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Friends, colleagues remember couple killed in crash

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By Tyler Stocks
The Daily Reflector

Friday, July 13, 2018

GRIFTON — He was a true gentleman. She was a perfect Southern lady.

That is what friends and associates said about Eugene “Gene” Fleming, 91, and his 89-year-old wife, Geraldine, “Gerry” Gay Fleming, who died last week in an automobile wreck. 

Gene Fleming, 91, of 6410 Niblick Road in Grifton was driving a truck westbound on N.C. 102 about nine miles from Ayden, when he crossed the center line, overcorrected and ran off the road to the right. His vehicle struck Charles Edward Garris Jr, 53, of 4801 River Road, Washington, N.C.

Garris was standing on the shoulder of the road. Troopers have not stated a reason why he was not in his vehicle.

After striking Garris, Fleming’s truck sideswiped Garris’ truck before overturning several times. Fleming died after being ejected from the vehicle.

Fleming’s wife, Gerry, who was a passenger in the truck, died from her injuries.

The wreck occurred at 1:56 p.m., a state highway patrol official said.

The Flemings were married for 69 years and would have celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary in August. 

For now, friends and colleagues are mourning a great loss while finding solace in the fact that the loving couple died together. 

“You will never meet another lady like her,” Lelia Jackson, a friend of Gerry’s, said Thursday. 

Jackson knew Gerry for more than 50 years. Gerry, Jackson and their friend Betty Weir did everything together.

The three women often had coffee together, played bridge and shared similar experiences of raising children. Jackson said Gerry was a gentle soul. 

“She was so soft-spoken and gentle, and she always had the most beautiful smile,” Jackson said. 

Gerry also was a dependable travel companion who accompanied Jackson on trips to Atlanta, Virginia and other places. However, Jackson said Gerry preferred staying home and doing what she did best — being a loving mother and wife. 

Gene could often be seen in their garden, and Gerry spent countless hours canning vegetables and keeping the home spick-and-span, while also welcoming guests with warm, southern hospitality.

“Gerry was an excellent housekeeper, but she was sure to always make you feel welcome,” Jackson said. 

Karen Wooten, a friend of the Flemings and a fellow parishioner at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Grifton, said Gerry loved to serve others.  

“When I think of Gerry, I think of the sweetest person God put on this earth,” Wooten said. “She was very involved in the church and did anything that needed to be done.” 

Wooten said Gerry was a beautiful person, inside and out. 

“She was always impecably dressed on the outside and was just as beautiful on the inside,” Wooten said. 

Wooten added that the love Gerry and Gene had was truly remarkable. 

“They were inseparable, and if any couple was in love, they would be that couple. If every couple showed love the way they did, there would be no divorce,” Wooten said. 

Wooten said that the the news of the Flemings’ death hit her hard.

“When I first got I news, I was devastated,” she said. “This is a great loss for everyone. But, I just had this vision of them ascending to heaven, holding hands. They were together ,and something about that gives me peace.”

Like his wife, Gene was soft-spoken, gentle and always willing to lend a hand, friends said.

Curtis Dennis, who worked under Gene at Dupont for many years, said Gene cared about his fellow co-workers. 

“He was always so thoughtful, and he was a true gentlemen who carried himself well,” Dennis said. 

Gene retired from Dupont in 1990. Prior to his retirement, he also served as a member of the Ayden-Grifton Advisory Council.

Mitchell Oakley, former editor of the Times-Leader in Ayden, said Gene really cared about the community.  

“He was a faithful member for many years,” Oakley said. “I was always impressed with his interest in all the students in the school district. He possessed strong opinions and held fast to them. I appreciated his candor and straightforwardness. Never did anyone have to guess where Gene stood on an issue.”

When Gene served as a town commissioner for Grifton, he put citizens first, according to Oakley.  

“I found Gene to be an outstanding human being. He cared about those he represented and about others in general,” Oakley said. “As a newspaperman, I also covered the Grifton town board on which Gene served so unselfishly — a man who always wanted the best for Grifton citizens at the most efficient cost possible.”

Oakley added, “He was a breath of fresh air when it came to common sense and budgetary experience. He believed in open government, and his integrity was above reproach.”

Former and current town leaders echoed Oakley’s sentiments.  

"Eugene was one in a million. I have great respect and admiration for him. He was instrumental in hiring me 26 plus yeas ago. I will always be grateful," Grifton Town Clerk Angel Hudson said.

“I believe every decision Mr. Fleming made while on the town board was with every citizen in mind,” Hudson said. “You never had to wonder where Mr. Fleming stood on any issue because he was an upfront and honest individual. I believe he would bend over backwards to lend a hand.”

And Gene was always on top of things. 

“He was always for the people of the town,” Grifton Commissioner, Johnny Craft said. Craft served one term with Gene.

Grifton Commissioner Will Barnes added, “Him and his wife will be missed. I lived close to where they did. He inspired me to be on the board of commissioners. He would talk to me about (the board), and he inspired me to run.”

Through his leadership, Gene earned respect from his fellow commissioners. 

 “He was well respected, and (they were) a very well liked family in the community,” former Grifton Commissioner Mike Coles said.

Like his wife, Gerry, Gene volunteered and served in many leadership capacities at St. John’s Episcopal Church. 

The couple left behind two daughters, five grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. Gene also is survived by his brother.

Times-Leader Reporter Donna Marie Williams contributed to this story.

Contact Tyler Stocks at tstocks@reflector.com or 252-329-9566.  Follow him on Twitter @TylerstocksGDR