, the evergreen leaves and red berries reminded them of their native English Holly, so they began using it in holiday decorations and gave it the nickname of Christmas Holly.  Indigenous Americans used the berries for buttons and barter.  This tree was a favorite of George Washington, and trees he planted can still be seen at Mount Vernon.  The first scientific observation of the American Holly Tree was recorded in 1744.   


NC State Extension Service online forestry resources.  




During the 1980’s, Bill McCrary, Vice President at one of the Charter Bank branches, was a dedicated parishioner of All Saints’ who carefully watched over the financial operations. He served as Chairman of the Finance Committee as well as on the Vestry.   During this period, he helped lead the church to attain a solid financial status. When a financial issue arose that needed attention, Bill’s creative mind often found a simple solution. Also, during this time the “education wing” of the parish house was enlarged on the back side of the building.  It was approximately a $800,000 campaign. Bill not only kept the operating budget before the congregation, but continued to keep an eye on pledges and collections until the building loan was paid off. His financial expertise enabled All Saints’ to be kept in a very stable financial picture.

He was involved in many aspects of the church, present at most activities, often sharing his good ideas.  His community interest led him to many social ministries. His vision and enthusiasm persuaded All Saints’ to initiate the idea of a Section 8 housing facility, not far from the church, just off Lake Concord Road.  He also persuaded Central Methodist Church to join the project, and The Wesbury Senior Housing Project became a reality.  It was his idea for the name “Wes” from John Wesley and “bury of Samuel Seabury (initial leaders of each denomination). https://www.publichousing.com/details/wesbury_apartments

Bill’s wife, “Betty Mac,” was his chief support and strength and worked in later years with the Community Free Clinic.