Benjamin Vernon, Jr. ’50

Benjamin Vernon, Jr. '50

Benjamin Thomas Vernon, Jr. 90, of Charlotte left us gracefully from his home on July 27, 2020 after a long and rich life.

He was born on September 26, 1929 in Winston-Salem to the late Benjamin Thomas and Doris Martin Vernon. From “Big Tom” he inherited his gentle, positive nature and from “Big Doris”, his servant’s heart.

Ben spent his childhood attending the Moravian Church in Winston Salem and graduated from Reynolds High School in 1946. At the age of 16, he entered Davidson College graduating in 1950.

Through his mother, he was instilled with the value of a solid education. This belief in the power of education was continually impressed on his children and grandchildren.

After Davidson, he met his first wife, Mary Jane and began their family. It was at this time that he launched his career in the investment business. After a brief time in Rocky Mount, NC, Ben settled in Charlotte, living in the community for most of his adult life. During his career as an institutional and retail investment advisor, he both mentored and served in leadership of many boards and commissions.

Covenant Presbyterian became his spiritual home in Charlotte, where he devoted much of his time as an Elder, Sunday School Teacher and in multiple other capacities as well as being a close personal friend to many ministers over the decades of his life in the church.

After Mary Jane passed away in 1981, he met beloved Linda and they started a life at Lake Norman where they lived for 30 years. Ben and Linda enjoyed lakeside living in a beautiful setting with glorious sunrises and ever blooming gardens.

From this home, they entertained family and friends with generous, gracious hospitality. Also, during this time, Ben and Linda travelled extensively and went on many unique, educational journeys.

Anyone who knew Ben was aware of his two passions beyond his family and friends: Davidson College Golf and his work in rural Stokes County. A lifelong golfer, his love of the game was solidified playing for the Davidson Golf Team. His continuous, never ceasing support of the golf team at Davidson has transformed the program in the years since he was a student athlete. He was The Consummate Wildcat.

Through the Apple Foundation, Ben proudly supported nonprofits in Stokes and Rockingham counties. This foundation was multi faceted and touched all aspects of life in the region, particularly serving education and outreach initiatives for those who were most at risk. Notably, Ben became a champion of the Stokes County Arts Council in their efforts to create The Arts Place of Stokes, a multi purpose cultural arts venue that provides arts programming and support for the area’s residents.

Ben – called a mentor by many – was truly a gentle man, filled with optimism and compassion. He leaves a legacy of humble and faithful servanthood as well as a belief in the transformative value of education. He was a lifelong learner and voracious reader. These are qualities he has modeled for his children and grandchildren. He will be long remembered and missed by many.

Survivors include his wife Linda Vernon; son, Benjamin Thomas Vernon, III of Jacksonville, FL; daughter, Ann Vernon Stanley (Chip) of Charlotte; stepson, Jack Thomas (Donna) of Candler, NC; his six grandchildren Ben Vernon, Catherine Vernon, Thomas and Mason Stanley and Riley and Sean Thomas as well as two great-grandchildren. He was predeceased by his first wife, Mary Jane McGee Vernon and his son, Cary McGee Vernon.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the Stokes County Arts Council, PO Box 66

Danbury, NC 27016 or The Residents’ Assistance Fund at Sharon Towers, 5100 Sharon Rd. Charlotte, NC 28210.

A private family service will be held at 11:30 AM on Friday July 31st at Covenant Presbyterian Church. The service will be live streamed. There will be a link on the homepage of the Covenant Presbyterian Church website.

James Funeral Home of Huntersville is serving the family.

Published in Charlotte Observer on Jul. 30, 2020.

Reece Middleton ’57

Reece Middleton '57

Reece Middleton, 84, was born on October 5, 1935 in McCaysville, Georgia to Frank and Thelma Middleton and died on Thursday, July 23, 2020 in Shreveport, Louisiana after a brief illness.

Reece was preceded by his parents; two brothers, Frank Middleton, Jr. and George Barton Middleton, mother and father-in-law, Louis and Mary Margaret Boudreaux and brother and sister-in-law, Wilson and Mary Lou Spencer.

He is survived by his wife, Marshall Boudreaux Middleton; two daughters, Lindsey Gehman and husband, Mike and Reece Disney Middleton; two stepchildren, Louis Wallace and wife Camilla and Samantha Lee; sisters-in-law, Margaret Boudreaux and Barbara Middleton; grandchildren, Sarra, Hanna, Nicholas, Gabrielle, Tess, Dakota and wife Bailey, Hannah and Ian; great-granddaughter, Juniper as well as several close first cousins and their families.

Reece was the retired Executive Director of The Louisiana Association on Compulsive Gambling, of which he was co-founder.

He was a 1957 graduate of Davidson College and earned a master’s degree in counseling from Louisiana Tech University in 1993. Reece served his country in the Army as an Artillery Officer and saw active duty in Korea in 1958.

He also served as a reservist and national guardsman, participating in the quelling of the Los Angeles Watts riots of 1965. He left reserve duty with the rank of Captain, Artillery.

After a successful career in sales, he decided to focus on helping others and began a career in counseling and administration in the field of Addiction Recovery. The last eighteen years before retirement were spent specializing in working with compulsive gamblers.

With considerable help from the State of Louisiana and the Gaming Industry, he founded CORE-Center of Recovery, a residential Treatment Center for Gambling Addiction, the Outpatient Gambling Treatment Program and The Louisiana Problem Gamblers Helpline. All services are free to Louisiana residents and the helpline is toll-free to persons in numerous states.

Reece was a former Executive Vice President of the National Council on Problem Gambling, which honored him with the prestigious Herman Goldman Award, now the Msgr. Dunn Award, in 2006.

After retirement he was selected to serve on the Advisory Board of the National Council on Problem Gambling as an Emeritus member.

Reece greatly enjoyed participating in community theatre and performed on stage with many local theatrical groups. He was nominated for several “Times Drama Awards”, winning for the role of Big Daddy in “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” in 1995.

Reece also took great pleasure in national and international travel with his wife, Marshall. They enjoyed many of the world’s outstanding sights together, but for Reece none was more special than Gaudi’s Basilica of the Holy Family in Barcelona and Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel in Rome.

He was very active in The Episcopal Church serving as Senior Warden and Vestryman at Church of the Holy Cross, a many-time Convention delegate to the Diocese of Western Louisiana and Deputy to General Convention of the Protestant Episcopal Church.

He was appointed by the Governor of Louisiana to the Northwest Louisiana Human Services District Board in 2017, serving as Vice-Chairperson. He received the Outstanding Professional Award given by the Louisiana Office for Addictive Disorders in 1999, was a former Rotarian and previous board member of Shreveport Little Theatre and the Shreveport­Bossier Rescue Mission.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorials may be made to the Louisiana Association on Compulsive Gambling, 1325 Barksdale Blvd., Bossier City, LA 71111 or at or to the charity of the donor’s choice.

The family will hold a private service at Church of the Holy Cross in Shreveport, Louisiana at a later date. Officiating the service will be Father Garrett Boyte joined by Reverend Kenneth W. Paul and Reverend Mary Richard.

Douglas Oldenburg ’56

Douglas Oldenburg '56

Douglas W. Oldenburg, former senior minister of Covenant Presbyterian Church in Charlotte and progressive leader in the Presbyterian Church-USA, died on July 21, 2020. He was 85 years old.

Skilled in the art of diplomacy, blessed with an unerring sense of right and wrong , and coupled with his genuine affection for those with whom he worked, Oldenburg was admired by the congregations and staff of the churches he served, the faculty and students of the seminary he led, and many, many others.

Oldenburg was born on February 22, 1935 in Muskegon, Michigan, son of Frederika Nordoff and Theodore Oldenburg, who, as a small child, immigrated from Amsterdam, Netherlands to the United States.

At age eleven, Oldenburg moved to Signal Mountain, Tennessee to a street where his future wife, Claudia, lived. Their childhood friendship grew into a love that lasted for 63 years. He was in the first graduating class of Myers Park High School in Charlotte where he was president of the student body.

At Davidson College, he was a member of Phi Delta Theta fraternity, sang in the Male Chorus, and earned a B.A. degree in English. An officer in the ROTC, he was commissioned as a Lieutenant in the US Army and served for a short time as an officer in Armor and later transferred to the Chaplaincy as a Captain in the Army Reserve. Oldenburg entered Union Theological Seminary where he earned a B.D. degree and won a Fellowship that took him to Yale Divinity School and a S.T.M. degree.

His first pastorate was to develop a new church in Lynchburg, Virginia. While there, he was instrumental in starting the Kum Ba Ya House for disadvantaged children in the city. After seven years, he moved to Davis Memorial Presbyterian Church in Elkins, West Virginia. While in Elkins, he headed the support for a city-wide referendum to raise teacher salaries that had been defeated three times previously. This effort passed with an impressive 60 percent of the vote. In 1972, at age thirty-seven, Oldenburg was called to be the senior minister of Covenant Presbyterian Church in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Always concerned with helping the poor and with Christian faith and economic justice, he continued to study economics related to Christian life. He helped to establish Crisis Assistance Ministry, was a member of the Charlotte Housing Authority, and was co-founder of The Presbyterian Family Life Center. During his 14 years of service in Charlotte, he led a successful Presbytery-wide ten-year massive self-help project to assist a village in Haiti in a long-term effort to improve the quality of life there.

He served on the Board of Trustees of St. Andrews Presbyterian College, Union Theological Seminary and Agnes Scott College. Active in the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960’s and always advocating to improve race relations, he received the Martin Luther King, Jr. award and Charlotte’s Order of the Hornet. In 1987 he left Charlotte to undertake a new challenge as the seventh president of Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia.

Under his leadership, the seminary rose to prominence and was know for its excellent faculty and progressive thinking. During his tenure, the endowment was raised from $27 million to $155 million and a capital campaign raised more than $34 million. He was instrumental in overseeing significant building and landscaping improvements at the seminary.

Upon his retirement, the beautiful, new campus center was given the name of The Oldenburg Quadrangle. He served his Presbyterian church though many committees in the General Assembly, the Synods, the Presbyteries and in the communities where he lived. He was most proud of his work on “A Declaration of Faith” for the denomination that is used in many worship services today. During his years in the Atlanta area, he was a member of the Atlanta Rotary Club and was instrumental in coordinating relationships between the presidents of all the seminaries of the Presbyterian Church (USA).

He was elected to be Moderator of the 2.6-million member Presbyterian Church (USA) in 1998. During his term, he emphasized a theme of concern for hungry children in the USA and in the world. He has been awarded honorary degrees from Davis and Elkins Presbyterian College, St. Andrews University, Davidson College, Hastings College, Presbyterian College, The Reformed Theological Academy in Budapest, Hungary and Rhodes College. After retirement from the seminary in 2000, he and his wife moved to their beloved home on Lake Davidson north of Charlotte. He loved working in his yard, going to the Charlotte Symphony, attending Davidson College basketball games, and convening a regular meeting of retired ministers in Davidson.

He also began “Advocates for Ministry” in which he and other Presbyterian ministers visited colleges and universities to encourage students to consider the ministry as their vocation. Golf was one of Oldenburg’s passions and was a game he continued to enjoy at Charlotte Country Club where he played into his late 70’s. He was well-traveled and visited 45 countries, some of those several times.

He is survived by his wife, Claudia, their three sons: Mark, Scott, and Todd; their wives: Courtney, Leah, and Claire; and eight grandchildren: Tyce, Jack, Paige, Hap, Evan, Eli, Charlie and Isla. His family gave him much joy and pleasure. His ashes will be places in the Columbarium at Covenant Presbyterian Church.

A virtual memorial service is scheduled for Wednesday, July 29 at 11:00AM. It can be viewed by going to and following the link on the homepage.

In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts may be made to Crisis Assistance Ministry in Charlotte or the charity of your choice.

James Funeral Home of Huntersville is serving the family.

Copyright: Copyright (c) 2020 The Charlotte Observer

William Sherard Rawson ’56

William Sherard Rawson '56

Dr. William Sherard Rawson of Davidson, NC, died surrounded by the love of family and friends, on Thursday, July 16, 2020.

Dr. Rawson was born March 31, 1935, in Abbeville, SC. He was the son of the late Clarence Weaver Rawson, Sr. and Anne Sherard Wilson Rawson. He was Bill to his friends, Billy to his mother and nephews, and Daddy Bill to his devoted grandsons.

A graveside service for the family will be held in the Memorial Garden at Eastminster Presbyterian Church in Columbia, SC, where he was a devoted member for many years. The service will be officiated by the Rev. Dr. Bradley D. Smith, Senior Pastor. Shives Funeral Home, Trenholm Road Chapel, 7600 Trenholm Road Ext., Columbia, SC, is assisting the family.

After graduation from the Darlington School in Rome, GA, where both of his parents taught, he attended Davidson College, graduating in 1956 with an A.B. in Economics. Following a brief stint in Charlotte, NC, he earned a Master’s degree at Vanderbilt University, also in Economics.

It was at Vanderbilt on the porch at Rand Hall that he met the love of his life, Joanne McBride. The two wed at Reid Memorial Presbyterian Church in Augusta, GA in September of 1964.

After two years on the faculty at Shorter College in Rome, GA (whereas head tennis coach he was named Coach of the Year for small colleges in Georgia) he went on to complete his Doctor of Philosophy in Economics at Duke University.

Dr. Rawson was appointed to the faculty at the University of South Carolina in 1966 and completed his career there, retiring in 1997 as Professor Emeritus of Economics. Always a teacher of students, he served as director of graduate studies in Economics for many years.

Dr. Rawson served as a Ruling Elder at Eastminster Presbyterian Church. There was seldom a Sunday that he was absent from Sunday school and church. In retirement, he served two terms as the Chair of the Committee on Ministry of Trinity Presbytery. Though a devoted student of economics and theology, his greatest joy was found in the study of and appreciation of jazz music. He donated his lifetime collection of jazz LPs to the Thomas Cooper Library at the University of South Carolina. On one of his last nights on earth, he commented to his grandsons, “I am the last person alive who saw Charlie “Bird” Parker, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, and Count Basie.”

Dr. Rawson was predeceased by his brother, Clarence “Buddy” Rawson. He is survived by his wife of 55 years, Joanne McBride Rawson; his daughter, Sherard Anne Rawson Gates of Charlotte, NC and her husband, Tilman Thomas Gates; his son, William Stewart Rawson of Columbia, SC and his wife, Pamela Plowden Rawson, and his devoted grandsons: William Timothy Rawson of Atlanta, GA, McBride Kauders Rawson of Charlottesville, VA, Tilman Thomas Gates, Jr. of Charlotte, NC, and William Rawson Gates of Charlotte, NC.

The family wishes to thank Ruth Exis of Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center in Charlotte, NC for the love and care that she showed him at the end of his life.

Memorials may be sent to the American Diabetes Association, P.O. Box 15829, Arlington, VA, 22215, or by visiting

Memories and condolences may be shared at

Owen Reese, Jr. ’50

After a brief illness, Owen Reese, Jr., died on July 6, 2020, in Roswell, Georgia. Always straightforward, he might say it was his time, having celebrated his 90th birthday in November.

A native of High Point, NC, Owen graduated from Davidson College, served in the Korean War, attended Duke Medical School on the GI Bill and completed a fellowship in cardiology at the Emory School of Medicine. He moved to Panama City in 1961, joining John L. Fishel and later Sidney A. Daffin at Internal Medicine Associates on Harrison Avenue. He treated multiple generations of Bay County residents and had a candid bedside manner, retiring in 2006. His colleagues said that they always knew where they stood with Owen.

Owen was known for his many interests, which included fine furniture making, woodworking, fishing, tree farming and Monday night football. He relished life in the Florida Panhandle with his family and many friends. Owen taught his children how to tie knots, run a boat, water ski, scallop, gig flounder, rake for sand fleas, fell a tree, surf cast and more, all with varying success. After the first family blueberry outing yielded only one berry, he planted his own bushes in Washington County and encouraged others to pick them as well. He was a member of First United Methodist Church, served as chief of staff at Bay Medical Center and was active in various medical causes during his career.

A lifelong learner who overcame dyslexia, Owen was studying string theory, the unifying theory of the universe, and still attempting to understand calculus near the time of his death.

He is survived by his wife, Anne Hall Reese; his children, son Ed and daughter-in-law Kathy, of Plano, TX; daughter Sarah of Roswell, GA; son Bill and daughter-in-law Mary, of Roswell, GA; five grandsons; one great grandson; sister Elizabeth and brother-in-law David Ward, of New Bern, NC; and sister Margaret and brother-in-law Bill Whitford of Sun City, FL. He was predeceased by his brother William and sister-in-law Mary Louise Reese of Beaufort, SC.

The family looks forward to remembering Owen’s life at a future date and requests that memorials be sent to Doctors Without Borders, First United Methodist Church or Habitat for Humanity.

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