Freda Barry Hartness Wilkins, of Wilmington, died peacefully at her home in Wilmington on Saturday, July 11, 2015, at the age of 73.
She was born on Feb. 3, 1942, in Sanford, daughter of the late Elizabeth Lowman and William Rufus Hartness, M.D.
She is survived by her husband of 49 years, Dr. Lucien S. Wilkins Sr., of Wilmington; son, Lucien S. “Sandy” Wilkins Jr., of Mooresville; daughter, Elise Wilkins Wilson and husband, Joel, of Wilmington; grandchildren, Calvin Banks Wilson and Lowman Elizabeth Wilson, of Wilmington; and brother, William “Topper” Rufus Hartness III, and wife, Debbie, niece, Tara Hartness Grudzielanek and husband, Christopher; and nephew, William Christopher Hartness, all of Greenville, South Carolina.
Freda graduated from Meredith College with a degree in biology and home economics and taught at Westhampton High School in Richmond, Virginia. She married Lucien while he was a medical student at the Medical College of Virginia. Their first child, Sandy, was born while Lucien was stationed in Hawaii as a medical officer on the flagship of a destroyer division stationed at Pearl Harbor.
On returning to Richmond their daughter Elise was born. Freda’s young family moved to Wilmington in 1973 when Lucien joined Wilmington Health Associates. As her children became more independent she became a member and president of the New Hanover, Pender and Brunswick County Medical Auxiliary where she provided photographs for “A Cooks Tour of the Azalea Coast” cookbook, which was sold for fundraising.
An avid gardener, she joined the Cape Fear Garden Club where she served as president and photographed the Azalea Belles in the beautiful gardens on display in the Garden Club, sponsored by the Azalea Festival Garden Tour for many years.
She loved First Presbyterian Church where she was a choir member, deacon and taught Sunday school. She provided pictures of the magnificent stained glass windows for a book, “Let There Be Light” by Leslie Boney, that she photographed from a scaffolding in the sanctuary of the First Presbyterian Church. She also photographed a bench in snow for the church Christmas card.
Pursuing her true passion, photography, which she learned at the knee of her father in his darkroom at her childhood home, Freda opened her own photographic studio, Freda Wilkins Photography, in a studio located at her home so she would be there every day for her children when they returned home from school.
She specialized in photographing brides and family portraits in outdoor settings. Many of those portraits have become a part of the heritage of many families across the country and are hung alongside additional portraits of their children at special events in their lives. She enjoyed photographing high school students, deacons of the First Presbyterian Church, Wilmington business owners, newborn babies and families on the beach.
She provided photographs for numerous regional and national publications, including “Growing a Beautiful Garden and Creating a Beautiful Landscape” by Henry Rehder Jr., multiple editions of “A Guide to Cape Fear Leisure, Cape Fear Adventure” by Diane Cashman and “The Big Click, Photographs of One Day in North Carolina.”
In December of 2014, in collaboration with her husband, Freda published “In the Garden,” a retrospective of her nature photographs that were often printed on gallery-wrapped large canvasses. Her nature photography was inspired by her parent’s deep love of gardening, her intense love of nature, room gardens she planted and tended at her home in Wilmington and the wildflower gardens and vineyard at their mountain home in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.
One of her greatest joys was spending time in her 12 gardens and vineyard in the mountains with her grandchildren, Banks and Lowman.
Freda lived a life full of joy, even with a progressing illness that she often referred to as a blessing. She found a deeper meaning in nature and found profound spirituality in the simplest things. Freda enjoyed tilling and planting beautiful flowers in God’s rich earth and she captured nature’s beauty with her camera, strengthened her bonds with family and friends and left a legacy of love and kindness for her children and their progeny.
A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Thursday, July 16, 2015, at First Presbyterian Church followed by a reception at Gilmore Hall.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the following charities that were close to her heart: Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, 1015 Ashes Drive, Suite 101, Wilmington, NC 28405; Meredith College, 3800 Hillsborough St., Raleigh, NC 27607; Lower Cape Fear Hospice, 1406 Physicians Drive, Wilmington, NC 28401; or the Lung Cancer Research Foundation.
Please leave online condolences for the family at Andrews Mortuary.
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