Ray Allen Killian, Sr.

February 7, 2020

CHARLOTTE - Mr Killian Sr., a World War II fighter pilot, businessman, author, devoted husband and hero to his family, passed away Friday, February 7,2020 at Sharon Towers in Charlotte. He was 97.
Ray was born May 9, 1922 to Albert Otto Killian and Cora Virginia Sipe Killian, the second youngest of eight children. From a farm near Conover, NC, Ray went to Washington, DC where he worked in research for the Navy and studied journalism. At the outset of World War II, he joined the Naval Flight Program and served as a fighter pilot on the aircraft carrier Hancock based in the Pacific, flying 54 missions and earning the Distinguished Flying Cross.
          After the war, Ray married Betty Lynn Pharr in 1947. Their marriage of 68 years served as the foundation for their love and dedication to family. Ray graduated from Lenoir Rhyne College and completed graduate work at UNC-Chapel Hill. He then joined Belk Store Services in 1949, resulting in a distinguished 44 year career with the organization, rising to be an executive vice president. Ray was also dedicated to helping others improve their business practices, authoring four books on leadership and business management. His forward thinking was illustrated by his book that advocated a greater leadership role for women in the workplace, published in 1971. More recently, he completed an autobiography. He also taught at Queens University and led training seminars throughout the U.S. and around the world. He served in a number of leadership positions with the American Management Association, The Profit Sharing Council of America and the NC Retail Merchant’s Association.
Ray was a dedicated Christian whose understated faith and wisdom inspired those around him. He was a deacon, elder and Sunday school teacher at Myers Park Presbyterian Church. Ray and Betty felt fortunate in having their children and grandchildren join their church and thus fill the “Killian pew” many Sunday mornings. Ray’s other activities included gardening, tennis, and teaching his grandchildren how to fish and waterski at Lake Wylie, SC.
         Ray was preceded in death by Betty, the love of his life. He is survived by his son, Ray Allen Killian Jr., and his wife Mary Claudia (Coco) Killian of Charlotte, NC; his daughter, Ann Killian Edgerton, and her husband, Thomas Arthur Edgerton, of Pinehurst, NC; his granddaughter Anna Edgerton Tinker, and her husband James Tinker, of Takoma Park, MD; his grandson Colston Arthur Edgerton, and his wife, Jessica Connett Edgerton, of Boston; his grandson Ray Allen (Rally) Killian III, and his wife Alison Woodruff Killian, of Charlotte, NC; his granddaughter, Mary Gates Killian, of Atlanta, GA; and his great-grandson Thomas Colston Edgerton.
         A service to celebrate the life of Ray Killian, Sr., will be held at Myers Park Presbyterian Church on Tuesday, February 11, at 2:00, visitation will follow in Oxford Hall. Burial is private. Reverend Dr. Millie Snyder will officiate.
         The family would like to thank the loving and caring staff of Sharon Towers and Hospice. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorials be sent to Myers Park Presbyterian Church, 2501 Oxford Place, Charlotte, NC 28207 or Sharon Towers, 5100 Sharon Road, Charlotte, NC 28210.

 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 www.kennethpoeservices.com.

Share your memories & condolences


  • Brian Legg

    I had the privilege of meeting Mr. Killian Sr. a few years ago. I came away from there feeling so incredibly honored to have spent those few moments with him. We talked about his WWII experiences as he showed me the many photographs from some of his missions and his time in the Pacific. What an amazing man, one of the Greatest Generation, one willing to go and serve in the largest war of his century. A true war hero! May the Lord receive your spirit into His presence.

  • Patricia Killian-Eckard Hare

    So sorry to hear of great uncle Ray’s passing. He was an outstanding person and my mother, Lucy Killian
    Eckard, had such fond memories of him. Our thoughts and prayers to the family, from the Killians in Ohio.

  • Ada Whitten Singleton

    My heart broke when I read of Mr. Ray Killian’s passing. I remember him well from the old days at Belk Store Services. He was a fine and kind gentleman. He will be greatly missed. The family is in my thoughts and prayers.

  • Diane Neil Maye

    Hi, Ray. You may not remember me, but we were at St. Andrews together when I was a freshman and sophomore before I transferred to Carolina. I remember our riding together to and from Charlotte to St. Andrews a time or two, once with my mom and once with a friend of mine, Randy Charles. I lived in Huntersville, as I do now. I saw your dad's obituary and wanted to extend my condolences to your family. Also, I think I read about your wife's father's passing recently, as well. I do not know your wife, nor did I know her parents, but I remember teaching Hardy when I taught English at North Mecklenburg. Also, Dr. McConnell was a good friend of Ralph Hall, a pharmacist, who worked at my dad's drugstore in Huntersville. Ralph had a house off Gray Road that overlooked a lake, and I think Dr. McConnell owned property beside Ralph. Nonetheless, I want to also relay condolences to your wife and her family. Blessings and peace to all.

  • Susan Morris

    My sincere sympathy goes out to your family. I always loved seeing Mr and Mrs Killian around Sharon Towers. He took such good care of her and she always was dressed so beautifully. What a dedicated couple! They made an impact on my life.
    Love to all - Susan Byerly Morris (Guy & Sadie Byerly’s daughter)

  • Darrell E Williams

    Mr. Killian was my boss at Belk for 16 years, and he was a great one. He was an innovative leader who helped bring professional management and communications/public relations practices into the Belk organization starting in the early 50s. The Belk employee newsletter he established in 1952 (Busy Bees) is still being published today under the View Magazine name! For years, he and Betty would host a Christmas party in their home for those of us who worked for him, and also fun outings at their home on Lake Wylie. He was a good man who gave me the opportunity for a career at Belk that lasted 35 years. He recruited and hired hundreds of other talented people for Belk, many of whom became top leaders in the company. He was a blessing to me, and I will always appreciate and fondly remember the time spent with him.

  • Linda Price

    I am saddened by the loss of Ray Killian! A friendly wonderful man who taught me so much about life. I will miss him and Betty so much. They were always so kind and patient.

  • Janice Hinson

    It is with great sadness that I read this post. I worked in the human resources department for many years at Belk store services and worked under the leadership of Mr. Ray Killian. Over the years I got to know Mr. Killian and his family and was blessed to have such a wonderful boss and leader during those years. He was an extraordinary man, with a wealth of wisdom and one of the greatest leaders that the Belk organization had.

  • Jeanne Barefoot

    My husband and I admired this man so much. He and his wife were invited to my husband's surprise birthday party at our home. Since my husband worked for him we were hoping he might come to the party. He and his lovely wife Betty came and we had a wonderful time celebrating the birthday. He helped and advised my husband on matters about training personnel and continued to help my husband with his job. When I saw his obituary in the paper today I thought of him and his wife and wanted to express my sorrow at his passing as well the death of Betty.

  • Nagy Family

    Prayers to the Killian family.
    Mr. Killian was kind man.