Bernice Rodgers Williams, 93, passed away April 15, 2021, at her daughter’s home in Greenville, NC. She was preceded in death by her loving and devoted husband of 56 years, Cecil Byrum Williams; her brothers, James Asa and John Harrison Rodgers; a foster sister Ann Rodgers Nobles; and her son-in-law Michael G. Rawls.
Bernice was born to Asa Bernice (Harrison) and John James “Gee” Rodgers on April 30, 1927, in Plymouth, NC. Delivered at home late that evening, her birth was recorded officially as May 1 by a tired small-town doctor. She was the youngest child and only daughter of a railroad worker and homemaker. Growing up in Plymouth, Bernice first attended Hampton Academy where she met Ruby Bowen (later Gurganus), who she always described as “her first and oldest friend.” They went on to complete high school together (graduating in 1944), before working together at Weyerhaeuser Paper Company, attending church together, and talking (at times daily) throughout their approximately 25 years of retirement.
Losing her father while still in high school, Bernice went to work right after graduation to help support herself, her mother, and her cousin Ann who became a younger sister. Her first jobs were in local retail stores, before joining Kieckhefer Container Company where she received her accounting training on the job. Bernice would go on to spend approximately 37 years at Kieckhefer, later becoming Weyerhaeuser Paper Company. She often attributed her pursuit of accounting and her success in the field to her love and fascination of numbers. She was a meticulous accountant, managing the family and her personal finances up until the last few years of her life. She was secretly proud of the fact that a young woman without a college degree would eventually retire as an accounts payable supervisor for a Fortune 500 company and would be replaced with someone needing a degree in accounting. She spent her last several months of work training that college graduate.
Life was not all work—although she was already in her 30s when they met, once she met Byrum Williams, they wasted little time. They were married within one year of starting to date, marrying on November 21, 1959. Bernice and Byrum had two children, Cecile and Rodger, and raised their family in Plymouth. Bernice continued to work while raising her family and caring for her mother, finally retiring in April 1989.
In her retirement Bernice pursued her personal interests of sewing, embroidery, knitting, and quilting. She was a lifelong reader and word puzzle fiend. In her retirement she contributed her accounting skills to her church, Union Chapel Free Will Baptist Church. Her crafting skills were also contributed to many fundraisers and church bazaars. In the early 2000s she and Byrum relocated permanently to the family’s house on the Pamlico River, in Pamlico Beach (Beaufort County). There they became members of Sidney Free Will Baptist Church and broadened their circle of friends in the Sidney and Pamlico Beach communities.
Bernice was a proud and devoted grandmother of six granddaughters. She doted on each of them, sewing countless baby blankets, nightgowns, Easter dresses, and costumes for any occasion they asked. She also spoiled them by making sure each of their favorite dishes or desserts were on the table at family occasions. The granddaughters all had a least one afghan or other blanket from her on their beds from birth well into adulthood. She was blessed to see 4 of the 6 granddaughters happily married and the arrival of 5 great-grandchildren.
With her health declining and being far from her nearest family, she made the move from Pamlico Beach to her daughter’s home in Belvoir for the last year of her life, which gave her the support she needed and precious time with the 5 great-grandchildren.
Bernice is survived by her daughter Cecile (Michael) Rawls of Greenville, her son Rodger (Christine) Williams of Ashburn, VA, her granddaughters Morgan (Jason) Nichols of Greenville, Elizabeth (Joey) Revels of Bethel, Rachel (Stanley) Davenport of Greenville, Madeline Williams (Kyle Humphries) of Reston, VA, and Leah and Sabrina Williams of Ashburn, VA; and her great-grandchildren Ryann and Mason Nichols, Quinn Revels, and Reagan and Tucker Davenport. Bernice and her family were also blessed by her two devoted caregivers of the last 18 months, Debbie Clyne of Belhaven and Gloria Patrick of Greenville.
The family will visit with friends on Sunday, April 18, 2021, from 3:00-5:00 p.m. at the Union Chapel Free Will Baptist Church.
A funeral service will be held at 11:00 a.m. on Monday, April 19, 2021, at Union Chapel Free Will Baptist Church, with David Pooser and James Owens officiating. Interment will follow at the Windley Cemetery in Plymouth, NC.
The family welcomes tributes of flowers or donations to Pamlico Beach Volunteer Fire Department.
Arrangements are by Bryan Funeral Service at Hampton Academy, Plymouth.
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