In Memory

Gary Southerland

Raymond Gary Southerland, 56, who taught physical education at Northwest Elementary School for 20 years, died in July, 2007 from cancer after battling the disease for nearly four years.

go to bottom 
  Post Comment

10/29/08 10:29 AM #1    

Harper Register

Gary was a man of true integrity. He didn't have to "talk the talk", because he "walked the walk".He had three loves in his life. God, his family and the education of the youth of the community (physically & mentally).He may have left us earlier than hoped, but he didn't leave anything undone.
My personal favorite high school memory of Gary happened during a road track meet in New Bern our senior year. New Bern had a hurdler, who wasn't nearly as good as he thought. Gary saw that he was lifting his upper body after clearing the hurdle, thus costing the Bears' runner a 1/2 step on each of the hurdles.He took the time to not only tell his opponent of the miscue, but to show him the way to correct it. Of course, Gary did this after he had beaten him soundly. --- CHR

12/06/08 10:26 AM #2    

Mary Phillips (Southerland)

Raymond Gary Southerland, 56, died at home, July 22, 2007 after battling cancer for 4 years. Tagged by his church as a "true gentleman," Gary could have also be defined by the words of Jesus as found in Mark 10:14 (NIV), "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these." And come to Gary they did, thousands (including his own two sons) from churches, from schools both private and public, and from various athletic fields. Coach Southerland not only taught the rules of the games , but also the rules of a good Christian life. More importantly, all these children saw Gary live what he preached. He always got the door for the ladies, found a seat or cool spot for the elderly, or comforted a crying child. If a t-baller were struggling, Gary would suspend the play to help him or her succeed. Being the muscular athlete he was, he loved playing golf, hunting, fishing and gardening. Not only did he grow beautiful vegetables, but also (with Mary's help) preserved them and cooked them. All the Southerland reunion folks miss Gary's cooking. He was a native of Lenoir County and graduated from Grainger High School class of '69. Following his graduation from high school, Gary earned a B.S. degree in Physical Education and later a master's degree in Education from East Carolina University. Initially following his college graduation, he taught history and Bible and coached , as well as directed athletics at Bethel Christian Academy. He also served (7 years) the city of Kinston as Building Inspector, a job his father retired from. It was during this time that Gary earned his Master's in Education degree and decided to join his wife Mary in the Kinston City Schools (now Lenoir County Public Schools) accepting a position at Northwest Elementary as a physical education teacher and assistant football coach at Kinston High School. While at Northwest, Gary had the joy of eventually teaching the children of former students. Being one to take advantage of his abilities and of life, Gary began helping with T-Ball, officiating for the Kinston Recreation Department and periodically taught beginning golf, fitness and aerobics at Lenoir Community College. All who knew Gary witnessed the strength of his faith and the importance of his church in his life. Written in his well-worn Bible is the date December 06, 1969, the day Gary accepted Christ as his personal savior at Bethel Free Will Baptist Church. He and his wife Mary have been members of Westside Original Free Will Baptist Church for 25 years, during which time Gary served as Deacon, Sunday school teacher, youth leader and served on many boards and committees. The family had a private burial service at Pinelawn Memorial Gardens on July 25, 2008. A Celebration of Gary's Life was held August 05, 2008 at the Lenoir County Performing Arts Center located on the campus of Kinston High School. Visitation immediately followed the service. Gary is survived by the love of his life and his partner and best friend, Mary Phillips Southerland, wife of 31 years; their sons Raymond Garrett of Kinston, a history teacher at North Lenoir High School, and James Philip, who is a landscape designer for Wheat Swamp Landscaping of LaGrange and Philip's wife Melissa Sowers Southerland who teaches first grade at Northwest Elementary school. Gary is also survived by his schnoodle "Murphy," a gift from the children and staff at Northwest School presented to him and Mary during his illness, and his mother-in-law, Hazel Wade Phillips of Kinston, whom he called "Ma" and who cared for him as a son. Gary was pre-deceased by his parents Deyo and Lois Brown Southerland, sisters Carolyn S. Colenda of Virginia and Mary Susan S. Register of Kinston and brother , Robert T. Southerland of Kinston. His brother John M. Southerland of Kinston died from cancer about 30 days after Gary. Surviving sibblings include Ike B. Southerland and wife Carol of Morehead City, Charles D. Southerland and wife Janie of Wilmington, sisters Kay Southerland Norris and husband Steve of Fayetteville and Dean Southerland Jarrett of Kinston, as well as a host of nieces and nephews.

01/14/09 08:12 PM #3    

Jimmy Rochelle

I was truly saddened when I learned of Gary's death. We were team mates and enjoyed the friendship that grows from that. I knew his family through older siblings . His brother Ike was in school with my older sisters.

The loss of such a person ,and I've really only know a few, always makes me reflect on my existence. From a selfish perspective I would say I was lucky to know him. From another perspective I wonder why him instead of me. Perhaps it's just as we are taught, His work was done.

However you come to grips with it is up to you. As for me I remember practice and games with him. An athlete of superior talent desire and spirit. He always had a smile, no a grin. I will never forget him.

Miss You Gary.

01/17/09 08:39 PM #4    

Mary Phillips (Southerland)

Bob Carroll of Kinston wrote this about Gary in a Letters To The Editor some years ago in the Kinston Free Press before Gary's illness was diagnosed.
To the editor:
Quite often, we get so caught up with our busy, everyday, schedules, that we forget to thank those who give just a little more and help our chidren grow mentally and physically.
One such person is Gary Southerland.
His whole life is about helping kids, from his teaching job to his summer tour as pitcher, umpire, record keeper, coach and a few other things for the kids that are playing t-ball.
Even after he has pitched for 2 or 3 games on a week night or a hot Saturday, with parents cursing him and coaches rumbling, he still takes the time to show the kids how to hold the bat or catch the ball as well as commending them for good plays.
All the kids know and like "Mr. Southerland."
I, as a parent and citizen, would like to thank him for taking that time for my child. We are fortunate to have him in our community.

01/19/09 08:10 PM #5    

Ella Whitley (Rodgman)

I remember Gary in high school as been a really nice guy. I lost touch with him after graduation. My husband Paul moved to Kinston before I did to take a job. He rented an apartment and Gary and his wife, Mary were the previous renters. They were getting ready to move into their first house. Gary had put a basketball goal at the end of the drive. Paul had told him how much he liked to play. When Gary and Mary moved he told Paul he was leaving it for him. We both had a son the same age that went to school together and played ball together. Gary loved his family. He touched so many lives and gave hope to so many. I was blessed to know him.

01/28/09 11:04 PM #6    

Diane Jarman

I had several classes with Gary in high school and always thought of him as a very nice and kind person. I can remember riding by Northwest school and all the little kids would be all around him. I was sad to find out we had lost a wonderful teacher and friend to all children. I know he is missed so much by his loving wife Mary and his family, but I am sure they enjoy the peace of knowing he is always with them.

02/01/09 01:06 AM #7    

Becky Thompson (Rhine)

I knew Gary in Jr. High School - possibly at Northwest, but the memories there fail me. I always thought it was really cool that Gary was Harper's uncle and we were all in the same class. As I told Harper, little did I know that history would repeat itself in my family, and my daughter would become an aunt at age 22 months. I wish Gary were here for me to share that with him. He was a caring, sensitive, involved human being when I knew him, and from what I have read here, he was even more so as an adult. He will be missed.

02/13/09 11:37 PM #8    

Mary Phillips (Southerland)

Since Gary's death in July of 2007, he has been posthumously honored with the following memorials.

SOUTHERLAND'S LANE : The drive used at Northwest
by parents to discharge
and pick - up their chidren
in the mornings and
afternoons was named in
Gary's honor. Gary would
open the car doors and assist
children in and out of their
vehicles every morning and

Gary Southerland Memorial Library : Was dedicated
November 16, 2007 at Sampson
School. This library is
used by the Boys and Girls
Club of Lenoir County.
Arendell Parrott Academy and
Northwest Elementary students
together collected and
donated almost 4,000 books to
fill the library's shelves.

R. Gary Southerland Memorial Walking Track :
Located at Northwest
Elementary School this track
was dedicated during a lovely
ceremony at the school on
November 08, 2008. It is
used every school day by
students and staff. The
public is invited to use the
track during non-school

R. Gary and Mary P. Southerland Endowed
Scholarship Fund : This Endowment was
established in February, 2009
at Mount Olive College to be
used by students at the
college preparing for futures
in the field of education.
Students majoring in Physical
Education or Special Education
will receive priority in being
awarded this annual

Comment by Mary: Gary was a very quiet man never seeking attention for himself and always thinking about others. Our family has been overwhelmed with these types of recognition for the countless hours Gary spent trying to help children and adults be more physically and mentally healthy. We thank all the hundreds of students, faculties, families and friends who want so much for his legacy to live on. We miss him dearly. Thank you, too, Grainger High Class of 1969 for allowing us to share with you our life and love of your classmate, Gary Southerland. Congratulations! on your 40th Year High School Reunion. GO! RED DEVILS!

04/04/09 12:30 PM #9    

Bruce Akers

05/14/09 01:10 PM #10    

Barbara Boone (Coley)

I first knew Gary at Northwest Elementary. I was in awe of him that he could be an uncle at such a young age. Course, there was a passel of them there youngins. Gary came from a pretty good size family and he was at the end, so it was easy. I just couldn't understand it back then. (I got to know one of his older brothers down the road. He and his family lived down from us on Westover Ave.....Charles and Janie Ray. His sister Sue and her family lived next door to us when we moved to Carey Road....that would be Harper and his family).

Gary was a very sweet young man. He was caring and had a gentle soul.

My heart goes out to his family and loved ones and friends. The memories are not to be forgotten though. He was a great person all the way around.

go to top 
  Post Comment