John F. Willey

Published 3:02 pm Sunday, February 2, 2014

CORAPEAKE – John Fletcher Willey, 95, passed away January 31, 2014 at the Vidant Inpatient Hospice Center in Greenville.  John fought valiantly as he dealt with cancer.

John was the third son of Dan Arthur and Rosa Whedbee Willey. He was born September 8, 1918 on the family farm in the Willeyton community in Gates, North Carolina.

John is predeceased by his parents; and his brothers, Joshua Whedbee, Dan Arthur, Harry Nowell and Edward Vernon Willey. John’s beautiful wife, Gretchen Aycock Willey, died in 1993, following 52 years of marriage.

He is survived by his only sister, Ada Willey Carroll, (Robert) of Gates; his youngest brother, Frank Thomas Willey (Mary Langston Willey) of Gaston; his sister-in- laws, Evelyn Boone Willey of Gates, Nell Carter Willey of Raleigh and Jean Aycock Chase (Marion Chase) of Cary.

John and Gretchen’s children are John Fletcher Willey, Jr. and his wife, Linda Emmett Willey, of Manteo, Thomas Edward Willey and his wife, Paula Darden Willey of Washington, Mildred “Millie” Willey Griffin and her husband Harry Griffin, Jr. of Wilmington, and Annette Willey McClure and her husband, William “Bill” Holmes McClure.

John’s grandchildren, who added great joy and meaning to his life, are John Fletcher Willey IV and his wife Cagny Underwood Willey of Raleigh, Susan Willey Pintuff and her husband, Jason Pintuff of Raleigh, Gretchen Willey Beasley and her husband, Troy Beasley of Wilmington, Will Thomas Griffin and his wife, Rachel Citron of Los Angeles, California, Jeanne Elizabeth Griffin Palanza and her husband, Addison Palanza, and Anna Holmes McClure of Raleigh.

John’s “mighty fine” great-grandchildren are Lily and Reid Pintuff, and Miller and Griffin Palanza, all of Raleigh. John and Gretchen had many nieces and nephews and they adored each one!

John’s life was long and full. At age 16, he entered Chowan College, continued on to NCSU, where he received his degree in Vocational Agriculture in 1940.  From that time until the end, he was a great supporter of the Wolfpack!

After graduation, John worked for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. On October 13, 1941 he met his true love, Gretchen Aycock from Fremont and they married on December 27, 1941. After only three weeks of marriage, John was sworn into the Army Air Corp, leaving immediately for Fort Bragg, NC.  Most of his wartime experience was in Alaska on the Aleutian Islands.

In the fall of 1946, John began teaching vocational agriculture at Coopers’ School in Nash County. John was devoted to his students and especially enjoyed coaching many of “his boys” in basketball.  In January 1960, John moved his family to Gates to farm his mother’s family’s home place. The family joined Philadelphia United Methodist Church. He was an interesting Sunday school teacher and dearly loved his church family. John became a farm manager, in addition to the responsibilities of growing livestock and raising cotton, soybeans, tobacco, corn and peanuts.  John and Gretchen enjoyed the many friends they made while supporting the livestock shows in Elizabeth City and the Cattleman’s Association.

The funeral will be held at Philadelphia United Methodist Church on Tuesday, February 4, 2014 at 2 p.m. with Reverend Stephen Hall officiating. A private burial will follow in the family cemetery on the farm. In lieu of flowers, please send donations to Philadelphia United Methodist Church or Vidant Health Inpatient Hospice, 920 Wellness Drive, Greenville, NC27834.

Miller Funeral Home, 304 Main St., Gatesville, NC, is assisting the family with arrangements. Online condolences may be sent to the family by visiting