Bennett Jefferson “Ben” Utley, 84, of Waynesville, NC, passed away peacefully at his home on October 12, 2020.
Ben was born on July 20, 1936 to Eugene Monroe “Gene” Utley and Addie “Lal” (Winstead) Utley Jeffress in Goldsboro, NC. After graduating from Grainger High School (Kinston, NC) in 1954, he served in the US Army during the Korean War. In 1956, he returned to study Religion at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.
After graduation in 1960, Ben started a career in education as a teacher and coach in Goldsboro, NC. In 1962, Ben met Judith “Judi” (Holloman) Utley, and they wed in 1964. They had 2 children, and his family meant the world to him. He often said his children were his heart.
Ben was a leader and passionate about education, politics, and history. In 1968, he received an MA degree in Guidance and Counseling from East Carolina University. He continued his early career in the university setting where he served in Admissions at Mt. Olive College and NC State University. In the mid-70’s, he embarked on a career in politics serving as Executive Director of the Democratic Party and on the Ed O’Herron campaign for Governor of North Carolina. He returned to education in the late 1970’s, serving as Vice President of Development at Wesleyan College. From there, he went on to serve in Admissions at Chowan College and at East Carolina University. He then served as High School Principal in Ocracoke, NC and later returned to Admissions at Elon College. Afterward, Ben spent several years as a consultant presenting workforce preparedness and training seminars at many high schools across NC and the southeastern US offering guidance for students navigating post-high school opportunities in education and career.
Ben eventually settled in the NC mountains and opened NC Mountain Made in Franklin, NC, a store promoting crafts made by artisans from across the Western North Carolina region. While in Franklin, he became involved in the local community, participating in both the civic and political arena. He loved the mountains, and he was deeply grateful for the friends he made in the area.
After retiring, Ben enjoyed spending time with his family, including his two grandchildren, Sam and Ben. He also enjoyed adventure, traveling around the region and overseas. From 2009 to 2019, he traveled to Germany, where he adopted Rothenburg as a second home and explored various regions across the country and Europe. He thoroughly loved the German culture and the German people, and he would spend up to 6 months out of a year there. He deeply cherished the many close friendships he developed across the country.
Ben was preceded in death by his father, Gene; his mother, Lal; and his sister, Lois Jean Utley. He is survived by his children, Elizabeth “Beth” Utley Bateman and Bennett Jefferson “Jeff” Utley III (Laura); and his grandchildren, Samuel Wyatt “Sam” Utley and Benjamin Asher “Ben” Utley.
The family has honored Ben’s final wishes for no funeral services. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that you consider a donation to your favorite charity.
Bryant-Grant Funeral Home and Crematory is serving the Utley family. Online condolences can be made at www.bryantgrantfuneralhome.com
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