Barbara Lee Watkins Shepherd of North Wilkesboro, N.C., a well-respected and much-loved Christian, nurse, wife and mother, went to be with her Heavenly Father on July 1, 2021.
Barbara was born on May 15, 1934 to Carl Lewis and Vergie Alena Pendry Watkins in the upstairs apartment above Glenn Cox’s Community Store on Hinshaw Street. As an infant, she was unable to ingest her mother’s milk and quickly began losing weight. The doctor who delivered her, Dr. Charles Sink, told her mother he could do no more to help her. When the doctor saw Barbara a month later he was shocked and asked her mother, “Who is this baby?” If not for the kindness of Glenn’s wife Bertha, who gave Vergie a new product from their store, an evaporated milk formula, Barbara would have died in infancy.
During World War II the Watkins family relocated to Elizabeth City, N.C. It was while living there, Barbara first felt her calling to become a nurse. She witnessed the Red Cross nurses who were stationed at the defense plant as they walked by S.L. Sheep Elementary School—the school Barbara attended in the fifth grade. Following the war her family returned to Wilkes and in the eighth grade at North Wilkesboro Elementary School, her teacher, Mrs. Nell Helms, asked her what she wanted to do when she finished high school. Barbara shared she wanted to become a nurse and explained why. Mrs. Helms told her she had worked with the Red Cross during the war and encouraged Barbara for many years thereafter to pursue her dream. In 1952, after finishing first in her graduating class from North Wilkesboro High School, Barbara continued her studies at Davis Hospital School of Nursing in Statesville, N.C., where in 1955 she again graduated first in her class--now as a Registered Nurse.
Barbara had a successful career in nursing. She began her work at Wilkes General Hospital in the operating room. Later she worked in the emergency room, the pediatrics ward, and the obstetrics ward. She left the hospital in 1970 and served as a school nurse with the Wilkes County Schools.
In 1976, Barbara faced her greatest professional challenge when her pastor, Paul Shoupe, encouraged her to apply to lead the soon-to-be-constructed Mountain View Medical Center, a rural health clinic in Hays, NC. The job would require her to first return to school. So, at the age of 41, she left her home and enrolled at the University of North Carolina at Asheville to become licensed as a Family Nurse Practitioner—where she once again graduated first in her class. She returned to Wilkes and served as the center’s founding director until 1982.
For many years, Barbara assisted Dr. John Bond in surgery and in his medical office. She also worked as the Patient Care Coordinator with Hospice of Wilkes, a Respite Care Nurse and a medical services advisor concerning worker’s compensation claims for Crawford Insurance LLC in Fayetteville, AK. Before retiring, she returned to the hospital to work in the quality assurance department. Though Barbara’s work was important to her, her family and her faith in God were most important.
On Dec. 4, 1955, Barbara married Billy Edwin Shepherd in York, South Carolina. In 1960, during a fall revival led by the Reverend Warren Kerr, Barbara and Bill surrendered their lives to Christ and followed him faithfully thereafter. For nearly 50 years they were active members of Liberty Grove Baptist Church. In addition to being regular in attendance, Barbara loved most the opportunity to teach young adults as their Sunday school teacher. She also served the church as Children’s Bible Drill Leader, Pastor Search Committee Member, Director of the Women’s Missionary Union, and Adult Choir member. She enjoyed studying her Bible and reading books that cultivated her love for Christ. She also enjoyed cooking meals for her family, sewing, quilting, and caring for her grandchildren.
Barbara made a positive difference in the lives of many people through her vocation and her service to God. Even in her final years as she suffered with dementia and the loss of her eyesight, she was determined to “make her rounds” and care for her fellow residents at Westwood Hills Care Center whom she referred to as her patients. She has now left this earth and will be greatly missed by her many friends and family members.
Preceding Barbara in death were her parents; her beloved husband of 54 years; her brother James Carlton Watkins; and her sister Judy Kaye Watkins Tinch.
Barbara is survived by her sister Frances Ann Watkins Martin and husband, Marty, of Woodstock, Georgia; her sister-in-law Janie Burline Smith Watkins of Greenville, South Carolina; two daughters, Kimberly Walker and husband, Kirk, and Karen Hill and husband, Reggie, of North Wilkesboro; and one son Barry Shepherd and wife, Laura, of Nashville, Tenn; six grandchildren Brandon Walker and wife, Ashley, Whitney Walker Nolan and husband, Chris, Daniel Hill and husband, Deryck Wilson, Patrick Hill, Fran Shepherd, and Parker Shepherd; and three great-grandchildren Maddux Walker, Braley Walker and Caroline Nolan.
A private graveside service will be held with interment at Mountlawn Memorial Park in North Wilkesboro, NC. A memorial service celebrating Barbara’s life will be held on Sunday, July 18, 2021, at 3 p.m. at Liberty Grove Baptist Church, North Wilkesboro, N.C. The family will receive friends in the church fellowship hall immediately following the service.
The family would like to thank her many caregivers at Rose Glenn Village, Wilkes Senior Village and Westwood Hills Care Center for their loving care during the last years of her life.
In lieu of flowers, donations are preferred to Liberty Grove Baptist Church, 5899 Liberty Grove Road, North Wilkesboro, N.C., 28659, or the American Red Cross, 2425 Park Road, Charlotte, N.C., 28203.
Online condolences may be made at www.reinssturdivant.com.