Joseph Edwards Sr.

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Joseph “Little Joe” Louis Edwards, Sr., 86, died on Wednesday, December 10, 2008. He was born on June 29, 1922 in Portsmouth, VA, where he spent his formative years. He later moved to New York City, where he graduated from high school at the age of 16. As a teen, Joe learned to play the saxophone and began his life-long love of jazz music. He experienced playing the tenor saxophone with jazz legends, including Count Basie and Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis. Following his service in the U.S. Navy, he studied music at Howard University in Washington, D.C. On April 10, 1948, he married his childhood sweetheart, Emma Frances Theresa Baker at St. Cecelia Catholic Church in New York City. He remained her faithful and devoted husband for 58 years, until her death on July 25, 2006. Joe’s career as a music teacher and band director began at Washington High School in Raleigh, NC in the fall of 1951 and continued at J.W. Ligon High School from 1953 through 1971, where he was the first and only director of the Ligon Little Blues Marching Band. The sight and sound of Ligon’s band performances during Friday night football games and in Raleigh’s annual Christmas parades remains a pleasant memory for many Raleigh residents. Additionally, he taught instrumental music for many years at the Governor Morehead School for the Blind in Raleigh and continued to teach music in the Wake County School System until he retired in the late 1980’s. Many of his students, inspired by his passion for music and his talent for teaching, went on to create successful careers in music for themselves. Always soft-spoken and unassuming, Joe was a paragon of kindness and generosity who taught by example. His charming nature, infectious sense of humor, and sincere compassion for others made him an indispensable addition to the numerous family and community events he attended. His community service activities included serving a term as president of the Southeast Raleigh Optimist Club and coaching a youth bowling league. Joe also enjoyed performing with local jazz combos, bowling, and participating in weightlifting competitions. Joe’s family was his primary priority, as evidenced by the positive values he and his wife, Emma, instilled in the seven children they successfully raised together. In 1985, they received the Traditional Family of the Year Award given by Strengthening the Black Family, Inc. Joe’s positive influence is further reflected in the lives of his 15 grandchildren. Joe is survived by his seven children: Joseph L. Edwards, Jr. (Saundra) of Lawrence MA, Theresa Edwards (Kwesi) of Raleigh NC, Beverly F. Edwards (Larry) of Ahoskie NC, George E. Edwards of Indianapolis IN, David G. Edwards (Maribel) of Garner NC, Lorraine Edwards Mortis (Robert) of Winston Salem NC, Paul D. Edwards, (Zobeida) of Bloomington IN; 15 grandchildren: Brian (Tanya), Jonathan, Malaika, Angela, Michael, Gabrielle, Olivia, Kevin, Vincent, George, Blake, Kayla, Fernando, Benjamin, and Cole, and one great-granddaughter, Carmen. He is also survived by his sister, Garci Cervera Carpenter (Richard) of Washington, D.C., and a host of nieces and nephews. A wake was held at Haywood Funeral Home, 2415 S. Wilmington Street in Raleigh on Monday, December 22, 2008. A funeral Mass will be held at St. Ambrose Episcopal Church, 813 Darby Street in Raleigh on Tuesday, December 23, 2008 (1:30 pm) In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the National Association for Music Education (Fund for the Advancement of Music Education) or the Howard University Music Education program