John West Thatcher ’48

John West Thatcher '48

John West Thatcher, a “banana peddler” as he liked to describe himself, passed away after a long illness on October 18, 2019, in Miami, Florida. Born in Atlanta on August 20, 1927, to Samuel E. and Mary West Thatcher, he and his family moved to Miami when he was a boy.

His many friends and business associates saw in him a man of great intelligence, integrity, and benevolence, all packaged in a fine sense of humor. Although John’s early education was in Miami, he went to high school at Darlington School in Rome, Georgia. John credited Darlington with the teaching, discipline, and values that defined his life.

He was a generous supporter of the school, both financially and personally, and served for many years on its board of trustees. Darlington named him a Life Trustee and in 1990 a Distinguished Alumnus of Darlington School. In 2009, Darlington built a new building for its Middle School and named it “Thatcher Hall.”

Following graduation from Darlington, John briefly attended Georgia Tech but later transferred to Davidson College. As with Darlington, so it was with Davidson College: John was a faithful and generous alumnus. Among other things, he served on Davidson’s board of trustees, endowed a faculty “chair”, in honor of his parents, and created scholarships for undergraduates. On May 21, 1995, Davidson awarded him Doctor of Law, honoris causa.

An Army ROTC student at Davidson, John graduated too late to serve in World War II. But when the next war broke out, the Army deployed him as a Second Lieutenant to Korea. He soon saw ferocious combat and was seriously wounded. He received the Purple Heart, Combat Infantry Badge, and Korean Campaign ribbons.

After returning home, John continued in the Army Reserves, earning several awards for meritorious service and a term at the Army’s Command &; General Staff College in Leavenworth, Kansas. He retired with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.

After recovering from his wounds in Korea, John began his life’s career at Banana Supply Co. Inc. He started at the bottom, worked in the warehouse, drove delivery trucks and supervised the unloading of banana ships. He learned every facet of the business and gained a first-hand insight into the lives of its employees.

Ultimately, he became its president. Under his direction, the company grew from its modest beginnings to an organization that operated a fleet of ships, trucks, rows of refrigerated warehouses, and branch offices in West Palm Beach, Orlando and Bradenton, Florida, the first vertically integrated banana supply and distribution business in the country. John put the customer first, both in service and pricing, and he treated his employees fairly.

While John was President of Banana Supply Company, there were no personnel layoffs. Dealing with a perishable product, shipping delays, hurricanes, and personnel left John little time for personal pleasure with the exception of his life-long love of golf, which he played and studied, and his faithful work as a Presbyterian layperson. Following the death of his parents, John created the Samuel E. &; Mary W. Thatcher Foundation, Inc. in their honor.

From that point to this day, the foundation supports schools, missionaries and missionary organizations, churches, community funds, youth groups and other charities, locally and all over the world. John recognized that God had richly blessed him and that it was not only his duty but a source of joy to give to others.

Although John was not survived by any in his more immediate family (He was predeceased by his parents, Samuel E. and Mary W. Thatcher, and his brother, Samuel E. Thatcher, Jr.), he was survived by a very special group of friends too many to mention in this brief space.

Chief among them, however, were Jacqueline Eads, William Jordan, and Zilphia Anderson. Ms. Eads and John served together on the board of Greater Miami Youth For Christ and enjoyed many rounds of golf together; Mr. Jordan was John’s executive vice-president at Banana Supply and, after its sale, Bill helped John run the foundation; and Mrs. Anderson was his devoted housekeeper and chef.

A memorial service for John will be held on November 8, 2019 at 11:00 A. M. at Granada Presbyterian Church, 950 University Drive, Coral Gables, FL 33134.

In lieu of flowers, Mr. Thatcher requested that donations be made to Miami Youth for Christ.

Copyright (c) 2019 The Miami Herald

Robert Derrick Phillips’48

Robert Derrick Phillips'48

Dr. Robert Derrick Phillips, age 93 of Asheville, died peacefully on October 20, surrounded by family and his devoted caregivers at the NC State Veterans Home. 

He will be remembered as a gifted healer, with a deep understanding of the human condition. He combined compassion and intellect in his work as a therapist, and he celebrated his rich relationships with friends and family throughout his life.

Born December 2, 1925 in Laurinburg, N.C., he was the son of James Dickson Phillips and Helen Shepherd Phillips. He attended the public schools of Laurinburg and entered Davidson College in 1942. 

After one year at Davidson, he served in the US Navy for three years, and was commissioned an Ensign in the Atlantic Theater on anti-submarine duty. Returning to Davidson after the war, he graduated in 1948 and entered the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. 

In 1951, he married Frances Dana Fulcher of Davidson, with whom he had seven children: a son, Bo, and six daughters, Stuart, Helen, Jane, Anna, Betsy and Fran. 

After graduating from medical school in 1952, he interned for one year at Philadelphia General Hospital. In 1953, he entered surgical residency at the Medical College of South Carolina in Charleston, completing that program in 1957. 

Under the Presbyterian Board of Missions, he and his family were posted as medical missionaries in Chonju, Korea. They returned to the U.S. on medical furlough, following his illness in 1959. 

After convalescence, he was unable to continue surgical practice and entered a second residency, training in psychiatry at UNC- Chapel Hill. He subsequently practiced psychiatry in Durham and Chapel Hill for the next 32 years and taught at Duke University and the UNC School of Medicine until 1995. He was a fellow at the American College of Surgeons and a Distinguished Life Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association.

Dr. Phillips held an unwavering commitment to social justice, especially in regard to racial reconciliation. From 1964-67, he served on the executive committee of the Committee of Responsibility to the War-Injured and War-Burned Vietnamese Children.

In 1987, he was a recipient of the Martin Luther King award presented by the Black Caucus of Orange County, N.C. in recognition of his leadership of the Human Rights Commission of Chapel Hill during the civil rights movement in the 1960’s. 

In 1991, he founded the national support group, All Races Coalition with Native American People and was active in Native American advocacy for much of his life.  He forged a close, years-long friendship with Roberta Blackgoat, leader of the Navajo Women of Resistance in Arizona, and he served as visiting professor at Little Bighorn College on the Crow Reservation in Montana.

A frequent visitor to the Mohawk Tribal Community in Fonda, NY,  he provided residential maintenance and support to his friends there. 

In 1975 he published a clinical monograph “Structural Symbiotic Systems” and in 1995, the book “The Recovery of the True Self.”

Dr. Phillips was an active member of both the Presbyterian Church and the Episcopal Church. He was an avid tennis player, runner and cribbage player, who loved the NC and Western mountains, the Arizona desert and Sunset Beach. Reading was a passion throughout his life, and he was an expansive and witty storyteller and letter-writer.

He is survived by his seven children, 16 grandchildren, four great-grandchildren, his wife, Susan Sihler, and his dear friend and caregiver, Cecilia Letman.

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Friday, November 15, at University Presbyterian Church in Chapel Hill. 

An additional service will be at 2:00 p.m. Saturday, November 16, at Cathedral of All Souls in Asheville. 

Memorials may be made to the Native American Rights Fund  or the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI).  

Joe Elwood Weatherly, Jr. ’46

Joe Elwood Weatherly, Jr. '46

Mr. Joe Elwood Weatherly, Jr., 94, died Saturday, August 31, 2019, at his home in Thomasville, NC. 

He was born on August 6, 1925, to Joe Elwood Weatherly, Sr. and Christine Walker Weatherly in Elizabeth City, NC. Graduating valedictorian from Elizabeth City High School, he attended Davidson College, Duke University, and graduated from the United States Naval Academy. 

He served aboard the aircraft carrier U.S. Leyte CV-32 during the Korean War, receiving a Bronze Star. He served as Ex. Officer of P.T. boat squadron 1 and as a Midshipman Company Officer at the Naval Academy. 

He entered private business serving with several subsidiaries of Sovran National Bank, retiring from Sovran Capital. After retirement, he taught continuing education classes in computer programming at Forsyth Tech and GTCC. 

Joe was an avid golfer, bridge player, and reader. He also grew beautiful roses and lilies. Wherever he resided, he was an active member of his church, singing in the choir, teaching Sunday School and serving in various other offices. He tutored third graders in English and delivered Meals on Wheels for years. 

He was preceded in death by his grandson, J.B. Cordell, III. 

He is survived by his wife of almost 34 years, Eleanor Gray Weatherly of the home; his daughters, Christine Cordell (Joe) of Cashiers, NC and Betsey James (John) of Richmond, VA; his son, Joe Weatherly, III (Mitzie) of Greensboro; five grandchildren, Elizabeth Rice (Sean), Jack James, Sarah James, Ellie Weatherly, Maggie Weatherly; great-grandson, Walker Rice; and step-sons, Michael and Patrick Rutherford. 

A memorial service will be held on Thursday, September 5, 2019, at 2 p.m. at Pine Woods UMC with Rev. Sidney Lanier officiating. Inurnment will follow in Holly Hill Memorial Park Columbarium with military honors provided by the Randolph County Honor Guard. The family will receive friends at the church on Thursday one hour prior to the service from 1-2 p.m. 

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be directed to Hospice of Davidson County, 200 Hospice Way, Lexington, NC 27292 or to Pine Woods UMC, 200 Pine Woods Church Rd. Thomasville, NC 27360.

Online condolences may be sent to 

Copyright (c) 2019 High Point Enterprise

Frank Sims Key, Jr. ’45

Frank Sims Key, Jr. of Florence died on Monday, August 12, 2019. He was 95. Frank was born on January 20, 1924, in Gastonia, N.C., the son of the late Frank Sims Key, Sr. and Rachel Auld Key.

After graduating from Florence High School, Frank attended Davidson College and graduated from Georgia Institute of Technology.

He served as a Naval Aviator during World War II. Upon his return to Florence, he joined his father in the roofing business for several years. In the early 1960s, he became a part of Sanborn Chase’s team at Vulcraft as an engineer.

Later, in 1966, he and two partners founded Socar, where he would work until his retirement in 2006. Frank was an excellent tennis player, a lover of automobiles, a great Sunday School teacher and a quiet mentor to many people. He and his wife, Peggy, and several other Christian friends started the East Florence Mission in the early 1970s and remain involved with that ministry to this day.

Frank is survived by his wife of 69 years, Peggy Elmore Key. In addition, there are four children: Randy (Gigi) Key of Florence, SC; Margaret (Ken) Charles of Florence, SC; Charlie (Marilyn) Key of Timmonsville, SC; and Pete (Katy) Key of James Island, SC. He is also survived by nine grandchildren and 21 great-grandchildren.

A family burial will take place on Wednesday, directed by Waters-Powell Funeral Home.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the P. E. K. Foundation, Post Office Box 649, Florence, SC 29503.

 © Copyright 2019, Morning News, Florence, SC

Francis Hansell “Hank” Watt ’44

Francis Hansell "Hank" Watt '44

Francis Hansell “Hank” Watt was born on February 24, 1923, to William Augustin and “Bob” Mary Lindsey Watt of Thomasville, GA.

The third of four sons, Hank enjoyed practical jokes, poetry, and literature, hunting, fishing, FSU football, baseball, and exploring the natural world.

After high school and a thwarted attempt to join the Army at 17, he graduated pre-med from Davidson College (ODK,1944), then entered Johns Hopkins Medical School. There, he was part of the first surgical team success at blue baby heart repair in 1947-48.

While in medical school, he met his future wife and physician, Dr. Henrietta “Honey” Watt, whom he married in September 1948.

He served as a captain in the US Army (stationed in Puerto Rico) he continued his lifelong participation in medical missions Ometepec and Morelia, Mexico, Haiti, Kenya, the former Zaire (Democratic Republic of Congo), Malawi, and Indonesia, all the while maintaining practice as a general surgeon.

Dr. Watt established the first intensive care unit at Tallahassee Memorial Regional Hospital and performed a wide range of surgical procedures there, also serving patients from nearby towns like Havana, Quincy, and Monticello, often accepting payment in corn, beans and garden produce.

A deeply committed Christian, Dr. Watt served as an elder at Faith Presbyterian Church for over 50 years, taught Sunday School, and attended the weekly Men’s Bible Study well into his nineties.

He continued international medical mission outreach, starting a Green Stamps drive to buy a plane for missionaries to Zaire (Democratic Republic of Congo) and co-founded the Medical Benevolence Foundation (1964) (PCUSA) which provides direct physician care in several foreign countries.

Dr. Watt loved to hunt, fish, and grow his own produce in his hydroponic garden. At one point, he raised quail to help in training his Llewellin setters. After mastering fixed-wing gliders, he earned his instrumentation pilot’s license at 67.

He was a naturalist of the first order, able to identify every tree, fish, fowl, reptile, and weather pattern. He loved the Big Bend and was committed to preserving its natural resources.

Dr. Watt was a committed family man, taking his family on far-flung jaunts to Mexico, the World’s Fair (1964) and vacations at St Teresa, and Cape San Blas. He is pre-deceased by his wife of 63 years, and his son, Francis Hansell Watt, Jr.

He leaves behind six daughters, Lindsey Watt March, Helen E. “Betsy” Watt, MD., Laura Watt “Jeanie” Casati (Bill Lacey), Sandy Watt Hearn (Tom), Jamie Watt Jones and Carolyn Watt Cantwell (Jeff), and daughter-in-law, Margie Best Watt, 16 grandchildren, and 14 great-grandchildren; 3 cousins, George Watt, Marianne “Sissy” Jeffries Williams, and Maggie Watt Roddenberry, and a host of longtime friends.

The Watt family wishes to extend our heartfelt gratitude to his devoted caregivers.

Interment will be Sunday, August 18, at 10 a.m. at Laurel Hill Cemetery, Thomasville, GA, with a 2 pm memorial service at Faith Presbyterian Church, Tallahassee, FL, Reception in the Fellowship Hall to follow.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to the Medical Benevolence Foundation, (9555 W Sam Houston Pkwy S Suite 170, Houston, TX 77099), and the Haitian American Friendship Foundation (HAFF- P.O. Box 1349 State College, PA 16804-1349 USA)

Special thanks to Rocky Bevis of Bevis Funeral Home in assisting this family with these arrangements. Phone (850/385-2193 or

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