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Nina Sue Jones Utsey, 98, cherished afternoons spent with her children at Wrightsville Beach

Nina Sue Jones Utsey

CHARLOTTE — Nina Sue Jones Utsey, 98, formerly of Wilmington, died Saturday, Oct. 10, 2020. She was born July 12, 1922, as the fourth of seven children to John Richard Jones and Lela Oakes Jones of Graham.

Nina attended Altamahaw Ossipee High School and played guard on the basketball team. At a time when women players were limited to two dribbles (dribbling full court was considered too stressful), Nina was a good ball handler regardless, as she would demonstrate in later years to her children and grandchildren, and most recently, to one of her great-grandchildren.

Nina attended Elon College in 1940, where she studied secretarial skills. At Elon, Nina was noticed by a classmate, Pete Utsey, a baseball and football player from Charleston, South Carolina, who would become her husband. Before Pete’s second year at Elon, he enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Force, was trained as a B-24 bomber pilot, and went away to World War II. On a short break between postings in 1944, Nina and Pete were married at Berea Christian Church in Elon and took a brief honeymoon trip to New York City.

Pete returned to the war and Nina returned home to work as a secretary in a textile mill. Pete’s post-war career as an airport air traffic controller took Nina with him to Las Vegas, where their first child, Tina, was born. From Las Vegas, an assignment moved the family to Augusta, Georgia, where Randy was born. An opportunity for Pete to be an air traffic controller at a new airport brought the family to Wilmington, which became the family home for many years. A third child, Kevin, was born there.

Nina was a busy mom who often took the kids to nearby Wrightsville Beach when Pete’s overnight shifts in the control tower required quiet in the house so he could sleep part of the day. Nina always loved the beach and enjoyed taking an evening drive there well into her later years. Nina was a faithful member of Westminster Presbyterian Church from before its new building went up across the street from the family home in the early 1960’s. She would volunteer in the church kitchen and nursery for almost 60 years and considered the church her second home. After Pete passed unexpectedly in 1982, Nina remained in the home she and Pete created for almost four decades. Nina was a fixture in the neighborhood as the oldest original resident on the block. Up to her last days spent in the house she could be seen looking outside each time a low-flying plane would pass over.

In 2019, Nina moved to Summit Place at South Park in Charlotte to be near her three children, three grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. All four were present for a patio visit with Nina to celebrate her 98th birthday this summer.

Nina is survived by her daughter, Tina Denham; two sons, Randy Utsey (Carolyn) and Kevin Utsey (Susan); three grandchildren, Derek Utsey (Melissa), Josh Utsey and Anna Utsey Regan; and great-grandson and three great-granddaughters, all of Charlotte.

The family would like to express sincere gratitude to the caregivers and staff of Elder Care at Home in Wilmington and Summit Place at South Park.

A private graveside service for the family will be held at Oakdale Cemetery, Wilmington.

Share online condolences with the family at Andrews Mortuary & Crematory.

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