Mr. Harold Ray Little passed away Saturday, December 26, 2020, at Mountain Valley Hospice & Palliative Care in Dobson, N.C., following a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease. He was 91.
Harold was born on April 12, 1929, in Micro, N.C., a small railroad town then only 30 years in the making. He grew up with the soundtrack of whistling trains, set against eastern North Carolina’s panorama of wide front porches, tobacco fields, and endless blue skies. Over the course of his 91 years, he lived through the pivotal moments of nearly a century of U.S. history—the Great Depression, World War II, the Civil Rights Movement, and the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020.
He was the eldest of three sons born to Annie Lee Stuckey Little and Robert Little. The name “Harold,” derived from Old English, means “army of brightness”—a fitting name for the man he would become.
Friends and loved ones recall Harold as a man who always had a smile on his face; his laugh was more accurately described as a giggle. A big kid at heart, Harold could just as easily be found ducking into a playhouse with his grandchildren when he was 60 as he could be found crawling on the floor with a great-great grandchild at 85. The kind of unfiltered delight Harold so easily expressed transformed into a gentle life lesson that family members say they will carry with them.
His dogged positivity sustained him through some of the most uncertain and challenging moments of his life, including his service during the Korean War as a U.S. Army combat medic, of which he was honorably discharged in 1951.
But nothing made Harold smile more than his family.
He was close to his two brothers, the late Bobby Little and Francis Little, who survives him. In the 1960s, Harold and Francis channeled a shared entrepreneurial spirit into a Phillips 66 gas station in Tarboro, N.C. They operated the gas station for several years before Harold joined Glenoit Mills, also in Tarboro, to produce textiles for 30 years.
Harold shared nearly 70 years of marriage with his late wife Melba Weaver Little. Together they raised two children, Ray Little and Donnie Little Holder, and devoted most of their time to them, as well as to the three grandchildren, seven great-grandchildren, and four great-great-grandchildren who followed.
Humble and attentive, Harold believed that acts of kindness spoke for themselves. In 1972, he and Melba took out a loan for their daughter Donnie to attend a business college in Raleigh. As Donnie packed to leave home, Harold secretly purchased a car for her—an aqua ’60s-era Ford Rambler—and surprised her with the keys.
There were myriad acts of kindness over the years, many of them wrapped in Harold’s quiet presence: Saturdays working on the family cars with son Ray; Sundays visiting his mother and brothers, as well as Melba’s 10 siblings, who thought of him as a brother. And, when Melba began battling lung disease, Harold quietly pitched in, helping her breathe more easily by switching out her oxygen tanks with first-responder precision.
He believed life was sweetest with simple pleasures: a BBQ sandwich and a glass of sweet tea or sitting on his backyard swing with a great granddaughter listening to the pecans drop from the trees.
A favorite pastime was collecting and taking care of cars. He developed a lifetime love of Fords, of which his family had many. A Fairlane, a Ranchero, a Thunderbird—the list goes on. He cared for his cars with careful effort, spending hours on Saturdays washing and waxing before corralling his family for a weekend joy ride or a back-seat, cheeseburger dinner at the local drive-in movie theater.
His personality was more open-road than fast-lane, but when his son Ray bought a motorcycle, Harold couldn’t help but hop on and take a ride with him. The sheer thrill of that experience prompted Harold to consider buying his own motorcycle. In the end, Harold settled on something more him: A Ford Mustang sports car—classic with a more subtle edge.
That urge to get out on the open road took Harold to many places. He spent vacations with Ray at the beach and in the mountains. He set up camp sites by rivers and danced with Melba on more cruises than one can count on hands. When his daughter Donnie began working in the airline industry in the 1980s, Harold and Melba took new adventures together with their daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren. He saw the Grand Canyon for the first time and took a boat ride under the thunderous Niagara Falls.
Over the years, Harold accepted his dementia diagnosis but remained optimistic about his life and the love surrounding him. In the weeks preceding his death, his characteristic laugh emerged during the most difficult moments for his family as they sat at his bedside. Even at his death, the “army of brightness” invoked by his name made itself known.
Along with his brother Francis, survivors include daughter Donnie Little Holder and husband Thomas and son Ray Little and wife Teresa; three granddaughters, Christina Holder Brewster and husband Jon, Bobbie Holder Robinson and husband Kyle, and Mandi Little Smith.
Also surviving are seven great-grandchildren: Thomas Brewster; Samuel, Lincoln and Olivia Robinson; Jessica and Crystal Armstrong; and Frederick Xavier Roberson Jr., as well as four great-great-grandchildren, Michael Sergeant; Brantley and Lily Sparks; and Kinley Williams.
In addition, the family wishes to thank Christine Narron for the care and companionship she extended to both Harold and Melba. They also are deeply grateful for Sophia Sisk, Harold’s longtime caregiver, for the dedicated care she provided during Harold’s final year of life.
A drop-in visitation will be held on January 1, 2021 from 1-5 p.m. at Carlisle Funeral Home, located at 701 Hospital Drive in Tarboro, N.C.
The family will have a private graveside service.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to:
Alzheimer's Association Eastern North Carolina Chapter
5171 Glenwood Ave Suite 101
Raleigh, NC 27612
Donate online: https://www.alz.org/nc/donate
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