B. Frank Matthews II ’49

B. Frank Matthews II, age 95, died peacefully at his home on January 24, 2023. A native of Gastonia, born October 7, 1927, Frank was the youngest of five children of the late Elizabeth Robinson Matthews and James Houston Matthews, Sr. He was preceded in death by the love of his life, Betty Choate Matthews, to whom he was married for 63 years; his daughter, Harriet Matthews Jackson; and his grandson, Franklin Matthews Jackson. Also preceding him are his siblings: Sarah Robinson Matthews, Elizabeth Matthews Welton, Eugene Robinson Matthews, and James Houston Matthews, Jr.; his brothers-in-law, Joseph Leighton Choate III and David G. Welton, M.D.; and his sisters-in-law, Annabelle Matthews Royster and Betsy Merritt Choate Sherard.

Growing up in a department store family, Frank learned from a young age the benefits of hard work, integrity, and perseverance and loved hearing the story of Mr. William Henry Belk sending his father to Gastonia to revamp and open the first Matthews-Belk store in the early 1900s. After the first store gained traction, Houston Matthews, Sr., along with his brothers and the Belk family, opened 18 stores in North Carolina, Upstate South Carolina, Middle Georgia, and Texas. In Howard Covington’s 1988 book Belk, he wrote, “None of Belk’s partners had been with him longer than the Matthews brothers. They exemplified the loyalty of the partners to Henry Belk and the family style that characterized the Belk operation.”

In addition to working in the family business, Frank spent happy childhood summers at Camp Morehead on Bogue Sound (Morehead City, NC), where he developed his love of sailing. He attended Gastonia City Schools through the 9th grade, then followed his two older brothers to The McCallie School (Chattanooga, TN) and graduated in 1945. From there, he entered Davidson College, graduating in 1949 with his Bachelor of Science in Business (BSB) and was a proud Kappa Alpha. He ran on the track team at both McCallie and Davidson, and he also learned to fly an airplane at Buck’s Flight School while at McCallie. Frank served his country in the U.S. Army Reserves from 1949-1965, commissioned as a Second Lieutenant and honorably discharged as a Captain.

Frank remained a loyal, involved alumnus of McCallie and Davidson, two institutions he credited throughout his life for shaping him, reinforcing his Christian values, and deepening his faith.

After graduating from Davidson in 1949, Frank joined the Matthews-Belk Stores full time with his brother, Houston Matthews, Jr., and sister, Elizabeth Matthews. He rose through the ranks of the Belk organization and held the positions of Executive Vice President & Supervising Partner, President, and Vice Chairman. Frank also served on numerous Belk Store corporations from the early 1950s until all store entities consolidated in 1998. Upon the completion of that merger, he became Vice Chairman of Belk, Inc., the nation’s largest privately-owned department store until its sale in 2015. Frank provided many years of exceptional leadership to the Belk Stores.

Frank counted himself fortunate to have worked alongside all of William Henry Belk’s children-John, Tom, Ike, Sarah, and Henderson-in building the Belk corporation. He had the deepest respect for the Belk family and felt privileged to have worked so closely with John Belk and Tom Belk; he enjoyed their partnership and friendship throughout the years. He also had the honor of working with the Belk family’s third generation as they continued the tradition of great leadership.

Frank was also a Director of The Belk Foundation, which provides financial support to many educational institutions in the Carolinas and throughout the Southeast. After his retirement from Belk, he turned his attention to developing family legacy property in the Charlotte region with developers Childress Klein and Crosland Southeast on Waverly (Southeast Charlotte), Beacon Partners on The Square (SouthEnd), and The Keith Corporation on Kings Mountain Corporate Center.

Though much of his energy was dedicated to his retail career with Belk, Inc., he always found time for his church, family, and community. He followed the example of his parents with lifelong membership in Gastonia’s First Presbyterian Church where he served as Deacon, Elder, Sunday School Superintendent, Sunday School Teacher, Youth Advisor with wife Betty, and later as Elder Emeritus. Frank was also devoted to the growth and betterment of Gaston County and made his mark in innumerable ways. He helped organize the Gastonia Development Corporation and was a director of two publicly traded companies listed on the NYSE: Public Service Company of North Carolina, Inc. and Ti-Caro, Inc. Frank was a Director and Chairman of Gaston Federal Bank-predecessor of Citizen South Bank-for more than 36 years.

Frank recognized a strong community has a strong non-profit network, and he served on the boards of the United Way of Gaston County and Gaston County Family YMCA. He was a Director of Gaston Chamber of Commerce, Chairman of Gaston Community Foundation, and Chairman of First Gaston Foundation and The David Belk Cannon Foundation. The Matthews family believed in the power of education for personal and community growth, and he served as a Trustee at both Davidson College and Chatham Hall (Chatham, VA). At Davidson, he was on the Board of Advisors, then served 12 years as a Trustee and chaired the Regional Campaign (1992-1995) as part of the Campaign for Davidson. He also chaired the Annual Fund at various points and received Davidson’s Alumni Service Award in 1987. He was later honored as Trustee Emeritus.

Frank received numerous community awards through the years such as the Duke Kimbrell Lifetime Civic Achievement Award (Jaycees), the Allen H. Sims Award (Gaston Community Foundation), the Gaston Literacy Lifetime Achievement designation, and The Order of the Long Leaf Pine Award.

Frank is survived by his children: Eugene R. Matthews II and wife, Katherine (Gastonia, NC); and Mary Matthews Vaughn and husband, Vernon, (Gastonia, NC); four grandchildren: Peter Kemp Jackson II (Aiken, SC); Benjamin Franklin Matthews III and wife, Melanie (Charlotte, NC); Katherine Matthews Darling and husband, Edward (Charlotte, NC); and Elizabeth Vaughn Edwards and husband, Duke (Greenville, NC); and six great grandchildren. Also surviving are his nieces: Annabelle Matthews Kelly and husband, Bill (Gastonia, NC); Nora Matthews Hale and husband, Alfred (Rome, GA); and Alice Stowe Matthews, wife of the late Vann M. Matthews II (Gastonia, NC); and his nephews: William Merritt Choate and wife, Marcy (Charlotte, NC); and The Reverend J. Houston Matthews III and wife, Sharon (Gastonia, NC).

The family thanks the following for their care and support through the years: Ronald Digby, M.D., Dustin Letts, M.D., and their CaroMont Health teams; Covenant Village personnel; loyal caregivers, Kathy Watkins, Connie Burnette, Joreida Currence, Marveta Mason, and Faye Tate; longtime helper and friend, Charlie Holmes; and business associate and friend of more than 50 years, Margaret Caldwell.

A funeral service will be held at 2 p.m., Saturday, January 28, 2023, at First Presbyterian Church, 1621 E. Garrison Blvd., with The Reverend Daniel J. Commerford and The Reverend J. Houston Matthews III officiating. A reception will follow immediately in Fellowship Hall. A private service of committal will be held for the family at Oakwood Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorials be made to First Presbyterian Church, 1621 E. Garrison Blvd., Gastonia, NC 28054 or to Covenant Village Benevolent Fund, 1351 Robinwood Rd., Gastonia, NC 28054.
Condolence messages and memories of Frank may be shared with his family at www.mcleanfuneral.com.
McLean Funeral Directors of Gastonia is serving the family of Mr. Matthews.

George A. Kaneklides ’73

George Alexander Kaneklides, age 71, of Cane Mill Road slipped into the arms of Jesus Christ on Monday, January 23, 2023 at his home. Mr. Kaneklides was born on November 21, 1951 in Rowan County to the late Constantino George and Linda Arab Kaneklides.

Mr. Kaneklides grew up in Salisbury, NC where he graduated class of 1969 from Boyden High School in Salisbury. Mr. Kaneklides graduated with his undergrad degree from Davidson College where he was a member of Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity. He went on to attain his law degree from Wake Forest University where he was a member of Phi Alpha Delta law fraternity where he served as Chief Justice.

Mr. Kaneklides was an attorney most of his life and served under two North Carolina governors, Governor James Holshouser and Governor James Martin. It was during his service under Governor Holshouser that he was awarded the honor of the Order of the Long Leaf Pine. He authored the book “The Making of a Governor” about his time with Governor Holshouser. He was also the recipient of The Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels Award.

Mr. Kaneklides was a member and past president of the Coats Lions Club. He was a long-time member of the Church of the Good Shepherd Episcopal Church in Raleigh, NC. He was a loving husband, father, and friend. Surviving include his wife of 42 years, Ann Langdon Kaneklides; daughter, Mary Elizabeth Kaneklides; son, Alexander Langdon Kaneklides; and mother-in-law, Helen Barnes Langdon.

Arrangements: Funeral Services will be held-2:00 PM Friday, January 27, 2023 at Rose and Graham Funeral Home in Coats, NC. Officiating will be Rev. C.H. Lee. Burial will follow in Coats City Cemetery. Family will receive friends from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM on Thursday, January 26, 2023 at Rose and Graham Funeral Home in Coats, NC and other times at the home. Flowers are welcomed; however, donations may be made in his memory to Davidson College at PO Box 7159 Davidson, NC 28035 or to Hampden-Sydney College at PO Box 127 Hampden-Sydney, VA 23943. The family appreciates your thoughts and prayers. 

William Milton Blakely, Jr. ’63

William Milton Blakely, Jr., of Flat Rock, North Carolina, passed Monday, January 16, 2023. Born June 15, 1941, to the late William Milton Blakely, Sr., and Sarah Maslin Wells Blakely in Charlotte, North Carolina, Bill was eighty-one years old.

Bill earned his Bachelor’s in History from Davidson College and a Master’s in Counseling from Ball State University. Bill served his country in the United States Army in wartime and peace, in Korea, Vietnam, Okinawa, West Germany, and many stateside postings. After his military career, he continued protecting our troops and their families in the civil service as Safety Manager of Ft. Benning’s Martin Army Hospital near Columbus, Georgia, where he served with great distinction and once personally extinguished a fire that threatened the facility and its patients.

Bill was involved with Boy Scouts of America as a young man, attending jamborees across the world and achieving the rank of Eagle Scout. He was a crack shot on the rifle team at Davidson, where his marksmanship earned him the nickname “Bullet.” He met his wife Juliette on a blind date in college and only left her side afterward when his country called. He was a member, Elder, and Deacon of Edgewood Presbyterian Church in Columbus, Georgia, and a member of Trinity Presbyterian Church in Flat Rock, North Carolina. Though his service years moved him and his family around the world, Bill remained a North Carolinian at heart, and he was thrilled to retire to his parent’s home in 2005 at Bonclarken Presbyterian Conference Center. Bill greatly loved western North Carolina, especially Hendersonville and Flat Rock.

Bill was a voracious reader of every kind of science fiction and history and was a Biblical history scholar. He was a strong defender of civil liberties, regardless of race, origin, gender, orientation, or creed, and he was a patriot. He was a proud Preacher’s Kid and Army Brat. He force-marched his three boys throughout Europe for the best childhoods they could imagine. Bill was a truly good man: gentle, kind, caring, patient, empathetic, and loving. The world is a better place because he walked in it.

Bill was a very devoted husband, father, and grandfather. Surviving him is his wife of fifty-eight years, Juliette Brown Blakely; sons, William Wells Blakely (and wife, Beth) and Robert Brown Blakely (and wife, Leigh) of Lawrenceville, Georgia, and Charles Jones Blakely (and wife, Linda) of Superior, Colorado; sister, Sally Shook (and husband, Gary) of Topeka, Kansas; grandchildren, William Evan Blakely, John Kevin Blakely, Kjersten Alise Gray and Katelynn Amanda Gray of Lawrenceville, Georgia, Matthew William Blakely and Sara Elizabeth Blakely of Lawrenceville, Georgia, Jack Coleman Blakely and Samantha Marie Blakely of Superior, Colorado; sister-in-law, Anne Cason Brown, of Greenwood, South Carolina; and nephew, Joseph Cason Brown, of Columbia, South Carolina, and nieces Lara Shook Murphy (and husband, Steve) of Topeka, Kansas, and Tara Shook of Kansas City, Missouri.

A memorial service will be held at Trinity Presbyterian Church (900 Blythe Street, Hendersonville, North Carolina 28791).

Solon “Russ” Russell Cotton, Jr. ’61

Russ passed away in his sleep on January 12, 2023, at The Gardens of Trent in New Bern. He had been a patient there for one month.

He was born January 9th, 1939, in Smithfield, N.C. to Nelda and Solon Cotton. He was preceded in death by his parents and his mother and father-in-law, Gladys and John Harper. He leaves to cherish his memory his loving wife, Sandi of 61 years; his daughter, Kim; his son, Rusty (Fran); and his three grandchildren, Brin, Lindsey, and Will Cotton.

Russ graduated from Red Springs High School in 1956. He was a post graduate of Randolph-Macon Military Academy in Front Royal, VA, in 1957 where he played football and baseball. He then attended Davidson College for 4 years and graduated in 1961. In his freshman year he was selected as Outstanding Freshman Athlete.

Following in his parents’ footsteps, he began his career in education and served as teacher/coach, principal, and assistant superintendent. In his 38 years he served in many N.C. school districts and received many honors and awards. He ended his tenure as superintendent of Pamlico County Schools in 1999. At his retirement he was awarded The Order of The Long Leaf Pine by Gov. James B. Hunt, Jr.

Thankfully, the superintendency of Pamlico Co. Schools brought us back home. Russ always had an affection for Pamlico County where he once lived. He was a dedicated educator and felt that was his “calling”.

The family will receive friends and relatives from 2 to 4:00 p.m., Sunday, January 15th at Daniels-Sadler Funeral Home. Private interment will be held in Amity Christian Church Cemetery.

May he rest in peace and know that he was well loved by faculty, administrators, friends and family.

Flowers are appreciated or contributions in his memory may be made to one’s favorite charity.

George Crowell ’73

George Crowell was born in Lexington, NC, on Jan. 5, 1951, to Giles and Jean Crowell.

He graduated from Lexington Senior High School before attending Davidson College and Wake Forest School of Business.

As a life-long learner, George enjoyed astronomy, was a masterful home chef, and learned watchmaking and beekeeping later in life. He was a passionate wine-connoisseur and even owned a restaurant and wine shop.

Professionally, he worked as a CPA for Dimon, Inc., in Danville Va., where he frequently traveled the world and developed life-long global friendships.

George had an incredible sense of humor and was loved by everyone who ever met him, retaining friendships for life.

Most importantly, George was a loving father, grandfather, husband, brother and friend to so many.

He is survived by his wife, Gretchen, his children, Cory (Shannon) Crowell, of Apex, NC, Channing (Marta) Crowell, of New York City, and Madalyn (Christopher) Brown, of Greensboro; and grandchildren, Delos, Payton, Collin and Jude Crowell, and Pierce Annabelle Brown.

He is also survived by brother Frank (Pat) Crowell, of Lewisville; and sister Kathy (Greg) Oliver, of Lexington. He is loved by many nieces, nephews, in-laws and cousins.

He will be deeply missed by many.

Appreciation to his many caregivers and Hospice.

A memorial service was held on Sunday, Jan. 15, at Hanes Lineberry Funeral Home, with Reverend Jeff Johnsen officiating.

Donations may be made to the St. Jude (stjude.org) or Lung Cancer Initiative (https://lungcancerinitiative.org/).

Fond memories and expressions of sympathy may be shared at www.haneslineberryfhnorthelm.com for the Crowell family.