WILMINGTON — Michael Corbett Stovall Jr., 69, passed away Monday, Feb. 8, 2021, surrounded by family at Brookdale Memory Care center in Wilmington.
Michael was the son of Mary Bellamy Koonce and Michael Corbett Stovall, both of Wilmington; grandson of Nora Meade Corbett Stovall and Major Harry Wylie Stovall and Lillian Maxwell Bellamy and The Honorable Emmett Hargrove Bellamy, and the husband of Kathleen Lester Stovall, formerly of Reidsville. He had two sons, Michael Corbett Stovall III of Brooklyn, New York, and Christopher Talley Stovall of Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Born Aug. 7, 1951, in Houston, Michael was a go-getter as a child. He enjoyed playing catcher for his Little League team, coached by his father. In addition to backing up pitchers, he won “Most Typical Cowboy” and was able to meet Roy Rogers as a result. His love for dogs began as a child, with his first dog, Joe, and continuing to his stepfather’s musically named Golden Retriever “hunting” dogs, and later Walter and Ocie. At age 6, he received his first Sunfish, which sparked a lifelong love of sailing. During his childhood, his family would return to Wilmington and Wrightsville Beach where he spent many summers with his cousins Mary, Emmett and Leslie Boney, who he considered more like siblings. He moved back to Wilmington at the age of 14 and continued sailing, surfing and getting into trouble with his good friends. One notable bit of trouble involved surfing off of Johnny Mercer’s pier, which his mother never would have found out about had a Wilmington Star reporter not caught him in the act.
Michael attended The Choate School in Wallingford, Connecticut, where he captained the ice hockey team. While he got a great education there, he learned more from his cultural excursions, such as the time he caught a young Jimi Hendrix playing at Yale. Following Choate, he went to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. During his years at Carolina, he was a member and vice president of Phi Delta Theta and anchored their beer chugging team. He also attended many Tar Heel games, and, even after graduation, every Carolina basketball game was mandatory viewing.
During his later years at UNC, Michael decided to apply his razor-sharp intellect to a career in law, and despite his advisor’s belief that he wouldn’t get into law school “with a bazooka,” Michael put his mind to it and made it happen. During a road trip west with Joel Pretlow, where they hiked the Grand Canyon with nothing but a couple cans of beans and a carton of cigarettes, his mother informed him that he’d gotten accepted to Wake Forest Law School. At Wake Forest, he was the editor of the Law Review.
Following law school, Michael clerked for former Governor and Chief Justice Dan K. Moore of the North Carolina Supreme Court. After his clerkship, he moved to Greensboro, where he practiced law with future U.S. Representative, the late Honorable Gene Johnston, becoming a partner of the firm of Johnston, Forsyth, Hicks and Stovall. It was in Greensboro that he met his future wife, Kathleen, at a dinner party at Gene’s house. They were married in 1981 and had their first son, Corbett, in 1983.
In 1984, Michael, Kathy, and Corbett moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma, to work with Michael’s father in the oil and gas industry at Genie Oil & Gas Corp. It was in Tulsa that Michael and Kathy welcomed their second son, Kit, in 1986. Despite the career change and their plans to move back to North Carolina after taking advantage of a “can’t-miss” oil boom, Michael excelled at working with his father, became a self-taught geologist and a prominent figure in the industry. He was president of the Association of Energy Service Companies, a trade organization, serving on numerous committees and receiving their highest honor, the “Golden Rod Wrench Award,” for his contributions to the oil and gas business. Never one to brag about his own accomplishments, his proudest achievement as AESC president was establishing a scholarship for the children of rig hands.
Additionally, he was involved in writing industry safety guidelines, including a book on the subject with the AESC, lobbying for the oil and gas industry, and working on various committees with the Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association. Michael’s accomplishments would not have been possible with his longtime colleagues Elaine Wibben and Cherrie Trevathan, as well as many others at Genie. Even after his career change, he continued to study law, maintaining bar certifications in both North Carolina and Oklahoma, and was sworn in to practice at the United States Supreme Court.
While in Oklahoma, “Captain Mike” or “The Admiral,” as he was known, continued to sail as a member of Windycrest on Lake Keystone in a series of sailboats known as “Corkit,” named for his sons. At Windycrest, he became a certified U.S. Sailing youth instructor and served as commodore. He also participated in many off-shore races with his good friend and “little brother” David Cordell, sailing out of Galveston to numerous ports of call throughout the Gulf of Mexico.
He was extremely proud of both of his children. Following college, Kit returned to Tulsa, where he and Michael would have lunch most Saturdays and talk about life. These lunches meant a lot to Michael, as he was able to bond with Kit in a deep and meaningful way as Kit grew into a strong and intelligent man. Michael’s love of basketball rubbed off on Corbett and culminated in the two of them attending the 2008 Final Four. Despite the Heels losing to his son’s Kansas Jayhawks, he was gracious in defeat and even wore a Kansas sweatshirt to the title game. This trip was one of his most cherished memories. Michael would reminisce about that trip to friends before proudly telling them about Corbett’s successful career in New York City.
No matter where he was, Wrightsville Beach was never far from his mind. Every summer, he would pack the family up in his blue Suburban and brave I-40 to come back. There was nothing quite like his excitement driving down Airlie, windows down to smell the salt air and listening to Jimmy Buffet, the Beach Boys or surf rock. He enjoyed entertaining at the Carolina Yacht Club on summer nights, grilling up his famous steaks and enjoying the porches with friends and family, especially after a CYC race. He loved walking Walter and Ocie around Wrightsville Beach and talking with anyone who stopped to give them a pet. He also valued his membership at St. James Episcopal Church and the Cape Fear Country Club. When he wasn’t sailing or at the yacht club, he could be found on the beach in a folding chair, watching the surf, with Kathy, Corbett and Kit.
Michael was preceded in death by his parents and his cousin, Emmet Stovall.
He is survived by his wife, Kathy; sons, Corbett and Kit; brothers, Zander and Donnie Koonce; cousins, Mary Clark, Emmett Haywood, Leslie Boney, Harry Stovall and Nancy Horton; and many nieces, nephews and cousins.
A graveside memorial will be held at 2 p.m., Friday, Feb. 12, at the Corbett Circle in Oakdale Cemetery. His honorary pallbearers are Zander Koonce, Donnie Koonce, Harry Stovall, Joel Pretlow, Bill Tucker, Kenny Sprunt, David Cordell, Robert Johnston, Robert Calder, Tom Betts, Hank Willard, Jim Holliman and James Buffet.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks for donations to Paws Place Dog Rescue, Lower Cape Fear Hospice, The Wrightsville Beach Museum or The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America. The family would also like to thank Irene Sellers and everyone at Brookdale as well as Beth Cooke and Lower Cape Fear Hospice for taking care of our beloved Michael.
Share online condolences with the family at Andrews Mortuary & Crematory.