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Marion Hays McNair of Laurinburg and Montreat, North Carolina, died peacefully on January 17, 2024, at age 86, following a lengthy illness. She was the fourth and youngest child born to Robert S. Hays and Marion Duncan Hays in Durham, North Carolina, on July 3, 1937. Affectionately known as “Little Bit,” she grew up steeped in family, friends, and golf, all of which she cherished throughout her wonderful life.
Extraordinarily athletic from an early age, Marion graduated with honors from Durham High School where she made lifelong friends and was voted “Most Athletic,” excelling in golf, softball, volleyball, horseback riding and cheerleading. After high school, she attended Sullins College in Bristol, Virginia, where she was a member of the equestrian program prior to being appointed by Senator Sam Ervin as an American Pavilion Guide at the 1958 World’s Fair in Brussels, Belgium. While there, she also served as a reporter for The Durham Herald. Marion loved sharing stories from that incredibly special experience, including a treacherous Atlantic crossing aboard the SS America.
Continuing her studies at UNC Chapel Hill upon her return, Marion joined Alpha Delta Pi sorority and met her future husband of 63 years, James A. McNair, on a blind date. She was among the first to play for a newly organized women’s golf program at UNC, nearly winning the Women’s National Collegiate Golf Championship in 1959. She graduated in 1960 with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and a love for Chapel Hill that never faded.
Married on October 14, 1960, Marion and Jim moved to Laurinburg where their two beloved children were born. A power couple both on the golf course and in the kitchen, they were founding members of RSVP supper club in 1966 which continues to this day. When the family moved to Raleigh, and then Charlotte, Marion got deeply involved in meaningful ways. She was on the board of Alexander Children’s Home and Presbyterian Hospital Foundation, and a member of the Charlotte Assembly. She was a member of the host committee for the Quail Hollow Seniors Tournament and helped organize fundraisers and art shows. In recognition for her service to others, Marion was awarded The Order of the Long Leaf Pine by Governor James B. Hunt in 1981.
Marion also enjoyed bridge, being a Girl Scout troop leader and Bible Study Fellowship, in addition to running a successful catering business. A prolific cook and gifted host, she loved gathering friends and family around the table and always kept a supply of frozen chicken tetrazzini on hand to take to a friend in need.
No matter where they lived, Marion always enjoyed a second home nestled in the North Carolina mountains, having married into a multi-generational attachment to Montreat. This was her happy place. She embraced the traditions, history, and people that make Montreat so special, and that the family continues to enjoy today. Marion and Jim retired to Montreat and Pinehurst in 1997 before declining health led to her move to Scotia Village in Laurinburg and later to The Pines in Greenville, SC.
Marion will be remembered with joy for the abundant care, generosity, kindness and love she showered on those around her and for the indomitable spirit she brought to every aspect of her life.
She was preceded in death by her parents and her three siblings: Robert Samuel Hays, Jr., Laura Hays Frazier, and Julius Duncan Hays. She is survived by her husband, James A. McNair, her children, Alexander Fairley McNair (Mary John) of Greenville, SC, and Jane McNair Marr (Al) of Wilmington, NC, precious grandchildren Mary Elizabeth McNair, Stewart Marr, Hays Marr and Walter Marr, and many nieces and nephews whom she treasured.
A service to celebrate the life of Marion Hays McNair will be held at Laurinburg Presbyterian Church at 1:00 pm on Friday January 26th, conducted by Pastor John Stanley. The family will receive friends afterward in the church Fellowship Hall.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be sent to Laurinburg Presbyterian Church, 600 West Church Street, Laurinburg, NC 28352, or the Montreat Conference Center Wilderness Maintenance Fund, PO Box 969, Montreat, NC 28757.
Bumgarner Funeral Home is serving the McNair family. Online condolences may be made at https://www.bumgarnerfunerals.com