Cover photo for Roy Willis Chesson's Obituary
Roy Willis Chesson Profile Photo
1953 Roy 2020

Roy Willis Chesson

May 29, 1953 — February 23, 2020

LCDR Roy Willis Chesson, USN (Ret.), of Smithfield, VA, departed this life February 23 after a courageous and determined fight against stage 4 gastroesophageal junction cancer. Born in 1953 to Ellen W. (“Poppy”) and Roy Otis Chesson, his parents predeceased him within 7 weeks of each other in 2010. A native of Elizabeth City, NC, after graduating from Northeastern High School Roy attended the U.S. Naval Academy, where he majored in Chemistry. After graduating, Roy began his Naval career as a surface warfare officer. While in the Navy Roy’s travels included a two year-long assignment in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where he was the Safety and Quality Assurance Officer at Canada’s largest naval repair facility.  When he was not at sea he took the opportunity to engage in sports native to the area he was stationed in, learning to surf while in California and playing the game of curling while in Canada.  After his retirement from the Navy he began working for Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC), providing logistics support for NASA field experiments designed to better understand climate change.  In this role he again traveled widely, visiting such locales as Easter Island, Christmas Island, Tahiti, Ecuador, Brazil, and Japan. It was while working for SAIC that he met his second wife, Erika. In 2006 he left SAIC and began working for the City of Newport News’ Public Works Department, retiring in 2019 as the city’s Recovery Operations Manager. In this role he was responsible for all of the city’s residential and municipal waste-recovery programs including recycling, composting, landfill gas recovery, and household hazardous waste recovery. Roy’s work experience with the city was a great asset during his two 4-year terms (2010-2018) as the gubernatorial appointee for the Southeastern Public Service Authority (SPSA). Through Erika he began participating in community theater and participated in numerous productions - onstage, backstage, and as director. He was a steadfast supporter of Smithfield Little Theatre and served on the Board of Directors, including two terms as President. Roy was also a faithful supporter of Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Franklin, VA, serving twice on the vestry and contributing his speaking talents as lay reader. He continued these until his illness made it no longer possible. Roy’s love for animals began at a young age, though in adulthood he realized that his favorite pets were orange cats. Roy was an avid baseball fan, especially his beloved Boston Red Sox. A Mensa member, Roy’s intelligence was underscored by his love of a good debate and, seemingly, would at times take the opposite view just to further the discussion. He loved spending time with his friends and family, especially his son, of whom he was especially proud. In addition to his parents, Roy was predeceased by his aunt and uncle, Selma Willis and E.C. Stallings; his only cousin, Barbara Stallings Whitley; and his uncle, Elijah Glover Willis, Jr., who was killed during service in World War II. Left to cherish his memory are his wife, Erika N. Harper Chesson of Smithfield; his son, Roy David Chesson and wife Tiffany of Franklin, TN; three grandchildren, Jaelynn, Athena, and Kian Chesson, all of Franklin, TN; two sisters, Alice R. (“Robin”) Chesson and Ellen C. Edens and husband Mark, all of Dalzell, SC; two nieces, Anna Chesson Edens Hurst and husband Garrett of Birmingham, AL and Elizabeth Edens Quinn and husband Alex of Columbia, SC; one nephew, Mark Spears Edens Jr. of Dalzell, SC; and his very sweet kitty, Liam. The family will receive friends at Little’s Funeral Home, 1515 S. Church Street in Smithfield, on Friday, March 13 from 6-8PM. A celebration of life will be held March 14 at 2PM at Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Franklin, VA, with Fr. Scott Baker officiating. In lieu of flowers, Roy asked that memorial donations be made to PAWS of Hertford County, 231 Mt Moriah Rd, Ahoskie, NC 27910. Online condolences may be registered at

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Service Schedule

Past Services


Friday, March 13, 2020

6:00 - 8:00 pm (Eastern time)

Little's Funeral Home and Cremation Service

1515 S Church St, Smithfield, VA 23430

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Memorial Service

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Starts at 2:00 pm (Eastern time)

Emmanuel Episcopal Church

400 N High St, Franklin, VA 23851

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