Willard Edward Southerland, age 76, a lifelong resident of Pineville, Kentucky, passed away on Thursday, March 16, 2023, at St. Joseph’s Hospital in London, Kentucky. He was born on October 10, 1946, to the late Lester and Nancy (Boatright) Southerland.
Willard served his country in the U.S. Army, Infantry I Division, from 1966-1968, during the Vietnam War. After his active duty, he continued to serve through his work with the local veteran community. He was a longtime member of the Tri State Veteran’s Center, Middlesboro, Kentucky. Willard’s desire to honor veterans in the larger community resulted in his work with former Magistrate, John Brock, his brother-in-law Jr. Gray, and many others to establish the first Veteran’s Memorial Park, on Highway 119 in Pineville, Kentucky. This park served as the start of several other Memorial Parks located throughout Bell County. Willard was a member of the Harlan Honor Guard, Harlan, Kentucky. He also served the community with his 31-year membership on the Bell County Volunteer Fire Department.
Following his military service, Willard worked as a heavy equipment mechanic for Mid-South Mack in Middlesboro, Kentucky, where he was the first off-highway service specialist, taking Mack’s Big 4 type of service to a new level. He later worked for Sandy Fork Mining, Andolex and the Bell County Road Department, where he was forced into early retirement due to injury. When Willard was not working on equipment at his job, he always had a “project”, a vehicle or another piece of equipment, at home as a side job. In his work he was regarded as highly skilled, but this was not the result of any formal training. His knack for fixing things was evident when, at young age, his interest in “tinkering” with bicycles and other types of small equipment revealed a natural ability. This experience helped prepare him for the work he so loved. Although Willard’s formal education ended in the 10th grade, when he left school to start working, he decided to pursue a GED while he was in his fifties. Not only was he awarded a diploma, but also achieved the highest scores in his class and the senior class at that time.
Willard is survived by his beloved wife of fifty-four years, Carol Cox Southerland of Pineville, Kentucky; his sons, Michael Southerland and C.J. Southerland, both of Pineville, Kentucky; daughter Shelley Southerland Brock and her husband, David, of Pineville, Kentucky; and his grandchildren that he loved so much, Savannah Southerland, Cooper Brock, Tucker Brock, Ryder Southerland, and Ellie Grace Welch Southerland; brothers, Leroy Southerland and (Paul) Dean Southerland; and sister, Anna Sue Gray. He also leaves behind a host of nieces and nephews that loved him so much. Most considered him a second dad and referred to him as “Uncle Willie”!
Willard loved being the comedian of the family and shared his sense of humor often with anyone around. Making others laugh was easy for him. Willard was a hard-working, true “family man” who was loved by many.
In addition to his parents, Willard was preceded in death by his brothers, Lester Southerland, Jr., James Southerland, and David Herman Southerland; sisters, Dorothy Lee Stephenson, Joann McCann, Edna Mae Southerland, Nancy Louise Southerland, and Peggy Lou Southerland.
The family would like to extend a special thank you to Dr. Alam Kahn, neurologist, and the wonderful ICU staff of St. Joseph’s Hospital, London, Kentucky. Their compassionate care was far and above anything the family could have asked for during this difficult time.
The family of Willard Edward Southerland will receive friends on Tuesday, March 21, 2023, from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. at the Cawood Funeral Home Chapel, Middlesboro, Kentucky. Funeral services will follow at 7:00 p.m. with Reverend David Gibbons presiding. Music will be provided by the Whipple Baptist Church Singers.
A graveside service, with full military honors, will be held at Balkan Cemetery, Balkan, Kentucky on Wednesday, March 22, 2023 at 2:00 p.m. The funeral procession will be lead by the Bell County Volunteer Fire Department.
Pallbearers will be members of the Bell County Volunteer Fire Department.
Online guestbook and condolences are available at www.cawoodfh.com.
All arrangements for Willard Edward Southerland are under the care of Cawood Funeral Home, Middlesboro, KY.