Jan. 31 Obituaries of the Swannanoa Valley

Black Mountain News

Raymond Russell

Black Mountain

Raymond Carroll Russell, Jr., 76, of Black Mountain passed away peacefully on Thursday, Jan. 3.

Born July 27, 1942 in Asheville, he was a son of the late Raymond Carroll Russell and Mildred Brookshire Russell.

He was an alumnus of Owen High School and A-B Technical College. He proudly served in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War, and retired from Wrights Machine Shop after 30 years of service.

Surviving are his children, Raymond Carroll Russell III of Greenville, SC, Robert Kevin Russell of Black Mountain, David Brandon Raines of Washington, D.C., and Daniel Ray Raines of Black Mountain; brother, Kermit Patrick Russell of Black Mountain; grandchildren, Raymond Blake Russell of Sumter, Sc, David Kevin Russell of Swannanoa, Brooke Lora Russell of Greenville, SC, Brandy Crossman of Black Mountain, and Justin Fowler of Asheville; nephews, Kermit Patrick Russell Jr of Marion, and Charlie Russell of Black Mountain; and niece, Fran Craig of Black Mountain.

A memorial service was held on Jan. 11, in the chapel of the Western Carolina State Veteran’s Cemetery in Black Mountain.

Jean Michael Helder


Jean Michael Helder

Ola Jean Michael Helder, 90, passed away Jan. 19, at Brookdale Senior Living.

Born July 11, 1928 in Catawba County, she was the daughter of the late Craig Michael and Winnie Parlier Michael.

In addition to her parents, she was preceded in death by her husband, Roger Helder and 11 brothers and sisters.

Jean is survived by three daughters; Karen H. Walker and husband, Ivey, of Chesapeake, Virginia, Debbie H. Roberts and husband, Bobby, of Black Mountain, NC, Robin H. Whitener and husband, Bud, of Hickory, NC; one son, Dirk Van Helder and wife, Crystal, of Boise, Idaho; two brothers, Bob Michael and wife, Edith, and Howard Michael and wife, Sally, both of Hickory; grandchildren and great-grandchildren Jason Walker and wife, Olivia, Jed Walker, and Kailey Walker, all of Cummings, Georgia, Chris Walker and Mason Walker of Virginia Beach, VA, Lauren Whitener and Daniel Whitener of Hickory, Kaden Helder, and Desy Helder of Boise, Idaho.

Jean was a feisty and loving stay-at-home mother most of her life and was the neighborhood “mom” to all the children whom she welcomed into her home. She loved the mountains, reading, camping, working in her garden, and especially every moment she spent with her children and grandchildren.

A memorial service was held on Jan. 21, in the chapel of Bass-Smith Funeral Home. The service was officiated by the Rev. Lloyd King.

A graveside service was held in the NC Veterans Cemetery in Black Mountain. It was officiated by the Rev. Jeremy Shoulta.

Memorials may be made to Brookdale Senior Living, 2530 16th St., NE, Hickory, NC, 28601.

Condolences may be sent to the family online at  

Jesse Bennett


Dr. Jesse William Bennett, 62, of Apex, died Tuesday, Jan. 15, at his home in Apex, NC.

Jesse was born December 28, 1956 in Alamance County, NC.  He was a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and continued his education obtaining his Masters and Ph.D from Southern Methodist University. 

Jesse moved from Texas to North Carolina with Sony Ericsson and most recently employed with BlackBerry. 

He was preceded in death by father, William Jennings Bennett; and brother, Denver N. Williams. 

Jesse is survived by his wife, Wendy Bennett; mother, Dr. Shelby Dill Bennett; daughter, Sydney Bennett; son, Trevor Bennett; brothers, David Bennett (Angela) and Don Bennett (Susan).    

A memorial service will be held 3pm Friday, January 18, 2019 at Apex Funeral Home Chapel, 550 W. Williams St., Apex, NC 27502.  The family will receive friends 2-3pm prior to the service. 

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the American Heart Association.

Gaylord Baker

Black Mountain

GL Baker

Gaylord Lane Baker, 92, of Black Mountain, formerly of Adrian, Sand Lake and Onsted, Michigan, died Jan. 5, at home cared by his family and Care Partners Hospice. 

He is survived by his wife, Jean Sheffield Schutt Baker, daughter, Sarah (Martin) Korth, daughter, Katherine Baker (Dean Crane), seven grandchildren, Robert (Jessie) Baker, Laura Korth, Sean Baker, Lauren Baker, Kenna (John) Jewell, Emily Crane, Paige Crane, two great grandchildren, Asher and Hudson Baker, and several nieces and nephews. 

He was preceded in death by his parents, Edwin L and Margaret (Schacht) Baker, son, Michael Baker, granddaughter, Rachael Korth, sister, Ruth Anderson, and two half-brothers, Edwin and Miner Baker. 

He wished to be cremated and there be no funeral service. 

To make a donation in Gaylord’s memory, please consider White Horse Black Mountain (; Amici Music (; Black Mountain-Swannanoa Valley Endowment Fund or a charity of your choice.     

Charles "Sonny" Fender


Charles “Sonny” Fender, 85, of Swannanoa, passed away Thursday, Jan. 24.

Mr. Fender was born June 18, 1933 in Buncombe County to the late Herman and Annie Sluder Fender. Sonny was the owner of Fender Motor Company for over 55 years where he started on Coxe Avenue before locating to Hwy. 70. He started Seven Oaks Arabians in 1972 where he bred and showed Arabian horses throughout the US. He was a veteran of the US Army and was a member of Mountain View Baptist Church.

In addition to his parents, he is preceded in death by his wife, Pauline “Polly” Fender.

Sonny is survived by his daughter, Paula Bruder (Michael); brothers, Elmer Fender (Betty) and Jerry Dean Fender (Marybeth); grandchildren, Aaron Baker (Jess), Evan Bruder (Anna) and Austin Bruder; and great grandchild, Avery Louise Baker.

A celebration of life service was held on Jan. 27, in the Chapel of Harwood Home for Funerals. Rev. Kevin Bennett officiated.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to CarePartners Hospice, PO Box 25338, Asheville, NC 28813 or Hope for Horses, PO Box 1449, Leicester, NC 28748.

Harwood Home for Funerals ( is assisting the family.

John Roberts

Black Mountain

John Alexander Roberts, 84, of Black Mountain passed away Dec. 9, 2018.

John was born Nov. 23, 1934 in Charlotte. He attended Myers Park High School and scored the first football touchdown in the school’s history. After graduating from the Citadel in 1956, where he was a member of the Summerall Guards, John’s love of airplanes and flying prompted him to enlist in the U.S. Air Force where he flew a variety of fighter planes with distinction and became a top ranked pilot. He flew numerous U-2 missions for the US government during the Cold War. 

After retiring from active duty John flew many years for the North Carolina Air National Guard. He successfully flew the Lockheed Constellation at altitudes and speeds thought unachievable at the time. He also flew C130’s and was particularly known for his skill in low level radar evading operations in the Asian theatre. 

John loved his family, friends, and his current dog, Mosby.  He was a prior member of the Charlotte Country Club and known as a fearless golfer there. He was also a member of the Black Mountain Golf Course for years and enjoyed the comradery he found there.

Left to cherish his memory are his first wife, Jill Baugh Roberts, his children, John A. Roberts, Jr. (Margot); Elizabeth Roberts Snelling (Vince); stepchildren, Anne Stafford (Jerry); Catherine Johnstone (Josh); Tiffany Honeycutt; his long-time friend and partner, Virginia Holmes; and 6 grandchildren.

A celebration of his life will be held at a later this year.