Willard Branch Harris, age 92, passed away peacefully on Dec. 2, 2019. He was a resident of the Glenaire retirement community located in Cary. He was born on Sept. 22, 1927, in Arcola, to the late Robert I. Harris and Myrtle Wemyss Harris. He grew up in Warren County, attending John Graham High School.
He attended Duke University for one semester on a baseball scholarship, but his education was interrupted by his brothers’ military service in WW II. Later, he attended Campbell Junior College, where he played on the 1947 and 1948 N.C. Junior College championship football teams. He then attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he received his BS in Accounting. Upon graduation, Willard served for two years in the Korean War with the United States Army Audit Agency at Fort Amador in the Panama Canal Zone. After completing his military service, he returned to UNC, where he received his MBA.
Immediately after college, he began his career as a CPA with Peat Marwick Mitchell in Greensboro, where he also met and married Olema Grant Harris. They then moved to the New York City area, where he held positions with Fieldcrest Mills, West Point Pepperell and Springs Industries. He was active in the Jaycees in both Greensboro and New Jersey, where he was the charter president of the Madison-Florham Park Jaycees.
In 1971, they moved to Martinsville, Va., where he was vice president of Finance with Tultex Corporation for 15 years until his retirement. He was active in the community as a member of the Kiwanis Club, the N.C. Chapter of the Financial Executive Institute, First United Methodist Church and the Presidential Board of Advisors of Campbell University.
He was a lifelong supporter of higher education and college athletics. While living in Martinsville, he worked tirelessly to help a number of young persons receive college athletic scholarships, several of whom attended Campbell University. He was also active as a youth sports coach for many years, making a positive influence in the lives of many young persons. In retirement, he was instrumental in raising significant gifts benefiting the University Chapel, several baseball scholarships and baseball training facility at Campbell, for which he received a Distinguished Alumnus Award.
The funeral will be held Monday, Dec. 9, 2019, at Bethlehem United Methodist Church in the Arcola community in Warren County, with burial to follow in the church cemetery. A reception will follow at the Reedy Creek Baptist Church fellowship hall.
Mr. Harris was preceded in death by his loving wife of 53 years, Olema Grant Harris, and siblings Robert A. Harris of Eden, Elmer W. Harris of Arcola, Vivian H. Phares of Durham and Rosalyn Ryals of Benson.
He is survived by his daughter, Patricia Boden and her fiancé, Konrad Zeller, of Charlottesville, Va.; his sons, Jeffrey and wife, Janet, of Charlotte, and John and wife, Mary Ann, of Edina, Minn.; his five grandchildren, Kelly and Grant Harris of Charlotte, Emily Harris of Los Angeles, Calif., and Cole and Blake Harris of Edina, Minn.; sisters-in-law, Jackie Clifford and husband, Dr. John Clifford, of Wilson, Lindy Burgess of Greenville, S.C., and Linda Morgan and husband, Ronnie, of Farmville.
In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts may be made to the Willard B. Harris Athletic Scholarship Fund at Campbell University, Attn.: Advancement Services – P.O. Box 125, Buies Creek, NC 27506.
Arrangements are by Blaylock Funeral Home in Warrenton, and online condolences may be made at blaylockfh.com.