Following loss, Cabarrus man finds purpose at senior center

Published on March 26, 2024


Steve Wilhelm eyes the cue ball, then bends and lines up his shot. He’s careful to get just the right angle before drawing back. Then … CLACK. The cue ball slams into several others, sending them rolling around the table.  

It’s a pretty good break, if he does say so himself.  

This is how the 76-year-old spends a lot of his time these days. But now, instead of the late-night games at the “beer joints,” he’s playing pool during the day at the Concord Senior Center.  

“I love shooting pool” says Wilhelm. “I’ve been doing it since I was 16 years old.” 

Along with offering the opportunity to play the game he loves, the senior center has helped the Kannapolis native find purpose following the loss of Kay, his wife of 53 years.   

After Kay passed in 2022, “I asked the Lord to help me find a good place to go,” Wilhelm says. “Sometimes I’d get lonesome, and it’s rough when you don’t have anything to do but sit at the house.” 

Wilhelm’s neighbor invited him to tag along on a visit to the Concord Senior Center. He’s been going ever since. Often, he returns multiple times a day.  

“My first time coming here was a wonderful experience,” says Wilhelm “I’m so thankful that I can come up here, shoot pool and enjoy myself. It’s a good environment and that’s what the world needs more of: good environments for everyone.”  

The people he’s met at the senior center? They’ve become family.  

“They’re like my brothers and sisters,” he says. “I love them so much and they have been really good to me.” 

Wilhelm says he spent years saddled with bad habits. He'd smoke and drink while playing pool at bars, he says.

He’s past that now. His faith, encouraged by Kay, helped "deliver” him. The senior center keeps him on the right path.  

Wilhelm was born and raised in Kannapolis. He worked at Cannon Mills for more than three decades, and through the years part-timed at Winn-Dixie and Wal-Mart.  

He remembers seeing Kay driving around town in a red Corvair. One day, he summoned enough courage to make his move.   

“I looked at her. She smiled at me, and I said, ‘how about you pull over?’” 

They talked that day, and soon fell in love.  

“She looked like Annette Funicello (the actress/singer known for her roles in 1960s beach movies) and that just struck me out” he adds. “I went home and told my dad that I had to marry her.” 

And he did.  

The couple raised a family before Kay was diagnosed with cancer. With his best friend gone, Wilhelm had a choice: go back to his old ways or live the life his wife wanted for him.  

That led him to the senior center.   

“I wish I would’ve known about this place sooner,” he says. “I would’ve brought (Kay) with me.”  

Cabarrus senior centers offer much more than just billiards. Drop in just about any time and you'll find activities such as sewing, arts and crafts, table tennis, shuffleboard, line dancing, tai chi, strength and conditioning, yoga and Zumba. 

“We take pride in creating a space that makes our older residents feel welcomed, supported and celebrated,” says Active Living and Parks Assistant Director Byron Haigler. “Stories like Steve’s are why we do what we do. Participant appreciation brings us more joy than we can express.” 

The Concord Senior Center is also the hub of Cabarrus County’s Senior Games and SilverArts competitions.  

Wilhelm will be there, billiards cue in hand. He plans to showcase his talents n a Senior Games match on April 11. 

“May the best man win, and I hope that’ll be me,” Wilhelm jokes.  

When asked about the possibility of winning his event, Wilhelm said he would dedicate the victory to Kay.  

Then he recited what he’d tell her.  

“Honey, I’m going give all the credit to you, because you didn’t want me to shoot pool at those beer joints, so I came down here to the senior center and won one for you ...” 

About Cabarrus County’s Active Living and Parks Department 

ALP uses fitness, wellness and education to improve the quality of life for Cabarrus County residents. The County currently operates four parks and two active living centers, each with unique amenities.  

Two new active living center/library facilities are under construction in Mt. Pleasant and Afton Ridge, and a new 615-acre St. Stephens Church Road nature park is in development. Virginia Foil Park is also under construction in Mt. Pleasant. 

The department hosts a variety of programs, clubs, services and events such as Touch-A-Truck, the Senior Health & Wellness Expo and several 5K races throughout the year.  

Learn more about the department’s facilities, events and classes at


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