Cover photo for Joseph Thaddeus "Joe" Lawrence's Obituary
Joseph Thaddeus "Joe" Lawrence Profile Photo
1929 Joseph 2024

Joseph Thaddeus "Joe" Lawrence

November 23, 1929 — February 22, 2024


Joseph Thaddeus “Joe” Lawrence, 94, of Sanford, NC passed away peacefully on Thursday, February 22, 2024 at his home.

Joe was born in Sanford on November 23, 1929 to the late Thaddeus Mayo Lawrence, Jr. and Alice Taylor Pender Lawrence. Joe was the ninth of eleven children and was preceded in death by his siblings: Evelyn Leary Lawrence Blue and husband Gilbert, Hallie Pender Lawrence Jones and husband John, Cecil Mayo Lawrence and wife Hazel, Gladys Eloise Lawrence Botzis and husband Archie, Alice Taylor Lawrence Murray and husband Bill, Thomas Aubrey Lawrence, Sr. and wife Loleta, Roy Henderson Lawrence, William Walter “Bill” Lawrence and wife Isabel, Frederick Reid Lawrence and wife Mary Edna, and Cary Lee Lawrence.

Being born during the depression into such a large and loving family shaped Joe’s values, habits, and attitudes. He was taught to value family and education, to be resourceful, and to contribute and serve at church, home, and in his community. At the age of 11, he was a newspaper carrier, and at the age of 13, he delivered milk. In high school, Joe worked at Collins Press and as an usher at Temple Movie Theater. Joe always made the most out of every opportunity and experience. As a youngster, he was a Boy Scout, and as an adult, he enjoyed camping, hiking trips, and other scouting activities. He served on the Scouting Committee for years and enjoyed fellowship with many who still live in the area. Joe also served as an active member of the National Guard for six years.

Joe attended college at Campbell Junior College in Buies Creek, and while pursuing his studies, he worked as a roofer and brick mason assistant, as well as working at Sanford Tobacco Company in Aberdeen and Knoxville, Tennessee. He also took courses at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and during his time there as a student, he worked in the dining area at Lenior Hall to pay for his meals. Joe took a job at Saco-Lowell and then returned to Campbell College where he majored in business. Following his graduation in 1953, Joe served as office manager at Hallman Foundry, but he went on to work at Heins Telephone Company in November 1953 when one of the owners, Max Heins, offered him a position as plant accountant. Joe was later promoted to purchasing agent and then promoted to commercial manager, which is the position he held until retiring in December 1989 after 36 years with the company. Joe was also a long-time member of the Tar Heel Chapter of the Independent Telephone Pioneer Association and held many positions, including president, of this organization. He and his brother, Bill, set up an ITPA college scholarship, which allowed many children of telephone company families to receive help with their college expenses. 

Joe then turned his focus, time, and energy into volunteering at his church and growing organizations in his community. Joe was on the cradle roll at First Baptist Church of Sanford at birth, was baptized at age 14, and attended First Baptist Church throughout his life. He was a faithful member of the Brotherhood Sunday school class, which later combined with the Baraca Sunday school class, until his health kept him from attending. At FBC, he served as the attendance secretary for several Sunday school classes, volunteered on the church welcoming committee, the communion committee, and the preschool committee, as well as serving in many other roles over the years. Regarding his hometown, Joe was a Jaycee until aging out at age 36. He joined the Kiwanis Club of Sanford in 1974 and was an active member for 50 years, receiving the honor of Kiwanian of the Year. This club is credited with the founding and development of the Lee County Kiwanis Park. For more than two decades, he faithfully rang the bell for the Salvation Army on the day before Thanksgiving, which is the annual kick off day for the Red Kettle Campaign in Sanford. Active in the Downtown Sanford Redevelopment Corporation, Joe worked with leaders in the community to implement strategies to grow downtown Sanford and served as chairman of the group in 1990. With his love of history and amazing ability to recall events, dates, and local happenings, Joe was a vital member of the Railroad House Committee, serving as a museum guide on weekends and sharing remarkable facts and trivia about the town he loved with anyone that would listen. An avid reader, Joe could often be found in the Lee County Library pouring over newspapers and books of history. Joe enjoyed travel and felt blessed that he and Betty were able to go to 47 of the 50 states and take seven trips abroad together.

Joe was full of life, never met a stranger, and was always striving to grow in and live out his faith! He genuinely loved the Lord and loved people and wanted that to shape how he lived his life. Family was of utmost importance to Joe, and he valued every precious moment he spent with his wife, daughters, son-in-law, grandchildren, who affectionately called him “Papa Joe,” and his extended family. He was a man of his word and a true gentleman.

Joe is survived by his wife of nearly 60 years, Elizabeth “Betty” Stevens Smith Lawrence, daughter Elizabeth “Beth” Pender Lawrence Adcock and husband Paul Jeter Adcock of Sanford, daughter Susan Lee Lawrence of Wilmington, and grandchildren Joseph Albert Adcock and wife Sara Talley Adcock, Anna Elizabeth “Anna Beth” Adcock, and Sarah Lawrence Adcock. He is also survived by his sister-in-law Rebekah Smith Harvey and husband George Harvey, along with many nephews and nieces. 

A celebration of life service will be held at 11am on Saturday, March 9, 2024 at First Baptist Church in Sanford, NC on 202 Summitt Drive, followed by a time of fellowship and remembrance in the church fellowship hall.

Memorial contributions may be made to the First Baptist Church Capital Improvements Fund, 202 Summit Drive, Sanford, NC 27330. 

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Service Schedule

Past Services

Celebration of Life

Saturday, March 9, 2024

Starts at 11:00 am (Eastern time)

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Memorial Gathering

Saturday, March 9, 2024

Starts at 12:00 pm (Eastern time)

First Baptist Church Fellowship Hall

202 Summit Drive, Sanford, NC 27330

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