Rex Burney Jarrell Jr. died at home in Raleigh, N.C. on March 10, with his loving life partner of 13 years, Mary Martorella, by his side. He was 83. His death was sudden but painless. He was a warm and loving life partner, father, grandfather, brother, and friend to many around the world, with a remarkable zest for life and compassion for all living beings. A practical idealist, he devoted his career to education, believing in lifelong learning as the best path to justice and equality for all.

Rex was born on March 8, 1934 in Brooklyn, N.Y. to Rex and Jeanette Jarrell. Early in his life, the family returned to Rex Sr.’s native Wilmington, N.C., eventually settling in Durham in the late 1930s. Rex Sr. managed and later bought what became The Diamond Farm Center in downtown Durham, where Rex Jr. and his five siblings all worked. Rex graduated All-state in football from Durham High School in 1952. He then served in the U.S. Navy Reserve from 1952 to 1960 and was an active duty hospital corpsman (HM3) from 1954 to 1956, during which time he also attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Rex graduated from Atlantic Christian College (now Barton College) in Wilson, N.C. in 1960, and taught in Jonesboro, Ga., before joining one of the first Peace Corps Volunteer groups under President John F. Kennedy. He had the honor of meeting the President as well as Eleanor Roosevelt before embarking on his service in Bo, Sierra Leone, West Africa from 1961 to 1963, where he was an educator at a teacher’s college.

Following the Peace Corps, he taught at the North Carolina Advancement School, the first integrated residential boys’ school in the state, where he met his wife of 10 years, Dianne E. Smith. During that time, he received a master’s in counseling psychology from Antioch College. He then taught at the Philadelphia Advancement School before moving to Martha’s Vineyard with Dianne and their three children in 1971, where he worked as a guidance counselor in the Edgartown and Oak Bluffs elementary schools, then became acting superintendent of the Island’s schools before moving to work in Lexington. After two years in the Boston area, Rex brought his collaborative and innovative spirit to Columbia, S.C., where he was part of statewide efforts in team building, introducing methods such as Outward Bound style ropes courses, and the work of Stephen Covey to administrative staff via private/public partnerships. In 1996, he fulfilled a long-held dream to volunteer at the Olympics, which he proudly carried out in Atlanta, Ga. that summer. He formally retired and moved back to Durham in 1999 to care for his parents, then eventually moved to Raleigh in 2005, where he lived with his life partner, Mary. During these years, he brought his career full circle by working at the admissions department at UNC, Chapel Hill, where his responsibilities included review of Morehead Scholarship applications, bringing him great satisfaction into and beyond his 80th year.

Rex and Mary lived a joy-filled life together for 13 years, sharing their mutual love for their children and grandchildren as well as their many interests, which included travel, nature, the arts, politics and a strong belief in the power of early education.

A dreamer, an idealist, a man with deep reverence for nature and a soft spot for animals and children, Rex was adored and will be dearly missed by his family and the many people whose lives he touched.

In addition to Mary, Rex is survived by his son, Rex B. Jarrell 3rd of West Tisbury, and children Maisie and Gwendolyn; Jennifer Jarrell, her partner Joe Mai and children Huck and Nell of Florence; Kathleen Jarrell DeCarvalho, her husband Kas and children Nico and Nadia of Barrington, RI.;. by Mary’s children, Chris Martorella, his wife Laura and children Peter, Alex and Bobby of Atlanta, Ga.; Tim Martorella, his wife Dana and children Parker and Grant of Miami Beach, Fla.; and Laura Martorella, her partner Nicholas Rogowski and his daughter Maya of Oceanside, Calif He is also survived by his siblings: Ronald Jarrell and his wife Jean, of Graham, N.C.; Linda Eckenhoff and her husband Ted of Southampton, N.J.; Phillip Jarrell and his wife Judy of Freemont, Calif; Mary Ann Haverland and her husband Larry of Burlington, N.C.; and Mark Jarrell and his wife Lois of Chapel Hill, N.C..

A celebration of Rex’s life will be held for family and friends in the afternoon on April 23 at Camp Lapihio in Umstead State Park, Raleigh, N.C..

In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to the Wake County Smart Start Scholarship Fund as a tribute to Rex B. Jarrell Jr. at