Birth Date: 09/05/1931
Deceased Date: 10/24/2022
Pansy Delora Edwards Dobson
September 5, 1931 – October 24, 2022
Pansy Delora Edwards Dobson, age 91, of 215 North Second Street, died October, 24, 2022, at Smithfield Manor Nursing and Rehab in Smithfield, North Carolina. A graveside service will be held at 2:30 p.m., Friday, October 28, 2022 at Sunset Memorial Park in Smithfield. Officiating will be the Reverend Lee Colbert and the Reverend Kristen Tucker. Following the service, the family requests privacy at home and appreciates continued prayers.
Pansy was born at home on September 5, 1931 in Duplin County, N.C., to Tracy Cornelius Edwards and Caroline Shepard Edwards of Beulaville. She was preceded in death by her parents, and siblings: brother, Cornelius Dell Edwards, and sisters, Ruby M. Edwards Brown, and Dora Helen Edwards Stokes. She is survived by her three daughters, Dee Dobson Harper (Keith) of Tarboro, N.C., Ruth Tyson Dobson-Torres (Victor) of Morrisville, N.C., and Caroline Dobson Chavez (Craig) of Raleigh, N.C., and three sisters, Clara Mae Edwards Bennett of Raleigh, N.C., Glenda Millie Edwards Desern (Donald) of Burlington, N.C., and Tracy Camille Edwards Bird (Robert) of Cary, N.C. She was “Aunt Pansy” to many nieces and nephews who still hold her so dear within their hearts.
One of seven children, Pansy grew up on a farm in eastern North Carolina where her parents produced tobacco, corn, and soybeans. As a student, she excelled in academics and was a member of the women’s varsity basketball team before graduating from Beulaville High School in 1949.
Pansy earned a bachelor’s degree in education from East Carolina Teachers College, now named East Carolina University, in Greenville, N.C. in 1953. She was the first in her family to achieve a four-year undergraduate degree. During homecoming festivities one year at ECU, she was nominated to the May Court.
On December 27, 1952, Pansy married another Beulaville native, Tyson Yates Dobson, Jr. They remained married for almost 70 years until Yates’ death on February 23, 2022. Initially, they lived in Fairbanks, Alaska, where Yates was stationed at Ladd Air Force Base, providing Army ground support during The Korean Conflict. After Yates’ military service ended, the couple returned to Beulaville where Pansy briefly taught primary school before they relocated to Chapel Hill, N.C. in 1955. While Yates attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Law, Pansy taught sixth grade at Carrboro Elementary School in Carrboro, N.C.
Yates earned his J.D. in an accelerated two-year program, and, in 1957, the couple moved to Clayton, N.C., where Yates launched his law career. They welcomed their first daughter, Dee, in 1961. The couple moved to Smithfield, N.C. in 1965, where Yates established his law practice and where they lived for the entirety of their lives. Pansy taught sixth grade at The Cleveland School until 1971 when she gave birth to twin daughters, Ruth and Caroline, named after their grandmothers. Twins ran in Pansy’s family. Her mother, Caroline Shepard Edwards, was a twin and was one of three sets of twins born to Pansy’s maternal grandmother, Clarissa Shepard.
Though motherhood was her primary focus in the 1970s, Pansy found time to play tennis (doubles) at the Country Club of Johnston County (CCJC) and even won some local doubles tournaments with her partners. Pansy was a member of bridge clubs in Clayton and in Smithfield and a member of the Smithfield Women’s Club for some time. In the mid-1970s, Pansy’s pioneering spirit compelled her to become the first female tobacco ticket marker in Johnston County’s thriving tobacco sales industry, an experience that placed her at the center of a male-dominated market and garnered local media attention. The move raised eyebrows, but Pansy held her own and eventually earned the respect of area tobacconists.
Pansy returned to teaching elementary school in the mid-1980s with tenures at Corinth Holders Elementary (6th grade), Smithfield Elementary (5th grade) and Selma Elementary (5th grade). During summer breaks, she enjoyed spending time on the coast at Pine Knoll Shores, N.C. She loved a good getaway, often to New York City for shopping and a show, sometimes to the mountain towns of Blowing Rock or Cashiers, and she held special memories of a multi-country European bus tour taken with Yates and the twins in 1986. She liked fine dining, fun restaurants, and she never turned down a well-made martini.
Pansy was a devoted sister and friend who delighted in slipping small amounts of cash or the occasional lottery ticket into birthday cards to remind women to “always have their own money.” A collector of cookbooks, she had command of her kitchen and turned out everything from grand gourmet dishes to the delicious country vegetables of her childhood. She and Yates enjoyed the vibrant social life of Smithfield and frequently entertained friends over the years. They were members of the CCJC’s social Cotillion Club and attended Cotillion events as recently as 2017. Pansy, along with Yates, was pleased to support and witness their daughters in making their statewide debuts at the Terpsichorean Society Debutante Ball in Raleigh.
Besides believing in the value of education, Pansy appreciated music and supported the arts. She encouraged her daughters’ piano and dance lessons and applauded their various creative pursuits. As a member of a local friends’ group, “The Christmas Belles,” she helped to provide scholarship monies to students at Smithfield-Selma Senior High School annually, and, over the years, she and Yates supported Johnston Community College, The Johnston County Arts Council, and The Clayton Center for the Arts.
After 30 years, Pansy retired from teaching and enjoyed accompanying Yates on his travels to different counties across the state as a floating N.C. District Court Judge. She especially enjoyed trips with her sisters to visit Edwards family relatives in the mountains of North Carolina. Yates joined Pansy in retirement in June 2002, and the two enjoyed many “golden years” together prior to his dementia diagnosis. Pansy admirably coordinated Yates’ care until his death and led a remarkably independent life until her own health declined.
No doubt hundreds of Pansy’s students’ lives were changed for the better under her tutelage, but no lives were more positively impacted by her wisdom and influence than those of her immediate family. Her powerful partnership and loyalty in her marriage, her determination to succeed, her clever sense of humor, her boundless sense of fun and energy, her Christian faith, and her fierce motherly love have left an undeniable imprint on the hearts of her three surviving daughters, and she will be forever missed and remembered by them as well as many extended family and friends.
The family extends its deep gratitude to the staff and healthcare providers at Brookdale Smithfield and Smithfield Manor Nursing and Rehab. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the State Employees Credit Union Hospice House of Johnston Health in Smithfield, N.C. Visit https://www.johnstonhealth.org/donate/make-a-donation and select, “Hospice Fund.”
Online condolences may be sent to the family at parrishfh.com.