Merv White Sessoms

    Birth Date: 06/25/1945
    Deceased Date: 09/07/2021

    Merville (Merv) White Sessoms, Jr.
    June 25, 1945—September 7, 2021

    Merv was born in Gastonia, NC to Merville and Ruth Sessoms on June 25, 1945 while his father was in Germany and France at the end of World War II. Merv grew up in Colerain, NC in an idyllic setting of a small town on the banks of the Chowan River. His father was a merchant and farmer who married the preacher’s daughter, and they raised their only child, Merville Jr., just down the street from where he had been born and lived until he was drafted in 1942.

    Merv Jr. attended Colerain School, a 1st-12th grade school, through the 9th grade. While in school, Merv worked on his father’s tobacco farms, as well as in his variety store. One of Merv’s favorite things to do was dip ice cream in the store. He developed a life long love of boating on the Chowan River, and he also inherited his love of dogs from his father. After his freshman year, Merv, the class president, persuaded his reluctant parents to allow him to attend Frederick Military Academy in Portsmouth, VA. Merv excelled at Frederick over the next three years, rising to the rank of Cadet Captain, and graduated third in in the class of 1963. He attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, graduating in 1967 with a B.A. in Education. As a lifelong Carolina fan, he was excited and proud to attend UNC-Chapel Hill.

    Merv began his teaching career in Coral Gables, FL. While teaching at Coral Gables High School, Merv earned his Master’s degree in American Studies from the University of Miami. After four years in Florida, he returned to North Carolina as an English professor at Chowan College in 1971. While at Chowan, he was named Outstanding Young Educator of America in 1974. He also designed the new major program of photography at the college. In 1975, Merv left Chowan to teach English at Tuscola High School in Waynesville, NC. In 1988, Merv was named the North Carolina Teacher of the Year, and was a nominee for National Teacher of the Year. One of his most treasured achievements, however, was reaching the rank of Eagle Scout at the young age of 14. Merv loved Scouting, and did his best to live by the Scout Oath and Scout Law every day of his life.

    Merv and his wife, Terri, moved to Johnston County in 1991 to accept teaching jobs in Smithfield. Over the next 18 years, Merv taught at Smithfield-Selma High, Corinth Holders (8th grade), and finally retired after eight years at Clayton High. Merv enjoyed his 41 years of teaching, and he touched the lives of so many young people as he helped to prepare them for life. That said, he enjoyed years of retirement with his beloved wife, Terri, even more. They cherished the time they had together. Whether sitting on the back porch of their home in Smithfield, the front porch of their houseboat on Kerr Lake, or their porch at their home in the mountains of Robbinsville, Merv and Terri enjoyed the beauty of nature and the songs of birds, and constantly affirmed the love they shared for 31 years. He was a sweet and gentle man who loved family, friends, and animals.

    Merv is survived by his wife Terri, daughter April Alford (Steve), son Greg Sessoms, son Adam Hand (Rafael Duran), and granddaughter Eva Lambert. He will also be missed by his parents-in-law, sisters-in-law, aunts, uncles, nephews, nieces, great nieces, cousins, the A-Dock family, and countless friends and former students.

    The family will receive visitors at Parrish Funeral Home in Selma, NC on Friday, September 17, 2021 from 6:00-8:00 PM. Funeral services will be Saturday, September 18 at 2:00PM at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Smithfield, NC. Due to COVID restrictions, all guests at the funeral service will be asked to wear a mask. Interment will follow the funeral service at the church labyrinth.

    In lieu of flowers, please consider making a donation to one of Merv’s favorite charities/organizations: The Brotherhood of St. Andrew at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Smithfield; NAMI of Johnston County; the ASPCA; the Johnston County Education Foundation; or the Public Library of Johnston County and Smithfield.

    The family appreciates the many kind condolences that we have already received.

    Online condolences may be sent to the family at


    Leave a Reply