Ernest J. O'Banion, Jr. of West Jefferson, NC passed at his home on February 15, 2019.
Ernest was born to Effie Zell and Ernest J. O'Banion, Sr. on January 31, 1931.
A native of Pelzer, SC, Ernest discovered the hospitality business as a career while working in food service during his service in the US Marines in the Korean War. Ernest always said the hospitality industry was the most rewarding business he could ever think of. After serving in the Marines, he returned to college at Mississippi State University and completed his bachelor's degree in Hotel Administration with a minor in Restaurant Administration from Oklahoma State University in 1957. Over the next several years, he managed hotels ranging from 200-400 rooms in Michigan, South Carolina and North Carolina for Travelers Management Corp. and the Jack Tar Corp. He also worked with Holiday Inn in Virginia, North Carolina and Tennessee.
His connection and love for Ashe County began as a visitor camping at Greenfield's in 1970. He and his wife, Frances moved permanently to Ashe County in 1988.
Ernest was active in organizations promoting travel and tourism, including the NC Hotel/Motel Association and the NC Travel Industry Association where he served as President of each Association. Locally, Ernest opened Nation's Inn, a 48-room facility managed by JEB Corporation in September 1994, to offer additional accommodations of high quality at a value price for visitors and business travelers to the area. Ernest was a member of the Ashe Chamber of Commerce, High Country Hosts, West Jefferson Revitalization Committee and was past president of New River Community Partners. He was one of the charter members of the High Country Marine Corps League. He was active member of Glendale Springs Presbyterian Church for 31 years and served as an Elder.
In 2017, Ernest received the inaugural Cabot Hamilton Community Advocacy Award presented by the Ashe County Chamber of Commerce recognizing an individual who exhibits genuine love for Ashe County, works collaboratively to bring people and organizations together in betterment of the community and demonstrates distinguished, yet selfless leadership.
Ernest is survived by his wife of 61 years, Frances, and generations of loving nieces and nephews.
Funeral services will be held Saturday, February 23, 2019 at Badger Funeral Home by Rev. Sidney Crunk and Rev. Paul Woodall. A private burial will be held in Ashelawn Memorial Gardens with military rites conducted by the Marines.
The family will receive friends from 1:00 pm to 2:00 pm on Saturday, February 23, 2019 at Badger Funeral Home.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to Medi-Home Hospice, P.O. Box 421, Jefferson, NC 28640, the Marine Corps League, High Country Detachment, P.O. Box 203, Jefferson, NC 28640, or Gideons, P.O. Box 993, West Jefferson, NC 28694.
You may send and view condolences through our website, www.badgerfuneralhome.com.
Badger Funeral Home and Ashelawn Memorial Chapel & Gardens were entrusted with Mr. O'Banion's arrangements.