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Watauga, Avery Obituaries – August 9, 2023

Graphic by Ashley Poore.

The following are recent obituary notices from Austin & Barnes and Hampton funeral homes in Boone and Reins-Sturdivant in Newland.



Larry Hazen

July 28, 2023

Former Banner Elk resident, Larry Hazen, passed away on July 28, 2023 in Cary, NC surrounded by loving family members and listening to his favorite band, The Beatles. His Celebration of Life Service will take place at 2 p.m on Wednesday, August 23rd at Kirk of Kildaire Presbyterian Church at 200 High Meadow Dr, Cary, NC 27511. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations in Larry’s memory to either Feeding Avery Families or Cary-Kildaire Rotary Club, PO Drawer 1406, Cary, NC 27512. Please see the full obituary at https://www.cremnc.com/obituary/larry-hazen.



Nell Stewart
July 19, 1927 – August 8, 2023

Audrey VaNell “Nell” Gillespie Stewart of Boone passed away on Tuesday, August 8, 2023. She was born on July 19, 1927 to Wilson Gillespie and Winnie Jennings in Memphis, Tennesse.

Nell co-owned and operated Napa Auto Parts with her husband Bob for 30 years, she was a very strong Christian and member of Greenway Baptist church and loved sharing her love for the lord with anyone she met, Nell was always looking for ways to lend a helping hand to anyone in need. In her free time Nell had many hobbies, she was an amazing homemaker and enjoyed cooking, crocheting, knitting, tending to her garden, completing puzzles, canning and Traveling. Of all things Nell’s granddaughter and great-grandchildren were the light of her life, she would beam every time they walked into the room.

Nell is preceded in death by her parents; sister and brother-in-law, Bessie and Benny Armour; granddaughter, Stephanie Stewart. She is survived by her loving husband of 77 years, Bob Stewart of Boone, North Carolina; son, Gene and his wife, Margaret Stewart of Monroe, North Carolina; granddaughter, Shelley and her husband, Jesse Simkins of Burnsville, North Carolina; great-granddaughter, Annika Simkins of Burnsville and great-grandson Juan Simkins also of Burnsville.

Graveside services will be held Friday, August 11, 2023 at 12:00PM at Mountlawn Memorial Park in Boone, with visitation to be held at Austin and Barnes Funeral Home from 10:00am to 11:00am.

In lieu of flowers the family requests memorials to be made to Samaritans Purse in Nelle’s name. https://www.samaritanspurse.org/our-ministry/donate-online

Online condolences may be sent to the Stewart family at www.austinandbarnesfuneralhome.com. Austin & Barnes Funeral Home & Crematory is serving the Stewart family.



Cory Todd Brown
November 6, 1987 – July 29, 2023

Cory Todd Brown, age 35 of Loris, South Carolina, passed away Saturday, July 29, 2023.

 He was born November 6, 1987, in Fort Rucker, Alabama. A son of Michael Todd Brown and Kate Faulkner Brown. 

In addition to his father and mother he is survived by two brothers, Jason Brown and Justin Brown, two uncles, Gary Faulkner and wife Teresa and Harry Lucas and wife Amy, his fiance, Rosa Gonzalez, two step-sons, Gael and Jacob Gonzalez, one step-daughter, Rubi Gonzalez and his mother-in-law, Isabel Orozco. He is also survived by nieces and nephews and many cousin.

A memorial service will be held at a later date in Dothan, Alabama.

Online condolences may be sent to the family at www.hamptonfuneralnc.com

Hampton Funeral and Cremation Service is in charge of the arrangements.



Benjamin Wilson Covington
January 14, 1939 – July 31, 2023

COL Benjamin Wilson Covington III served in the United States Army as a Cavalry officer for over 28 years. He commanded two Cavalry Troops in Germany and Vietnam, a Tank Battalion in Germany and an Armored Brigade at Fort Hood. He served a total of 15 years overseas: 12 years in Germany and three years in Vietnam with U.S. and Vietnamese forces. He retired after serving as the President of the U.S. Army Training Board at Fort Monroe, VA.

He held a Bachelor’s degree in Engineering from the United States Military Academy at West Point, a Master’s in National Security from The National War College, and a Master’s and ABD from Columbia University in History of the English Language and 18th Century English Literature. He taught Philosophy and English Literature at West Point for three years.

After his retirement, he and his wife Ruth lived in Texas and Germany before settling in Valle Crucis NC, where they spent over 20 years serving the community in a variety of ways. As the Director of the High Country Chapter of the Military Officer’s Association of America, he was instrumental in the of the construction of the Veteran’s Memorial in downtown Boone, NC.

Over the years, he leveraged his experience with army training and doctrine to act as a senior advisor for multiple Eastern European countries in their efforts to improve their militaries to enable their entry into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. He also spent a year in Iraq, using his expertise to advise the Iraqi government in ways to modernize their military.

He is preceded in death by his wife Ruth, and is survived by his two sons, physician Benjamin IV and Army Warrant Officer Farley.

The body will lie in state at Hampton Funeral Home Chapel, 683 Blowing Rock Road in Boone, NC from 9:00 until 5:00 Wednesday, August 9th, so friends may pay their respect and sign the guest book . The family will be at the funeral home to receive friends from 1:00 until 2:00. A celebration of Ben and Ruth’s lives will be held at the Holy Cross Episcopal Church at 122 Skiles Way in Banner Elk, NC at a date to be determined, and Ben will be interred at West Point, NY at a date to be determined.

Online condolences may be sent to the family at www.hamptonfuneralnc.com

Hampton Funeral and Cremation Service is in charge of the arrangements.



Anna Holder Critcher
August 24, 1934 – August 1, 2023

Anna Belle Holder Critcher, born to Ethel Mae Hampton Holder and Boyce Holder on August 24, 1934, was the third of eight children.  Growing up in a farming community in the Blue Ridge hills of Appalachia, she learned the values of hard work, strength, and tenacity.  Her community in the Aho district of Watauga County, North Carolina was close-knit and faith-based.

As a young teen, Anna played basketball at Blowing Rock High School, a sport she enjoyed for the rest of her life.  Following her formative years, she attended and graduated from Crossnore Academy at the time it served as a two-year business school for young women (1950-52).

Upon graduation, Anna married Howard Critcher.  Of this union, four children were born – Jeffrey Charles Critcher (deceased), Janet Lynn Critcher Greer, Renee’ Critcher Lyons, and Chad Howard Critcher. Ever hard-working (she worked until the age of 85), Anna used her core, farm-life developed talents to raise her family – canning and pickling, churning butter, and raising a garden.  One of her finest talents helped clothe her children – Anna’s talents as a seamstress were above par, and she used this talent to also earn a living on several occasions during her life, to include her fine handwork at Goodwin Weavers of Blowing Rock.

Anna expressed her love for family through her daily energies, starting with breakfasts cooked on a wood stove and often ending with the warmth of a nightly fire.   She brought warmth to those lucky enough to enjoy her presence, all the days of her life.  Through wisdom gained from life’s trials (including the death of her first-born, Jeffrey) and triumphs (she ensured all three of her remaining children received college educations), Anna leaves a legacy of strong, independent children who blessed her with three grand children – Stephen Lance Greer, Anna Celeste Greer MacMinn, Faith Marie Patton –  and six great-grandchildren: Hannah Greer, Thomas Greer, Eli Greer, Ruth Greer, Hailey MacMinn and Bill Boone MacMinn.  Anna also deeply loved, accepted and supported her son-in law, Stephen Joseph Greer and daughter-in-law Lori Guyton Critcher – such love returned in kind.

Anna enjoyed her life with just as much energy.  She loved socializing with friends, dancing to and listening to country music, traveling to Montana on a yearly basis to enjoy horseback-riding and the rodeo, and beautiful hikes on the Blue Ridge Parkway with family and friends.  She also married for a second time upon Howard’s passing – enjoying a thirteen-year relationship with Tommy Dyer of Wilkes County. 

A woman of Christian faith and presence, her children call her blessed.  She now dwells with her Creator and God in paradise.  She enjoys the presence of those gone before – her siblings Sue Holder Rash, Carol Holder, and Earl Holder.  She is also survived by her sisters Kate Holder and Linda Holder Kunder and her brothers Edwin Holder and Neil Holder.

Funeral services will be conducted Saturday, August 5, 2023, at 11:00 AM at Friendship United Methodist Church. Interment will follow in Friendship United Methodist Church Cemetery.

The family will receive friends Friday from 6:00 until 8:00, at Hampton Funeral Home Chapel.

Online condolences may be sent to the family at www.hamptonfuneralnc.com

Hampton Funeral and Cremation Service is in charge of the arrangements.



Joyce Elizabeth Payne
June 12, 1948 – August 2, 2023

Joyce Elizabeth Payne, age 75, of Boone passed away Wednesday, August 2, 2023.

She was born June 12, 1948, in Watauga County. A daughter of the late Lawrence and Ruth Margaret Carmichael Payne.

She is survived by her husband-companion, H.T. Rogers of Boone, one sister, Jean Clontz of Boone, one niece, Carla Estep and husband Brad of Boone, one nephew, James Clontz of Boone. She is also survived by many other nieces and nephews.

In addition to her father and mother she was preceded in death by a son, David Wade Rogers, a sister, Judy Tolbert, a niece, Michelle Helton and a nephew, James Tolbert.

A memorial service will be held at a later date.

The family respectfully request no food and in lieu of flowers memorials be made to St. Jude’s at www.st.jude.org

Online condolences may be sent to the family at www.hamptonfuneralnc.com

Hampton Funeral and Cremation Service is in charge of the arrangements.



Charles W. Stephens
September 1, 1932 – August 4, 2023

Charles W. Stephens, age 90, of Todd, passed away Friday, August 4, 2023, at his home.

He was born September 1, 1932, in Todd, North Carolina to the late Millard Harrison Stephens and Biddie Lewis Stephens.

In addition to his father and mother he was preceded in death by brothers, Hurl, Don, Millard, Jr., Hubert, Odell and Paul.

Charles was a proud veteran of the Korean War. He saw combat for over a year before being hospitalized with Hemorrhagic fever. Charles proudly flew the flag in his front yard and made no excuses for being a patriot.

He farmed, carried the U.S. mail, and then retired from Lowes Inc. after fifteen years as a delivery supervisor.

He is survived by his wife, Lorraine G. Stephens of Todd, a son, David Stephens and wife Debbie of Todd, a daughter, Sherri McCollian and husband Bill of Marion, Virginia, one granddaughter, Nicole Blakeman of Todd, and one sister, Edna Kirby of Lenoir. He is also survived by several nieces and nephews.

Graveside services and burial will be conducted Tuesday, August 8, 2023, at 2:00 PM, at Hopewell Community Cemetery. Reverend Bill McCollian will officiate.

In lieu of flowers memorials may be made to the Masonic Home for children, 600 College Street, Oxford, North Carolina 27565.

Online condolences may be sent to the family at www.hamptonfuneralnc.com

Hampton Funeral and Cremation Service is in charge of the arrangements.



Betty Jane Fabben
July 30, 2023

Mrs. Betty Jane Fabben, 89, of Johnson City, TN passed away peacefully on July 30, 2023, at the Johnson City Medical Center. Betty grew up in Midland Park, New Jersey. She was the daughter of the late Albert and Christine Van Dyke.

Betty met her husband Henry (Bud) Fabben in her hometown. They were married in 1953 and were together for sixty years, until Bud’s passing in March of 2013. They moved to Lake Worth, Florida in 1958. She was a stay-at-home mom raising her four children. She was a wonderful mother! Betty did go to work later in life as a medical assistant to Dr. Joseph Doane in West Palm Beach. She retired in 1988, as did Bud from the U.S. Postal Service. They moved to Newland, North Carolina in 2001. They attended Aaron Baptist Church in Montezuma, N.C. where Betty played the Piano for the congregation as well as singing in the choir, which she dearly loved. Prior to moving to Johnson City, Betty attended Emmanuel Baptist Church in Newland, N.C.

Betty loved being around people, she was kind, loving and most of all, very giving. Her favorite saying was “You can’t outgive the Lord”. Betty loved spending time with her grandkids – playing the piano and singing hymns with them. She was so proud of all of them.

Her crown will have many “GEMS”. Our loss is Heaven’s gain. She will be deeply missed by her family and friends. We all Take Heart in knowing we will be together again.

In addition to her parents and husband, she was preceded in death by her daughter, Beverly Fabben Strona, and her brother, Albert Van Dyke.

Survivors include son, Glenn Fabben, and wife Cheryl; daughter, Bonnie Whitehead, and husband John; son, Brad Fabben, and wife Jamie; grandchildren Lindsay Rice and husband Roger, John Whitehead, Sara King and husband Cameron, Holly Fabben and Kimberly Davidson and husband Ronny; three great-grandchildren, Ryder Rice, Easton Rice, and Jasper Davidson.

There will be a service for family and friends on Saturday, September 2, 2023, at 1:00 pm at Emmanuel Baptist Church, 933 Millers Gap Hwy, Newland, NC, 28657. Immediately after there will be an inurnment service at Montezuma Cemetery, 630 Old North Carolina 181, Newland, NC 28657.

The family requests that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to your church or favorite charity in Betty’s name.



Sam Ray Jr.
February 2, 1930 – August 3, 2023

Sam Ray Jr., age 93, of Newland, North Carolina passed away on Thursday, August 3, 2023, at his residence.

Sam was born on February 2, 1930, in Avery County, North Carolina, the son of the late Sam Miller Ray and the late Verdie Daniels Ray.

Sam was a graduate of the Citadel and joined the Air Force. He served as a fighter pilot in Korea, flew 124 missions in Vietnam, and retired from the Air Force after finishing his tenure at the Pentagon. Upon returning home to Newland, he became very active in his community. He was a member and Elder of the Newland Presbyterian Church. He served on the board of Trustees for Mayland Community College, member of the Region D Council of Government, and served Avery County as a Commissioner and County Manager. Colonel Ray was very active with the Pat Ray Post of the VFW, where he served as Past Commander and a member of the Post Honor Guard. He enjoyed Duke Basketball and golf. Sam was a longtime member of the Mountain Glen Golf Club and served on the Board of Avery Development Corporation. Working in his yard, picking up sticks, mowing, and burning the remnants of his yard work. He always enjoyed driving and exploring. In his final years, he loved to ride and he was very content being the passenger and seeing things he had not seen in a long time.
He was preceded in death by his Father, Sam Miller Ray, Sr.; Mother, Verdie Mae Ray; Wife, Patsy Ruth Ray; Daughter, Rebecca “Sissy” Ann Ray; Brother, Jim “Goose” Ray.

Sam leaves behind to cherish his memory Son, Sam L (Susan) Ray III; Five grandchildren, Christy Ray, Justin (Britney) Ray, Jordan (Matt) Mesaros, Sam Ray, IV, Brandon Ray; Three great-grandchildren, Ayden Ray, Caleigh Ray, Lachlan Lacey.

Services for Sam Ray Jr. will be held on Saturday, August 5, 2023, at the Newland Presbyterian Church with Rev. Michael McKee officiating. Interment will follow in the Hughes Cemetery on Baxter Hughes Rd in Newland. The family will receive friends from 12:30 until 2:00 pm on Saturday at the church.
The family would like to extend their sincere thanks and appreciation to the wonderful caregivers who took such loving care and were with Sam at his home. The staff of Amorem Hospice for tremendous support and care and to the Colonel’s neighbors and church for their loving support.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to: Amorem Hospice of the High Country – Capital Campaign 902 Kirkwood St NW Lenoir, NC 28645