Joel King Bourne

February 27, 2013 

Joel King Bourne, an attorney, farmer, and community leader, died on Sunday in Tarboro, North Carolina, the town where he was born and that he served all his life. He was 87.

Mr. Bourne was the son of Henry Clark Bourne, also an attorney, and Marion Alston Bourne. He played football for Tarboro High School, and wrestled at North Carolina State University, which he attended for one year before enlisting in the United States Marine Corps in 1943 at age 17. He served in the Pacific theater in the 1st Marine Division and was part of the invasion force that captured Peleliu and Okinawa, two of the fiercest battles of the war. He rose to the rank of staff sergeant before he was honorably discharged.

After the war Mr. Bourne spent two years as an Episcopal missionary to the tiny Inupiat whaling village of Point Hope, Alaska, where he served as lay reader and handy man for St. Thomas's Episcopal Mission. He also cared for the mission's dog sled team, and used them to hunt seals and caribou for the village. The Eskimos once saved Mr. Bourne's life, tracking him down on the pack ice as the ice was breaking up. He never forgot the kindness and courage of the people of Point Hope nor did they forget him. When he visited Point Hope in 1995, the villagers honored him with a traditional pot-luck dinner.

Mr. Bourne ultimately graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, earning degrees in English and law. There he met his wife, Edith Winslow, whom he married in 1958. They settled in Tarboro, where Mr. Bourne practiced law with his father, and later in his own practice, and managed the family farm. A quiet and gentle man, Mr. Bourne committed his life to service. He was a leader in numerous local organizations, some of which he helped establish. These included the Edgecombe County Democratic Party, Calvary Episcopal Church, St. Michael's Episcopal Church, the Edgecombe Forestry Club, the Edgecombe County Bee Keepers Association, the Pamlico-Tar River Foundation, the local chapters of the Red Cross and Habitat for Humanity, the Golden K Kiwanis Club, and the Edgecombe County Veterans' Military Museum, among several others. Well into his 80s, Mr. Bourne and his wife continued to volunteer their time at Heritage Hospital. An ardent conservationist, Mr. Bourne could often be seen picking up trash along the county's highways and rivers with his beloved dogs in the back of his truck. For his lifelong service to the community, Mr. Bourne was inducted into the Twin County Hall of Fame in 2008.

He is survived by his sister, Mrs. June Bourne Long of Roanoke Rapids; and by his two sons and their families: William R. Bourne, Meredith Bourne, and Alston L. Bourne of Tarboro; and Joel K. Bourne, Jr., Kelly A. Stryker, Samuel S. Bourne, Anna S. Bourne, and Eleanor S. Bourne, of Wilmington.

Visitation will be at Clark Hall of Calvary Episcopal Church at 7:00-9:00 p.m. on Tuesday, February 26, 2013 with funeral services held at the church on Wednesday, February 27, 2013 at 1:00 p.m.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be sent to the Veterans Museum or the churchyard fund of Calvary Church.

Arrangements are by Carlisle Funeral Home, Inc., Tarboro.

Online condolences may be directed to the family by visiting

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