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Neighbors remember Hardees as friendly, down to earth

020818RaySybilHardee

Ray and Sybil Hardee, he is standing third from left and she is seated in front of him, were regulars at reunions of residents from Greenville's Warren Street neighborhood.

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By Tyler Stocks
The Daily Reflector

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Mary Stoneham best remembers Sybil and Ray Hardee from the days when she was one of their neighbors on Warren Street, and she cherishes the memories of hosting “Warren Street gatherings” graced by the couple’s presence. 

“I knew Ray and Sybil for 40 years,” Stoneham said. “Over the years, we used to have the Warren Street gatherings which were at my house. And at that time, Warren Street looked just like a grassy lot. There were corn fields, tobacco fields, cotton fields, whatever they planted. All of us had young families, young children, cats, dogs and whatever. We had picnics down there and get-togethers. Everybody brought what they had in the refrigerator. It was a very close- knit neighborhood.”

“Sybil and Ray were down-to-earth and they’d do anything in the world to help you,” Stoneham said.

Greenville police were called to the home at 105 S. Warren St. where the Hardees had lived for decades on Tuesday to investigate a shooting that killed both of them just before 1 p.m.

A preliminary investigation determined that 82-year-old Lloyd Ray Hardee shot and killed 78-year-old Sybil Worthington Hardee then shot and killed himself, the police department reported Wednesday.

There is no evidence to indicate that a third party was involved. Pending findings from the Medical Examiner’s Office, the case will be considered closed.

Police recovered evidence from the scene that led investigators to treat the deaths as a murder-suicide. A note also was found.

Sybil Hardee, who worked at the Courtside Cafe for many years, was known for being a good cook. Ray Hardee was a well-liked postal worker who helped out with projects round the neighborhood.

“(Sybil) cooked good ole’ country food,” Stoneham said. “Everybody down in that area knew who Sybil was. All the business people, all the lawyers, and she soon became friends with the doctors in the area. Her style of cooking was a big ole’ pot of green beans with ham hocks and grease floatin on top of it.”

As a teenager, Sybil worked as a “soda jerk” at Biggs Drugstore and spent many years bringing smiles to people’s faces as they slurped down ice cream sodas.  

While Sybil shared her cooking talent with family and friends, Ray also made it a point to help others, something he did for years at the United States Postal Service. 

“Ray had worked at the post office as a clerk, and if you wanted to buy stamps or mail a package, he would help you at the window,” Stoneham said.  

Ray was also was a veteran who loved his country and loved sharing his military stories. 

According to Richard Waldrop, who grew up in the neighborhood and knew Ray and Sybil well, Ray was a friendly person and a veteran who served his country in the 82nd Airborne Division.

“Ray was very proud to be in the military, said Waldrop, who now lives in Ocracoke. “He talked about it a lot.”

When Waldrop came home from fighting in Vietnam in 1972, Ray walked across the street and saluted him for his service.

“He said, 'You did a job serving your country,' and this was back in the day when Vietnam vets were being spit on when they arrived at the airport,” Waldrop said.

He said it was not uncommon for Ray and other men to work together on remodeling projects in the neighborhood. 

Ray also was an avid sportsman. 

“He liked hunting and fishing. A lot of fishing. I think he fished just about every creek in eastern North Carolina,” Waldrop said.

According to Stoneham, Sybil, recently began having some health problems and had retired from working as a cook at the cafe.

“She retired a few years ago, had been diagnosed recently and had been in the hospital about 10 days,” Stoneham said. “Doctors found a series of of blockages in her heart.”

Stoneham added that Sybil had seen a specialist at Duke who told her he could do what needed to be done.

“But Sybil was terrified of it and she was getting depressed and couldn’t eat and just worried about it,” Stoneham said.

Stoneham said Sybil was a religious person who always was trying to do things for other people and visit people if they were sick.

Ray Hardee had also been ill, but never shied away from a good joke.

“Ray had a lot of heart problems. But Ray was always up for a good joke, and they were not always mixed-company jokes, but he’d tell them anyway,” Stoneham said.

As their health declined, the Hardees frequently visited doctors offices but they always made sure to whip up a batch of brownies and fudge to share.

“She’d bake the brownies and Ray would bring them. Sybil also taught him how to make chocolate fudge,” Stoneham said.

And for special occasions, Sybil Hardee would bake cakes and bring them in, Stoneham said.

Early Tuesday morning, Sybil met with her friends at the Greenville Mall.

“They were making plans to go out with friends next week at the Cracker Barrel and Sybil was out drinking coffee with some of her friends,” Stoneham said. “Ray came to pick her up around 11 and then all this happened.

“In your right mind, I don’t see how you can do that to somebody because he wasn’t a mean person. They were close and I never heard them argue. I never saw any violence out of them,” Stoneham said.

“It never felt like you needed an invitation to come over to Ray and Sybil’s house. They were good ole’ country folks. They’d say, ‘Come on in, have a seat, kick your way through,’” Stoneham said.

“When I heard the comment, it was murder-suicide, it just kind of blew my mind because they both went to church and I just had never seen that piece of it that Ray could’ve shot Sybil,” Stoneham said.

Contact Tyler Stocks at tstocks@reflector.com and 329-9566.

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