James Ronald Edwards

June 16, 2018

James Ronald “Ron” Edwards passed away at home on Saturday, June 16th, 2018, surrounded by his loving family. He was 84.


He was born in Bakersville, NC on January 20th, 1934 to the late Holden and Lillian Edwards, and joined nine years later by brother Sam Edwards. Growing up in Tipton Hill, NC, his childhood routine included milking the cow, working in the garden, attending the local school, where both of his parents were teachers, and spending time with his uncles, aunts, and cousins. At Tipton Hill High School, he played basketball and participated in the Debate Club. During this time, he developed a passion for NC State basketball under Everett Case, listening to games on the radio.


He attended East Tennessee State College, where he met the love of his life, Delores Oliphant, attracted by her black-haired beauty and her brain! Initially planning to become a teacher, he later decided to also apply to UNC School of Medicine at the suggestion of his uncle, Nathan Yelton, and was accepted. He graduated from UNC School of Medicine in 1958. After a residency in family medicine in Michigan, he returned to North Carolina with his pregnant wife, Delores, and their baby daughter. He practiced family medicine in Ayden, NC, where he and his wife added to their family, before returning to UNC in 1965 to complete a residency in Pathology.


Following his Pathology residency, he joined Wake Pathology Associates in Raleigh, NC, where he was chairman of the Department of Pathology from 1975 to 1998. He also served as a medical staff officer and president of the medical staff, the first pathologist to do so.  Along with Dr. Dewey Pate and Shaaron Cypher, he undertook the computerization of the laboratory, establishing the second computerized lab in North Carolina and twelfth in the nation. He initiated the comprehensive CAP laboratory accreditation program for the labs at WakeMed and all satellite laboratories, beginning this program many years before accreditation became a “must have.” At a national level, he served as a KeyMan for the College of American Pathology, representing the state of North Carolina. In this role, he helped to shape legislation regarding pathology interests at both a state and national level. In more recent years, he led the endowment campaign for the Walter Benson Lecture Series at the University of North Carolina Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine.


First and foremost a family man, he was devoted to his wife, Delores, and their three children, Jennifer, Kelly, and Vance, who will always remember his unconditional love, sense of playfulness, wonderful (if corny) sense of humor, and affectionate nicknames. Never one to criticize, he preferred to “concentrate on the positives,” and he always did so with his family. He embraced life, finding joy in everyday events and interactions. He later shared these qualities and nicknames with his eight grandchildren from the time they were born. He remained close to his many cousins throughout his life, and eagerly anticipated the annual Edwards family reunion, especially enjoying those held at Pigeon Roost.


Always a mountain boy at heart, he loved the outdoors and working in his yard and garden. A lover of tomatoes, four or five tomato plants were never enough, and he often had enough to supply the entire lab staff. Upon retirement, he particularly enjoyed spending time in the mountains at the family retreat in Pigeon Roost, NC.


He was a lifelong Wolfpack fan. As a season ticket holder, he seldom missed a home basketball game, first at Reynolds coliseum with his family, where he collected “stats” after every game while his daughters and son collected autographs, and later at the PNC Center. He attended the ’74 and ’83 National Championships. And yes, his favorite color was red, “no matter what color it is!”


A Star Wars fanatic until the end, he loved to remind his family that after seeing the first Star Wars film in Morehead City in 1977, he stated “that was a happening.” He had quite the sweet tooth and always made a special trip to buy fudge at the NC State Fair for his family and friends. He never missed an opportunity to eat at Tony’s Sanitary Fish Market. An avid reader of mystery and suspense novels, he prided himself on owning and having read every Agatha Christie novel, and even saw The Mousetrap in London. He loved listening to music.


Known for his unassuming and genuine manner, he was seldom at a loss for words and was friendly to everyone he met. His casual nature extended to his wardrobe. He loved baseball caps and Pigeon Roost T-shirts and almost never wore a tie.


He is survived in death by his loving wife of almost 61 years, Delores, daughter Jennifer Edwards Kenny and husband Nick Kenny; daughter Kelly Edwards Highland and husband Rob Highland, son Vance Edwards; eight grandchildren, Jonathan, Thomas, Emma, Benjamin, Holden, Sophie, Preston, and Daniel, beloved brother Sam Edwards and nephew Chris Edwards, and many special cousins.


He was preceded in death by his parents Holden Edwards and Lillian Polk Edwards, and cousins Floyd, Clinton, and Wendell Edwards, and Natalie Yelton Morton.


The family will receive friends from 6:00 to 7:30 pm on Thursday June 21 at Brown-Wynne Funeral Home, 1701 E. Millbrook Rd, Raleigh NC 27609, followed by a time for reflections and telling of stories from 7:30 to 8:00 pm. The funeral service will be held at 2:00 pm on Saturday June 23 at the Henline-Hughes Funeral Home, 85 Crimson Laurel Way, Bakersville, NC  28705, preceded by a visitation with the family at 1:00 pm. Interment will follow at the Tipton Griffith Cemetery in Relief, NC.


The family would like to thank Transitions HospiceCare for their excellent support and care. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to Transitions HospiceCare or the charity of one’s choice.


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