Zolon Wilkins Sr. (1920 - 2014)

Obituary
  • "I just found out that Mr. Wilkins had passed away. I..."
    - Bonnie Gallagher
  • "Zolan, just read of your dad's departure. He was a true..."
    - Mike Holt
  • "I have always LOVED YOUR FAMILY!!! So many memories in..."
    - Winnie Freeland Anderson
  • "Zolon, very sorry to read of your father's passing. Please..."
    - Mike & Dona Leeman
  • "Offering our deepest condolences during this difficult time."
    - Brown's Memorial Funeral Home, Inc.

Wilkins, Sr., Zolon A. Zolon A. Wilkins, Sr., age 93, peacefully passed away on April 1, 2014 surrounded by his loving family. Zolon was born on April 13, 1920 near Lexington, TN to Connie Gleason and Effie Wilkins. He married the love of his life, Edna Brown, who grew up in the same area of Tennessee as he did, near Lexington. They worked hard together and created a beautiful family and a life that was filled with hard work, love and joy. They would have celebrated 67 years of marriage on December 26, 2014. Zolon's resilience, inner toughness, fortitude and successful work ethic are a source of inspiration for his family and to everyone that knew him. He founded an aluminum awning company in Jackson, Tennessee and then moved that company to Dallas in 1950. A driven entrepreneur with high energy, Zolon built a 7-unit motel called Zolon's Courts in Grand Prairie along with several apartment complexes in the DFW area. His partner in the business as well as in life, Edna, worked side by side with Zolon - serving as housekeeper and bookkeeper (as well as raising three growing boys) while Zolon ran the awning shop and continued to think about how to improve and grow the business. In 1961, Mr. Wilkins founded Lexington Apartments and Motor Inns and then in 1982 founded Lexington Hotel Suites-an extended-stay, all-suite concept which the family owned, providing construction, development and hotel management services to over 50 properties in several states from Tennessee to California. Additionally, Zolon authored several successful patents and trademarks (e.g. "A day or a lifetime", "Home away from home", "A suite for the price of a room") which have subsequently been sold to others. In 1990, Zolon co-founded and became an investor in Lexington Services Corporation. The company had over 1,000 employees with not outside equity investors and became the largest third-party representation and reservations provider in the US and the second largest in the world-representing more than 4,000 hotel properties in 70 countries. Zolon thoroughly enjoyed ranching, especially his horses and Black Angus, and owned ranches (Wilkins and Sons) with farms in both Tennessee and Texas. Mr. Wilkins was extremely successful in business but was a shy man-he never wanted publicity. He deeply loved his family and generously supported his church and community, donating several homes to a church in Bear Creek, Irving and providing many student scholarships while also contributing to the Irving Community Hospital, Dallas Baptist University along with donating the Zolon A. Wilkins Family Chapel at Baylor Healthcare Hospital. He never forgot his Tennessee roots and provided financial support to several churches as well as the Parsons Community Hospital located in Parsons, Tennessee. Both Zolon and Edna were recognized by the honorable Senator Jennings Randolph who awarded them honorary degrees from the University of Hard Knocks in West Virginia on June 4, 1983. Zolon proudly served his country as a Navy Seabee for three years during World War II, receiving an honorable discharge in 1946. He was a member of the Irving Masonic Lodge #1218 for 70 years along with being an active member in the Scottish Rite and Shriners. An Irving resident since 1963, he and Edna are faithful members of the First Baptist Church in Irving. Zolon is preceded in death by his parents and brothers Clois and James Wilkins. Mr. Wilkins is survived by his wife Edna, their three sons; Zolon, Jr. and his wife Lou Ann; Ric and his wife Janet and Michael and his wife Fern; eight grandchildren Z III, Trevor, Melanie, Tiffany, Shawna, Sara, Brian and Lauren; six great-grandchildren Zoe, Zolon IV, Cooper, Isabell, Abigail and Sophia; numerous cousins, nieces, nephews and many, many friends. A private family service was held on April 4, 2014. In lieu of flowers, contributions in honor and memory of Zolon's life may be made to Dallas Baptist University, Baylor Healthcare Foundation - Irving, or the First Baptist Church of Irving.

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Published in Dallas Morning News on Apr. 6, 2014
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