For more than 68 years family and friends have been graced by the love, earnestness, curiosity, creativity, humor and gentle nature of John Lee, of Rutherfordton, NC. His death at Hospice House in Forest City while in the company of his wife Sue Ellen came some two months after being diagnosed with pancreatic and liver cancer, and leaves a profound void among all who knew him.
John and Sue Ellen have lived for 19 years in Rutherfordton, where his agricultural interests and 4-H background based on his upbringing on a family farm in Michigan formed a foundation as they cultivated a small dairy goat and vegetable organic farm. They did so while holding down full time day jobs. They were also active in the North Carolina Dairy Goat Breeders Association.
They produced a seemingly endless variety of food and products that they generously shared, notably at Christmas. John crafted an increasingly diverse line of cheese, an amazing line-up of excellent goats milk soaps, and their handmade array of truffles were a hit with everyone who received their holiday gift packages.
Leslie John Lee was born April 10, 1951 in Marion, Michigan, the fourth of five boys raised by Earl and Mary Lee. He graduated from Marion High School where he first discovered his love of music, theater and writing. In 1973 he graduated from Michigan State University with a degree in journalism and wrote and edited at the State News student paper. He then worked for daily newspapers in Cadillac and Greenville, Michigan. It was in Cadillac where he began a long dedication to community theater when he joined the cast of the Footliters Theater.
In 1978 he moved to New Bern, NC at the prompting of a friend, and began working for the daily newspaper there and getting involved in community theater that put on both dramatic and musical productions. He worked diligently to successfully elevate his skills in both areas, as well as learning how to direct.
It was there that he met, fell in love with and married Sue Ellen Camden, a joining that he would say forever made his life better. Just last month, they celebrated their 29th anniversary. Together they ushered Sue Ellen's three boys from adolescence/teens into adulthood: Ben, Forrest and Brett Lupton.
John also established the North Carolina chapter of the tongue-in-cheek Marion Yacht Club as he enjoyed sailing on the wide expanses of the Neuse River and the Intracoastal waterway.
His interest in dairy goat farming and home-grown organic vegetables initially took root at their home in New Bern. The family moved to Rutherfordton in 2000, where John transitioned from journalism to clerking criminal cases for the Rutherford County Superior Court. He retired in 2016.
He is survived by his wife Sue Ellen, her children Ben (Bethany) and Brett of Boone, NC and Forrest (Kristin) of Erie, PA; and a grandson of Asheville, NC; brothers Robert (Barb) Lee of Marion, MI, William Lee of Detroit, MI, Larry Lee of Lansing, MI, and Michael (Chris) Lee of Marion. Also surviving are nieces and nephews: Paula (Nelson) Kamerman of Manhattan, MT, John (Mary Jo) Lee of Sioux Center, IA, David (Amanda) Lee of Marion, Linda (David) Wing of Marion MI., Kevin (Katie) Lee of Zeeland MI, Dan (Libby) Lee of Hersey, MI, along with several great nieces and nephews.
Cremation has taken place. A gathering to celebrate John's life was held at Crowes Mortuary.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests you make contributions to Hospice of the Carolina Foothills, PO Box 336 Forest City, NC 28043.
Crowe's Mortuary and Crematory is serving the family.