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Originally published: 2013-01-22 14:33:11
Last modified: 2013-01-22 14:33:11

Durward Franklin Gunnells Jr.

Durward Franklin Gunnells Jr., of Raleigh, passed away softly at Mayview Convalescent Center early on Jan. 3, 2013.

He was born Oct. 1, 1922, in Albertville, Ala., to the late Durward Franklin Gunnells and Flora Belle Hatley. He grew up in Gadsden, Ala.

He is survived by his wife of 65 years, Earline Jordan Gunnells of Raleigh; by a son, Durward (Butch) Gunnells III of Raleigh, his wife Gail, and their three sons, Jacob, Samuel and Matthew; and by a daughter, Glenda Watson of Denver, Colo., her husband, Randy, and their son, Christopher.

He was a World War II veteran, serving in the U.S. Army Air Corps/U.S. Air Force in Europe. Following the war, he graduated from Auburn University, with a gentle helping hand from Earline. He was a highly successful career executive for Sears, Roebuck & Co., taking his family on a whirlwind tour of the southeastern U.S., with stops in 14 cities. He started their run in Mobile, Ala., in 1948 and completed it in Sarasota, Fla., in 1979.

Among his many achievements while with Sears, he led the move to integrate its work force on the retail sales floor in 1960 in Greensboro. He served in civic clubs and in charitable organizations wherever he lived. He served, for example, on the Johnson C. Smith University Board of Trustees, and served a year as Chairman of the N.C. Retail Merchants Association, both during his Sears Days in Charlotte.

He and Earline enjoyed over 32 wonderful years of retirement, with much of that time spent at Hound Ears Club, near Boone, where they made countless friends. He glimpsed heaven early through his view of Grandfather Mountain, and "wore out" the golf course at Hound Ears. They moved to Magnolia Glen in Raleigh in 2011, where, magically, even more friends were waiting.

He was of the Methodist faith. He was 3/4th Auburn War Eagle and 1/4th Duke Blue Devil. He was the kind of husband, golfer and bridge player you wanted for a partner. He loved to play poker, but certainly always just for fun. He loved his dear wife, Earline, and his family. He especially cherished his four grandsons, who all are part him.

He worked hard most of his life, but was granted plenty of time to embrace retirement. In his final days, he often expressed amazement and appreciation to God for giving him such a joyful and fulfilling life. His family gives special thanks to Dr. Jim Parsons and a host of medical professionals at Rex Hospital, Mayview Convalescent Center and Hospice of Wake County for their skillful and loving support of Durward.

A celebration of Durward's life was held 2 p.m. Monday, Jan. 7, 2013, at White Memorial Presbyterian Church, 1704 Oberlin Rd., Raleigh, NC 27608.

Because his generosity touched so many people from all walks of life, his family requests that if you wish to make a contribution in his memory, make it to Hospice of Wake County, 250 Hospice Circle, Raleigh, NC 27607, or to the charity of your choice.