Eleanor Workman “Wookie” Payne

Eleanor Workman “Wookie” Payne passed away peacefully on April 14, 2022 at age 79 after a courageous battle with cancer. Known to all as Wookie, she embraced her nickname and lived a truly global life, traveling the world for work and fun.

Wookie was born to Dr. Gatewood and Mildred Workman on December 25, 1942. She and her brother Bill, who preceded her in death, were raised in Davidson, North Carolina. She lived most of her life in North Carolina and was a proud graduate of Salem College.

After several years in Atlanta, Wookie returned to the town of Davidson with her family and embarked on a remarkable career at Davidson College. She started as a computer programmer and retired as Senior Associate Dean of Admission, responsible for recruiting international students and other underrepresented groups. Wookie had an immeasurable impact on these students, most of whom would not have had the resources or opportunity for a college education.

She was happiest exploring the world, making new friends wherever she went and embracing other cultures in the sixty or more countries that she visited throughout her life. Wookie was always up for an adventure whether it was hang gliding, zip lines or trips to fabulous islands but always returned to her roots. She grew up as part of four family generations who loved Montreat, its heritage and its community. Wookie ultimately retired to Black Mountain and the North Carolina mountains where she truly felt at home.

Wookie raised two children, Gatewood Campbell (Johnny) and Will Payne (Anna) and was “Drammie” to her four grandchildren, Justin and Hunter Campbell, Stella and Declan Payne. Drammie was loved for her mismatched earrings, fairy hair, party hats and even tattoos! She cherished her grandkids and loved watching their sporting events and musicals, but mostly enjoyed having them in her home.

Wookie was blessed with a wicked sense of humor, an infectious spirit and was truly Brave in All Things. GJM!

There will be a brief remembrance at the Montreat Memorial Garden at 2:30pm on April 24th, with a celebration of her life to follow at 3pm in Upper Anderson, 303 Lookout Road in Montreat. As one would expect, wine will be served. Wookie requested “tell everybody not to wear black.”

In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation in her name to the William Gatewood Workman Psychology Award at Davidson College https://community.davidson.edu/gift-form, or the Mountain Retreat Association, https://montreat.org/support/montreat-fund.

Harwood Home for Funerals & Cremation Services is assisting the family. www.harwoodhomeforfunerals.com

Published by Charlotte Observer on April 17, 2022.

Elisabeth Crawford (Betty) Ervin

Elisabeth Crawford (Betty) Ervin died at Grace Ridge on Wednesday, September 8, 2021, after a life well-lived. 

Betty was born on May 15, 1928, in Charlotte to Robert Taylor Crawford and Elisabeth Fore Crawford.  Although the family moved frequently during her early years, she always considered Charlotte her childhood home.  After completing high school in Roanoke, Virginia, Betty attended the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (then Woman’s College), earning an A.B. in 1950.  Upon graduating from college, Betty served as Assistant to the Dean of Students at Hood College in Frederick, Maryland, until 1952, when she married Samuel J. Ervin, III, and moved to Morganton, where she lived for the rest of her life. 

From 1953 until 1955, Betty taught at the North Carolina School for the Deaf.  After taking time away from the workforce to raise her four children (she once said of television that anything that could keep four children quiet for an hour couldn’t be all bad), Betty resumed her career in education, teaching social studies at Morganton High School and Freedom High School from 1971 until 1985, during which time she taught the first Advanced Placement history course in Burke County. 

While at Freedom, Betty was the sponsor for the CLOSEUP Program, which provided educational trips that allowed students to meet with governmental leaders in Raleigh and Washington, and worked with the American Field Service, an international exchange student program.

Betty also played an active role in North Carolina higher education. She was deeply involved in the UNC-G alumni association, serving on that organization’s board of directors from 1987 until 1990 and as its president in 1990.  She was a member of UNC-G board of trustees from 1994 until 2000 and chaired the board during 1999-2000.  In addition, she served on the board of trustees at Sam’s alma mater, Davidson College.

In addition to supporting her husband’s lengthy career in public service, Betty dedicated herself to the life of her community.  She served on the Morganton Board of Education from 1964 until 1967, during which time she supported the decision to desegregate the City’s schools and was involved in planning for the consolidation of the Morganton, Glen Alpine, and Burke County school systems.  Betty served on the Morganton Zoning Board of Adjustment, including a stint as its chair; the City of Morganton Historic Properties Commission; and the Western Piedmont Community College 2001 Task Force.  For many years, Betty was the Registrar or an Elections Judge for Morganton No. 5 precinct. 

After her retirement, she participated in the activities of numerous local charitable organizations, such as the American Field Service, the Pilot Club, the Burke County United Christian Ministries, and Hospice of Burke County, having served as the president of all four organizations.  Betty was very active in the First Presbyterian Church of Morganton, where she sang in the choir, taught Sunday School, volunteered as a youth advisor, served as president of the Women of the Church, and was a member of two different pulpit nominating committees (chairing one). 

Betty was the first woman to serve as the chair of the church’s Board of Deacons and was one of the first women to serve the church as a ruling elder.  In the wider Presbyterian denomination, Betty was a member of the presbytery’s New Church Development Task Force and the board of directors for the national Presbyterian Historical Society.       

Throughout her life, Betty was a force of nature who sought to leave the world better than she found it.  Betty was troubled by the injustices that she saw around her and tried to do something about them.  She went out of her way to help young people who needed a helping hand and made it possible for a number of them to obtain further education or to otherwise succeed in life.  She worked hard to ensure that women took their rightful places in the leadership of her church, her community, and her state and nation.  She impressed upon her children the dignity of all people, the critical role of life-long education, the importance of involvement in one’s community, and the necessity for knowledge of and contact with the wider world. 

Although Betty later enjoyed traveling to destinations all over the globe, she made sure that each of her children had the benefit of foreign travel before going abroad herself.  She greatly enjoyed spending time with her many friends at her beloved beach house outside Wilmington and was privileged to help raise an entire generation of Ervins, Crawfords, Sassers, Pattons, Smiths, and Lachots on Woodside Place and during annual trips to the beach.  More recently, Betty enjoyed visits from her canine friends, Poppy and Sadie.  Betty doted upon her husband, her children, her grandchildren, and, more recently, her great-grandchildren, and the other members of her extended family.

Betty was predeceased by her husband; her parents; her brother, Robert Taylor Crawford; and her in-laws, Sam J. Ervin, Jr., and Margaret Bell Ervin.  She is survived by her children: Samuel James Ervin, IV (Mary); Elisabeth Fore Ervin (Ken Razza); Robert Crawford Ervin (Dana); and Margaret Ervin Bruder (Joachim); grandchildren Davin Patrick Coutu, Kelly Stephen Coutu (Amanda), Samuel James Ervin, V (Kaya), Michael Worth Ervin, Cameron Virginia Ervin, Caroline Elisabeth Ervin, Valentin Joachim Bruder, and Samuel Wilson Bruder; and great-grandchildren, Elise Madeline Coutu and Cedar Everett Ervin.

The family is grateful to the many caregivers who provided assistance to Betty in recent years, including Dr. Martin Gessner and the staff at Grace Ridge, who provided her with loving care during her final years on this earth and became her friends as well as her caregivers.

A graveside service will be held at Forest Hills Cemetery at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday, September 11, 2021, with the Rev. Beth Ann Miller, presiding.  Memorial contributions may be made to the Betty Crawford Ervin Fellowship in History at UNC Greensboro, PO Box 26170, Greensboro, NC 27402-6170 or the Taiwanese ministry of John McCall (contributions should be sent to Presbyterian Church USA, P.O. Box 643700, Pittsburgh, PA 15269 and designated for John McCall, E200487).

The service will be live-streamed beginning at 11 a.m. on the Facebook page for Sossoman Funeral Home (www.facebook.com/sossomanfh).

Nancy Overcash Blackwell

Nancy O. Blackwell

Nancy Overcash Blackwell, 91, formerly of Davidson, North Carolina and widow of Herbert Hoover Blackwell, passed away Saturday morning, January 9, 2021, at the Oaks at Pooler.

Born in Davidson, North Carolina, she was a daughter of the late Jimmie Lee Overcash and the late Katie Spencer Overcash. Mrs. Blackwell was a former longtime faithful member of Calvary Presbyterian Church in Davidson where she served as church organist and was a former Deacon and Elder. She later joined Davidson College Presbyterian Church.

As a senior in high school, Nancy’s journey at Davidson College began with a work study position in the Alumni Office. This transpired into a life-long career at Davidson where she retired after 61 years of service. In September, 2000, the Nancy O. Blackwell Alumni House was named in her honor for her years of devotion to the students, faculty, staff and college. She was an avid sports fan and especially loved to attend women’s basketball and volleyball games.

In addition to her husband and parents, she was preceded in death by a great-grandson, Drayton Levi Mitchell; sisters, Mabel Farrington, Sue Morrow and a brother, Jimmie Lee “Junior” Overcash, Jr.

Surviving are one daughter, Deborah “Debbie” B. Mitchell and her husband, Eddie, of Savannah; one son, Victor S. Blackwell and his wife, Sherry, of Matthews, North Carolina; four grandchildren, Brian Blackwell, Cory Mitchell and his wife, Dallas, Kylie Russell and her husband, Chris, and Eric Mitchell and his wife, Breanne; four great-grandchildren, Anthony Blackwell, Cohen Mitchell, Porter Mitchell and Kayden Russell; two sisters, Betty Morton and her husband, Parker, of Durham, North Carolina and Kay Spilker of King, North Carolina, and nieces and nephews.

The family would like to express their heartfelt gratitude to the special people at the Oaks in Pooler for their wonderful love and compassionate care that they gave her.
A Celebration of Life Memorial service will be held at a later date.
Remembrances: The Nancy Overcash Blackwell Scholarship at Davidson College – P.O.Box 7170 Davidson, North Carolina 28035-7145.

Please share your memories about Nancy Blackwell and her life at www.gamblefuneralservice.com.

Published in Charlotte Observer on Jan. 17, 2021.

Anthony “Tony” S. Abbott, Charles A. Dana Professor of English Emeritus

Anthony S. Abbott of Davidson, NC passed away on October 3, 2020 at the age of 85.  He was in hospice care in Statesville surrounded by loved ones at his passing.

Tony will be remembered as a tremendous scholar and teacher, a talented and influential writer, a selfless volunteer to his community, a steadfast friend and a devoted husband and father. 

He received his early education at a junior boarding school, Fay School, in Massachusetts and later graduated from the Kent School in Connecticut.  A 1957 graduate of Princeton, where he majored in English, he went on to receive his Ph.D from Harvard and then taught for two years at Bates College.

In 1964, he moved–along with his wife Susan–to Davidson College to teach modern drama and American Literature.  He taught there for 37 years, serving as chair of the English department for seven of them.  During that time he became a truly beloved teacher and was granted some of the college’s highest awards, including the Hunter-Hamilton Love of Teaching Award and the Thomas Jefferson Award.  He remains the Charles A. Dana Professor of English Emeritus and today the Abbott English Honors Program at Davidson is named in his honor and “welcomes and promotes original work produced by senior majors in the Department of English, work of exceptional quality and polish that makes a contribution to the field.”  

Former students describe him as “young at heart” and remember him not just as an inspirational instructor but as “the kind of professor friend many of us needed during our college years of exploration and growth” and recall fondly taking walks with him on the campus or traveling with him on college trips.

After his retirement from the college in 2001, Tony continued to teach.  He was a visiting professor at Catawba College, the writer-in-residence at Lenoir Rhyne and taught workshops at Queens University and at colleges, universities and churches throughout the state. 

For over 50 years he ran the Covenant Sunday School classes at Davidson College Presbyterian Church and regularly taught seminars on Walker Percy, Frederick Buechner, John Irving and Flannery O’Connor.  In his final years, he devoted much of his time and thought to the DavidsonLearns program, designed to promote lifelong learning for “mature” students.  He was still conducting classes via zoom two weeks before his passing.

In 2015, Tony received the North Carolina Award for Literature, the highest civilian honor given by the state, and he is slated to be inducted into the North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame on October 11, 2020.  Best known as a poet, he once described himself as “poet who happened to write novels.”  

His first book of poems, The Girl in the Yellow Raincoat, was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, and he went on to publish eight books of poetry, the last of which he completed this year and which will be published posthumously.  The accessibility of his work has led many readers to embrace poetry.  Said one, “Tony taps into everyday language and situations of love and loss.  He elevates the minutiae of life into universal truths, without rendering the language and images obscure and impossible to understand.”  

His first novel, Leaving Maggie Hope, won the 2003 Novello Literary Award, and was followed by a sequel, The Three Great Secret Things.   He is also the author of four books of literary criticism, two on modern drama.

As a teacher and a writer, Tony has been a bridge builder between those communities.  He has been an integral part of the North Carolina Writers’ Network and the North Carolina Poetry Society, bringing writers of all styles and genres together with readers and scholars. 

A dynamic reader, he called upon his theater experience to make his readings into performances and he loved doing readings for schools, churches, bookstores and book clubs around the country–hundreds of them over the years.

Tony was devoted to the town and the people of Davidson.  He was one of the founders of the Davidson Community Players and directed or acted in dozens of shows through the years.  He coached youth baseball teams and led church youth groups. He volunteered for the Red Cross, driving patients to their treatments and developing deep, meaningful relationships with them. 

In 2018, the town honored him with the Jack Burney Award for Community Service in recognition for his lifetime of voluntary efforts.  But perhaps his greatest service to the town was the way he connected folks to one another–“If you were friends with Tony, you had a vast network of friends you just hadn’t met yet,” said one community member.  “Tony wanted everyone he knew to be friends with everyone else he knew.”  

His love for the Davidson community was palpable and it helped the town maintain its sense of warmth and connectedness throughout his lifetime.

Above all else, he was a devoted family man.  His mother died when he was very young and he did not know his father well until later in his life.  Perhaps because of or perhaps in spite of the distance from his parents, he was wholly committed to building and raising a connected family. He met Susan Dudley when they worked together at a ranch in Wyoming.  They were married in 1960 and celebrated their 60th anniversary together a month before his passing. 

Together, they had four children–David (who married Donna Stancil Abbott), Stephen (Katy Smith Abbott), Andrew (Katie Weiss Abbott) and Carolyn, who passed away at age four–and seven grandchildren: Robert, James, Elliott, Josie, Clara, Henry and John. 

Tony and Susan loved hosting the extended family at their lake home, traveling with them, and playing long, competitive games of cards or Boggle or Rummikub.  Tony often recited poetry to them before meals or at family occasions. 

He will be buried beside Carolyn in the family plot in Davidson.  He still describes her death as his most life-changing event, and she remained central to his life as the muse for his poetry.

A service to honor Dr. Anthony S. Abbott will take place at 2:00 on October 17 at Davidson College Presbyterian Church.  Because of the COVID crisis only family will be permitted in the sanctuary, but the service will be available via livestream, and the link will be available on the church website and distributed closer to the date.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that contributions be made to the Abbott Honors Program in English, Davidson College, Box 7170, Davidson NC 28035-7170; to the Davidson Community Players, PO Box 76, Davidson, NC 28036; or to the charity of your choice.

A service will be held for family only on October 17 at 2:00 pm. The service will also be livestreamed. Click here for the service Saturday at 2:00 pm. The Abbott family is under the care of Raymer-Kepner Funeral Home & Cremation Services. 

Online condolences and memories may be shared at www.kepnerfh.com

Tony’s family is deeply interested in remembrances of his life.  If you have stories or reflections that you would like to share, please email them to his son Stephen Abbott at abbott@middlebury.edu so that they can be included in Tony’s service or distributed to the family, as appropriate.

Former Trustee Janet Hostetter Wilson

Janet Hostetter Wilson, of Davidson, North Carolina, formerly of Lenoir, died peacefully on March 14, 2020, at the age of 86, with family by her side.

Janet was born in New York City on January 21, 1934. She grew up in Short Hills, New Jersey, and attended Kent Place School.

In 1955, she earned her baccalaureate degree at Wellesley College, where she was elected to membership in Phi Beta Kappa and Sigma Xi. She married Thomas Henry Wilson, Jr., in the fall of 1955, and was married for over 47 years until his death. She lived in Lenoir, North Carolina most of her adult life. After her three children were of school age, she obtained her master’s degree in psychology from Appalachian State University.

Passionate about education, she served on the Caldwell County Board of Education for 16 years, leading the board as its Chair. She served on the North Carolina School Boards Association for 12 years and held the statewide position of President. She served as a member of the North Carolina General Assembly’s Public Education Policy Council, as Director of the Public School Forum of North Carolina, and as Chair of the North Carolina Alliance for Public Education.

Devoted to providing educational opportunity to children, in her later years she worked diligently with the Foundation for the Carolinas to establish a fund and strategy to help provide Pre-K education to elementary schools in Caldwell County.

With a special love for Davidson College and as one of its most loyal advocates and supporters, Janet was a member of the Davidson College Board of Visitors and the Davidson College Board of Trustees, serving on its Athletics Policy Committee and Admissions and Financial Aid Committee. She especially loved the Davidson baseball team and regularly attended games.

As Davidson’s nominee, she was the recipient of the Southern Conference Distinguished Service Award. She was also awarded the Satie Broyhill Lifetime Achievement Award, the North Carolina School Boards Association Award for Outstanding Boardmanship, and the L.A. Dysart Citizenship Award, presented by the Caldwell County Chamber of Commerce, for her commitment to education and to the community.

Janet served on the boards of the Patterson School Foundation, Caldwell Hospice and Palliative Care, the Caldwell Hospice Foundation, Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina, the Education Foundation of Caldwell County, and the Caldwell 20/20 Steering Committee. She was an elder of United Presbyterian Church in Lenoir, North Carolina, where she sang joyously in the church choir, and later was a member of the Davidson College Presbyterian Church.

As a lover of art, she worked on the art committees for both the Caldwell Hospice and the Caldwell Memorial Hospital Cancer Center to help ensure art was present in these facilities. She helped support the construction and opening of the Blowing Rock Art and History Museum and advocated its value to the community.

She loved nature and believed a large part of every day should be spent outside. Janet had a passion for birds, gardening, and playing tennis. She loved her friends and her family and approached life with humility, graciousness, and concern for others.

Janet is survived by her three children and their spouses, Henry and Karin Wilson, Amy and John Scott, and David and Melody Wilson; her brother and his wife, Amos and Barbara Hostetter, and her six beloved grandchildren, Ellen, Robb, Tommy, Matt, Margaret, and Ben.

A private memorial was held for Janet by her family on March 16. Due to current health concerns, a public service will be postponed until a future time when we may gather in safety and love to remember and celebrate Janet’s life.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Caldwell Hospice and Palliative Care, Inc., 902 Kirkwood Street NW, Lenoir, North Carolina 28645, or Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina, P.O. Box 3023, Morganton, North Carolina 28680.

Condolences can be directed to Amy Wilson Scott, P.O. Box 15150, Jackson, Wyoming 83002.

Sossoman Funeral Home and Crematory Center is assisting the family with the arrangements.

Condolences may be sent to the family by visiting www.sossomanfh.com.

Published in Charlotte Observer on Mar. 18, 2020