Dr. John L. Edwards Jr., passed away peacefully in the comfort of his home in Clyo, Georgia on Jan. 6, 2022. He was born on September 18, 1937, in Johnson City, Tennessee, to Ruby (Helsabeck) and John L. Edwards Sr. John was preceded in death by his parents, Ruby (Helsabeck) and John L. Edwards, Sr., and his youngest sister, Carol Halsey.
He is survived by his faithful wife of almost 63 years, Helen (Smith); daughters, Myrna Arnold (Roger), Brenda Seluta (Joshua), Wendy Gillespie, Dr. Ruby Barkley (Quinton), grandchildren Emerson, Tillman, Helen, and Sarah Seluta; Shae, Justin, and Taylor Gillespie; and Coley and J.T. Barkley; and his sister, Rosalyn “Roddy” Evans (Dr. R.C., Jr. “Bob”).
After graduating from Waynesville Township High School, he served in the Army for two years before earning a B.S. and Masters from N.C. State University, followed by a Doctorate in Food Science from Cornell University. His lifelong vocation was dedicated to the dairy industry, namely research and development.
He was privileged to introduce UHT milk at the World’s Fair in Knoxville, Tennessee in 1982. He was a deacon in the Baptist Church for over 20 years. He was a member of and fully supported the Gideons.
To us, he was a master blueberry picker, top consumer of maple syrup (he never met a pancake or waffle he did not like), accomplished napper, tolerant model for hair bows, clips, wigs, hair chalk, or whatever else his kids and grandkids could find, fierce opponent of pine cones, 24/7 on call fixer-upper, fashion trend setter wearing his plaid polyester pants, plaid shirt, and sweat band while fastidiously gardening, a pesky pesterer who loved to laugh, and our real life superhero.
John will be greatly missed by his friends and family. The following letter was the winning submission that was presented to the Brotherhood of First Baptist Church Springfield in 2011 by his daughter, Wendy. It exemplifies the fond remembrances of the man that we called husband, dad, and granddad.
“I know that this is a Father & Son banquet, but my dad was given four girls, so I hope you will consider this letter written from a daughter, not a son. My dad is John L. Edwards, Jr. and he is truly one of the best people I have ever known. At first glance, many people don’t recognize my father’s impact. His is the kind of greatness that just sort of sneaks up on you.
Most of you who know my dad probably do not know that he is a graduate from an Ivy League university where he obtained his Ph.D. in Dairy Science/Biochemistry, or that he holds a patent for ricotta cheese, or that he was recognized as an expert rifleman by the U.S. Army, or that he was offered a college football scholarship at Wake Forest, or that he… the list goes on and on. Underneath his quiet, humble, unassuming exterior lies a brilliant, strong, thoughtful and incredibly generous man.
While most of us are distracted by our own wants and needs or looking for notoriety for our accomplishments, my dad is different. He has been quietly observing, serving and changing lives along the way.
While he may not have been given sons to raise, my father has certainly been a great role model and mentor for many young men along the way. I have watched him over the years share his wisdom with so many and lend a hand to so many others.
Whether it be through his service as a deacon, volunteering, teaching someone a new skill, or from the quiet prayers that these men may never even know about, my dad has always lived his life with the betterment of others in mind. With a true servant’s heart, he is always putting others before himself.
As a father to four girls, my dad was faced with many challenges, but always provided for our needs even if he didn’t always understand them. He learned to be patient and creative in situations where he as a man was dealing with girls.
He would indulge us in shopping trips for the latest fashion trends, but made sure we knew how to change the oil in our cars. It was a fantastic balancing act on his part.
There are so many good memories with my father it would be impossible to share them all, but one of my favorite is when we were little, he would take us fishing out on the boat. The majority of his time was spent baiting hooks, taking the fish off because no one else would touch it, retrieving something we dropped in the water or untangling our lines from each other or something we unintentionally caught on shore. It must have been the most unenjoyable fishing trip for him, but he never said a word and took us out time and time again. For that alone he deserves an award.
I have been blessed to have him as my father & cannot begin to say thank you for all of the many ways he has made not only mine, but all of our lives better. With a grateful heart, I not only nominate my dad for the father of the year, but father of a lifetime. With love, Wendy L. Gillespie”
Services were held on Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2022, at First Baptist Church in Springfield, Georgia, with visitation starting at 1 p.m. followed by the memorial service at 2:00 p.m. A graveside service will be held at 2 p.m. Friday, Jan. 14, 2022, at Oak Grove Cemetery in Clyde, with the Rev. Eric Green and the Rev. Barry Clark officiating. Military honors will be conducted by the U.S. Army.
In lieu of flowers donations may be made to: Oak Grove Baptist Cemetery Fund 39 Robinson Road Clyde, North Carolina 28721 (828) 648-6372 or The Gideons International P. O. Box 140800 Nashville, Tennessee 37214-0800 (615) 564-5000 gideons.org or The Michael J. Fox Foundation (for research and future cure of Parkinson’s Disease) michaeljfox.org Donate by phone: (800) 708-7644 Donate by mail: Donation Processing The Michael J. Fox Foundation P. O. Box 5014 Hagerstown, Maryland 21714-5014.
The care of Mr. Edwards has been entrusted to Wells Funeral Homes of Canton and an online memorial register is available at “Obituaries” at www.wellsfuneralhome.com