03/20/05 — Passing time: A fascinating Tar Heel from that great generation

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Passing time: A fascinating Tar Heel from that great generation

Passing time

A fascinating Tar Heel from that great generation

Are you in a contemplative mood? If so, the news of Lyne Starling Few’s death may be of interest. It is noteworthy as a sidelight to a fleeting bit of Tar Heel history.

It is a story from that Greatest Generation. There is a Goldsboro connection, too, even though Dr. Few was born in Durham, spent his last years in Raleigh, and in between lived all over the world.

His was a fascinating life. At age 12 he was the world’s youngest Eagle Scout. He was good at languages and learned German and French during a year in Switzerland before he went to college. He studied at Duke University, Yale and Harvard.

All of that happened before World War II. When the war started, he joined the Navy. He added Japanese to his languages, served in the Pacific, and at the war’s end he was one of the first Americans to enter the bombed city of Hiroshima.

Later he became a diplomat and returned to Japan. He also served in Germany, Italy and Malaysia before he retired. He and Mrs. Few moved from Westport, N.Y., to Raleigh during the 1990s to be near a daughter.

The Goldsboro connection? Lyne Starling Few was a son of Dr. William Preston Few. Few the elder was president of Duke University. In fact, he helped bring the Duke Endowment into fruition in the 1920s, helped move Trinity College to Durham from Randolph County, and led its transformation into Duke University.

William Few occasionally visited in Goldsboro with Mr. and Mrs. Henry Belk. Older Goldsboro folks will remember Belk as the News-Argus editor who preceded Gene Price. Belk was one of the best-known characters in eastern North Carolina, a tall, lanky man who moved and spoke with studied deliberation. He lost his sight but continued for years to tap out his editorials on an old upright typewriter.

Belk had attended Trinity College where he fell in love with Few’s young secretary. They married, and Lucille Belk eventually became his seeing eyes.

Belk often wrote of her attentiveness and her humor, and she came to be known to his readers as his “General Manager.” It was a sobriquet that Few had bestowed on her years earlier when she ran his office.

William Few died in 1940, the Belks in the ’70s. Lyne Starling Few was 91 when he died recently in Raleigh, among the last of a generation whose contributions to our country and our state should not be lost in the darkness of passing time.

Published in Editorials on March 20, 2005 1:38 AM