Education advocate succumbs

Published 7:23 pm Saturday, July 25, 2009

COLERAIN – A man who spent his life farming, but made a lasting impact on education in Bertie County has died.

Seaton Poe Fairless Jr., 70, died Thursday in Harrisonburg, Virginia leaving behind a legacy as a proponent for children, education and the Bertie County public schools.

“I was shocked and saddened to learn of Mr. Fairless’s passing,” said Bertie County Board of Education Vice Chair Gloria Lee. “I only wish we had achieved full Unitary Status in his lifetime because he was so interested in that.”

Fairless, who served on the Bertie County Board of Education for 16 years, including the last several as chairman, was a proponent of the district pushing for Unitary Status. While it may not have happened in his lifetime, the paperwork was signed by both the Bertie County school board and the North Carolina Department of Justice for the DOJ to return full responsibility to the school system last week.

“I consider him to have been an honest man, a loyal citizen of Bertie County and a friend to the children,” Lee closed.

Fairless was elected to the school board and served with distinction as a member for more than 15 years. He was awarded the All-State School Board Award in 2005.

Bertie County Commission Chairman Norman Cherry Sr. said Fairless would be remembered as a man who did what he thought was right.

“Seaton Fairless was a good man,” Cherry said. “He did what he thought was right and didn’t particularly worry about the general public. If he thought he was doing right, especially for the children, that was his focus.

“That’s the role of a public official,” he continued. “As long as you do what you think is right and can sleep at night, that’s all you can ask. I think Seaton was able to do that.”

In addition to his service to the public, Fairless was dedicated to church and God. He was a former member of Colerain Baptist Church where he served as a Deacon and Sunday School Superintendent was a member of Cashie Baptist Church where he was also Sunday School Superintendent and was a member of the Praise and Worship Team.

Fairless was a graduate of the Bertie County school district, graduating from Colerain Elementary School. He also graduated from East Carolina University. He served as a public school teacher before becoming a fulltime farmer.

He was an avid lover of the outdoors and hunting and was a member of the Roanoke/Albemarle Chapter of the National Wildlife Turkey Federation where he served as District Director and received the District Director’s Award.

Fairless will be honored at a Celebration of Life service at 2 p.m. Monday, July 27 at Cashie Baptist Church in Windsor. A full obituary can be found on page 6A of today’s edition.