She attended Biltmore Junior College (now the
University of North Carolina at Asheville), graduating in 1938,
and Northwestern University, where she was elected to membership
in Phi Beta Kappa and graduated in 1940 with a major in speech.
In August 1940, shortly after her graduation
from Northwestern, she was introduced to her future husband, James
R. Stokely, Jr., by Mabel Wolfe, the sister of Asheville writer
Thomas Wolfe. Stokely, of Newport, Tennessee, was a son of the
president of Stokely Brothers Canning Company (which in 1933 bought
Van Camp to become Stokely-Van Camp Inc. The Stokely brand of
canned food is now a brand of Seneca Foods and Van Camps a brand
of Conagra Inc.) The couple married just two months after they
met. They had two sons, Dykeman Stokely and James R. "Rory"
Stokely III. The couple maintained homes in Asheville and Newport,
and Dykeman continued to divide her time in both homes after Stokely
died in 1977. Dykeman and Stokely wrote several books together.
After Dykeman died in 2006, Appalachian writer
Jeff Daniel Marion called the couple's marriage a "partnership
in every sense of the word," describing Dykeman and Stokely
as "partners in writing, partners in marriage and partners
in having similar points of view."
In addition to this, in honor of Wilma Dykeman
who strongly advocated for linkage between economic development
and economic protection along the French Broad River, both the
City of Asheville and Buncombe County in Western North Carolina
have adopted the Wilma Dykeman RiverWay Plan - a 17-mile greenway
& park system that intends to revitalize sustainable economic
growth along the French Broad and Swannanoa River.
Dykeman died on December 22, 2006 after suffering
complications from a fractured hip and subsequent hip replacement
surgery. She is buried in the Lewis Memorial Park, just behind
Beaverdam Baptist Church in Asheville, near her childhood home.
Her tombstone is quite easy to find as it lies on top of a knoll
just behind the church.