William Freeman Howard, Jr., affectionately known as Witt, passed away Tuesday, April 2, 2013, at Caldwell Hospice Kirkwood. He was born July 19, 1924, to William Freeman Howard, Sr. and Wilvie Thompson Howard of Statesville. In addition to his parents, he was preceded in death by a brother, Joe Shelton Howard of Greensboro.
Witt moved to Lenoir in 1928 when his father opened the original Lenoir Belk store. Educated in the Lenoir City School System, Witt was president of the 1942 senior class of Lenoir High School and a delegate to The Tar Heel Boys State. He attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for one year but his studies were interrupted by World War II. Drafted into the U.S. Army in 1943, Witt served in the 555th Military Police Escort Guard Company and guarded POWs during the war. He received four service medals and an Honorable Discharge in 1946 with the rank of Sergeant.
It was in 1946 that he officially began his long and distinguished 46 year career with Belk beginning in the Boys Department when the store was located on the corner of Harper and Main. As his career continued, Witt epitomized what a merchant was all about by conducting himself with undeniable integrity and honesty along with a genuine interest in each and every one of his customers. He worked tirelessly to ensure the Belk store in Lenoir was not only well stocked with fashionable merchandise for all ages and walks of life, but was a friendly, warm and comfortable place to shop and visit with friends. It has been said that Witt knew more people by their name than anyone else in Lenoir and as a result, made every customer of Belk feel valued. He served as the store’s General Manager from 1966 when it located in downtown Lenoir on West Ave. until his retirement in 1993 when the store was located in the former Lenoir Mall.
A lifetime member of First United Methodist Church of Lenoir, he served as an usher and Trustee as well as teaching youth Sunday school for many years. In later years, he continued to enjoy the fellowship of his Methodist friends during their weekly breakfast trips to Scotties. A longtime member of the Masonic Lodge, he was also a 40 year member of the Lenoir Optimist Club and received the Optimist of the Year Award in 1965. Witt served on the Board of Directors of Lenoir’s Northwestern Bank, First Union National Bank, Lenoir Downtown Merchants Association and the Chamber of Commerce. During his retirement years, he faithfully served as a volunteer with Caldwell Memorial Hospital as well as the Caldwell County Schools. He also had a lifelong passion for sports and was an avid fan and supporter of the University of North Carolina Tar Heels.
Witt loved his family and was immensely proud of them. He is survived by Ruth C. Howard of Lenoir, his son William F. Howard, III and wife Denise of Lenoir, his daughter Belinda Howard Corpening and husband John of Chapel Hill and his daughter Marsha Howard Morgan and husband Robert of Wilmington, his nine grandchildren: Ross Howard of Mooresville, Jack Howard of Chapel Hill, Anna Corpening Edwards and husband Josh of Little Mountain, SC, Katherine Corpening Neighbors and husband Josh of Raleigh, Abigail Corpening also of Raleigh, Meghan Morgan Corwin of Haymarket, VA, Dr. Robert Morgan, Jr. and wife Melanie of Durham, Ellen Morgan of Naples, FL and Peter Morgan and fiancée Anna Spurgeon of New Bern, his two step-grandsons, Ryan Feimster of Charlotte, Brandon Feimster of Boone and six great-grandchildren Joseph Ruppel, Gabrielle and Madeline Corwin of Haymarket, VA, Hardin and Margaret Edwards of Little Mountain, SC, and Henry Neighbors of Raleigh. Witt is also survived by two nieces, Rebecca Howard Dallke of Chapel Hill and Lisa Howard Scott of Julian.
The family sincerely expresses their heartfelt thanks to the Caldwell Memorial Hospital staff for providing our father the opportunity to visit with and assist the hospital’s visitors and patients. To Lenoir Park staff and residents, we are indebted to you for your care, friendship and loving support provided to our father during his nearly eight years there as a resident. We are also grateful to Caldwell Hospice staff for the affectionate care provided to our father during the last months of his life. And to his many friends, we thank you for your visits, calls, support and love. We specifically thank Mrs. Margaret Johnson for her dedicated friendship, sincere devotion and most importantly, for her excellent driving skills over the last few years.
Reverend Jamie Armstrong will lead a memorial service to celebrate Witt’s life at 4:00 P.M. Thursday, April 4, 2013 at First United Methodist Church in Lenoir. The family will receive friends immediately following the service in the Christian Life Center. Internment at Blue Ridge Cemetery will be private. The family will also receive friends at the home of William and Denise Howard at 405B Tremont Park Circle in Lenoir.
Memorials may be made to First United Methodist Church Building Fund at 309 Church Street NW, Lenoir, NC 28645 or to the Caldwell Memorial Hospital Foundation at 321 Mulberry Street SW, Lenoir, NC 28645.
Serving as pallbearers are Ross Howard, Jack Howard, Josh Edwards, Josh Neighbors, Dr. Robert Morgan, Jr. and Peter Morgan. Honorary pallbearers are former and retired employees of Belk of Lenoir.
Online condolences may be left at www.greer-mcelveenfuneralhome.com.
Greer-McElveen Funeral Home is serving the Howard family.