Cover photo for Connie  Watkins Kearney's Obituary
Connie  Watkins Kearney Profile Photo
1954 Connie 2023

Connie Watkins Kearney

March 31, 1954 — October 14, 2023

Connie Kearney, 69, died October 14th following a long battle with Lewy Body Dementia. She is survived by her husband, Philip Henderson Kearney, daughters Kelsey McBane Kearney and Sarah Watkins Kearney, and sisters Belinda Watkins Rasmussen (John) of Durham and Karen “Suzie” Watkins Brincefield of Warrenton, VA.


A Durham native, Connie was the daughter of the late Percy Millard Watkins and Ione McBane Watkins. Her family owned the iconic Tip Top Fish House on Hillsborough Road, where she and her sisters worked beside their mother in their early years. Connie was a 1972 graduate of Northern High School (where she was named “wittiest”), and a 1976 graduate of N.C. State University, with a degree in Education.


Connie met Phil when they were both teachers at Neal Junior High School in 1980-81. Her big smile and Southern accent caught his eye, and her zest for life and love of friends and family sealed the deal. They were married at the end of the school year in 1982 and shared more than 40 years together in homes on Hermitage Court in their early years and on Chelsea Circle since 2000. Their beautiful girls were born in 1990 and 1992, and Connie was a devoted and involved mother in their lives and schools. Her daughters chose to move back to Durham from New York and South Carolina to be near their mother during these final years, a gift to all involved.


With her trademark energy and vibrant personality, Connie always seemed busy and enthusiastic about life. After teaching one more year at Lowe’s Grove Junior High, she leaned into her fashion sense and worked for Tura eyewear and then Etcetera clothing for the next three decades. Along the way, she became a certified etiquette instructor and taught Courtesy Camps at Durham Academy and Hope Valley Country Club.


Friendships mattered to Connie, and they bloomed in all parts of her life. She was involved in the Durham Junior League, the Durham Debutante Society, Hope Valley Garden Club, the Bull City Book Club, and a Bible study. She and Phil have been active members of their church, Trinity Avenue Presbyterian, for decades. With a group of neighbors, Connie walked in two Myrtle Beach marathons in 2004 and 2006, one just a year after she suffered a heart attack. In 2011, she and several friends did a 60 mile walk with the Susan G. Komen 3-Day Series in California.


The family is grateful for the kind and loving care of the angels who took care of Connie for these last five years: Debbie Strickland, Lynn Gullie, and Mardi Warner, as well as her hospice nurse Maria Gonzalez.


Funeral services are scheduled for Friday, October 20, at 11am at Trinity Avenue Presbyterian Church, 927 West Trinity Ave in Durham, with a reception to follow in the Fellowship Hall. The Rev. Dr. Katie Crowe will officiate.


In lieu of flowers, the family suggests contributions to Duke HomeCare and Hospice (4321 Medical Park Dr, Suite 101, Durham 27704) or to the Memorial Garden at Trinity Avenue Presbyterian Church. The family is under the care of Hall-Wynne Funeral Home.


To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Connie Watkins Kearney, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

Past Services

Memorial Service

Friday, October 20, 2023

Starts at 11:00 am (Eastern time)

Trinity Avenue Presbyterian Church

927 West Trinity Avenue, Durham, NC 27701

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