Our dear mother passed away on August 10,2020, with her husband David by her side. Charlotte will be remembered for her grace, gentle kindness, exceptional beauty and a charming ethereal laugh, to quote her favorite brother-in-law Dr. Donald Phelps, that “sounded like a room full of tiny bells”.
A memorial service will be held at a future date.
Born to the Reverend Charles W. and Agnes Wood Duling, Charlotte spent her childhood in West Virginia with her brother Jay. The family moved to eastern North Carolina in her senior year of high school. She once said, “They didn’t have a 12th grade in Windsor then and I’d already finished 11th, so I guess they all thought I was the smartest one in the school, she mused, “they had to create a grade just for me”. After graduating from high school she continued her education at Wake Forest College, and while working on the school yearbook committee covering Wake’s “Little Theater” she met and fell in love with our beloved father, Bob Phelps, then lead actor in his favorite role as Hamlet. They were married soon after graduating and wasted no time starting a family. In fact, Sherrie, the eldest, was so incredibly amusing and delightful, they continued to have four more kids.
While living in Penland, NC in the early sixties where Dad was headmaster of the Appalachian School, a home for children of families in crisis, Mom took on the role of teacher in the four-room schoolhouse where she taught both 1st and 8th grade (in the same room!) We lived in a 150-year-old craft-style (rather rugged) house with a gigantic furnace, piles and piles of black coal stacked in the basement where we played in winter. We were given freedom to explore that was often not afforded girls in the sixties. No one stood over us at ever budding adventure telling us “be careful, don’t do this, don’t do that”. We could fail and figure out how to keep ourselves safe. We built forts, roamed the woods at will, collected spiders, snakes, raised tadpoles (hundreds of which escaped in the schoolhouse while we were on vacation one summer). We frequently held club meetings on the rooftop of the 3-story house, swung on vines over deep pits along the mountainside, sledded in the ‘big field’ unaccompanied by any adult. Upon returning home at sundown on any summer day, were instructed to “pick the ticks off your little sister (Leslie) and the dog (our beloved cocker spaniel, Buffie) before coming inside”, a routine we learned to accept as normal. Our precious little brother, Bobby, toddled along behind us whenever it was deemed safe to come along. Make no mistake, Mom was not the down-home mountain woman her West Virginian Grandma Wood had been; Charlotte was raised with impeccable manners, wore white gloves to church, enforced charm school rules at her dining table - “chin-up, sit up straight girls, elbows off the table, napkins in laps, if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all” (the latter of which we ignored), set a perfect table and maintained poise in the most adverse of situations. In place of swear words, she used the word 'spit', as in “I'm so mad, I could just spit”, or “oh spit” when she stuck herself with a sewing needle. We got a kick out of it.
Being the mother of five did not stop her from a continued desire to help others. She started a career in Greenville, NC at the Department of Social Services as a clinical social worker. She proved to be an empathetic advocate for the poor, working to ensure everyone with whom she had contact had equal access to the resources and opportunities available. She genuinely believed in social justice, a gift that informed our own beliefs and opinions throughout the years. For a time, she was a high school French teacher, as well.
There are so many wonderful memories we have when we were little to share about our Mom. She was a talented seamstress and a wonderful cook, taking great delight in making our holidays spectacular and memorable. Each of our shiny new Easter shoes were placed next to our respective baskets and carefully hidden according to each child’s age appropriate search-and-locate skills. Mom never failed to produce the perfect school drama costume, cowboy suit, cheerleader outfit or prom dress, or wedding party ensemble, sewing until the wee hours of the morning when we’d awake and nervously tiptoe down the stairs fearing we’d be the only kid without the right outfit, only to find another masterpiece hanging on the door fame, pressed and ready to go. On Christmas morning the tree, dripping in tinsel overflowed with gifts, dolls, tricycles, new pajamas and bedroom slippers irrespective of the family’s tight budget at any given year. She helped write our letters to Santa and stood by bemused as our Dad instructed us to burn the letters, the magic smoke rising up the chimney, wafting through the sky where Santa’s elves could intercept and translate. When we went hunting for a tree in the forest, one that wound up to be far too big for the house, Charlotte once again stood patiently by as the tree was raised, decorated, and ultimately toppled. She always went that extra mile to bring joy into our lives. When her youngest, then 11-year-old daughter Cyndi fell head-over-heels in love with Elvis, they learned he was giving a concert in Charlotte that year. Cyndi begged to go, tickets were unavailable, so Mom drove Cyndi the many miles to the Coliseum, sitting in the parking lot so that our dear sis could be ‘close’ to Elvis.
As we became teenagers and young adults, Charlotte was always welcoming, opening her home and the Phelps beach cottage at Nags Head to our boyfriends, friends and relatives especially Jay and Fran, Jule, Mike, Pam, Ray, Beverly, Beef, Bobby M., Frank, Fig, Jim, Fred, Judy, and anyone else who wanted to dine on freshly caught fish and coleslaw or homemade lasagna. There was always a fresh can of turpentine and an old rag beside a large, grey bucket of water on the front porch with which to clean our feet so that no one would get 'tar' on her floors. Our memories spent in our younger years with cousin John, Uncle Don and Aunt Louise, Grandmother Carrie, cousins Jimmy and Johnny, Aunt Fran and Uncle Jay. Following the death of our father, Mom bravely entered graduate school, earning her Master’s in Education from East Carolina University at age 48, an accomplishment that served as an inspiration to two of us who completed our masters and PhD during adulthood, also while raising kids. There, she met her current husband, David E. Paden of Beaufort and after several years together they married and retired to Beaufort. She called this her 'happy place'. They enjoyed a long and loving partnership and marriage together.
Our Mom Charlotte will be missed and remembered, not only in our childhood memories, but moreover in her gifts of grace, style, humor, tenacity and most of all, forgiveness. Charlotte took delight in her children and in our upbringing. She allowed us to become the strong and adventurous individuals we’ve turned out to be, able to overcome any (and there have been many) adversities in our adult lives.
She is survived by her husband, David E Paden of Beaufort, NC; sister-in-law Melinda P Dean (Tom), Beaufort, NC; three daughters: Sherrill Storm, South Hill, VA; Cathryn Phelps, Severna Park, MD; Cynthia Budacz, Southaven, MS; one son, Robert D Phelps, Jr; seven grandchildren: Chris Newton (Lisa) of Raleigh, NC; Jimmy Newton, Raleigh, NC; Colin White, Asheville, NC; Callie Budacz Vance (Will), Southaven, MS; Julius Budacz, IV (Maria) Southaven, MS; Jamie Storm (Becky), Richmond, VA; Dr. Wesley Storm (Tabitha), Durham, NC; and seven great-grandchildren: Keira Newton, Connor Newton, Julius Budacz, V, Tara Storm, Lily Storm, Tillman Storm, and Evan Storm. She was predeceased by her daughter Dr. Leslie P Newton (Jim) of Raleigh, NC.
Condolences and life tributes may be sent to the family at www.noefs.net
Arrangements by Noe Funeral Service, Inc. of Beaufort, NC.
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