William James ‘Bill’ McEwen, encouraged community involvement

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William James McEwen
William James McEwen

William James (Bill) McEwen died Friday, August 12, 2016. He was born in Winnemuca, Nevada and raised in Ashe County, North Carolina, the oldest child of Rose Colvard and Tom McEwen.

He was educated in the Ashe County Schools and Glade Valley Boarding School. After studying at several colleges, he received his B.A. in 1962. His studies were often interrupted by various adventures, including hitchhiking across the United States.

Bill led a fulfilling personal and professional life. Enamored with politics from a young age, he lived out his dream by spending his entire career working on Capitol Hill during some of the most interesting decades in American history. The seed of politics was planted in Ashe County on the porch of his aunt and uncle’s Creston home. He first worked as a top aide for U.S. Senator Sam Ervin. His tenure in Sen. Ervin’s office included his time as Chairman of the Watergate Commission. He then went on to become Chief of Staff for more than 20 years for U.S. Representative W.G. (Bill) Hefner. At his side was his wife of 52 years, the former Tonita Helms of Granite Quarry, North Carolina. They made their home in the suburban Washington city of New Carrollton where Bill helped shape the community in its founding. He remains the city’s longest serving city council chairman. He helped make the city a great place a to raise a family, including for his own three children.

He was honored in public service as a Trustee of the NC School of Science and Mathematics and recipient of the NC Order of the Long Leaf Pine, bestowed on him by Governor Beverly Perdue.

Bill was a lifelong learner and consumed every book and newspaper he came across. He enjoyed nothing more than to visit historic sites with his family, whether they liked it or not. He also loved traveling the backroads of our great state making small talk with absolutely everyone he came across. He was an amazing story teller, most of which originated from his memorable upbringing in Ashe County.

He leaves behind a very proud family, his loving and devoted wife Tonita; daughter RoseMary Schiemer (Chris), son Parrish McEwen (Shannon), son Tony Andrew McEwen (Jordan); nine grandchildren; a brother Sam McEwen (Ann) of Raleigh; sister Mary Kathryn Reece (Leon) of Elkin, and countless North Carolinians who were touched through his public service.

The family would like to thank our dad’s neighbors and friends Ken Burda and Joe Potts.

Our father would have encouraged everyone to care for your family, love our country and our great state of North Carolina, learn about both and experience as much of it as you can, meet and learn from everyone you can, and don’t be a bystander but be involved in your community.

A service to commemorate his life was held at 2 p.m. Monday, August 13, 2016 at St. Andrew’s Covenant Church at 1416 Market St., Wilmington.