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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Catherine Ann (Dexter) Highsmith, 98

Catherine Ann (Dexter) Highsmith (Quinn McGowen Funeral Home)

WILMINGTON — Catherine Ann Dexter Highsmith, beloved wife, mother, and “Mer,” died peacefully on May 11, 2024, in the arms of her children.

Catherine was born February 15, 1926, in Wilmington, NC, the only daughter of Leona Cox Dexter and William Stinette Dexter. Following her father’s death when she was two years old, she and her mother moved to Richlands, NC, where they lived with her grandparents.

She graduated from what is now known as East Carolina University. Before she finished her degree, she was teaching fourth grade in Richlands, due to a teacher shortage during World War II. She taught for several years in Richlands, and then came to Atkinson, NC to teach. It was there that she met the love of her life, George Highsmith. They were married for 65 years, and she missed him every day after his death in 2016. Together, they farmed and raised their family, even as she continued teaching at Atkinson and Long Creek.

Generations of children learned from her. Many of them still remember her reading to them after lunch from the Little House on the Prairie books. For years after she retired, grown men would greet her in the grocery story with a big hug, reminding her that she taught them in the fifth or seventh or eighth grade. She did not always recognize them, but when they told her their names, she knew where they sat in her classroom. She left teaching to serve as assistant Superintendent of Schools in Pender County and finally as librarian at Harrell’s Christian Academy. She was a role model for her own children and for many others, instilling in them a love of reading and of learning.

Catherine was known for her hospitality, regularly setting the table for Sunday dinner for any number of visiting preachers, family, and friends. She recognized the importance of expressing gratitude, and wrote hundreds of thank you notes. A faithful member of Caswell Presbyterian Church, she taught Sunday School and continued to tithe and support the church even when she was physically unable to attend. She was an avid reader, enjoyed watching the birds at their feeder, and loved being with her family. She was happiest at home, in the place she lived for 70 years.

She is survived by her three children, Martha, Jane, and Al; granddaughters Georgia Farrior and her husband Nate, Harley Blanton and her husband Duane, and Ali Fussell and her husband John-Mark; and seven great-grandchildren: Windsor Farrior, Fisher Blanton, John-Ward Farrior, Isla Blanton, Hattie B. Farrior, Ariel Fussell, and Cannon Fussell.

As she taught in life, so Catherine continues teaching after death, by donating her body to East Carolina Medical School to support the education of medical students.

Announced visitation will be at the Highsmith family home, 10280 NC Hwy 53 W, Burgaw, on Tuesday, May 14 from 2:00 to 6:00 p.m. The family also welcomes visitors at other times through out the week.

A memorial service in celebration of her life will be held at Caswell Presbyterian Church, Atkinson, NC on Sunday, May 19, at 1:00 p.m. with Elder Randa Scott officiating.

Her family requests that those wishing to honor Catherine’s memory consider a donation in her name to the Friends of the Pender County Library, PO Box 879, Burgaw, NC. 28425.

Shared memories and condolences may be sent to the family here.

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