One night in the 1970s, George T. Crowell Jr. ventured into the Buffalo Cove area to find someone who owed him a debt, and he brought his son, George Crowell III, with him.
They pulled up at the end of a road, the night pitch black around them, and George Jr. yelled to someone at a house across the hollar, his son said.
“It was a little hollar with a creek running through it. All you could see was a kerosene light in the window,” he said.
The man recognized Crowell by the sound of his voice.
“The point I’m trying to make — families, he knew their brothers and sisters and relations to them,” Crowell III said. “He loved people. Some people like a lot of people, and some people don’t. He was the type of person that really liked people.”
Crowell Jr.’s daughter, Vale Crowell Biddix, said that George Crowell Jr., who died March 10 at the age of 91, was always concerned about others.
“He loved people, just always loved them,” he said. “Daddy knew most everybody in Lenoir at one point in time,” she said.
He said that when Crowell Jr. was at church and saw someone new come in, “he’d ask me if I knew them. I’d say yay or nay. And he would always, always go over to them and tell them how glad he was that they were there. And he truly meant it. It wasn’t just to be doing that.”
Crowell Jr. operated Crowell’s Inc., a store in Lenoir that sold appliances, among other things. The store was established in 1937 by Crowell Jr.’s father, George Crowell Sr., and later was managed by George Crowell III as well.
Biddix’s son, Geoffrey, said that Crowell Jr. was known for giving people credit to purchase items at the store, sealing the deal with a handshake.
“It was, ‘Do what you can, and we’ll figure it out together,’ ” he said.
George Crowell III said that he worked for his father for years, going to the store after school before eventually graduating and working at the store full-time.
“Dad and I actually worked together about all the time, ever since I was little,” he said. “He taught me responsibility, how to care for different things.”
George Crowell Jr. was born in New Hanover County in 1929. He briefly lived in Cherryville before eventually settling in a house on Stonewall Street in Lenoir with his father and uncle, Biddix said.
Biddix said that when she was growing up, Crowell Jr. would sing in the car on the way to school and always kissed her goodbye when he dropped her off. As a father, he was reluctant to discipline her. She said one time, when her mother sent her to him to be disciplined, he took her in a room and said, “I’m just going to hit you one time. You yell really loud.”
He also was known for taking the moral high ground, once resigning from a board when he felt the head of the board was “using too much of the people’s money.”
He also was a philanthropist, aiding a variety of charity efforts or nonprofits, including the Robin’s Nest Child Advocacy Center.
“Everything around here that you could give to, Daddy gave to,” Biddix said.
But in 2020, when he was awarded the L.A. Dysart Award, which honors people for their service to the community, “About his whole speech when he got up was about his customers and the people in that store and what they meant to him,” Biddix said.
Kelly Howell, one of George Crowell Jr.’s grandchildren, said that as a child, she and her sister, Jordan, would stay the night with their grandparents, and he would take them on adventures.
“We were always outside exploring, riding on his golf cart, swimming, playing golf at Cedar Rock Country Club, or in his wood shop” in the basement of his house, she said. “Throughout my life, even as a very small child, I remember him always being on the front row at any event that I may have been participating in, with a smile that radiated just how proud he was.”
She said that his adoration extended to his great-granddaughter, Howell’s young daughter, Allie.
“Boy, the look in his eyes told the story. He loved her with his whole being, just like his granddaughters. The first time he held her at the hospital when she was born was the most purest look of love I had ever seen of him. Just this past year you would find him, keep in mind he was 90 at the time, on the floor on his hands and knees rolling a race car back and forth with her,” she said.
Michele Crowell, George Crowell III’s wife, said that he was always gracious and welcoming to her.
“And at our wedding, George, I remember he came up and took my hands, and he said, ‘Welcome to our family,’ ” she said.
Reporter Kara Fohner can be reached at 828-610-8721.