ZEBULON — Leonard Ashpy Seawell wanted to captain this community safely and economically.
In his work at Seawell’s Used Cars, he’d resurrect old vehicles for use by local teens seeking their first wheels. He tinkered with town ordinances similarly, serving on the Zebulon Board of Commissioners for 14 years.
Seawell, a commissioner from 1977 to 1991, died July 26. He was 82. Family and friends described Seawell as a generous man who loved the town.
“If I ever asked him for anything, he always helped me,” said Zebulon Mayor Bob Matheny, who served as a commissioner with Seawell.
Years ago, the car of one of Matheny’s sons broke down near Greenville. Matheny said Seawell “lent me a front-wheel dolly.
“That was just the kind of thing he did,” Matheny added.
Seawell’s 54-year-old son, Michael, now works for CSX Rail in central Florida because of his father’s guiding hand.
“Sunday afternoons growing up, he’d take us down to Raleigh to see the railroads … He’d do it so he could spend time with us,” Michael Seawell said, referring to his 52-year-old brother, Malcolm.
On the town board, Seawell often looked at things differently than his peers.
“Quite frequently, he was the dissenting vote,” Michael Seawell said. “Sometimes he didn’t seem so popular, but he loved the town and the people in it.”
Rigy Massey, a lifelong friend, said Seawell regarded himself as a conservative who stuck up for the wants of taxpayers.
“Leonard marched to the beat of his own drummer … and voted his convictions,” Massey said. “He didn’t believe in spending a dollar when 75 cents might take care of it.”
Seawell’s vote on welcoming the Carolina Mudcats is a good example. Despite his lifelong love for baseball, he voted against accommodating the Mudcats because he didn’t think Zebulon could afford it, his daughter Alice Creech said.
Seawell fell short in his reelection bid in 1991. He retired from car sales in 1996. But he maintained a presence in town. Townsfolk often ran into him at the local Hardee’s or McDonald’s, Zebulon Baptist Church Rev. Jack Glasgow said.
“That’s where he liked to talk with friends about life, politics, religion or whatever over a biscuit and coffee,” Glasgow said. “He was a quiet man, but he was always a people-person – a good conversationalist.”
Creech, 47, says those kitchen table chats with her dad are what she’ll miss most.
“Me and my daddy talked every day,” she said. “Every Sunday, he’d come down to my house and eat with me and watch 60 Minutes.”
Somewhere, Seawell’s eating a biscuit and catching up with old friends, she hopes.