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Ways of Life: Sisters, best friends and 'Golden Girls' until the end
Also remembered: A circulation director at the Charlotte Observer; a founder of Charlotte Latin; a local painter and potter
You’re reading Ways of Life, a weekly obituaries newsletter from The Charlotte Ledger honoring our friends, neighbors and family members who made an impact on Charlotte through the ways they lived their lives.
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Tecia McAbee refused to utter the word ‘sick’ even after leukemia struck
Sisters and soulmates Tecia McAbee (left) and Lynn Nicks were best friends all their lives. Tecia passed away last month at age 66. (Photo courtesy of JoAnn Crocker)
by Ken Garfield
At the end, Lynn Nicks and Charlotte’s Tecia McAbee held hands and shared one last laugh.
Lynn and Tecia (pronounced “tee-see”) were more than sisters — peas in a pod, everyone called them. They were best friends all their lives and roommates in each other’s time of need. When Lynn, 65, underwent triple bypass heart surgery, Tecia moved in to take care of her. When Tecia, 66, was diagnosed with leukemia on June 30, 2021, Lynn did the same for her. Better-matched roomies you could not find. Both were divorced. Both were laid back. Both liked chicken no matter how it was prepared. Both were hooked on “The Incredible Dr. Pol,” a TV reality show about a veterinarian in rural Michigan. Both loved “The Golden Girls.”
Tecia died Feb. 15. “I miss her something awful,” Lynn says.
The day that Tecia was told she had leukemia is the day she retired from her sales job. Up until then, hers had been a mostly golden life (no life is all chicken and reality shows). JoAnn Crocker says her mom was quiet and yet a ball of fire, qualities not many can pull off at the same time. Just as Lynn and Tecia were friends and confidantes, so were Tecia and JoAnn. JoAnn could tell her anything and it would stay between them. When JoAnn, a social worker, earned her undergraduate degree from UNC Charlotte, mother and daughter celebrated in Hawaii. Mom wasn’t a drinker, but she splurged on a Blue Motorcycle that trip. Google it and you might get woozy.
Tecia’s was a large family — one grandson whom she adored named Durum, two nieces, two nephews, three great-nieces, three great-nephews and all their offspring. Her obituary says she loved them more than seemed humanly possible. JoAnn wrote the obituary, save for one line. JoAnn’s husband, James, added this about his mother-in-law: “Not only did she have a contagious laugh, she was also a rock for all of us.” That moment, daughter and son-in-law sitting together at the kitchen table, capturing the meaning of Tecia’s life? “It was one of the most beautiful moments of my marriage,” JoAnn says.
Tecia was hospitalized 13 times during her last 20 months. Not once did she utter the word “sick.” She’d tell people she was just getting old. She drew comfort from family and friends. Thirty-five came to say goodbye. The banana milkshakes she made in the blender helped, too.
Then came the last day, at Atrium Health University City, around 3 p.m.
If there can be such a thing as good fortune for a 66-year-old woman dying from leukemia, perhaps this is it. There in the hospital room with Tecia was her father, Ted Lowe, her daughter, JoAnn, and her sisters, Lynn Nicks and Lisa Wright. “We all think Mom was waiting for these exact four people to be at her bedside so she could pass,” JoAnn says.
Lynn rose from her chair, went to Tecia’s bedside, picked up her hand and squeezed it. Tecia squeezed back.
JoAnn finishes the story.
“Lynn got a great big smile on her face and said, ‘Tecia, are we the Golden Girls?’
“My Aunt Lisa says, “If you’re the Golden Girls, does that make you Blanche, Lynn? (Blanche was the feisty one played by Rue McClanahan.)
“Lynn, now laughing, places her hand on Mom’s shoulder and says, “Tecia, am I Blanche?’
“Mom whispers softly ‘Yeah’ and laughs and she was gone.”
Ken Garfield is a freelance writer/editor who specializes in obituaries. Reach him at email@example.com.
Other obituaries this week:
Mary Elaine Howell Bailes, 65, of Charlotte earned a degree in political science from UNC Charlotte. Elaine was a loss prevention specialist with UPS during most of her adult life. As a hobby, she spent many hours creating leather wallets and belts that she sold in a kiosk at SouthPark Mall.
Stanley Joseph “Joe” Christenbury, 78, of Charlotte worked for Grinnell Fire Protection for 40 years, retiring in 2001. Joe was a member of Providence Baptist Church for 50 years and served as a deacon, among other activities. He spent many years coaching at Myers Park Trinity Little League and Trinity Pop Warner Football. Joe loved baseball, basketball and especially golf at Carolina Golf and Country Club, Larkhaven Golf Club and Charlotte National Golf Club. He graduated from Harding High School.
Janet Hartis Davis, 89, of Charlotte lived in the Oakhurst neighborhood for over 53 years and retired after 37 years with Delmar Printing in Charlotte.
Jack Earl Doyle, 86, of Charlotte worked for the Charlotte News and Charlotte Observer, where he served as circulation director for many years. Jack was an avid golfer and ruthless gin rummy player who also enjoyed his place at Sunset Beach.
Betty Jean Thompson Foard, 93, of Matthews worked for Southern Bell Telephone & Telegraph Co. for 35 years, retiring in 1984. She attended Kings Business College. Betty was a member of Midwood Baptist Church, where she was in the choir, a Sunday school leader and a member of the Women’s Missionary Union and Joy Fellowship Senior Adult Ministry. She also served at Myers Park United Methodist Church. Betty loved to sing and dance and was an expert bridge player.
Mary Elizabeth “Lib” Howell, 88, of Harrisburg was a member of Northside Baptist Church in Charlotte, where she founded the prayer shawl ministry and was involved with missions. She enjoyed reading, sewing, needlework of all types, and she designed furniture, home decor and clothing.
Audrey Godfrey Jackson, 96, of Mooresville was a graduate of Harding High School and a charter member of Durham Memorial Baptist Church in Charlotte. She enjoyed shopping at Belk, baking, traveling, reading and putting together puzzles.
Harry Turner Johnson, 61, of Charlotte graduated from Myers Park High School and was an auto mechanic. Harry enjoyed his vegetable garden, fishing on Lake Wylie, going to Ocean Isle Beach and camping in the mountains.
Robert “Bob” Vernon Knight Jr., 94, of Charlotte retired from Barclays American Corp. as senior vice president in 1990 after 32 years. After retirement, Bob served as executive director of Central Piedmont Community College Foundation for three years and he was a founder of Charlotte Latin School. He was a deacon at Myers Park Presbyterian Church. Bob was active in civic affairs and served Friends of UNCC, Charlotte Merchants Association, United Way, Wing Haven and Charlotte Mecklenburg Seniors Centers. He was a member of the Charlotte Country Club and the Charlotte Rotary Club.
Mary Westman McKnight, 93, of Charlotte was a talented painter who won many local awards for her paintings, but her true passion was pottery. Mary Jane was a fixture in the pottery studio at Central Piedmont Community College. She was a member of Myers Park United Methodist Church. Mary Jane enjoyed playing tennis at Carmel Country Club and loved spending time at her home in Ocean Isle Beach.
Richard Clark Mills, 80, of Charlotte worked as an electrical engineer for Duke Power and HDR, both in Charlotte. He eventually started his own electrical engineering consulting business, designing electrical systems for water treatment plants in the Southeast for over 30 years. He joined Newell Baptist Church (now King’s Church) in the mid-1970s and served as a deacon for several years. In retirement, Richard loved to travel, taking cruises to Hawaii, Alaska and the Caribbean, with a trip to London as well.
Dana Lynn Muret, 59, of Charlotte carved a niche at Carolinas Medical Center, now Atrium Health, where she spent 19 years working consecutive 12-hour shifts on weekends. Dana caught the genealogy bug, which led her down a path to the Daughters of the American Revolution, where she became secretary and served two terms as a state regent. She loved country artists Wynonna Judd and Toby Keith and had a fascination with Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine.
Martha Sue Phillips, 101, of Charlotte graduated from Central High School and was a member of Mulberry Baptist Church in Charlotte. She worked in the medical field for 12 years and retired from the Small Business Administration after 22 years. On her 100th birthday, Martha couldn’t believe that so many people came to her drive-by/walk-up party!
John “Big John” Shepard Robinson, 87, of Charlotte worked for Belk Stores in Charlotte for many years, where he most notably established the Belk credit card. He later worked for The National Life Insurance Co. until his retirement. A devoted and longtime member of Myers Park Presbyterian Church, John served as a deacon, elder and Stephen minister. He was a lifelong tennis player and was a member of the Charlotte Country Club.
Richard Walter Van Duyne, 90, of Charlotte worked for many years for IBM in Charlotte. Once retired from IBM, Richard taught computer classes at Central Piedmont Community College. Richard’s passion after retirement was continuing the genealogical research his father started decades before.
McFarland (Mac) Walker Wood Jr., 93, of Charlotte worked as a research radio engineer for Southern Bell and BellSouth until his retirement in 1989. A lifelong Episcopalian, Mac was a member of Christ Church in Charlotte. He loved music and was a member of the Oratorio Singers of Charlotte, the official chorus of the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra. Mac was an avid amateur radio operator and was active in the Mecklenburg Amateur Radio Society and was a volunteer for the radio room at Discovery Place.
Ways of Life condensed obituaries are compiled by Darrell Horwitz, a Charlotte-based freelance writer who writes about sports, local news and restaurants. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Two funerals of note this week:
The homegoing ceremony and celebration of life for longtime Mecklenburg County Democratic party leader Alista “Cozzie” Watkins will take place at 11 a.m. Friday, March 17 at Little Rock AME Zion Church in uptown Charlotte. All are welcome to join her family and friends in celebrating her life.
A celebration of life for former Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson will be held at 11 am Saturday, March 18 at Jerry Richardson Indoor Stadium at Wofford College. The service will be livestreamed: wofford.edu/jjrcelebrationoflife
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Ways of Life editor: Craig Paddock