“Coach” Spencer DuWayne Willard, 79, ended his hard-fought battle with cancer on August 5, 2022. Born on August 29, 1942 in Kernersville, North Carolina, he was the oldest child of the late Spencer McMillan Willard and Grace Alva Carson Willard.
Spencer attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on a baseball scholarship and was a pitcher for the 1964 ACC Championship team. He loved his Tar Heels and spent time each day reading sports news on Carolina websites. He married his first wife, Brenda Louise Barrow, after college and he started teaching and coaching in Rowland, North Carolina. He next took a job at Laurinburg High School which became Scotland High School. It was at SHS that Spencer became known as “Coach” by the thousands of students and athletes he challenged with his “tough love.” Spencer coached varsity football and baseball, and fell in love with the craft of teaching–and threw in some life lessons along with the erasers. Those life lessons were not confined to the classroom, but spilled into the farm fields across Scotland County as Spencer employed hundreds of SHS students for his summer corn detasseling and watermelon harvesting business.
In every aspect of life, he was a teacher, and modeled a life-long love of learning. His family watched with wonder at his fascination and intense study of such wide-ranging interests as quail hunting, duck hunting, turkey hunting, fly-fishing, dog training, wood working, furniture restoration, biodynamic gardening, beekeeping, and canning of pickles, jams, jellies, salsas, and vinegar. His pontifications on these various hobbies, or other matters, usually began with the statement, “Now, let me tell you what…” and ended with some questionable statistics that were in his favor.
Spencer’s love of learning was not limited to those hobbies. He was a man of deep faith and dedicated student of the Bible. His bookshelf looks like that of a seminary professor. After a week of teaching history and economics at Scotland High School, it was not unusual to find him preparing Saturday for more teaching on Sunday morning. Most recently teaching Sunday School at Fletcher’s Chapel United Methodist Church in Hoffman, where he was a member.
In 1992, he married Nancy McGee Gregory and together they enjoyed 30 years of a grand adventure. Grand because it was a shared spiritual journey. Spencer took great joy in being a preacher’s husband and listening to his wife preach in her various appointments. That journey culminated on the farm at Longleaf Lodge in Hoffman. Spencer and Nancy in partnership with daughter Beth and her family, brought a serene and welcoming sanctuary into existence. The farm was a labor of love and Spencer will forever be a part of its structures, soil, and soul.
Survivors include his wife, Nancy McGee Willard; his family, Derrick Duane Willard and his wife, Jenny, of Augusta, Georgia, Beth Willard Bockoven and her husband, Paul, of Hoffman, North Carolina, Jacob “Jeff” Foster Gregory IV and his wife, Jessica, of Matthews, North Carolina, Leslie Cole Gregory English and her husband, Jeffrey, of Raleigh, North Carolina; grandchildren, Mac Willard, Carson Bockoven, Anna Grace Willard, Cecilia Bockoven, Jack English, Reid Gregory. He was preceded in death by his sister, Donna Jan Chaney.
A memorial service and celebration of life will be held at St. Luke United Methodist Church in Laurinburg, North Carolina on Saturday, August 13th at 2pm. A visitation will follow the service in the fellowship hall.
The family wishes to express their eternal gratitude to the staff of The Scotland Cancer Treatment Center and the Richmond County Hospice Haven.
In lieu of flowers the family asks that you make a donation to your preferred charity or house of worship in Spencer’s memory.
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