Eugene Irwin Earnhardt, Jr. passed away peacefully February 4 at age 85. Born in Thomasville, North Carolina on February 18, 1934 to Eugene Irwin Earnhardt, Sr. and Ruth Maier Earnhardt, married for 60 years to Barbara Ross Earnhardt, Gene was the father to three sons and the grandpa to one grandson.
Gene graduated from Sewanee Military Academy in 1952, attended Washington & Lee University, and graduated from Northwestern University in 1956 with degrees in Economics and English. He became a salesman for Alcoa Steamship Company in Manhattan, where the couple met in 1957. Married in 1959, and after a six month camping trip through much of Europe, they returned to North Carolina for Gene to enter UNC-Chapel Hill graduate school in American History. At Pfeiffer University (Misenheimer, NC) for 30 years, Gene chaired the history department, ran many faculty committees, graded 1000’s of papers and impacted the lives of many students and colleagues. He was an avid brush clearer and chain-sawer; lover of movies, art and theater; a faithful sports fan (Go, Tar Heels!); a sharer of dry wit, insight and expertise; and a current affairs analyst through the lens of history. He and Barbara retired in 2000 to Gerton, North Carolina, the Earnhardt family’s beloved summer community. He was an active member of the Presbyterian Church in Brooklyn Heights, NY; Albemarle, NC; and Asheville, NC.
Survived by his wife, Barbara; sons David (Swannanoa, NC), Sam (Black Mountain, NC), and John (Menlo Park, CA) and daughter-in-law Lisa and grandson Jack; brothers Jim (Keith) and Tom (Dana). He was also “Uncle Gene” to nine nieces and nephews. Gene and Barbara’s two cats, Lucy and Leroy, will miss him. Mainly Leroy.
A memorial service is planned for February 22 at 3pm in Black Mountain, NC in the Assembly Room at Givens Highland Farms, the couple’s residence for the past five years. The Rev. Lynn Bledsoe will officiate. Friends will be received after the service. The interment will take place in early summer at Bear Wallow Baptist Church cemetery in Gerton, NC.
The family is grateful to the great care Gene received from the Highland Farms health care staff over his final months...they are truly the best. In lieu of flowers or trays of lasagna (thank you!), the family has requested that any gifts be made in memoriam to the Pfeiffer Fund ℅ Pfeiffer University History Department or the charity of the donor’s choice. Penland Family Funeral Home is honored to be caring for the Earnhardt Family.
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Pfeiffer University Office of Advancement-Pfeiffer Fund ℅ Pfeiffer University History Department
P.O. Box 960, Misenheimer NC 28109