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  • Writer's pictureCrystal Faircloth

Rev. Joe C. Sellers

Updated: Jan 31

April 18, 1925 – Jan. 25, 2023 (age 97)

Joe Carmi Sellers, age 97 of Whiteville, passed away on Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2023, at his home. He was surrounded by his family and Clara, the adoring cat he rescued thirteen years ago. Joe was born in the Beaverdam community of Columbus County on April 18, 1925, the son of the late Clarence Lot Sellers and Hattie Cornelia Stevens Sellers. He was preceded in death by his beloved wife, Eloise Hooks Sellers. Left to cherish his memory are his two daughters, Ella Jo Sellers and Hazel Jeannine Sellers, both of Whiteville, and many extended family members and friends.

While attending Chadbourn High School, Joe was a devoted baseball player, often walking miles in order to practice and play. He was said to be equally able to pitch with both arms. After graduating from high school, Joe joined the Army Air Corps at the age of eighteen. He served as a tail gunner on a B-25 in World War II from 1943-1945. Staff Sergeant Joe Sellers was cited for valor for being engaged in 66 combat missions in the Mediterranean theatre in air battles of “great intensity.” The Lieutenant General of the US Army, John K. Cannon, in the citation, wrote that Joe “has gallantly and repeatedly carried the offensive against heavy opposition to the heart of the enemy and has, by his unfaltering courage, earned the gratitude and praise of his fellow countrymen, as well as his commander.” He was also the recipient of several medals and continued to work for the Air Force in Okinawa at the end of the war from 1946 until 1949.

On the GI Bill, Joe attended and graduated from North Carolina State University with a degree in Agricultural Education. Upon graduation, he pursued a teaching career, first in Midlothian, Virginia, later in Pamlico County, NC, and finally in the Whiteville City Schools. He was a very popular teacher, and the Class of 1963 dedicated their annual to him.

Soon afterward, he left his teaching career to accept a call to the ministry. He attended Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, and graduated with a Master’s in Divinity. While still a student, he accepted the pastorate at Long Branch Baptist Church in Lumberton, where he served several years in the mid to late 1960’s.

In the 1960’s, Joe Sellers was a passionate supporter of Civil Rights, and he gradually came to believe he could serve a greater variety and number of people if he returned to teaching, although he also continued to preach on a part-time basis. He taught in Pamlico County for a year, returning later to Columbus County, teaching at Hallsboro High School and Whiteville High School. In total, he served as an agriculture teacher and Future Farmers of America advisor for 29 years. He influenced many students, mentoring them and encouraging them. Behind the scenes, he helped many students in other ways, whether with financial assistance or a personal or spiritual need.

Upon retirement, he served as interim pastor at several area churches. He also played golf at every opportunity. He was an avid animal lover, rescuing and adopting many homeless cats. He truly exemplified the words of Einstein, “Only a life lived in the service to others is worth living.”

A funeral service in his honor will be held on Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2023, at 2 p.m. at First Baptist Church of Whiteville with Dr. Roger Gilbert officiating. Burial with military honors will follow at Whiteville Memorial Cemetery. The family will receive friends on Tuesday, Jan. 31, at McKenzie’s Mortuary, 112 Jefferson Street, from 6-8 p.m. In lieu of flowers, a donation may be made to a charity of one’s choice

McKenzie Mortuary, 112 Jefferson Street, Whiteville, NC is serving the Sellers family.

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