July 22, 1926 – January 25, 2020.
Honesta Autry Willis Dobyns died peacefully at home in the early morning of January 25, 2020. She was born near Autryville, NC on July 22, 1926 while her mother was visiting the family home in Sampson County. She grew up in Jacksonville, Florida with her loving parents, James Allen and Honesta Autry Willis. She was the middle child, between older brother James Allen Willis, Jr. and younger brother Robert Oliver Willis, both of whom preceded her in death. The three of them had a happy childhood, spending summers in Sampson County, North Carolina and attending school in Florida. In 1944, she began attending the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, where she met her lifelong love and husband of 65 years, James Anderson Dobyns, Jr. She was an active Kappa Delta sorority sister, and graduated with a BA in History with the class of 1948. After Honesta taught school in Jacksonville for a year, she and Jimmy were married in July of 1949. They enjoyed many happy years together until his death in 2014.
Honesta and Jimmy began their life together in Richmond, Virginia, where he worked as a chemist and she in the insurance business. They had their first child in 1953, and she began her lifelong career creating a happy home with Jimmy and their two children. Her firstborn was a son, James (Bo), in 1953, and then she had a daughter, Janis, in 1959. In 1961, the young family moved to Greensboro, NC where Jimmy had a long career with Mother Murphy’s Laboratories.
Honesta’s extensive knowledge of history was put to use during her years as a homemaker through her active participation in volunteer activities. She dedicated time to The Greensboro Preservation Society and was passionate about restoration of the Blandwood Mansion, serving as president of the Blandwood Guild. She was also an active member in West Market United Methodist Church, and the United Methodist Women. For decades, Honesta and Jimmy never missed taking a spring vacation to enjoy the Virginia Garden Club’s Historic Garden Tour.
After retirement, she and Jimmy purchased a historic home in Rockingham County from Preservation North Carolina, rescuing it from falling into ruins. Their son took the lead in restoring the home, and in the mid-90’s she and Jimmy moved into their dream retirement home, where they spent many happy years. They volunteered time with the Rockingham County Historical Society, she serving a term as President. She enjoyed researching and writing about the history of the home they loved. They attended Wentworth Methodist Church.
Honesta was always interested in current events, enjoyed traveling, and remained a curious and lifelong learner until her last days. She avidly followed the news, and applied her historical perspective to many interests, including reading, writing and needlework. She also loved cooking, good restaurants, the NC mountains, and the cabin she and Jimmy built near the New River. She enjoyed her yard, and there wasn’t a flower she didn’t love. She had a strong interest in genealogy, and researched and documented a large amount of family history.
Honesta is survived by her son, James Anderson Dobyns, III (Bibba), daughter Janis Dobyns McHargue (Brad), sister-in-law Evelyn Willis, niece Lynn Lacey (Chip), and nephew Bobby Willis (Kathy). A private memorial service will be held later. The family suggests that, if they wish to memorialize Honesta’s life, friends can make a charitable donation to the charity of their choice, or to one that Honesta supported: Preservation NC, Northumberland County (Va) Historical Society, Colonial Williamsburg, Museum and Archives of Rockingham County, or Hospice of Rockingham County.
Condolences may be sent to the family at www.wilkersonfuneral.com.