A. Emerson Willard ’43

A. Emerson Willard and Elisabeth Felt (White) Willard, after 71 years of marriage, departed this life within 10 months of each other.

Libby died on September 4, 2022 at the age of 102; Emerson died on July 16, 2023 at the age of 101.  Both passed away at their home on Masonboro Sound, surrounded by their family.

Libby was born on February 3, 1920, in Churchville, Virginia to the late Rev. William Chester White, D.D. and Martha Finley White. She graduated from Mary Baldwin College, Staunton, VA, in 1942 with a teaching degree.

Emerson was born on November 5, 1921, to the late Martin S. Willard and Margaret Glendy Martin Willard. He attended Davidson College and the U. S. Naval Academy prior to serving as a naval aviator during World War II.

On June 16, 1951 Emerson and Libby were married in College Church at Hampden-Sydney College, and began their life together at “Crown Point” on Masonboro Sound.

Emerson and Libby were remarkable individuals and a beloved couple. They were excellent witnesses of their faith and outstanding role models to their sons, to their extended family, and to countless others in their community and beyond. Together as well as separately, their lives were filled with wisdom and grace; they were always ready to listen, never judging, continuously serving others.

Emerson was a partner in Crown Point Poultry Farm, and owner of Crown Point Marine where he completed 63 boats up to 38 feet in his career.  After retiring from boat-building, he was a volunteer with Habitat for Humanity for many years.

Libby’s care for their community was demonstrated in many ways, including her work to save Masonboro Island and to oppose an oil refinery on the Cape Fear River; in pursuing historic zoning on Masonboro Sound Road, and in volunteering in the community’s public schools. 

Their long lives were impacted by a world war and many remarkable changes. Libby remembered commuting in a horse drawn buggy with her father, and learned to drive in a Model A Ford.  She passed a computer class at age 90, and until just weeks before her death, continued to send emails to family and friends from her computer. Emerson remembered commuting between Wilmington and Masonboro Sound in a horse drawn wagon on sand roads. He was a lifelong Waterman, sailing and fishing until the age of 96.

Both were lifelong Presbyterians.  Libby joined First Presbyterian Church after moving to Wilmington in 1951 where she was active in Circle 3 and received an Honorary Lifetime Membership in Presbyterian Women.  Emerson was a lifelong member of First Presbyterian Church where he served as deacon and elder.

Emerson was preceded in death by his brother, Martin Stevenson Willard, Jr and his sister, Glenn Willard Higgins. Libby was preceded by sisters Nannie White Allen, Mary White Bear, Margaret White Bear, Gertrude White Irvine, Martha White Siron, Lucilla White Whitted, Virginia White Taylor; and brothers Charles White and William Chester White.  Emerson and Libby were the youngest of the children from their respective homes, and together helped provide support for their older siblings in their final years.

They are survived by their sons, A. Emerson Willard Jr. and his wife E. Anne Willard of Staunton, VA, and W. Martin Willard and his wife, Amanda Misner of Wilmington, NC, their grandson Simon Emerson Willard, and many nieces and nephews.

A memorial service for both Emerson and Libby Willard will be held at 1:30 p.m. Friday, September 29, 2023 at First Presbyterian Church.

Memorial contributions may be made in their honor to the Pastors’ Fund of First Presbyterian Church, 125 South 3rd Street, Wilmington, NC 28401.

“When anguish is summoned, joy emerges: When mourning is appropriate celebration intrudes.” Elie Wiesel.