Posted 6/7/19

Leila McKimmon Webster

April 3, 1950 - May 22, 2019

Generous friend, devoted partner, and consummate professional, Leila McKimmon Webster transitioned to the afterlife on May 22, 2019. She was …

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April 3, 1950 - May 22, 2019

Generous friend, devoted partner, and consummate professional, Leila McKimmon Webster transitioned to the afterlife on May 22, 2019. She was surrounded by loved ones. Leila was admired for her integrity, intense focus, lively mind and commitment to tough challenges. She lived in this world as a respected, thoroughgoing professional, a loyal friend, and, in the words of close friends, she was at once inspiring, courageous, persistent, original, purposeful, compassionate, hard-working, optimistic and ever-curious. Even when facing death, Leila expressed a deep curiosity about what was next. Leila is survived by a wide circle of friends from around the globe, her three siblings (Mary Hull Webster, Diane Terrie Webster and Arthur McKimmon Webster), and her beloved cat, Rosie. She will be buried next to her partner who predeceased her, William Andrew Russo, in a tomb she designed with a Chatham County potter and a local cabinet-maker.

Leila’s professional career reveals her deep commitment to human rights. As a Peace Corps Volunteer in Thailand in the early-1970s, she taught for two years at a school for the blind. Her forthcoming memoir, Gems in the Hem of My Skirt, traces in bracing detail her transition from the Peace Corps to a highly competent, multilingual professional hired by the US Embassy in Thailand a year after the Vietnam War. At 25, she was named Section Chief of the Indochinese Refugee Office where she assumed a key leadership role on a five-member team that re-settled 11,000 Lao citizens who had supported the American military effort. This heroic work enabled Lao families to begin new lives after a devastating war. Leila worked for 19 years for the World Bank, helping, among others, rural African women entrepreneurs begin and grow their businesses. For the last several years, she was a valued advisor to the Jamaican National Small Business Bank.

It was clear to all who knew Leila that she was deeply invested in people in desperate conditions who needed a hand. From battered women in Chatham County to Lao refugees, to rural African women to Vietnamese entrepreneurs, it was Leila’s perseverance that so positively impacted thousands of people. When Hillary Clinton was educating herself in the 1990s about realities facing African women, Leila was selected to oversee the training. In addition to her many accomplishments abroad, she co-founded the Family Violence and Rape Crisis of Chatham County. As a scholar and researcher, she authored some 15 papers published by the World Bank, a book on West African micro-finance, and five articles published in international economics journals. She held master degrees from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and UNC-Chapel Hill, an MBA from Georgetown University, and an undergraduate degree in English and Sociology from UNC-Chapel Hill. She spoke Thai, Lao, Vietnamese, and French.

Apart from her career accomplishments, Leila developed deep Buddhist roots, originating with her residence in a Thai Buddhist temple. Leila played a mean second base for the 1982 He’s Not Here softball team in the Chapel Hill Women’s Recreational League. She continued to be active on the boards of Second Bloom of Chatham, Inc. and the North Carolina Zen Center. In the last chapter of her life, she kept a promise to herself to “circle back” and write about a life that was fast, meaningful and uniquely focused. She dove into the craft of memoir writing, and faithfully attended her Thursday night writing group.  

A private funeral is being planned by her friends, as is a non-alcoholic toast in her memory at her Thursday night writing group.

The Webster family is under the care of Hall-Wynne Funeral Service.

Online condolences: – select obituaries.


John Henry Hearne, 76, of Pittsboro, stepped peacefully through the heavenly gates on May 31, 2019, at his home, surrounded by his family. John was born November 6, 1942 in Durham, NC, but lived in Chatham County nearly all his life.

John served three years in the US Army stationed at The Presidio of San Francisco and in Saumur, France, specializing in nucleonic calibration repair. After an honorable discharge, he served an additional three years in the Army Reserve. John worked as a salesman for Sears, Roebuck & Co. in Chapel Hill for about 15 years and later owned and operated the famous “Hearne’s BBQ” restaurant in Pittsboro. Then, John was recruited to work for a convenience store chain, where he rose to the position of vice president of real estate and development. After retirement in 2000, he served several years as a bailiff for the Chatham County Sheriff’s Office.

John enjoyed riding his motorcycle, golfing, gardening, mapping trip routes and traveling around the continental United States, Canada, and Alaska with his wife, Sally and parrot, Ben, in their motor home. He was active in the Baptist Church for many years and was devoted to God and his family.

John is survived by his wife of 56 years, Sally Barrett Hearne; one son, John Hearne, Jr. and wife Robin of Kitty Hawk; daughters, Loraine Timmons and husband Mike of Pittsboro, and Etta Blankenship and husband Gary, also of Pittsboro; six grandchildren include Lt. Matthew Hearne, USN (currently stationed in France), Kristi Hearne of Fairfax, VA, Jeremy Timmons and wife Annie of Sanford, Dr. Sierra Timmons of Raleigh, Kyle Lemons and wife Katie of Holly Springs, Kayli Blankenship of Pittsboro, and one great-grandson, Elijah Lemons. John is also survived by sisters Gertrude Horton of Apex, Linda Slone and husband Larry of Pittsboro, and brother Dennis Hearne and wife, Ann, of Pittsboro; and several nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents, Henry and Elsie Hearne, brothers Lee and Tommy Hearne, and sisters Margaret Cooper, Hilda Hearne and Sylvia Martin.

A memorial service will be held at New Salem Baptist Church on Friday, June 7, at 2 p.m., followed by internment in the church cemetery. The family invites friends to greet them in the church fellowship hall after the service.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made in John’s honor to the New Salem Baptist Church building fund or UNC Hospice.

Condolences may be made at:

Donaldson Funeral Home & Cremation is honored to serve the Hearne family.


DECEMBER 15, 1951 ~ MAY 30, 2019

Frances Ann Clark, age 67 of 966 Vernie Phillips Road, Bear Creek, passed on Thursday, May 30, 2019 at UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill.

Funeral services will be held at 2 p.m. Friday, June 7, 2019 at the Church of God in Siler City. Interment will follow at Antioch Christian Church, 246 Antioch Christian Church Road, Bear Creek.

Ann was born December 15, 1951 and attended school in Goldston. She graduated from Chatham Central High School. She worked for AJ Schneierson and Company and retired from Trion in Sanford. “Ann” attended the Church of God.

She is survived by three children, Susan Berry Dorsett of Pittsboro, Barbara Jo Berry of Siler City, and Steven Clark of the home; eight grandchildren, four great-grandchildren; and one sister, Betty Jean Oldham (Kerry).

The family will receive friends at the home of her daughter, Barbara Perry, 146 Star Ranch Road, Siler City.

Arrangements By: Knotts Funeral Home, Sanford.


Ernestine Hackney Perry, 78, of Siler City died Wednesday, May 29, 2019.

Mrs. Perry was born in Chatham County on October 8, 1940. She was a member of Gum Springs Baptist Church and a homemaker. Ernestine had worked in food service and as a caregiver. She was preceded in death by her husbands, James “Shag” Johnson and Bryant E. Perry; son, Charles Johnson; sisters, Shirley Faye Hackney and Ruth Mae Goodman; grandchildren, Erica and Sara Lisa Johnson.

Ernestine is survived by children, Mark Johnson of Seagrove, Margaret Johnson of Graham, Linda Williams of Bear Creek, Brenda Hadley of Snow Camp, Glenda Branson of Siler City; grandchildren, Amanda Johnson, Kimberly Johnson, Laura Collins, Charles Johnson, Stephanie Bowles, David Keith Bradshaw, Amy Poe, Charles Hadley, Andrew Hadley, Ashley Parks, Dennis Ray Branson and Dylan Branson; great-grandchildren, Charlotte Johnson, Brittany Winn, Nathan Phillips, Colton Collins, Luke Collins, Katie Johnson, Charles Johnson, Jr., Landon Uthus, Marissa Bradshaw, Parker Poe, Jake Poe, Lillie Poe, Payton Auman, Wyatt Branson and Abby Branson.

A graveside service was held Friday, May 31, 2019 at 11 a.m. at Oakwood Cemetery, N. Chatham Avenue, Siler City with Josh Conrad and Ricky Sessoms officiating.

Memorials may be made to Edward Hill Friends Meeting, 92 Ed Leonard Road, Siler City, NC 27344 or South Fork Friends Meeting Circle of Friends, 251 South Fork-Bethel Road, Snow Camp, NC 27349.

Smith & Buckner Funeral Home is assisting the family.

Online condolences may be made at:


Pittsboro - Mrs. Willa Marie Whyburn Austin, 90, wife of the late George Austin, died Thursday, April 4, 2019 at The Arbor at Galloway Ridge.

Mrs. Austin was a proud graduate of Bryn Mawr College, Class of 1949. She had a stellar career working as a scientist for NASA and Lockheed Aerospace. She worked on the Apollo program, the moon landing, the Space Shuttle program and handsat.

Willa is survived by her children, William Bussard of Durango, CO, and Elise Bright of Austin, TX; grandchildren, Zack Bright, Larissa Diaz, Sarah Bright; four great-grandchildren; brother, Clifton Whyburn, and his wife Kay, of Cincinnati, OH; and her niece and nephew, Elizabeth and Robert.

A memorial service will be held on Thursday, June 13, 2019 at 1 p.m. at the Chapel of the Cross, 304 East Franklin Street, Chapel Hill.

The Austin family is under the care of Walker’s Funeral Home of Chapel Hill.


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