May 4, 2018. GREENSBORO, NC — It is with great sadness that the family of Joseph (Joe) F. Freeman, Jr., a beloved brother, husband, father, grandfather, and friend, announces his passing on May 1, 2018, at the age of eighty-six.
Born April 19, 1932, in High Point, North Carolina, Joe was the youngest of three children born to the late Joseph Franklin Freeman, Sr. and Thelma Horah Freeman.
Joe enjoyed a happy, idyllic childhood, and his most cherished early memories all involved his sisters, Phyllis and Joanne. In fact, it was the trio’s weekly treks to their local cinema that inspired Joe’s lifelong love of classic movies. Joe often remarked that he was truly blessed to have such loving and caring sisters, and he remained devoted to them throughout his life.
In 1940, Joe’s father relocated the family to Greensboro, to begin a longstanding career with Pilot Life Insurance Company (eventually retiring as vice president after 42 years of dedicated service). Joseph Senior’s legacy as a pioneer in establishing group insurance in the state of North Carolina and his unwavering commitment to philanthropic pursuits as a 32nd degree Mason, significantly influenced the man Joseph Junior was to become.
Joe attended Greensboro public schools and graduated from Grimsley High School. He then enrolled in the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill, where he received a bachelor’s degree in business administration and was a member of the Sigma Chi fraternity.
Inspired by his father’s profession, Joe established Freeman and Company, a general insurance agency based in Greensboro, NC. Over the next thirty-five years, Joe transformed Freeman and Co. from an initial start-up into a premier insurance agency serving countless businesses and families throughout the area. Joe also assumed a leadership role in state-level public policy planning for the insurance industry, working with the N.C. Department of Insurance to establish the assigned risk program and helping to oversee passage of the assigned risk law by the General Assembly.
Upon Joe’s retirement, Freeman and Co. was acquired by Accordia Life & Annuity Company. Determined to stay active during his retirement, Joe and his wife Natalie spent most of each year traveling between their residences in Wrightsville Beach, NC, Blowing Rock, NC, and Boyton Beach, FL. An avid golfer, Joe enjoyed hitting the links as a member of the Greensboro Country Club, the Blowing Rock Country Club, and the Quail Ridge Club. His mind remained sharp, and in between trips with Natalie, Joe could often be found watching CNBC and discussing the stock market with his son Andy at the offices of Freeman Apartments, the real estate investment and property management firm founded and managed by Andy since 1991.
As both of his sons were affiliated with Appalachian State University (Andy as a provider of student housing and Joseph III as an alumni), ASU was the primary focus of Joe’s post-retirement philanthropy. In 1989, with the expertise from spending his entire professional career in the insurance industry, Joe established the Joseph F. Freeman, III Distinguished Professorship of Insurance, in memory of his eldest son who passed away in a car accident. Joe served on the ASU Foundation Board from 1997 until 2015 and was honored as a “member emeritus” upon his retirement. Additionally, Joe was a founding member of the Guilford College Jaycees and served on the Finance Committee of the Blowing Rock Methodist Church for over 17 years.
Joe is survived by his wife of 37 years, Natalie Carter Freeman (of Greensboro, NC); his son Jonathan Andrews (Andy) Freeman, wife Channing and children Alex and Reagan (of Emerald Isle, NC and Houston, TX); and his two stepsons: Eric Rutherfurd, wife Joy and daughters Carter and Mary (of Asheville, NC), and Ian Rutherfurd, wife Nova and daughter Jacqueline (of Jakarta, Indonesia). Joe leaves behind his two beloved sisters, Phyllis F. Campbell (of Burlington, NC) and Joanne F. Mims (of Greensboro, NC) and five nieces: Karen C. Johnson and husband Steve (of Burlington, NC); Donna C. Harper and former husband Jimmy Harper (of Burlington, NC); Brenda C. Keany and husband Pat (of Greensboro, NC); Deborah M. Hunt and husband David (of Greensboro, NC); and Patricia M. Neill and husband Chip (of Gastonia, NC). Joe is also survived by five great-nieces, three great-nephews, one great-great-niece and one great-great-nephew.
Joe was preceded in death by his parents, Joseph F. Freeman, Sr. and Thelma Horah Freeman; his eldest son, Joseph F. Freeman, III; his first wife and mother to his children, Patsy Coble Freeman; and his two brothers-in-law, Norman J. Campbell and John B. Mims.
Before his death, Joe specifically requested that his obituary recognize his heartfelt appreciation for the incomparable care provided to him by his beloved son Andy during his declining health over the past five years.
A graveside funeral service for Joseph F. Freeman, Jr. will be held at Forest Lawn Cemetery on Friday, May 4, 2018 at 2 p.m. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to the Blowing Rock Methodist Church, P.O. Box 352, Blowing Rock, NC 28605 or to the charity of the donor’s choice. Hanes-Lineberry N. Elm Chapel is assisting the Freeman family.