Retired communication leader dies

Jefferson Woodrow “Woody” Upchurch Jr. — a longtime writer, editor and leader in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences’ former Department of Agricultural Communications — died Saturday night, Nov. 23, from pancreatic cancer.

He was an enthusiastic advocate of Cooperative Extension’s ability to change people’s lives for the better. Through his contacts with the news media both in communities across the state and nation, he promoted knowledge of Extension, related research breakthroughs and the importance of agriculture. For his commitment to Extension, he received N.C. State University’s 1983 Outstanding Extension Service Award.

He also won several national awards through a professional organization now known as the Association for Communication Excellence in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Life and Human Sciences, and he served as an officer of the N.C. Farm Writers and Broadcasters Association.

Upchurch’s wife, Jo Anne, was also a longtime employee at N.C. State. She and other family members will receive friends on Friday, Nov. 29, from 6 to 8:00 p.m. at Thomas Funeral Home, 401 North Ennis Street, Fuquay-Varina. A private graveside service will be on Saturday, Nov. 30.

Upchurch was born in 1934 on the Harnett County farm of grandparents Edward and Martha Avery. His parents, both deceased, were Agnes Avery and Jefferson Woodrow Upchurch.

Upchurch grew up in Buies Creek. He graduated from Buies Creek High School, received an associate’s degree from Campbell Junior College, an A.B. in journalism from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a master’s in education from N.C. State University.

After working as a sports reporter on four N.C. newspapers, including the Raleigh News & Observer, Upchurch came to N.C. State, where he worked for 32 years, retiring in 1994.

Several of those who worked in College communications consider him a mentor, and farm magazine editors, colleagues and superiors have praised his “smooth writing style,” “outstanding photography,” empathy and concern for farmers, commitment to team work and high professional standards.

Tom Byrd was Upchurch’s first supervisor at N.C. State and his friend for decades. He once called Woody “one of the most unselfish individuals I know. If one wants to motive Woody, merely show him how a given task will help others, particularly farmers.”

Survivors include daughter, Lori Upchurch Kearney (Steve); sons Jeff Upchurch (Pam), Brian Upchurch (Connie), Michael Upchurch (Carol); stepdaughters, Kimberly Stocks (Jim), Robin Morgan (Donald), Kelley Dow (Brian); nine grandchildren; and one great grandson; and former spouse and mother of their four children Eleanor T. Upchurch.

In lieu of flowers donations may be made to Buies Creek First Baptist Church, P.O. Box 160, Buies Creek, N.C., 27506, or to Duke Home Care and Hospice, 4321 Medical Park Drive, Suite 101, Durham, N.C. 27704.

— D. Shore

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