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Robert Deese

December 14, 2023
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Robert Deese Obituary

Robert Deese, 77, of the Prospect Community, was born on November 24, 1946. Following a brief but
courageous battle with Acute Myeloid Leukemia, he passed away peacefully on Tuesday, December
12th, 2023, at UNC Medical Center. He was surrounded by his wife, children, and beloved family.
Robert is survived by his devoted wife of 54 years, Carolyn Bullard Deese of the home; his four children,
Robert Marcus Deese; Dr. John Deese; Jason Deese, wife Autumn, and beloved grandson Ethan of
Smithfield; daughter Carmen Deese, husband William Revels of Greensboro and their sons Harrison
(Kayla) and Corbin (Shaila); a special brother, Dr. Michael Deese and wife Shirlene and their children
Norman (Lindsay), Austin (Samantha), and Kayleigh of Lumberton; best friend and brother Raymond Earl
Deese (Lily); devoted sisters Rosa Ann Sampson and Flora Margaret Barnette (Claude); brother-in-law
Jennings Bullard (Connie); and a host of nieces, nephews, relatives and dear friends. He was
predeceased by his parents, Raymond and Lockey Lowry Deese; sisters Karmel Gene Deese and Sue
Betty Deese Locklear; brothers-in-law Harrelton Woodell and Willie F. Sampson, and sister-in-law,
Harvelene B. Sanderson.
Robert graduated from Pembroke High School in 1965 and continued his education at Pembroke State
University, where he met his future bride, Carolyn Bullard. From there, he decided to attend Wayne
Community College (WCC) in Goldsboro, NC, where he played on the basketball team, graduated with
an associate degree in Forestry, and was known affectionately as “Chief”. Robert recently recounted
when he enrolled at WCC, he was asked to select his race on a demographics form, only to find there
was not an option for American Indian. Refusing to select “Other”, Robert wrote in “Indian” as his
classmates joked about him not having an option and the next year, the form had been revised. Robert
always said he was “Indian before being Indian was cool”.
Robert began his career with International Paper in Wilmington, NC. On May 17, 1969, Robert married
Carolyn and they began their life together in Wilmington. Desiring to be closer to family and continue
his education, Robert and Carolyn returned to Robeson County and made their home in the Prospect
Community. Robert began work with Sumter Builders. When the opportunity presented itself, Robert
accepted a position at Lumbee River EMC, beginning as a lineman, then lineman supervisor and
underground lineman foreman. He knew he wanted more professional opportunities and was
encouraged by a manager to return to school to complete his bachelor’s degree to provide more
upward mobility. Robert worked full-time and alternated between part-time and full-time class loads,
graduating in 1982 with a BS in Business Administration. Robert found his stride in the role of Economic
Development Manager. Robert loved his work with Lumbee River EMC. He found joy in being able to
share the value of business development in the southeastern part of NC and could tout the strengths of
the region to any interested party. His work in this area led to an appointment to the Southeastern NC
Economic Development Commission which included the study of economic development efforts from
the burgeoning NC film industry to efficiencies in manufacturing facilities in Germany. Robert was also
instrumental in the conceptual development of COMtech Business Park, advocating that better business
and workforce opportunities for the region would improve the quality of life for all residents and
business owners. Robert retired from LREMC as the Assistant CEO.
Not only was Robert an advocate for regional business, but he saw firsthand the need to improve
educational access for all children, regardless of their economic, racial, or social background. Robert
was elected and served as the President of the PTA at Prospect School and from there, realized that all

students in every district deserved the same opportunities equally. He ran and was elected to the
Robeson County Public Schools Board of Education in 1986. He supported the school system merging
into one system for all students – Public Schools of Robeson County – an option that would have been
unfathomable prior to the elimination of double voting. Robert was not afraid to take a stand on issues
of injustice, even if that meant being the voice of an unpopular decision. He served on the PSRC School
Board for 24 years, in positions both as Board Chair and Vice Chair, advocating tirelessly for students,
not only in his own district, but throughout the entire school system. He was particularly proud of the
structural improvements made to Union Chapel Elementary School and Prospect School during his
tenure and through his direct negotiations. He was defeated in only one election but ran multiple terms
without any opposition. Robert believed wholeheartedly that a quality education was the foundation
upon which any child could build a future for themselves and their families. Robert developed a lifelong
passion for politics, as he saw it as a vehicle to advocate for those who often did not have a voice for
themselves.
As a member of Prospect United Methodist Church, Robert’s faith was the cornerstone of his belief
system. Until his final days, he shared his belief that family should be one’s focus, but nothing mattered
unless you had salvation found in Jesus Christ. Robert served in various capacities at Prospect UMC
including as the Chair of the Staff/Parish Relations Committee, Administrative Council, Board of
Trustees, Finance Committee, and Church Council. He was a faithful Sunday School teacher and when it
was his turn to teach, would pour hours into preparation, declining other activities, as he understood
the gravity of teaching biblically-sound, historically accurate lessons.
Robert enjoyed hunting, fishing, golfing, traveling, and UNC Tarheel Basketball. In his younger years,
much time was spent training his blue-tick hounds to become prize winning dogs. He relished the time
spent with his hunting buddies, on the search for raccoons, deer, quail, ducks, turkeys, or doves. He
even traveled out to South Dakota to take part in pheasant hunting. Robert loved his annual fishing trip
to Florida with his brothers and friends, preparing weeks in advance. His love for golf was apparent to
all who knew him and he never turned down a chance to swing a club. Robert even setup a makeshift
driving range in his backyard, complete with yardage markers. Robert loved Tarheel basketball. Even
his time as a patient at UNC
Robert’s love for travel took him all over the world. With Carolyn, he traveled to 48 of the 50 states
(including Alaska and Hawaii) and internationally to Canada, Mexico, Germany, Belgium, the
Netherlands, Austria, Switzerland, Luxembourg, France, Italy, and Israel. Robert said his trip to Italy this
past summer was the best trip of his life, as his family was there with him. He was already making plans
for a river boat cruise with friends and another family vacation next summer.
Robert loved his family and loved spending time with his family. Robert’s children’s friends often
considered the Deese home as their second home. They knew they could count on “Big Rob” to greet
them affectionately, usually from the comfort of his recliner, with a tv remote in hand. All were
welcome at his table and several friends became family, including Brian Locklear, Noah Arthurs, Amiria
Thompson, and the Pierce boys. If you earned a nickname from Big Rob, you knew you were truly a part
of the family. Robert truly enjoyed people – learning about people, talking to people, and encouraging
people. His wise and often humorous counsel was sought by many and will be remembered for years to
come. Robert’s keen sense of humor never failed him, even until the very end. He laughed and joked
with the medical staff at UNC Medical Center and with his family. Whatever the topic, from stress

management (“Worry about the things you can control”) to safe driving (“I drive in the middle of the
road because I pay taxes on both sides”) to dealing with bullies, (“People talked about Jesus and he was
perfect. You’re not perfect”), Robert had sage advice to share. Often shunning public accolades in favor
of working behind the scenes for change, Robert’s legacy will remain as one who fought the good fight,
and eventually won the eternal race. Robert shared his testimony recently with one of his doctors at
UNC. Referencing material possessions, he said “None of that matters. Your family is what matters.
Your spouse and your children. But none of that even matters if you do not have salvation in Jesus
Christ”.
Robert’s character was evident from a young age. After Robert passed, the family learned that upon
losing the Robeson County Indian Schools Basketball Championship game his senior year of high school,
Robert went to the locker room to congratulate Prospect High School in their victory over his own team
– Pembroke Senior High School. He was the only team member to do so. Robert epitomized what it
meant to lead with humility and integrity, working towards justice for those less fortunate, and seeking
Jesus in all his steps.

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Services

Visitation
Friday
December 15, 2023

6:00 PM to 8:00 PM
Prospect United Methodist Church
Missouri Rd.
Maxton, NC 28364

Funeral Service
Saturday
December 16, 2023

2:00 PM
Prospect United Methodist Church
Missouri Rd.
Maxton, NC 28364

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