OBITUARY

Kel Landis III

December 15, 1956January 2, 2021

Howard Kelly Landis III passed away peacefully at his home on January 2, 2021 following a heroic two-year battle with cancer. He fought the disease much like he lived his life - with determination and persistence, strength, grace and humility.

Kel was a wonderful, loving husband, father, grandfather, son, brother, uncle, friend and mentor. He was a respected business and civic leader, and deeply loved by many people around the state and beyond. Kel valued the intrinsic worth of all people. And those who got to know him felt that appreciation and were lifted up by his friendship. He was one of those special leaders who had the gift of making good things happen and inspiring others to follow him in his goodness.

The list of accomplishments seems far too long for just one man. Governor Cooper recently awarded him the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, the state’s highest civilian honor. He served the state in so many ways. As senior economic advisor to the Governor in 2005, Kel worked to grow small businesses, his passion, particularly in Eastern NC. A two-time graduate of the University of NC at Chapel Hill, he loved the university and gave generously of his time and talent. He served on the UNC-CH Board of Trustees, chaired and served on the board of the Kenan Flagler Business School and the UNC Board of Visitors. He was a member of the UNC Foundation’s Board of Directors, and served on the board of the Kenan Flagler Institute for Private Enterprise. He received the William Richardson Davie award given to those who exemplify dedication, commitment and service to the University from the UNC Board of Trustees in 2019. He was a Trustee of the NC Supplemental Retirement Fund, and former chair of the NC Bankers Association.

He grew up in Rocky Mount with his mother, Corinne Etheridge Landis and late father, Howard Kelly Landis Jr., affectionately known in the community as “Big Kel” and his brother, Mark. He loved his hometown and never lost sight of his roots. He earned his Eagle Scout designation at age 15.

Kel’s influence in business was remarkable. He was named the first CEO of RBC Centura Bank in the United States and expertly guided the company through a series of mergers and acquisitions. He went on to become a founding managing partner of Plexus Capital, taking it from an idea to managing 1.5 billion dollars in assets and being named SBIC of the year by the Small Business Administration. He was so proud of his team, and loved his partners like family. Kel also served on the board of Live Oak Bank where he was honored to support the team that took it from a niche bank in 2008 to the very successful publicly traded enterprise it is today. He formed deep and enduring friendships with his partners at LOB. Kel was on the board of the NC Community Foundation, formerly served as a trustee of Elizabeth State University, and was chair of the capital campaign for the YMCA in his hometown of Rocky Mount. He was a proud William Friday Fellow for Human Relations, and most recently worked to raise the funds needed to build the NC Freedom Park, honoring the African American struggle for freedom. But of all of his accomplishments, he was most proud of his two extraordinary children and two grandchildren.

In 2014, Kel published “The Little Book of Do” - a road map of the principles that served him so well in life. “It is not the achievement of goals that makes life rich and fulfilling” he wrote, “but the journey in pursuit of those goals.” Howard Kelly Landis III’s life journey left an indelible mark on North Carolina and on the many people he touched during his life.

He is survived by his devoted and loving wife, Nina Szlosberg-Landis; his daughter, Dorsey Tobias, son-in-law Jeff Tobias, two grandsons, Capson and Walter Tobias; his son, HK Landis IV; his mother, Corinne Landis; his brother, Mark Landis and his wife, Margaret; and his nephews, Fred, Mac and Henry.

There are countless friends and relatives the family wishes to thank for their support and generosity these past few years. We felt the power of your love always which sustained us through the many difficult days we endured.

The family will hold a small private service at St Michael’s Episcopal Church in the outside garden, in accordance with Covid guidelines. A celebration of life will be held at a later date so Kel’s many friends and colleagues can honor the life of this gifted and special man.

Given these difficult times for so many, the family urges those who wish to convey condolences, to consider a contribution in Kel’s name to the Food Bank of Central and Eastern NC or other organization helping those in need. Food Bank Donation Link, https://secure.foodbankcenc.org/site/Donation

Arrangements by Brown-Wynne, Saint Mary's St., Raleigh.

Services

  • The family will hold a small private service at St Michael’s Episcopal Church in the outside Memorial Garden, in accordance with Covid guidelines. A celebration of life will be held at a later date so Kel’s many friends and colleagues can honor the life of this gifted and special man.

Memories

Kel Landis III

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Adam Gerdts

January 12, 2021

During my time working with Kel at UNC Kenan-Flagler in his role as chair, I felt like we really connected. He could make anyone with whom he interacted feel special, seen and valued. He transformed all the parts of UNC for the better and left such a lasting positive impact on the institution about which he cared so deeply. I wish Nina, Kel's children and grandchildren comfort and healing. To his Carolina family, there will never be another like him. To the Plexus family, I know what you all have lost and I mourn his absence for you all there as well. I'm sad I've been away from Carolina these past few years to share prayers and healing wishes for Kel while in NYC. May his memory be a blessing to all that knew him.
Adam Gerdts

Andrea Nixon

January 12, 2021

I was heart-broken to hear that Kel had left this world...such a great loss for your family. He had a huge and positive impact on so many people during his short time on this planet and I feel blessed that our paths were able to cross at RBC Centura Bank. I will always remember Kel for his unbounded energy (fueled by his love of running), his ‘we can do this’ attitude, the love he had for his family, and the pride he had of his hometown community of Rocky Mount. I remember fondly the warm welcome he provided to me and my family as new members to that community. I hope you are able to draw comfort from each other and the knowledge of Kel’s enduring impact on so many others.

Andrea Nixon

David Knowles

January 11, 2021

Nina,
Kel was such an extraordinary person and passionate advocate for our community, state and country. As a member of the Kenan Institute Board of Advisors, he fervently believed in and supported our mission in so many ways, all borne of the deep love he had for UNC Chapel Hill and for the state of North Carolina.

May you and your family find peace and solace in this difficult time.

Rest in peace, Kel.

On behalf of the entire staff at the Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise,
-David Knowles

Rebecca Whitehead

January 10, 2021

Nina, Dorsey and HK. I was very fortunate to have crossed paths with Kel at work in Rocky Mount. I considered him a mentor and professional advisor. Not many people in the world have such a high level character as Kel .

He would often take time out of his busy schedule to offer kind words of praise and advice to me through the years. He would then share his praise with friends and family members. I would often find out what he said during a brief encounter with one of you. I am grateful to have known him. I feel he made me a better person. He will be dearly missed by many.

William Kincheloe

January 9, 2021

Dear Kel, we spent many pleasant and productive hours together in your early years. We worked together at the banks and on their BOARDS while YOU were making Centura and RBC banks to be envied and I was learning what commerce and bankers were all about.

YOU will be remembered by many, and your family will miss you but respect your memory forever. Thank You KEL for sharing your priceless being with us all.

Bill

Al Segars

January 8, 2021

Kel's smile, sense of humor, homespun wisdom, and stories are a treasured memory for me. He changed the room with his presence and his energy. I am very proud to be the holder of the RBC Chair that he created for UNC and Kenan-Flagler. I am even more proud that he thought I was deserving of the honor. Each time I was around Kel, I wanted to be more like him. He will be missed, we all benefitted from his kind spirit.

Rob Gelblum

January 7, 2021

So, so sorry, Nina.

Vince Durham

January 7, 2021

I extend my deepest sympathy to all of the Landis and Tobias families. Kel was special and a true leader who was not afraid to get involved in any cause he felt was important. My interactions with him over the years in Rocky Mount were always insightful, entertaining and positive. We have lost a true friend who will be deeply missed but well remembered.

Don Harrison

January 7, 2021

My prayers go out to Kel's family for their loss. I grew up with Kel, since our parents were best friends and lived only a block away on West Haven Blvd. My twin sister, Beth, and I had lots of fond memories growing up together with the Landises. I have not seen Kel much over the past 40 years as I moved/lived out of state after graduation. Therefore, I was amazed and so proud to read all about Kel's accomplishments which I'm sure his family, especially Corinne, are so very proud of. Though I don’t know his children personally, I’m sure his legacy will live on through them. God bless and comfort you and let the memories of your time with Kel last forever.

Don(ny) & Gail Harrison plus Beth Harrison

Ted Zoller

January 7, 2021

My heart is broken to learn of Kel's passing. To say that he was a giant is one of the largest understatements of my life. He always made a point to come to speak to my entrepreneurs lab class at UNC and his book was our kickoff. He inspired our students to take action with his little book of do. He was a man of great faith and fortitude. When you meet a leader like Kel you never forget it. I will never forget him. Kel truly lead a great life of extraordinary impact.

FROM THE FAMILY