Cover photo for Howard Lentis "H. L." Sorrell, Jr.'s Obituary
Howard Lentis "H. L." Sorrell, Jr. Profile Photo
1938 H. L. 2022

Howard Lentis "H. L." Sorrell, Jr.

March 16, 1938 — December 27, 2022



Howard Lentis “H.L.” Sorrell Jr., aged 84, of Coats, NC passed away in the presence of his loving family at the Wake Medical Center in Raleigh, NC on December 27th. H.L. was born on March 16, 1938 to the late Howard Lentis and Maude Penny Sorrell. He was preceded in death by his sister, Helen Stephenson; brothers, Billy, Willie Joe, and Don Sorrell.  He is survived by his loving wife of 59 years, Madeline Gayle Johnson; his daughter, Lenee Sorrell Smith and husband John Blair “J.B.” of Fuquay, NC; his son, Dr. Howard Bryan Sorrell and wife Elizabeth of Virginia Beach, VA.: his grandchildren- Blair and Edwin Smith and Ethan and Austin Sorrell; his brother Keith and wife Linda; his sisters Betty Lou Sorrell and Opal Coats.


H.L. was a hardworking man who loved his family, his community, and his church. H.L. graduated from East Carolina University with the support of his Aunt Nell Penny Williams. He taught Business Administration and Drivers Education for 30 years in the Harnett County Schools teaching over 8,000 students. He was the Director of Driver Education for the Harnett County School System and served on the N.C. State Board of Directors of Driver Education. He served as President, Vice President, Secretary, and Treasurer of the Capital Area Driver Traffic Safety Education Association which earned him an Outstanding Service Award.


He enjoyed making a difference in the lives of individuals and in the community through the church, civic organizations, and various foundations. He served as Chairman of Harnett County Board of Commissioners, Chairman of the Eastern NC County Council Chamber of Commerce, and Director of the NC Association of County Commissioners. Because of his dedication, he received the first County Leader of the Year Award from the Eastern NC Chamber of Commerce as well as the Mid Carolina Council of Government- M.H. “Jack” Brock Memorial Award.


He was inducted into the Hall of Fame for NC Educators from East Carolina University, for Cleveland High School, and the Coats Area Chamber of Commerce. He was recognized by the NC Community Foundation as an “Unsung Hero” for his dedication to philanthropic giving and service in his roles as President, Vice President, Secretary, and Treasurer of the Harnett County Community Fund. He was instrumental in setting up three scholarships and one endowment with the NCCF. He was the Chairman of the Harnett County Retired School Personnel Scholarship and the Legislative Committees.


His community service enabled him to help promote the town, county, and state through several roles. He was President of the Kiwanis Club of Coats, earning Distinguished President, Distinguished Member, and President’s Awards recognitions. He served as Distinguished Lieutenant Governor for the Carolinas District of Kiwanis International. He was Kiwanis Ambassador of the Year. He chaired the Kiwanis Golf Tournament for 13 years which raised over a quarter of a million dollars which went back into projects for the Coats community. He served on the Coats Centennial Committee and was the current chairman of the Coats Museum Board. He was recognized as the Coats Area Chamber of Commerce Man of the Year in 1996 and 2013.


H. L. was the former Treasurer, Elder, Deacon, and Trustee at Ebenezer Presbyterian Church as well as the Men’s Sunday School Teacher for over 50 years. He served as chairman for many of the capital improvement projects at Ebenezer Church such as the addition of stained glass windows, the steeple, a paved parking lot, carillons, and the addition of the fellowship hall with classrooms.


H.L. was a man of his word who always strived to be fair, equal, civil, professional, and helpful to his family, friends and neighbors.  He was a loving and supportive husband to his wife Gayle. H.L. adored his parents, his children and four grandchildren. He would have built a ladder to the moon if anyone of them had wanted to go there. He set the example that giving was more important than receiving. H.L. found joy in teaching his grandchildren how to drive, the patience of fishing and the beauty created by gardening.

While serving in all his varied projects, he never asked anyone to do anything that he himself had or would not do.

He always said that there are two very important dates in the life of everyone- the birth date and the death date; however, he would always make a point that the dates were not as important as the dash that connected those two dates. He would say “That dash is all that matters”.

There will be a Celebration of Life for H.L. in the spring of 2023 for family, friends and those whose life he touched in a positive way. The Coats Museum News column in the Friday editions of the Daily Record, the Coats Heritage and Cotton Museum website and Ebenezer Presbyterian Church website along with family social media will share more info after the event details are finalized.


 The family requests in lieu of flowers, memorials may be made in his honor to the Coats Museum -P.O. Box 1294, Coats, NC 27521.


Arrangements by Rose & Graham Funeral Home in Coats.



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