Randolph Few, son of Duke's first president, dies

Flags to fly at half-mast Friday

Randolph Reamey Few, the last surviving son of William Preston Few, Educational Founder and First President of Duke University, and Mary Reamey Thomas Few, died Tuesday, October 14, 2008, in the Olsen Center at The Forest at Duke after a period of declining health. Mr. Few, or 'Ran' as he was known for most of his life, was born October 6, 1920, and grew up on the Duke Campus. He vividly remembered walking in the woods, now Duke's West Campus with his father and Mr. Duke, to select the site for the Duke Chapel, which Mr. Duke wanted to be the center of the University. Subsequently, he watched the construction that followed this walk, and to the end of his life continued to be amazed at what transpired on the campus over those 80 years.

Mr. Few graduated from Durham High School in 1939 and Duke University in 1943. At Duke he was a member of Phi Delta Theta Fraternity, Red Friars, President of the Senior Class and Chief Marshal at Commencement. Following graduation he served as a Naval Officer during WWII where, among other places, he was stationed in Hawaii for over two years. After the War he remained in the Naval Reserve where he oversaw the building of the Naval Armory on Foster Street in Durham.

After his naval career, he worked for Esso (now Exxon Mobil) before returning to Durham in 1954 to start a career as a commercial real estate developer. Included in his residential and commercial projects was Lakewood Shopping Center in Durham. Lakewood was one of the first shopping centers in the state and Mr. Few managed it until it was sold in 1986. In addition, he ran several family-owned corporations and at the time of his death was president of Kendrick Estates Investment Corporation. He had the distinction of holding one of the oldest North Carolina real estate broker's license and was a former member of the Durham Board of Realtors.

A member of the Durham Kiwanis Club since 1955, Mr. Few served as its president in 1976, and received its Distinguished Service Award in 1981. He was a life-long member of Duke Memorial United Methodist Church, and a long-time member and past president of the Spence-Kale Bible Class. Always active in his church, he served as President of the Administrative Board, as a Trustee, as the Finance Committee Chair as well as holding various other positions. Beyond his local church, he served the Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church in several capacities, including a member of the Board of the Methodist Retirement Homes, and chair of the Council on Finance and Administration for several years. For 26 years, Mr. Few was an active member of The Methodist Foundation, which in June of this year awarded him 'The Saints of God Award' to recognize 'Outstanding Christian Stewardship and Service' within the North Carolina Conference. Additionally, for many years, he served on the Board of Visitors of the Duke Divinity School.

In the Durham Community, he served as Chairman of the Draft Board and as President of the Duke-Durham Alumni Association; was a charter member of the Durham Sports Club and board member of the Sales & Marketing Executives Club of Durham; was active in the Boy Scouts and served as the Campaign Chairman for the Occoneechee Council.

For his beloved Duke University , he was a Charter Member of the Iron Dukes, a Charter Member and President of the Blue Devil Club, and he was a loyal and devoted fan of Duke Sports, particularly basketball and football. The only games he missed in Wallace Wade Stadium were during WWII and then two games due to poor health. This season's game in November would have been his 80th Duke-Carolina Football Game. Despite his declining health, he attended all three home football games of this season. In addition, he was a Charter Member and board member of the Triangle Chapter of the National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame. In 2005, the All-American Football Foundation awarded him the 'All American Football Fan Award' for his life long loyalty to Duke Sports. Mr. Few was also an avid tennis player, and played competitive tennis well into his eighties.

Mr. Few and his wife, the former Shirley Dana, of Pinehurst, who survives him, celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in November 2007. Together they had three children: Dana Few Pope and husband, Todd; Randolph R. Few Jr.; and Louise Few Rollins and husband, Steed Jr., all of whom survive him. His love for Duke ran deep, but the real joy in his life was his devoted family, particularly his eight grandchildren all of whom live in Durham. This provided 'Beeba', as he was known to his grandchildren, with the opportunity and special privilege of having regular interaction with his gang-of-eight during their 'growing up' years. He has left his grandchildren with cherished and lifelong memories of a loving and generous grandfather who, will be greatly missed, but whose love and influence will be ever present. He was so proud and happy knowing that his first grandchild Mary Kendrick Pope who will graduate from Duke in 2009 will be carrying on the long Few tradition with his beloved alma mater. His grandchildren are Mary Kendrick Pope, Laurie Sims Pope, Elizabeth Randall Pope, Caroline Hawley Few, Randolph Jackson Few, William Steed Rollins, Carlton Louise Rollins, and Sarah Preston Rollins. In addition, he is survived by a nephew, William Preston Few II and wife, Paula, of Raleigh; nieces, Frances Few Usry and husband, William, of Durham, and Ellen Few Anderson and husband, McCutchen, formerly of Raleigh. Several other nieces, great nieces and nephews of Mr. Few reside outside of North Carolina. In addition to his parents, Mr. Few was also predeceased by his four brothers, William Few, Lyne Starling Few, Kendrick Sheffield Few, and Yancy Preston Few.

Mr. Few's family will forever be grateful to the staff members in the Biltmore Wing of the Olsen Center at The Forest at Duke for their loving, kind and gentle care that he received from each of them. Their love and respect for him was reciprocated and each one of them was very special to him. He always was so appreciative of everything that they did for him making his last days the very best they could be. They are very special people.

A visitation will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. on Thursday, October 16, 2008, at the home of Steed and Louise Rollins , 33 Oak Drive , Durham. A memorial service will be held at Duke Memorial United Methodist Church, 504 West Chapel Hill Street, Durham, at 11 a.m. on Friday, October 17, 2008. A reception will follow immediately after the service in Whitford Hall at the church.

The family requests that in lieu of flowers, friends may make a contribution to Duke Memorial United Methodist Church designated for the Randolph Reamey Few Memorial Fund.

Howerton & Bryan Funeral Home is assisting the Few family.