Rev. Dr. Wilford Clinton Manley Jr. (Will), age 87, passed away at Oaks at Salem Road in Beaufort, South Carolina, on December 15, 2021, after a lifetime of devotion and service to the Lord, his fellow man, and his large and loving family.
Will was born on November 24, 1934, to parents Wilford Clinton Manley Sr and Louise Andrews Manley, and grew up in Fort Meade, Florida. His childhood was shaped by a strong connection to the landscape and natural beauty of his homeland—wide vistas filled with live oaks, sabal palms, palmettoes, and cypress trees, all part of the ancient, primordial beauty he knew and loved as "Old Florida." Will was also nurtured by the love and care of his community and extended family, including Clifford and Tessie Mann.
From a young age Will was driven by a keen sense of spirituality and was known throughout Fort Meade as trustworthy and industrious. As a boy he shined shoes, delivered newspapers, chauffeured, and tended the town soda fountain; from there he worked his way through school and earned three higher education degrees, held positions in two hospitals, and served in the Marines and Navy.
Will met his wife, Karen Ann Wells, of Henderson, North Carolina, while she was a nursing student at Wake Forest School of Medicine. Beautiful and eager to help others, Karen volunteered at the mission church in which Will served as pastor as he pursued his MDiv at Southeastern Theological Seminary. Will and Karen married in 1963, raised four children in South Carolina, and celebrated the arrival of seven grandchildren. During the last twenty years of their lives together, Will and Karen lived in Johnson City, Tennessee, where they enjoyed the unfolding four seasons and mountain views. They also treasured time at their cabin on a creek in Roan Mountain, Tennessee, and at their home in Beaufort, South Carolina, on the Saint Helena Sound, before Karen passed away in 2019.
Although deeply humble, those closest to Will knew he had few equals. He was strong in the faith and known for his intuitive and compassionate connection to others and his genuine concern for their well-being. Will’s endless appreciation for the joyful nuances of life as well as his transparency and understanding of how to cope with loss and difficulty were things that he frequently shared.
Will was an exceptional and cherished counselor and clergyman. At the end of a long professional career in church and hospital settings serving those with mental health concerns as well as tending to the psychological and spiritual needs of combat veterans, Will retired as the chief of chaplains at James H. Quillen Veterans Administration Medical Center in Johnson City, Tennessee, and as a captain in the Naval Reserves. Wherever he went, whether helping a veteran found sleeping under a bridge or responding on the ground to the needs of those affected by natural disaster, Will brought a sense of healing, community, and hope to others.
Will Manley, brother, father, father-in-law, grandfather, and friend, will be deeply missed. One scripture that the family has turned to over the years for comfort is Psalm 121:1–2, “I lift up my eyes to the hills—from where will my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.”
Will was preceded in death by his sister, Gloria Jean Durrance, and is survived by his sons Graham (Sloan) and Ethan (Emily); daughter Jennifer (Ansel); grandchildren Jake, Henry, Sarah, Camille, Jack, Charlie, and Keller; brother Dewey Wells; sisters Kay Manley and Janice Thompson; sister-in-law Joann Wells; brothers-in-law Billy Thompson and Bobby Durrance; and many beloved nieces, nephews, and cousins.
A memorial service will be held on Friday, January 7, 2022, at 12:30, Central Baptist Church, Beaufort, South Carolina, with a graveside service at the Beaufort National Cemetery at 2:00 pm. In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts may be made to Central Baptist Church, 111 Prince Street, Beaufort, SC, 29902, or First United Methodist Church, 135 East Broadway Street, Fort Meade, FL.