Kelly Zaytoun

Published 1:48 pm Wednesday, August 9, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

Kelly Zaytoun (“Papa”), 73, passed away peacefully surrounded by loved ones on Thursday, August 3rd, 2023. Like everything he did, he gave BPDCN, the rare disease he was diagnosed with in March of this year, the fight of its life. He was born in New Bern, NC on September 19th, 1949 to the late Kelly and Emily George Zaytoun. Kelly graduated from Saint Paul’s Catholic School and later from New Bern High School in 1967. He attended college at East Carolina University. Shortly before graduation, he left to operate what would eventually become Zaytoun Distributing.

Kelly had a sharp business mind and a natural entrepreneurial spirit which led him to turn his dream of owning his own business into a reality. The doors at Courts Plus opened in August of 1980 and thrived under his leadership for ten years. It was an innovative business for its time and the first fitness center in eastern NC. In addition to creating a successful business, Kelly created an atmosphere of community. Many considered Courts Plus to be a second home over the years. It’s equally indicative of the way he made people feel in all aspects of his life. Kelly was an instant friend to everyone he met. Kelly had a way of making people feel like everything that mattered to them mattered to him, and it truly did.

In 1990, Kelly decided to switch gears and get into the golf business with Greenbrier Golf Club. He spent many great years at, what is now known as the, the Emerald Golf Club in New Bern. In 2004, after spending a lot of time in the OBX, Kelly and Brenda moved to Manteo on Roanoke Island, NC. Kelly became an avid fisherman and spent many happy days on the water with great friends. Not surprisingly, Kelly became involved in the Pirate’s Cove community and shortly after had an opportunity to purchase commercial properties in Pirate’s Cove Marina.

Get the latest headlines sent to you

In 2018, Kelly and Brenda decided to it was time to return home to New Bern, NC. While they left many great friends in the OBX, they were excited to be back with their family and many of their oldest friends again. Kelly spent many hours at the Emerald meeting, greeting, and interacting with co-workers and his longtime partner and friend. While the time since diagnosis was difficult for many reasons, he was blessed to have additional quality time with family and friends. He truly cherished every minute with his girls more than anything.

Kelly is survived by his loving wife of 53 years, Brenda, his daughter Hayli Thornhill (Tad), daughter Holli Kagan (Aran). Kelly (“Papa”) is also survived by his five grandchildren, Noah, Elan and Mia Kagan and Teague and Joseph Thornhill, brother George Zaytoun (Donna) and his nephews. Kelly was preceded in death by his sister, Rose Marie Smith.

A service to honor Kelly’s life will be held at St. Paul’s Catholic Church in New Bern, NC on Thursday, August 10th, 2023 at 1 p.m. A celebration of life reception will follow at the Emerald Golf Club on Thursday at 2:30 p.m.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to St. Paul Catholic Church 3005 Country Club Rd. New Bern NC 28562 and/or St. Paul Catholic School 3007 Country Club Rd. New Bern NC 28562.

The Zaytoun family wishes to especially thank the Doctors, Nursing team and the rest of the amazing staff of the UNC MICU and the BMT and Oncology teams.

Arrangements by Cotten Funeral Home & Crematory. Online condolences may be made to the Zaytoun family at