Darla Dugger Carter was born in Lenoir on July 22, 1960, to the Rev. James and Mary Sue Dugger. A child with an insatiable thirst for knowledge, she would sneak away from her mother and, instead of doing chores, read books for hours outside or anywhere out of earshot. She grew up living with her parents and two younger brothers, Terry and Keith Dugger.
Darla attended both Hudson and South Caldwell High Schools and was a member of South’s first class in 1978. Darla was an active musician in both high schools and continued her lifelong passion for music. She loved the arts and believed that music education is essential, insisting that her own children learn to read and play music. To her great joy, all three of them did.
Darla’s life soundtrack was made up of Barry Manilow, show tunes, Elton John and everything on pop radio for the last 40 years. Throughout her life, when she didn’t have her nose in a book, she was listening to music as loud as she could. She blasted Casey Kasem’s “American Top 40” as a teenager in the ‘70s, listened to Elton John tapes throughout the ‘80s, and screamed her heart out to the words of “Hamilton” or “Phantom of the Opera” later in her life.
After graduating from high school, Darla pursued medicine as a profession. She began her academics in 1979, enrolling in Caldwell Community College’s nursing program. She became state board-certified as a registered nurse in March 1981 and graduated in August of the same year with an Associate of Science in Nursing. Professionally and in private life, Darla had a lifelong commitment to helping people through their most difficult times.
During her 20-plus years as an RN she was part of multiple medical institutions, including Caldwell Memorial Hospital, The American Red Cross, the Caldwell County Health Department and Broughton Hospital.
Her dedication to helping and serving others just was not limited to her profession. Throughout her life, through hardships, marriages, and the birth of three children, Darla helped the people around her. She loved her family and friends with empathy and without prejudice.
In the last few years of her life, Darla’s pride and great joy were her grandchildren. Nurturing her grandbabies, whether close by or hundreds of miles away, brought an incredible amount of happiness and joy into her life. It also gave her many more precious opportunities to care for the people she loved.
The last 20-plus years of Darla’s life were spent with her husband, John. They shared a lifelong commitment to love and care for each other in the face of life’s adversities. The couple did that and much more with patience and kindness.
Darla and John hiked along trails near the Blue Ridge Parkway, exchanging stories and sharing the most intimate moments, just like they would for the rest of her life. Every time they crossed a bridge on those hikes, she would hug and kiss him.
Darla Dugger Carter died peacefully in her sleep at her home in Granite Falls on Thursday, Feb. 4, 2021. She is now forever with her loving father, the Rev. James C. Dugger. Darla’s memory, love and care continue in her lifelong friend Pamela Hollar and Darla’s family: her mother, Mary Sue Dugger; her husband, John Carter; her children, Matthew Barlowe, Meredith Kiser, Madison Carter, Emily Easton and Jonathan Carter; her brothers, Terry and Keith Dugger; her grandchildren, Aiden, Triton, Bianca, Luke, Ivy and Emmett; her daughter-in-law, Caitlin Barlowe; and her son-in-law, Nick Easton.
A limited visitation will be on Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021, from 2-3 p.m. at Union Grove Baptist Church with a memorial service from 3-3:30, with the Revs. Sam Craven and Michael Staton speaking. The family requires masks and social distancing. Following the ceremony, there will be a short, socially-distanced graveside service at 4 p.m. at Littlejohn United Methodist Church Cemetery, 4120 Littlejohn Church Road, Lenoir.
In lieu of flowers, please donate to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and/or the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network.