Robert Edward “Bobby” Kirkland, Jr., of Wilson, passed away peacefully at home on Sunday, September 6, 2020.
The funeral will be for and at the convenience of the family.
He was born March 13, 1925 to the late Robert Edward and Bessie Barnes Kirkland. In addition to his parents , he was preceded in death by his brother Dr. John A. Kirkland and great granddaughter Mary Thomas Franklin.
Bobby is survived by his wife of 70 years, Jane Gardner Kirkland, his four children son, Robert E. Kirkland III (Terry), daughters, Janet K. Rehm (Al), Elizabeth K. Peters (Walston) and LeeLee K. King (David) as well as 11 grandchildren and 10 great grandchildren. He is also survived by his sister, Martha K. Walston and many nieces and nephews.
As a lifelong resident of Wilson, he graduated from Charles L. Coon High School. Afterwards he served three years in the U.S. Army during World War II, and received a battlefield commission and was promoted to Second Lieutenant at age 19. He also received the Bronze Star Medal for heroism in ground combat in the Philippine Islands in 1944. He wrote a memoir for his children and grandchildren about his experience in the war and ended it with this. “I want you to remember that winning World War II saved Democracy and it still is surviving and hopefully it will survive for many years to come”.
After returning from the war he attended UNC (which he fondly called “Chapel College”). He was a member of the Zeta Psi fraternity where he made many lifelong friends. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa, was a member of the Order of the Grail and the Order of the Golden Fleece.
After graduating from UNC Bobby returned to Wilson to work with his father at Barnes Motor & Parts Co dba NAPA Auto Parts. When he began work there they had three stores, upon his retirement he had built the business to 38 stores. He was well known and respected in the automotive parts industry nationwide. He served as Chairman of the NC Automotive Wholesalers Assn, Chairman of the Virginia Carolinas Automotive Wholesalers and Chairman of the Automotive Service Industry Assn (ASIA) which is the national organization for the automotive manufacturers, warehouse distributors, parts wholesalers and retailers. The year he was Chairman of ASIA then President Gerald Ford gave the keynote address.
He was dedicated to his city and served in various capacities helping to support it. He served on the Wilson Co. School Board for 12 years, he was chairman of the Board of Trustees of Wilson Memorial Hospital, he served on the Wilson Recreation Commission, the Atlantic Christian College (Barton) Board of Trustees and many, many other boards and committees.
His faith and church were very important to him. He was a lifelong member of the First United Methodist church. You would see him every Sunday on his favorite pew until his declining health no longer allowed him to attend. He served as Chairman of the Finance Committee and Chairman of the Administrative Board.
His home and his family were very dear to him, he loved and was deeply loved. He was a generous, loyal, kind and honest man. His favorite advice was “ be true to yourself”. All around him knew that he also had a wonderful sense of humor. He enjoyed spending time at Topsail Beach, traveling and most of all he loved the game of golf.
Many thanks to his loving caregivers over the past few years,Janet Brown, Olivia Mercer, Jackie Rogers and Palace Melvin.
In lieu of flowers memorials may be made to First United Methodist Church, PO Box 1423, Wilson, NC 27894.
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