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Christian 04

William "Bill" Gray Sharpe

May 10, 1935 ~ January 11, 2020 (age 84)

Obituary

Bill fully enjoyed life from May 10, 1935 until January 11, 2020. His life was made complete by the love and care of his wife and three daughters. He cherished the relationship with his 7 grandchildren, his sons-in-law, and many friends. Bill was preceded in death by his parents William Gray Sharpe III and Naomi Canaday Sharpe, sister-in-law Pat Sapper and brother-in-law Buddy Ritch. He is survived by wife Barbara, daughters Jan (Robert) Register of Burlington, Bobbi (Tex) Bennett of Raleigh, and Susan (Andy) Hardee of High Point, grandchildren Alex, Robert Jr, and William Register, McKenzie and Anna Bennett, and Sydney and Andrew Hardee, sister Frankie Ritch, brother-in-law Jack Sapper, nieces Fran (Larry) Jones and Linda Beam, nephews Chip Ritch and John (Jacqui) Sapper.

Bill considered himself, in the words of Lou Gehrig, “The luckiest man on the face of the earth.” Celebrating 59 years of happy marriage to Barbara Eberly of Ephrata, PA. He and Barb felt totally blessed to live near their three daughters and their families.

Bill met Barb in 1957 while Bill, then just out of undergrad, was working as Technical Director at Ephrata Legion Star Playhouse in PA where Barb was serving as a volunteer usher. Bill worked at this summer stock playhouse with Hollywood and television stars such as Veronica Lake, Ann B. Davis, Arnold Stang, and Scott Brady. Bill’s love affair with the theater began with his high school senior play and lasted a lifetime. In addition, throughout his life, he has continued to write about life experiences and travels. Bill and Barb traveled extensively and cherished getting to know people and cultures around the world. In addition, Bill was very active with Senior Games – sports, literature and performing categories. One year, he was State Champion in billiards. When Bill was 72, he went onstage at Raleigh Memorial Auditorium and impersonated 9 popular singers for the Performing Arts Category.

Bill always envisioned his career as a spiritual calling to discern his life’s purpose. He found meaning along each career path that he took. In his first and third appointments through the Methodist Conference as Associate Minister at Front Street United Methodist Church in Burlington, Bill and Barb developed many life-long friendships. During his second appointment, he had the once-in-a-lifetime experience of being the founding minister of Benson Memorial United Methodist Church in Raleigh. For 12 years, Elon College (now Elon University), offered Bill diverse challenges in the roles of Chaplain to Students, Publications Director, Media Board Chair, Coordinator of Personal Counseling, Student Activities Director, Associate Dean of Student Affairs, and, during his last four years, as the first full-time Chaplain to Elon College. The remaining 15 years of Bill’s career were spent as the Director of the Raleigh Wesley Foundation, serving students at NC State, Meredith College, and Peace College. There he led hundreds of students on national and international work teams to assist in recovery from hurricane damage and the aftermath of an earthquake around Los Angeles. Also, his creative drive led to the opening of a Christian coffeehouse on Hillsborough Street, “Cloud and Fire Express.”

Bill always felt his greatest strength was creativity and, as a teenager, organized a Boys Club in his hometown of Elm City, NC. While at Front Street, he organized Front Street Players, a youth drama group. As an undergraduate student at Duke University, Bill was an active member of Duke Players and Wesley Players. After graduating from Duke in 1957 with a degree in Political Science, Bill attended Duke Divinity School with the goal of specializing in Religious Drama. There, as Chair of the Social Actions Committee, one week after the “Greensboro Four Sit-Ins,” Bill organized a trip to White Rock Baptist Church in Durham to hear Martin Luther King, Jr. speak, which inspired him and several Divinity School students’ participation in the Durham Kress Store sit-ins the following day. Bill always felt called to join the struggle for justice and fairness in the treatment of all persons.

While living in Burlington, Bill became a founding member of the 1960’s Race Relations Committee, a member of the Recreation & Parks Commission, Chair of Sunshine Center for challenged youth, Vice-Chair of the original Ralph Scott Group Homes, Chaplain of the Burlington Jaycees, Vice President of the newly organized Studio Players, and founding board member of Gallery Players and two-time President. In the early 1980’s Bill was commissioned by the Alamance County Arts Council to take the lead in organizing the Alamance Children’s Theater (ACT). More recently, Bill was honored to serve a term as Chair of the Curriculum Committee of the adult lifelong learning program at Elon University, Life@Elon.

Bill cherished those who took care of him during his illness. The family is grateful to all caregivers, especially Janette Phelps, Dr. Mark Miller, Hospice and Palliative Care of Alamance-Caswell, Duke Oncology – Dr. Andy Armstrong, Stacy Lisi, Sam Nyante, and Ellen Leidig, and Duke Cardiology – Dr. Harrison, Edana Christy, and Michelle Johnson.

There will be a visitation at Lowe Funeral Home on Friday, January 17 from 5 to 7 pm. Bill’s life will be celebrated in Whitley Auditorium on the Elon University campus at 11 am on Saturday, January 18. Officiants are Jan Fuller, Ron Shive, Patrick Murphy and Richard McBride. Music will be provided by David Vaughan, organist, Clay Stevenson, pianist, India Cain and Keith Allen. Directions for parking and walking may be found on the Lowe Funeral Home website.

Bill and Barbara have established a special fund at Elon University to support students from marginalized backgrounds. They ask that, in lieu of flowers, memorials be sent to EU Truitt Center, Attn: Jan Register at CB 2960, Elon, NC 27244 - in the memo line, note “Bill Sharpe Fund,” or to Duke Cancer Institute for Prostate and Urologic Cancers, 300 West Morgan Street, Suite 1200, Durham, NC 27701.                         


Directions to Elon University, Whitley Auditorium, Elon, NC 27244 
(set GPS to Elon University, 100 Campus Drive, Elon, North Carolina)
From I-40 East (Raleigh/Durham)
• Take exit 141 for Huffman Mill Rd.
• Keep right off exit, right onto Huffman Mill Rd.
• Continue straight, road name changes to Shadowbrook then Briarcliff
• Turn left on W Front St.
• Cross railroad to continue onto S Oak Ave
• Turn left immediately after railroad tracks onto Lebanon Avenue
• After the stop sign and before the stoplight, there will be three parking lots on your right – you may use any of these to park (come out to the sidewalk and take a right toward downtown Elon and walk until there is a break in the brick wall. Walk through the opening and Whitley is directly ahead of you, slightly to the right).
• You can also park in any of the spaces on the left side of the road, facing the railroad tracks – cross the street to the sidewalk and follow the walking directions above
• If all of the above spaces are full, turn right at the stoplight onto Williamson and take your first left. Elon Community Church parking lot will be on your right. Walk back to the sidewalk on Williamson and turn right to walk back toward the stoplight. Turn left onto Lebanon and walk to the break in the wall on your left. Walk through the opening and Whitley is directly ahead of you, slightly to the right.

From I-40 West (Greensboro)
• Take exit 141 for Huffman Mill Rd.
• Turn left onto Huffman Mill Rd.
• Continue straight, road name changes to Shadowbrook then Briarcliff
• Turn left on W Front St.
• Cross railroad to continue onto S Oak Ave
• Turn left immediately after railroad tracks onto Lebanon Avenue
• After the stop sign and before the stoplight, there will be three parking lots on your right – you may use any of these to park (come out to the sidewalk and take a right toward downtown Elon and walk until there is a break in the brick wall. Walk through the opening and Whitley is directly ahead of you, slightly to the right).
• You can also park in any of the spaces on the left side of the road, facing the railroad tracks – cross the street to the sidewalk and follow the walking directions above
• If all of the above spaces are full, turn right at the stoplight onto Williamson and take your first left. Elon Community Church parking lot will be on your right. Walk back to the sidewalk on Williamson and turn right to walk back toward the stoplight. Turn left onto Lebanon and walk to the break in the wall on your left. Walk through the opening and Whitley is directly ahead of you, slightly to the right.

                               

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Services

Visitation
Friday
January 17, 2020

5:00 PM to 7:00 PM
Lowe Funeral Home & Crematory
2205 South Church Street
Burlington, NC 27215

Celebration of Life
Saturday
January 18, 2020

11:00 AM
Whitley Auditorium
106 E Lebanon Ave,
Elon, NC 27244

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