Saturday, July 20, 2024

John Hanby Debnam, 92

John Hanby Debnam (Andrews Mortuary and Crematory)

WILMINGTON — John Hanby Debnam, 92, died Saturday, June 15, 2024, at home.

He was born on October 25, 1931, in the Marion Sprunt Annex of James Walker Memorial Hospital in Wilmington, the son of Frederick Archer Debnam and Adrienne Dudley Hanby Debnam. His grandparents were John Ranquill Hanby and Josephine Sholar Hanby of Wilmington and Thomas Hall Debnam and Josie Lee Ferguson Debnam of Suffolk, Virginia. His family was of English, Scottish and Scotch-Irish descent. In England the names were Hanbury and Debenham. When they emigrated to the colonies in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, they changed the spelling so that the Americans would pronounce the names correctly.

He attended Miss Ruth Cronly’s School for the first grade, Forest Hills Elementary School, and graduated from New Hanover High School in the class of 1949. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in the class of 1953. He was commissioned a second lieutenant in the United States Air Force Reserve upon graduation, served two years of active duty as a supply officer and attained the rank of first lieutenant.

In his business career he was an account executive with Reynolds & Co., member of the New York Stock Exchange, in Raleigh for seven years. He returned to Wilmington, entered the real estate business, and became a Realtor. He was a Realtor Associate with The Oleander Company Inc. from 1970 to 1989 and was vice president and secretary of the company and Hanover Center Inc. from 1978 to 1989.

Following his retirement, he traveled extensively in North and South America, Europe, Asia, the Near East, North Africa, Australia and New Zealand. He loved Wilmington and diligently studied its rich history. He enjoyed sharing stories with others. He was a seventh generation Wilmingtonian. His earliest ancestor to live in the city was Peter Harriss, who moved from Quibbletown, New Jersey, in the mid-eighteenth century.

He was a member of the Society of the Cincinnati, the Surf Club, and the St Andrew’s Society of North Carolina. In 1956 he became a charter member of the Lower Cape Fear Historical Society, served as vice president, president, life member, and board member for several terms. He was a charter member of the Lower Cape Fear Chapter, Sons of the American Revolution. He served as secretary on the original board of Bellamy Mansion Inc. now Bellamy Mansion Museum. He served as secretary on the board of the North Carolina Educational, Historical and Scientific Foundation which awarded the Albert Schweitzer International Prizes at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. Always interested in historic preservation and education, he was a charter member of Historic Wilmington Foundation in 1966. He served as vice president and president of the Inter Se Cotillion Club. He was blessed to be born into a loving and close-knit Christian family who nurtured him in the faith. He was a devoted member of St John’s Episcopal Church.

He was predeceased by his parents and his only sibling, his sister, Josephine Debnam Champion, and his maternal uncle and aunt Howard Alexander Hanby and Ione Foster Hanby, who were second parents to him. He enjoyed spending much time with them growing up next door. He is survived by his two nieces, Jane Hanby Champion Folk (Gary) of Raleigh, NC and Suzanne Champion Williams (Mark) of Wilmington, NC; three great-nieces, Hannah Louise Williams, Lauren Champion Williams and Adrienne Estes Folk Proske (Sean).

After God, his family and friends were the most important things in life to him. He loved his family and wanted to be remembered as a caring, loving, loyal friend.

In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to St John’s Episcopal Church, 1219 Forest Hills Drive, Wilmington, NC 28403, The Lower Cape Fear Historical Society, 126 South Third Street, Wilmington, NC 28401, or the charity of one’s choice.

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