The Lees’ Impact on Stanly County Lives On

Lees Established Scholarship Fund Before Their Passing to Support Stanly County Students

Three sentences in Robert Lee’s 2014 obituary capture the legacy of Robert and his wife, Jewell, who shared her husband’s devotion before she died in 2019. They both tried to make their little corner of the world a better place.

“Robert genuinely cared about his fellow man,” the obituary stated. “He did not judge people by appearance or worldly worth. If you were lucky enough to know Robert, you know how he deeply loved mankind.”

Folks around Albemarle and all of Stanly County have long appreciated this about the Lees. But their story deserves to be heard beyond their home county 40 miles northeast of Charlotte.

After their deaths, the Robert and Jewell Lee Scholarship Fund was established to help students attend community college in Stanly County. The fund is under the Stanly County Community Foundation, a regional affiliate of Foundation For The Carolinas. Since its creation in 1999, the Stanly County Community Foundation has awarded more than $800,000 in grants to area nonprofits.

The scholarship Kailtyn Clark earned from the Lee family helped her pay her way through nursing school.

The scholarship Kailtyn Clark earned from the Lee family helped her pay her way through nursing school.

Kaitlyn Price, 21, knows about the power of a Lee scholarship. Raised in Stanfield in Stanly County, she embraced from an early age the blessing of caring for others. Several family members worked in health care. She helped her two grandfathers before they passed away. After graduating from West Stanly High School in 2020, she attended Stanly Community College, earning an AB degree in nursing in 2023.

The Lees made her education possible thanks to the $6,000 in scholarships she earned from the fund that bears their names. That education, in turn, made her dream come true. Kaitlyn Price works as an ICU nurse at Novant Health Matthews Medical Center.

Kaitlyn never had the privilege of meeting the Lees. But she has seen up close and personal how their generous spirit changes lives. “That scholarship,” she said, “pretty much paid for my entire nursing degree. It’s crazy to think about.”

A Lifetime of Good Works

Since handing out its first scholarship in 2020, the Robert and Jewel Lee Scholarship Fund has awarded $40,000 for high school graduates to attend one of three community colleges: Stanly Community College, South Piedmont Community College or Montgomery Community College.

The Lee scholarship is crucial to students and their families, and also to the communities where they come from.

Stanly County, home to nearly 70,000 people, is not unlike many counties across North Carolina. It is working to transition from manufacturing (including textiles) to a more diverse economy, one that can provide opportunities to the next generation. A scholarship to a community college that can provide an education and valuable skills is vital to that mission.

The Lees understood the importance of education and acted on it.

Jewell taught in Stanly and Montgomery counties and was secretary to the superintendent of Stanly County Schools. Robert, a U.S. Army veteran, started an accounting firm. With his family, he owned Wadesboro Nursing Home for a time.

He loved tending to cattle on the 1,000 acres of farmland they owned in the Eggtown community of Anson County. Jewell loved hosting parties at the farm, bringing friends, neighbors and newcomers together.

This aerial photo from shows Randall's Country Store. Robert Lee's father owned the store, and Robert helped run it after he passed.

This aerial photo from shows Randall’s Country Store. Robert Lee’s father owned the store, and Robert helped run it after he passed.

The Lees’ lifetime friend from Eggtown, Harvey Randall, liked to say that for a CPA and successful businessman, Robert never let it go to his head. “Some people are kind of cocky,” Randall said. “To us, he was the opposite of that.”

The Lees were active at Union Chapel United Methodist Church in Albemarle. Between them, they served on numerous community boards and supported many local charitable causes. Education was closest to their heart.

“The generous gift from Robert and Jewell Lee speaks to their commitment to education and the Stanly County community,” said Qiana Austin, vice president and scholarships program officer at Foundation For The Carolinas. “The scholarships allow worthy students to place their focus on excelling in their classes and ultimately earning a degree that will lead to their success.”

A Story of Giving

Robert was 74 when he passed away in 2014. Jewell was 80 when she died in 2019. Their legacy begins with family, including their children, Charles and Betsy. It extends to their lifetime of giving. But the truest expression of what they leave behind – what we remember them for – is captured in this well-told tale.

Harvey Randall knew Robert, and later Jewell, for most of his 76 years. He delights in telling how Robert got his nickname. When Robert was a toddler, he got a kick out of ramming his head into his father’s stomach. That’s why those who knew Robert best and longest called him Goat.

Randall’s father, Fred, ran a country store in Eggtown. Founded in 1938, it was where farmers and families came for groceries and to catch up on the day’s news. In colder weather, the wood stove was the gathering place. Having grown up in Eggtown, Robert never knew life without Randall’s Country Store. When Fred Randall died in 2007, there was no one to take his place behind the counter, to keep the heart of the community going.

That’s when several local farmers came to the rescue. That’s how Robert Lee came to work his shift late in life – greeting customers, selling goods and getting paid in fried bologna sandwiches.

Said his old friend Harvey Randall: “Robert was the nicest person you’d ever meet.”

About the Scholarship Fund

The Robert and Jewell Lee Scholarship Fund provides scholarships to residents of Stanly, Anson, Rowan, Cabarrus, Union, Montgomery and Richmond counties in North Carolina  and Chesterfield County in South Carolina to attend Stanly Community College, South Piedmont Community College or Montgomery Community College. Students must have a minimum, unweighted GPA of at least 2.3 on a 4.0 scale. Students can apply for the next round of scholarships for the 2024-25 school year starting Nov. 17 Details:

Ken Garfield, former religion editor of The Charlotte Observer, is a freelance writer/editor who helps the Foundation For The Carolinas and other nonprofit causes tell its stories.