Meet the Volunteers: Patricia Rhiner

By Carolyn Carter
Volunteer Coordinator, Historic Yates Mill County Park

Patricia Rhiner has been a faithful volunteer at Historic Yates Mill County Park since we opened in 2006. But her ties to Yates Mill are lifelong: She is the granddaughter of Yates Mill’s last and longest-serving miller, John Daniel Lea Sr.

Patricia grew up within “hollerin’ distance” of the mill, living just a mile away. One of her favorite childhood activities was visiting her grandfather at Yates Mill with her twin sister, Janet, to see him grind corn and wheat.

As did many Wake County residents of the time, Patricia also loved to fish in the mill pond. Sometimes she took minnows home to put in her fish tank, and also recalls repeatedly catching what her mother called “little perch,” which they always returned to the water to be caught another day.

Sunday afternoons were always spent with her grandparents at the miller’s residence, to enjoy dinner cooked by her grandmother, Bertha Lea. Cornbread was always on the table, served piping hot out of a big black skillet.

While many children today spend little time out of doors, Patricia developed a love of nature during the days she spent exploring the grounds around the mill pond, watching rabbits and squirrels scamper about and occasionally coming across a snake.

After Patricia graduated from Cary High School, she and her mother opened a small grocery store in Coates. Later, she married Wayne Rhiner, who passed away after 28 years as her husband. Their son, Daniel, works for the state. Patricia now lives nearly within “hollerin’ distance” of the mill again, in a home off Yates Mill Pond Road.

As her grandfather did before her, Patricia now does many jobs at Yates Mill, though as a volunteer. She staffs the reception desk, helps in numerous ways on corn-grinding weekends, and bags cornmeal for sale. “Anyone who has a good life and has the opportunity to give back to the community should do that,” she says.

Patricia likes to meet guests who come from around the world – and is especially pleased to see children learn to enjoy the woods and pond as she did when she was little. So be sure to say hello if you see her at Yates Mill!

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