September 1, 2013

Willis Hubert Strong Jr. succumbed to Alzheimer’s Disease during the morning hours of August 31, 2013. He spent his final years of life initially as a resident of the Elmcroft Assisted Living Facility in Southern Pines, NC, and later as a resident of the Pinehurst Health Care and Rehabilitation Center. For his 74 years, he left a legacy for his engaging wit, generous spirit, intense love of the outdoors, and insatiable quest for travel and adventure. He was devoted to his family and enjoyed spending time with his children, grandchildren, and extended family.

Mr. Strong was born in Columbia, SC, on July 17, 1939, the eldest child of Willis Hubert Strong, Sr., and Catherine Goodwin Strong. He spent his early years and began his elementary schooling in Cayce, SC, a suburb of Columbia. His family moved to Hamlet in 1947. He completed his public education in Hamlet graduating in the Hamlet High School Class of 1958. During his formative years, he developed an abiding interest and passion for railroading as his father, paternal grandfather and a great grandfather had all been career railroad employees.

Upon his high school graduation, Mr. Strong enlisted in the United States Navy in July 1958 and received his basic training at the Great Lakes Training and Installation at Evanston, Illinois. He received further training assignments at Memphis, Tennessee Naval Air Station and at the Pensacola Florida Naval Air Station. Afterwards, he served a 1960-61 Pacific Fleet tour aboard the U.S.S. Yorktown visiting such faraway places as Hong Kong; Northern Australia; Subic Bay Phillipines; and Yokohama, Japan. He completed his navel service with assignments in the Midway Islands and at Whidbey Island. It was while stationed at Whidbey Island, Washington, that he met his wife Svea in Vancouver, Canada. They married and returned to Hamlet, and he assumed employment with the Seaboard Air Line Railroad (later CSXT) in August 1962. He was initially employed as a brakeman and later advanced to the conductor’s board. He retired from CSXT in July 2001 with approximately 42 years of service. During these many years of railroad service, he was affectionately and respectfully known by his colleagues as “Boxcar.” Throughout his adult life, Mr. Strong was an active member in various capacities of Saint Paul Lutheran Church in Hamlet, especially a part of Dr. Bill’s church beautification crew. He most enjoyed participating in the food ministry Feed My Sheep. He was a founding member of the Huney-do Hunt Club of Troy, NC, as well. He was also a member of the Masonic Lodge in Hamlet. Additionally, Mr. Strong was a member of the American Legion Post 49 of Hamlet, the VFW of Rockingham, and the Civitans of Rockingham. During his middle years and his retirement years, Mr. Strong and his wife Svea, oftentimes in the company of other family members and friends, traveled to the countries of their families’ cultural roots including England, Scotland, Ireland, France, Germany, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Austria, and to other noteworthy places such as Italy, Russia, and the eastern maritime provinces of Canada and Alaska. Mr. and Mrs. Strong also made several transcontinental railroad trips across the United States along both the northern and southwestern routes, and they did extensive railroad traveling in Europe.

Mr. Strong is survived by his spouse of 51 years, Svea Eileen Bjorknas Strong, of Rockingham; a son Russell Hemming Strong and daughter-in-law Sherry of Troy; NC, and a daughter Karen Elizabeth Strong Allen and son-in-law Michael of Rockingham. He is survived by four grandchildren – Seth Allen, Kassie Allen, Mikayla Strong, and Megan Strong. Extended family members include a brother Larry Strong and wife Sue of Cary, NC; and a brother Pat Strong and wife Patricia of Raleigh, NC; a brother-in-law Cas Bjorknas of Langley, British Columbia, Canada; several nieces and nephews; and numerous grand nieces and grand nephews.

Mr. Strong’s funeral service will be at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Hamlet. The family will receive friends at the church from 2:30-4:00 Monday, September 2, 2013, with the service following at 4:00 p.m. Burial will proceed at Richmond Memorial Park upon completion of the service. Donations/memorials should go to the Alzheimer’s Association P.O. Box 96011, Washington, DC 20090-6011. The family would like to thank all their friends and family for their love and support during this time. A special thank you to the staff at Pinehurst Health Care and Rehabilitation and Elmcroft Assisted Living and Memory Care. Online condolences may be made at Watson- King Funeral Home of Rockingham is serving the family of Mr. Strong.

— Paid obituary