It was during the 1890s that a freed slave from Edgecombe County came to Hillsborough.
Here he established a home and a life, and even though it has been more than 120 years, his great-grandson, Hillsborough native Walter Faribault Jr., attributes two lessons to his early ancestor. “I learned to cook barbecue and I learned to give,” Faribault said.
It is the evening before Faribault is about to serve his barbecue to the public as part of a fundraiser for the OCIM in Hillsborough.
“I would have been born in Hillsborough had there been a hospital here,” Faribault said. His family has a long history in this town and Walter Jr. was one of four siblings; he is the lone remaining survivor. From Central High School in Hillsborough, Faribault went to Morgan State University where he devoted his studies to biology.
Upon completing Morgan State, Faribault enrolled in the physician assistant program at Bowman-Gray School of Medicine in Winston-Salem. Faribault also served in the U.S. Navy, where he retired as a veteran. “I came right back home,” says Faribault of completing his degree from just down the road in Winston-Salem. Upon his graduation in 1975, Faribault began practicing at Orange Family Community Health Center and then eventually at student health at N.C. Central University and UNC-Chapel Hill, where he retired.
Along the way, Faribault has served on many community boards and has given his time to his hometown. Faribault was a board member for the Orange County School board, serving two terms during the 1980s. For the town of Hillsborough, Faribault has been involved with the planned river walk project, an interest that is close to his core. “A significant portion of the land used for the river walk was sold by my family. I have an interest in this project for personal reasons,” Faribault said.
Near the river, Faribault’s family owned a brick business, and he has many fond memories of how his family’s roots are tied to the flow of the river.
Family is very important to Faribault and maintaining that legacy is something he is proud of.
While Faribault has certainly contributed to his community and he continues to live a life that was based on the same footings his great-grandfather established, it is his expression in art that further establishes his life as special. Faribault is an artist working in the abstract nature of wood and metals. He is proudly self-taught and began creating stainless steel pieces as a byproduct of maintaining the legacy his family is known for, cooking barbecue. “I was taught very early how to cook barbecue and really there is no other way,” Faribault said.
His early role in barbecue was gathering railroad track logs and arranging them in a field where wood coal would be used to cook the pigs. “The barbecue was great and I learned from my grandfather the secret to cooking in this manner,” Faribault said.
His interest in barbecue teased Faribault into the catering and barbecue business, for a year. During this time, Faribault was modifying a concession trailer, where he would sell his barbecue from, with stainless steel. “I noticed the scraps and saw a potential for art,” Faribault said. Eventually, it became too time consuming and labor-intensive to maintain the barbecue business while also attending to his professional demands. However, the scraps of metal and eventually wood had already blossomed, and from hands that used to turn coals of wood, sculpturing came.
With a smile on his face, Faribault is as much an artist as he is a storyteller and he is proudly humbled by the end result of his own artwork. Yet, what is so very special about Walter Faribault Jr. is the idea that while he is creating artwork from random metals and woods and turning them into abstract creations, his artwork is really a legacy to family, hometown, and cooking good barbecue.
When his grandfather and family settled near the river in town, they came here to establish a life and to establish family and to establish honest work. When Faribault Jr. creates his sculpted pieces, he represents all that is important to the legacy of his family, including the only way to cook good barbecue.
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