Bill Farthing died Sunday, November 3, at Moses H. Cone Hospital. His affectionate and effervescent personality will be sadly missed by so many, as will his breathtaking photography. One to keep negatives in coffee mugs and cluttered drawers, many of Bill’s beautiful images die with him.
When asked once about sharing his work online, he replied, “No, no, no. I don’t want that. I have met every person who has ever bought my pictures. I have heard their stories, and they have heard mine.” The ninth child and youngest boy of 10 siblings, Bill grew up on a sprawling tobacco farm in Blanch, N.C., where he became fascinated with literally everything under the sun. Bill was graduated from Bartlett Yancey High School in Caswell County in 1948, then joined the Army in 1951. All of his life, he spoke of his Army travels and how his curiosities expanded in those two years away from his small hometown. Two weeks out of the Army, Bill embarked on both his 36-year career with Western Electric—later AT&T—and his 31-year marriage to Elsie Rebecca Davis of Greensboro. By 1961, when their daughter Cheri came along, Bill’s degree in engineering drawing at Guilford College was well underway but shelved as he became the most fun and caring father a little girl could ever have. Through the 1960s, Bill captured the world through his camera lens — and whether climbing lighthouses, peering off of tall buildings and out of helicopters or exploring the woods, his daughter was often in tow. The next two decades saw Bill’s professional photography flourish when he joined Greensboro Artists League, began entering juried exhibits and holding spaces in regional craft and mall shows. In 1985, his new home in High Point became his studio, the blank walls a canvas for many of his beautiful still lifes. Over the years, his compiled prints and “browse boxes” allowed him to gather a trunk load on Saturday mornings and take off for the Greensboro Farmers Market, where he became an institution and remained so for over 30 years until retiring in December 2016. He befriended everyone he met, his enduring curiosity drawing him to the diverse community of marketgoers. Recently, Bill had enjoyed accompanying his lone living sibling, Helen Ledford of Kernersville, to her book signings and exhibiting his photographs, some of which are featured in her books “Helen Jean Stories” and “The Mistletoe Tree,” about growing up on the family farm.
Besides his sister Helen, Bill is survived by numerous nieces and nephews; his daughter, Cheri King; grandson, Sterling King of Greensboro, and a loyal following of hummingbirds.
Friends and fans may gather Saturday, November 23, at 3:00 p.m. for a memorial service at Cumby Family Funeral Service on Eastchester Drive in High Point. A reception will immediately follow the service in the Life Tribute Center at Cumby’s. In lieu of sending flowers, it is believed that Bill would much prefer everyone to instead grab some while shopping one day and take them to a neighbor, co-worker or friend.
To send flowers to William's family, please visit our floral section.