Milton Lee Garrison

April 1, 2022

Even after the cancer diagnosis, Lee Garrison never felt sorry for himself. If he sensed self-pity coming on, he would think of all the other people in the world who faced hardships. “C’mon Lee,” he’d say to himself, then focus on his good fortune. He devoted his career to selling soft drinks and world travel – putting smiles on people’s faces, he said. He traveled to 96 countries on six continents, discovering the beauty of the world and the goodness of its people.

Milton Lee Garrison experienced heartbreak when he lost his wife Mary to cancer at age 43. But her wisdom and strength rubbed off on him. He died on April 1, 2022, thankful to God for all his blessings. He was 83.

Lee was born on November 18, 1938, the youngest of William Barnette and Rebecca Snyder Garrison’s three sons. He grew up in Gastonia, was educated in Gastonia public schools and Woodberry Forest School in Woodberry Forest, Virginia, then earned a B.A. degree in History from UNC-Chapel Hill in 1963. There he was president of Sigma Alpha Epsilon. After six months studying at Sorbonne University in Paris, he returned home to become Vice President and Director of Coca-Cola Bottling Company Consolidated and Consolidated Coin Caterers, both in Gastonia. In 1974, he became manager of the Danville (Virginia) Coca-Cola Bottling Company Consolidated and served on the board of the Virginia Soft Drink Association.

His passion for travel led him to start a travel agency, Trans-Charlotte, Incorporated, which opened the door for a lifetime of adventure. How he loved exploring a country’s history, trying its cuisine, meeting its people. Lee traveled to both Vietnams, both Koreas, India, China, Russia, Antarctica, London (numerous times) and half of South America among other places. He never made it to Greenland or Iceland. People always asked him his favorite. It was impossible to say, though he did give a hint: “Everybody loves Italy.”

He shared his good fortune with the former Mary Shaw Garrison of Charlotte. Molly, as she was known, was a family friend who became much more. Lee and Molly were married in 1968 and settled in Charlotte, where they raised their son, Shaw. Molly was 43 years old when Lee lost her to cancer on November 15, 1987. She never complained, he said, no matter how much she suffered.

Lee is survived by his son, John Shaw Garrison of Raleigh; two grandchildren, Thatcher and Amelia Garrison of Raleigh; several nieces and nephews and many treasured friends. He was preceded in death by his wife, Mary Shaw “Molly” Garrison, and two brothers, William Barnette Garrison, Jr. and Luther Snyder Garrison,

Lee was grateful for James Williams, who provided kindness and care when Lee needed it most.

From beginning to end, Lee filled his life with goodness. He was proud of being an Eagle Scout. He never forgot childhood summers in Blowing Rock. After retiring in 2004, he loved the winters he spent in Key West, Florida. He served on the boards of Coca-Cola Bottling Company Consolidated, First Union National Bank in Gastonia, Charlotte Museum of History, Mint Museum, and Key West Art & Historical Society. He painted in oils and helped establish the Charlotte Polo Club. At one time, he was a partner in Apple Tree Farm in Lincoln County. An avid reader, especially of history, he half-joked that he hoped the cancer held off long enough for him to finish whatever book he was reading at the time.

A service to celebrate Lee’s life will be at 11:00 AM on Saturday, April 30., 2022 at Myers Park United Methodist Church, 1501 Queens Road, Charlotte. Visitation will follow at the church.

A gift in Lee’s memory can be made to Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center at UNC – Chapel Hill. Visit or send a check to UNC – Chapel Hill (Lineberger Cancer Center in the memo line), PO Box 309, Chapel Hill, NC, 27514-0309. Gifts are also encouraged to the charity of your choice.

Lee asked that the service celebrating his life include a reading of the poem “Crossing the Bar” by the British poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson. The first verse speaks of peace at the end…

          Sunset and evening star,

          And one clear call for me!

          And may there be no moaning of the bar,

          When I put out to sea.

Arrangements are in the care of Kenneth W. Poe Funeral & Cremation Service, 1321 Berkeley Ave., Charlotte, NC; 28204 (704) 641-7606. Online condolences can be shared at

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  • Crystal O. Plummer

    Mr. Garrison was a long time client and friend. He was such a delight. For years he requested that I call him Lee but I always called him Mr. Garrison. It just felt right. He was a true gentleman and I will always have fond memories of him.

  • Stephanie Noonan

    May God Bless you dear Lee and the loved ones you’ve left behind. I treasure the memories we shared of our times spent together years ago in Blowing Rock and Charlotte. Good times and happy times. I still miss Molly and now you dear friend.

  • Rosalie Reynolds

    Farewell to a dear friend. We'll be seeing each other again in heaven.

  • Willie Hobson

    Lee was a longtime neighbor & friend. My most memorable time that I spent with Lee was many years ago, while on a ski trip to Aspen with a Charlotte Country Day School Spring Break group of students & parents, when he and I spent an evening sharing personal stories. He was really a good guy. We lost touch for several years.Then, a couple± years ago, we ran into each other in a barbershop, and “caught up,”