One of the most beautiful and well known passages in God’s Word is the 23rd Psalm written by King David as a young shepherd boy about His loving Shepherd – The Lord God. The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Even when I walk in the valley of darkness, I will fear no evil for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff -they comfort me. You set a table before me in the presence of my adversaries; You anointed my head with oil; my cup overflows. May only goodness and kindness pursue me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever and ever.The psalm brings comfort, provides hope and offers the peaceful outlook required to walk through the sometimes difficult stages of our lives. It is also the foundation for which Billie Karen Walker bases her life. She finds motivation in these words.“Yes, it’s great therapy and my peace and walk with God,” she said, “being a shepherd to these precious lambs and sheep.”From a child, Billie Karen had always been drawn to how God used and inspired writings using the analogy of the sheep for His children. She always wanted to get a hands on experience as a good shepherd to be like Jesus and know these beloved animals.It started in a simple way with the acreage behind the home she shares with her husband, Paul. The back room of the home, overlooking this additional land, is a place for Bible study and visual enjoyment of the outdoors by Billie Karen, “It seemed so empty – it needed animals”, she reflected.As she thought about what kind of animal, she remembered the Sheep farm of friends, Bryan and Mia Sage Beason, they passed daily coming home. She gave them a call asking if possible to come by to pet and love on one of the gentle creatures. It was a touch that reminded her of that childhood calling.Billie Karen also visited another shepherd, Kristen Svensen, of Foggy Knob Farm, who spent many hours sharing knowledge about the lambs and sheep. Discovering that the bottle fed ones required extra love and care, she reflected on that acreage behind her home and how beautiful their presence would be in the green pastures. “May I care for these lambs and other sheep on my land”, she asked Brian and Mia Sage Beason. With resounding approval and support to get started from them, Bille Karen Walker the Shepherd was born.She was instantly in love with the lambs and sheep, sharing her vision with her family and close friends. A vision supported daily by husband, Paul; daughter, Halie Anna Duncan and her husband, Nathan; father, Bill Grady; friends, Leslie, Macy and Meadow and her amazing neighbors.It is the perfect home, just the sight of them grazing and playing about in the field brings peace. It is exactly as the words the song of David says: The Lord is my Shepherd. Billie Karen is able to bring them to her green pastures, lovingly care for them for the pleasure and goodness that is experienced by all who encounter these gentle lambs and sheep. Granting opportunities for photography, visiting churches and allowing some 4H students to visit has created a ministry for showing the love of God to all creatures.“Jesus sees us as His sheep and lambs. We need love and gentle guidance, He is our Shepherd, caring for our needs, showing us ways to give to others and to be used for a greater purpose.” said Billie Karen, “I just love the opportunity to love, and show support to other people and the sheep, I am truly blessed to have this chance and share these sheep and lambs with others. I have been so surprised that from children to the oldest of my friends have never had the opportunity to hold and love a lamb. Many have said they were excited to hold a lamb – that’s the way Jesus sees all of us. As Isaiah 40:11 says: “He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart…” Thank you Lord Jesus, the Lamb of God!”
Many people across Tennessee, and beyond, recognize the first line of the University of Tennessee Alma Mater. The Hill, as it is commonly known, is enshrined in the hearts and memories of thousands of Tennesseans. Few people, however, are familiar with the rich history surrounding this iconic landmark. Ten amazing facts about, The Hill, should enrich your understanding of the Hallowed Hill, and the University of Tennessee.Thank Thomas Jefferson for The HillPresent day Knoxville began as a Fort, established by James White in 1786. When President George Washington appointed William Blount, Governor of the Southwest Territory, Blount came to White’s Fort and named it the Territorial Capital. White sold much of the land he owned and from it, Knoxville was formed with 64 lots.About the same time, Samuel Carrick, a young Presbyterian minister came to the fledgling settlement, intent on establishing a college and a Presbyterian church. The college came first. It was established in 1794 and was named Blount College, in honor of Governor William Blount. The college was located at the corner of Clinch and Gay where The Tennessee Theater now stands. It was the twenty fourth permanent institution of higher education in the United States and the first that was not church related.From the outset, Blount College teetered on insolvency. It attracted few students and only conferred one degree in a 13 year period.In 1807 the name was changed to East Tennessee College, thinking that might help attract more students. It did not.August 17, 1809, proved to be a fateful day. Samuel Carrick, the President of the school, and it’s only instructor, suddenly died. The Trustees developed a lottery scheme to keep the school open. They wrote to Thomas Jefferson seeking his support for their lottery.Jefferson opposed the idea but offered advice which would shape the future of the institution. He counseled the trustees to purchase land outside the city, which would provide sufficient space to erect several buildings around a grassy square, and thus form an academic village. The trustees could not focus on land. They were concerned with survival. The lack of finances forced the closing of the college for the ensuing 11 years.Barbara HillIn 1820, East Tennessee College reopened. Remembering Jefferson’s advice, plans were made to relocate outside the city limits. In 1826 the trustees purchased “Barbara Hill,” for the new campus. The Hill was named in honor of the daughter of Governor William Blount. The 40 acre parcel of land was purchased for $600. It was located between the river and the Western Road. The views from atop The Hill were breathtaking in every direction. The site soon began to be referred to by locals as “College Hill.” In 1828, the first building was erected. When construction began, the workers dug into a cemetery that no one remembered existing on The Hill. The first structure was built of stone and brick, with an observatory and belfry. The ten room building would become known as Old College. It would be the landmark by which the university would be identified for the next 91 years.Fort ByingtonIn 1861 cannons thundered at Fort Sumter, South Carolina, marking the beginning of the Civil War. Within six months, the Confederate army took possession of Knoxville and The Hill. In time the Confederate forces abandoned Knoxville to be a part of a major battle shaping up around Chattanooga. When the Confederates left, Major General Ambrose Burnside led Union forces into the city. He immediately began to build fortresses all around Knoxville.The Hill was designated as Fort Byington. Having won a major victory at Chattanooga, the Confederate army turned its attention back to Knoxville. General James Longstreet laid siege to the city, November 23, 1863 and lobbed cannon fire at Fort Byington and other Union fortifications. Six days later he launched an ill-fated infantry attack on Fort Sanders. The Union forces had dug deep trenches around Fort Sanders. The Confederates failed to realize how deep the trenches were. Once in, they could not get out. The Battle of Knoxville lasted 20 minutes. Eight hundred and thirteen Confederate soldiers lay dead in the trenches. The Union army lost only thirteen men. Longstreet withdrew to join Lee’s Army in Virginia. Knoxville remained firmly in Union hands. In time, the war ended.100 Elm TreesThe Civil War left The Hill in shambles. Every tree on the campus had been cut for firewood. Deep trenches had been carved into The Hill. Longstreet’s cannons had taken their toll. Buildings had been heavily damaged. The Hill was left desolate and all but destroyed.When the war began, Thomas Humes was rector of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Knoxville. He was a staunch Union supporter. When the war concluded Humes was named President of East Tennessee University, and given the daunting task of rebuilding the University and its campus. Because he was a known Union supporter, he was looked on with favor when he requested government funds to repair the damage left in the wake of the war. Subsequently, a United State Senate committee noted that East Tennessee University was deserving of funds to repair the campus since it was the “only education institution of known loyalty in any of the seceding States.” A bill was passed providing $18,500 to help repair the war damage.At the same time, Yale University donated 100 elm trees to the University to be planted on The Hill as part of the reconstruction. Those trees remained until the 1950’s when they were destroyed by Dutch elm disease.Orange and WhiteWith war now passed, the fortunes of East Tennessee University turned. In 1879 the institution was designated as The University of Tennessee. Ten years later, students directed their attention to the task of selecting school colors. In those days, UT was a military school. Male students wore uniforms that were blue and white. At the same time, the baseball team was clad in red and black. Charles Moore, president of the Athletic Association, looked at The Hill and saw daisies growing profusely. He reasoned that the school colors should be derived from The Hill and the flowers that grew there. Moore decided that for the upcoming field day, he would dress in orange and white, the color of the daisies on The Hill. Soon, more and more students wore orange and white to athletic events. A vote was taken in 1892 to officially select school colors for the University of Tennessee. The students chose orange and white by a narrow margin.Ayres HallIn 1904, Dr. Brown Ayres became President of the University of Tennessee. He assumed leadership of an institution that was deeply in debt. The buildings were antiquated and overcrowded. Heretofore State funding had been virtually non-existent. It was vital that change, if the University was to thrive. Around 1917 he approached the State Legislature with the idea of erecting a great academic hall on The Hill. Uncharacteristically, the State appropriated the needed funds. In May, 1918 a Chicago firm of architects were employed to design the building. When it was announced that Old College would need to be demolished for construction to proceed on the new structure, an uproar ensued. The trustees were bombarded with angry letters from alumni. Finally, the trustees agreed to attempt to move Old College if the Alumni Association would raise the needed $15,000. In truth the 91`year old, 10 room building was no longer needed. Neither did it possess any architectural beauty. Only $2,000 of the $15,000 needed to move the building was contributed and Old College was taken down. Blanche Bingham, a sophomore from Bell Buckle, Tennessee laid the first brick in the new structure, November 26, 1919. The building was completed, and dedicated June 6, 1921. The new academic hall cost $690,500 which is a little over eight million dollars in today’s currency. Dr. Brown Ayers, who had conceived the new building and guided it into being died before the building was completed. President Harcourt Morgan, who succeeded Ayres as President, recommended the building be named to honor Ayres. The Board of Trustees agreed and the new building which crowned The Hill became Ayres Hall.Ayres or Ayers?One interesting bit of trivia related to The Hill surrounds the plaque attached to the Cumberland Street entrance. Chicago Ornamental Iron Works was commissioned to design a plaque for the new building. It was to contain a raised likeness of Old College and of Dr. Ayers. Also listed were several names connected to the construction of the new edifice. Several changes were made in the original design submitted by the Chicago firm, but at last President Morgan approved the final design. However, when the plaque was delivered, Dr. Brown Ayres name was spelled “Ayers.” It is unknown why the University did not insist the error be corrected, but the plaque was attached to the building entrance and has remained there for 98 years. The name of the man in whose honor the building was named is misspelled.Play BallWhile the preservation efforts for Old College were in full swing, a competing fund raising effort began. Several influential people in Knoxville felt the University needed an athletic field. Col. W.S. Shields was President of Knoxville’s City Bank. As well, he was a member of the University Board of Trustees and also a member of the Building Committee for Ayres Hall. While the Alumni Association was trying to raise funds to preserve Old College, Shields led in a campaign to create an athletic field. The goal for the athletic field was $35,000. The money was raised in one week. Shields contributed $23,000. When Old College was demolished, 15,000 cubic yards of dirt was graded from the top of The Hill to make way for Ayres Hall. This dirt was moved to the proposed site of the new athletic field. In April, 1921, faculty, staff, and students spread the dirt from atop The Hill to create Shields-Watkins field.The field was named to honor the principle benefactor and his wife. The field is now surrounded by Neyland Stadium, the fifth largest college stadium in the Nation.The CheckerboardRobert Neyland became Tennessee’s football coach in 1926. Shields-Watkins field was 5 years old. Bleachers had been installed on the west side of the field that could seat 3,200. Neyland immediately noticed something. There is a checkerboard design in the tower of Ayres Hall. In those days, the tower was clearly visible from the football field. When his team had the ball, headed toward the north end zone, Neyland would encourage them to “Run to the checkerboard!” He also urged them to “Charge the checkerboard!” Doug Dickey became the coach of the Volunteer team in 1964 and decided that the design in Ayres Hall would become the design in the Neyland Stadium end zones. Now, when the team is headed in either direction, they can, “Run to the checkerboard!” The checkerboard design is also visible at the end lines of the basketball court in Thompson Bowling Arena. The design has also been incorporated into the exterior of the new Student Union Building.The ClocksOld College was demolished after 91 years of use. In 2008, Ayers Hall had been in use for 87 years. No thought was given to its removal, but it was in desperate need to repair and updating. In that year a twenty-three million dollar renovation project began. It was completed in 2011. The renovation maintained the building’s grand architectural design and added one noticeable feature to the exterior of the building. The original design envisioned clocks in the tower of Ayres Hall. They were not installed due to a lack of funds. Now, almost one hundred years later, the clocks are in place. Their addition enhances the beauty of Ayers Hall.It is hoped this brief glimpse into the always fascinating history of the University of Tennessee, will deepen your appreciation for the University, and the Hallowed Hill on which it stands where “The stately walls of Old U.T. rise glorious to the sight.”
In space, they are together, ageless. Their image travels on a probe launched four decades ago, now sailing beyond gravity and time. Should it encounter life beyond the stars, a snapshot of their lives will tell part of the human story.On Earth, it was Valentine’s Day, 2019. Jim looked at Fran through his thin-rimmed glasses. He took one hand off his walker and reached for her, and she helped him settle into his seat. They sat hand in hand, Fran’s nails polished a pale pink. A medical alert necklace dangled from her neck.Jim and Fran Gray have been married 65 years. In January, they’d moved into an assisted living center in Bloomington, surrounded by dementia patients like them. In the living area, Billie Holiday was singing about all the old familiar places, and Jim sang softly along. “I’ll be seeing you…”In the distance, three large paintings covered one wall. They show a parade bustling down the street – balloons and confetti, dancers and trumpets. Overhead, two spacecrafts streak across the sky. Jim started painting them when he turned 80 and dementia began to creep into his mind. They weren’t his best work, but that wasn’t the point. Jim was a nationally renowned artist whose landscapes and seascapes continue to hang on the walls of homes and galleries around the world. But when his hands lost their dexterity and his memory started to slip, he painted a series of three canvases called the “Joy of Life Parade.” His earlier paintings were for others. These paintings were for himself.Every character, from the two men balancing on unicycles to the fisherman casting his rod off the back of a pickup truck, is a person he knew. He painted them — all the old familiar faces — because he was afraid he might soon forget.There’s a long-legged woman in a yellow, skin- tight leotard and matching yellow heels. The red on her lips complements the red feathers in her grand, bejeweled headpiece. That’s Fran. The center of the painting and of his life. Now Jim is 86 and Fran is 85. In the assisted living center, Elvis is singing “Love Me Tender.” “Way to go!” Jim tells Elvis. “Shush,” Fran says.Jim met Fran when he went with two Air Force buddies to visit her hometown in Illinois one night. Fran and two other young women pulled up in their car, and his friends talked to the ladies in the front seat. But Jim wanted an introduction to the third girl, sitting in the back. The streetlight lit up her face, and Jim stepped back to take in her beauty. His Frannie. “I just sort of fell in love with her first time I saw her,” Jim said.Fran has been an anchor for Jim ever since. They married and had three children. Art fueled their family.Their daughter Laurie, who eventually became an artist herself, remembers playing a game when they traveled. On her website, she describes how they took turns pointing to something out the car window — a beautiful sky, for instance — and describing what brushes and colors they would use to paint it. Alizarin Crimson? Prussian Blue? Laurie says the game taught her how to see quickly and retain what she saw in her head.When Jim asked Fran’s opinion on his art, she’d answer honestly. When he wanted more opportunities for people to see his art, Fran suggested moving to Gatlinburg, Tennessee, where they would later open the Jim Gray Gallery. When he decided he needed to step back and focus on the creative side of his artwork, she took over runningthe gallery.They were playful and pranked each other. They taught their kids never go to bed upset, and they showed them what it means to love another person. When Jim’s dementia started setting in, Fran became his primary caregiver. Now in the assisted living center, she continues to hold his hand. She loves being surrounded by his art. It’s in her bedroom, the living area, the hallways. “They’re all my favorites,” she said.In the parade painting, a policewoman is smiling, a badge on her sleeve and paintbrushes in her holster. That’s Miss Clyde Kennedy, Jim’s high school art teacher. Jim is the boy on the tricycle in the aviator helmet and goggles. One of his earliest memories came when he was 4 and felt the wind brush his face as he raced over a bridge. He felt like he was flying. Beside his younger self, Jim painted his childhood neighbor, Mr. Galyean. Like most kids, Jim has loved drawing since he was old enough to hold a crayon. But he didn’t know he could make art for a living until he was 11 and Mr. Galyean gifted him with art books, brushes and other supplies, giving him the push he needed.Jim painted for art shows and sold thousands of paintings and prints worldwide. He even carved a larger-than-life sculpture of a barefoot, smiling Dolly Parton that still stands outside the courthouse in her Tennessee hometown.As clocks tick and Earth continues its rotation around the sun, art captures a moment in time. Jim believes it also captures joy.“The pure joy of creating something that ‘you’ want to make, just for that pure purpose alone, sets it aside from all the other made things, and it is ‘art,’” he wrote a few years ago. In the corner of the “Joy of Life Parade,” the two space probes race through the dark sky.In 1967, a man named Jim Amos showed up at Jim and Fran’s Gatlinburg home, camera in hand. He was a photographer for National Geographic working on a story about artists and craftsmen in the Great Smoky Mountains and happened upon the Jim Gray Gallery.It was a chance encounter between two explorers. Amos took a photo of Jim sitting at his easel painting a landscape. In the forefront, Fran tends a fire in their big red fireplace, with Mama Cat lying on her lap. A moment of their life frozen in film.A few years later, NASA began plans for the Voyager I and II, two space probes created to explore the outer reaches of the solar system. Astronomer Carl Sagan was assigned the task of recording the sights and sounds of Earth onto golden records that would travel with the Voyagers into space. The thought was that if extraterrestrial life ever captured one of the Voyagers, the records offered at least a chance to communicate with them, to tell the human story.Each record contained 115 images, natural sounds and music selections representing the planet and its capabilities.Jane Goodall and her chimps. The Great Wall of China. Compositions by Mozart and Bach. A time capsule for the universe.In a stroke of what Jim called “pure luck,” Sagan also included the photo of Jim and Fran. It represents man and woman and domesticated animals. The red fireplace shows Earth’s oxygen-based atmosphere. And Jim painting in the background shows man’s creative drive. The Voyagers launched in 1977 and remain in space today, on a journey without end.Jim has long suspected Alzheimer’s might be in his future. His father Jerry had suffered from the same disease. One day, a few years before Jerry died, the two were walking down the road when Jim’s father turned to him. “What’s your name?” he asked. “It’s Jim.” “Well, I have a son named Jim,” his father said.Jim Gray spent much of his life trying to capture the fleeting shadows cast by trees as the sun moved over the Great Smoky Mountains. He knew time would not stop for him, but he hoped his art would outlast him.“He has literally recorded his memories outside the confines of his brain,” his son Chris, 59, wrote in an email. “Long after Jim is gone, his memories will remain on walls all around the world.”It’s hard to tell how much of the “Joy of Life Parade” Jim remembers now. Some days his memory is stronger than others. Some days he, like his father, can’t remember the names of his own kids. Now when he paints, volunteers set newspapers underneath his canvas, and his art isn’t precise. But he still paints with the same concentration, and the colors are just as lush.Valentine’s Day was ending, and Fran was getting tired. She wanted to go to bed, but she didn’t know what to do about Jim. She spoke softly, telling him she was leaving. He couldn’t hear her over the sound of “Fiddler on the Roof” playing from the television. “I’m going up to bed,” she said,a little louder this time. “Huh? Where are you going?” “Up to bed.” “I don’t know what to do,” he said. “You don’t know what?” she asked. Now she couldn’t hear over the movie. “I don’t know what to do,” he repeated. “I’d rather go to bed.”But he made no move. It was like his body was waiting for instruction from his brain, but his brain wasn’t answering. They wanted so badly to understand each other. Fran leaned toward him, holding his hand. Jim’s other hand held her face as he tried to pull himself as close as he could to hear her.It was no use. Finally Fran stood up and started making her way out of the room. A moment passed, and Jim said, “Where did Frannie go?” As if that was a signal, a nurse came in and told Jim he was going to follow Fran and head to bed. They shuffled along, Jim with his walker, Fran with her cane. They came to the elevator. The elevator would take Fran to her bedroom on the second floor while Jim continued to his first-floor room. This was the spot where, every night, they said goodbye.Fran stopped walking. Jim kept going. Then stopped. “Fran?” He had forgotten. He thought Fran was going to bed with him,as she had for 65 years. “Fran?” The nurse assured him she would come down and say goodnight in a bit. It was the only way to get him to go to his room. “Fran?”Jim took one hand off his walker and reached for her. Fran paused between the open elevator door and his outstretched arm. Go ahead, the nurse told her. I’ve got him — you go ahead.A drawing of Fran 20 years ago, hangs on the wall of Jim’s bedroom. In it, she squats in the garden of their Tennessee home. She’s planting flowers, trowel in hand. When Jim thinks of his Frannie, his son believes, this is how he remembers her. Neither have aged past this point in Jim’s mind. He still sees himself as a younger painter sometimes. And as the dementia tightens its grip, he has a hard time reconciling the Fran he sees sitting next to him and the Fran in that drawing.As they each drift to sleep in their separate rooms, somewhere the Voyagers charge through space. They have been in space for 41 years, while on Earth Jim and Fran raised three kids, moved 11 times and sold thousands of Jim’s pieces.Scientists say that in interstellar space, free from the destructive forces of gravity and the atmosphere, either Voyager could last for billions of years. One day, they say, the probes could be the only remaining evidence of life on Earth. Some nights,Jim and Fran’s son Chris will step outside of his rural home in Maine and look up at the night sky. The clear nights there show the vastness that surrounds us all – the stars that have blinked down on us since mankind first looked up. He’ll think about his parents’ photo up there, past the man-made satellites and aircrafts, past the planets and asteroids. A moment preserved forever. He’ll think about how his father’s life has been devoted to capturing moments like this through art.On Earth, the years hurtle forward, and Jim and Fran’s memories retreat. And Chris imagines Voyager I spinning through space, where his parents are youthful and creative and together for what might as well be an eternity. He likes to look into the dark sky and wonder, “How far is it now?”It is 13.4 billion miles away, and moving fast.
Award-winning Artist, Judy Lavoie thought 2018 was “her year” as an artist, but 2019 started out with being selected as the 2019 Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage Artist of the Year! The designation was made by the renowned Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, in conjunction with the 69th annual Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. “This combines two of my greatest passions, painting and spring wildflowers, making it a wonderful personal milestone,” remarked Judy, “I am so elated!”The honor stems from the selection of wildflower painting, “Bloodroot,” as the featured image for this year’s Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage, which will take place April 23-27, 2019. The Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage is an annual five-day event in Great Smoky Mountains National Park offering professionally guided programs which explore the region’s rich wildflowers, wildlife, ecology, culture, and natural history through walks, motorcades, photographic tours, art classes, and indoor seminars.“I painted more in 2018 than in many previous years, experimenting with new methods and materials,” explained Judy, “ I am humbled to be the recipient of honors such as this.”Judy Lavoie’s “Bloodroot” painting appears on the event t-shirts, mugs, and other Pilgrimage promotional items. In addition, it is featured in a solo exhibition of Judy Lavoie paintings at the Wolpert Gallery at the Arrowmont School running through April 26, 2019, with a reception at the gallery during the Pilgrimage week, on Wednesday, April 24th, from 5 – 7pm.Judy is grateful for the opportunity to indulge in her passion for painting. She loves capturing everyday subjects such as beloved pets, wildflowers, rural scenes, fishing boats, and landscapes, as well as depicting the exotic, such as frolicking dolphins and African wildlife. Judy paints in a highly realistic manner with a unique sensitivity to detail. Her work is exhibited in private collections throughout the U.S. and abroad.Judy’s long list of awards attests to the quality of her work. She won “Best of Show” in the 2018 Tennessee Watercolor Society Exhibition and has been included in each of their juried shows since 2008. Judy is also a signature member and multiple award-winner of the Jacksonville (FL) Watercolor Society and the Florida Watercolor Society.Judy’s fine art is now being featured in an extensive solo exhibition during April, May and June at the Community Activity Center in Rarity Bay, Vonore TN. Hours are Monday-Friday from 9am-4pm, and the public is welcome.Visit www.judy-lavoie-art.com to view the online gallery featuring original paintings and limited edition fine art prints along with her Art Blog, a must read for all.
The name Homer in its Greek origin have two simple yet powerful meanings: “security and pledge.” Homer, the legendary author wrote two epic poems in the late 8th or early 7th century BC that are considered central works of Greek Literature, Iliad and the Odyssey. The term “Homeric” is defined as “work on a colossal scale.” Coincidentally, the Isbell family just celebrated the 96th birthday of Homer Laughlin Isbell, M.D., an incredible timeline to evaluate contributions and determine if one has impacted the world around them. I often wonder… Is my Uncle Homer Isbell, a man named for a destiny of greatness or is this a man who chose a purpose of merit with hopes to live up to his symbolic given name?
In an effort to thoughtfully explore this notion, I decided to ask my father, Matthew Isbell, younger brother to Homer, a few pondered questions. Who better to ask than the one person on this Earth who has known him the longest at 84 years and counting? Can you describe your brother Homer in three words? “Hmmmm…let me think on that.” A few seconds later he says “I would say Homer is a humble man with a strong faith in God and the epitome of the Hippocratic Oath.” Noting he realizes his response is more than three words my mother Barbara then pipes in and says “Homer is a brilliant Humanitarian.” My father agrees and both giggle that they could not follow the task instructions. I have always loved hearing about my Uncle Homer and his incredible journey, even more knowing how much my father enjoys speaking about his Big Brother, lifelong best friend.
Born in Banner Elk, North Carolina, and raised in Johnson City, Tennessee, Homer, the eldest son of Homer Laughlin Isbell, Sr. and Thelma Proffitt Isbell. The Isbells were the proprietors of the local “I & P” Grocery store in Johnson City, which stood for “Isbell & Proffitt,” representing the family partnership. Homer followed in the footsteps of his father, becoming a member of the Freemasons, the 14th century fraternal organization. Homer attended ETSU, later transferring to UT-Knoxville where he earned a Bachelor of Science and was a member of Alpha Tau Omega Fraternity. He obtained his Doctorate from the UT College Of Medicine in Memphis and completed his residency at the General Hospital in Washington, DC. During WWII, Dr. Isbell enlisted in the United States Air Force serving as a flight surgeon. After the war, he and bride Betty Jean Isbell (nee’ Wilkinson) settled in Maryville to further establish his medical practice and raise their growing family. Homer was appointed the Chief Doctor of the growing aluminum manufacturing company, Alcoa. After years of general practice he chose to complete education at Duke University and specialize in Anesthesia.
In 1950 Homer joined the staff of Blount Memorial, only 3 short years after its founding and at that time there were approximately 25 physicians on staff. Dr. Isbell made many a house call back then, a practice that is now mostly long forgotten. He made countless trips into the mountains in the middle of the night to assist with births, illness and injury. In an honorary article by First Federal Bank in 1990 Dr. Isbell said “A house call was $5.00 plus mileage, but once in a while we got paid in produce, because that is all people had.” After 38 years on the medical staff at Blount Memorial Hospital Dr. Isbell had among his many accomplishments being named Chief of Anesthesiology and Chief of the Medical Staff, twice serving as President of the Blount County Medical Society and named Vice President of the Board of Directors for 5 years. He delivered over 1,500 babies and administered nearly 40,000 pain saving anesthesia cases. By his retirement in 1988 he noted that there was “over a 100 physicians at Blount Memorial doing things we thought impossible.” Despite retirement Dr. Isbell continued to serve his community, “My wife and I came here because we wanted to raise our family in a small town with a strong community spirit.” Dr. Isbell continues “People here don’t retire from their community, they keep on helping others as best they can, I have never even considered moving anywhere else.”
“What do you think Homers legacy will be?” The answer came a little easier to my father this time. He responded “A family man and faith based individual who served his country, friend to all, never had an enemy.” To capture that spirit of legacy, Homer’s oldest granddaughter Carol Lee Weaver Stephens, a mother of 3 and talented Photographer recently and eloquently shared her thoughts on her “Grandad” in a social media post: “Happy Father’s Day to the greatest man I have known. His love for his family extends to his wife of 70 years along with 4 kids, 9 grandkids & 16 great-grandkids. He taught me to see people and not just rush past them but to engage in intentional conversation to make them feel loved (even and maybe more so in the line at the grocery store). He taught me to ask questions and seek greater knowledge and wisdom by thinking. He taught me to love family even in the thick of conflict. He taught me to show compassion, show mercy and give to others with a no-holds bar kind of service. He taught me that love can last 70 years and a soul-mate beside you makes life more full, makes you more of your truest self and that there is no Homer without his Betty by his side. There is no greater man more respected or admired in my eyes. He sees me, he loves me, he encourages me, he reminds me of who and whose I am. Grandad you created a legacy and you are called oaks of righteousness, displaying for years His glory. You have shown me how living in a way that pleases God by loving God, others, and ourselves is the best kind of life. I love you Grandad.”
As my family and I drove away on July 14, 2018, I turned and waved with tears in my eyes. We rounded the slow bend of the circular drive, this time is different. My favorite Uncle who is more regarded as a Grandfather to me is now visibly frailed in years, but strong in presence. He stands proudly beside his bride as they both wave back with smiles on their faces. As the two soulmates become smaller in view, the gentleness of Dr. Isbell (96) is noticed as he turns to ensure that Mrs. Isbell (94) safely returns over the threshold and into the sanctuary of the home they built together over 60 years ago. To this day, he continues his unfailing pledge to the world, as stated in the last stanza of the Hippocratic Oath taken by Dr. Isbell. It reads, If I do not violate this oath, may I enjoy life and art, respected while I live and remembered with affection thereafter. May I always act so as to preserve the finest traditions of my calling and may I long experience the joy of healing those who seek my help. Godspeed and thanks to an extraordinary man, Dr. Homer Laughlin Isbell.
It was August 18, 1920 when tempers flared and the pressure on the State of Tennessee became unbearable, the venue was a special legislative session to ratify the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote. Congress needed 36 of the 40 states to ratify in order to amend the US Constitution. It all came down to one vote, one state, one mother’s letter and one 24 year old named Harry Burn.
Harry Burn was a Republican Tennessee State Representative, his mother, Phoebe (Febb) Burn was a woman of intelligence reading three newspapers daily. However, no matter how intelligent, she could not vote. Men in her employ on the farm could vote despite their inability to read or write.
So stood Representative Harry Burn in 1920 with the deciding vote to break the 48-48 tie in favor of ratifying the 19th amendment. In all previous discussions, Burn was voting against the ratification. With the words of his mother’s letter on his heart, he changed that vote to yes, breaking the deadlock and receiving a angry reaction from his fellow General Assembly members. That one changed mind from that one mother’s letter made Tennessee the decisive state passing the 19th Amendment.
A monument honoring Harry T. Burn and his mother for their roles in the right to vote was erected by the Suffrage Coalition in Knoxville near Clinch Avenue & Market Square. It features Febb Burn standing with son, Harry Burn seated, her hand gripping his shoulder, a statement in sculpture expressing the encouragement for him to vote in favor of ratification, to forbid the US Constitution from restricting voting privileges on the basis of gender.
In a day and age where fast has replaced friendly and convenience has replaced courtesy, there is a strange trend happening – many patients, when they get sick, no longer call their doctor. Assuming they will never be seen that same day, they go to a walk-in clinic or rely on the unreliable world of the Internet to diagnose themselves.
This is a trend one doctor is doing his part to combat, and if the popularity of his practice is any indication, he is doing a fine job of it.
Dr. William Harvey is a Madisonville native who was inspired by local “Iron Man” doctors, men who worked 12 hours and saw 70 patients a day. Those men were good role models, but according to Dr. Harvey, “I wasn’t sure I wanted to work as hard as they did…but I ended up doing so!” After getting his medical degree from UT Memphis and completing his residency at UT Medical Center, he opened his own practice in Monroe County in 1979.
Back then, general practitioners were not just office physicians – they worked the ER and sometimes even delivered babies! Aside from accumulating a broad repertoire of skills, Dr. Harvey’s upbringing and experience in Monroe County helped to show him what customer service is supposed to look like – taking time with one’s patients, getting to know them and offering the comprehensive care each individual deserves.
Treating a patient isn’t necessarily about treating one ailment at a time or ordering expensive tests – it’s about knowledge gained from taking the time to dig deep into all of a patient’s concerns and putting the pieces together to devise a treatment plan. And when patients unexpectedly get sick, they should be able to count on seeing the doctor who knows them and their medical history best. Dr. Harvey understands this, and it’s why he’s always made sure he is available to see his patients when they need him.
Although Dr. Harvey will always cherish his decades of work in Monroe County, the move to Knoxville offered him a good change of pace. At his new office in the Choto area, he is still able to see his regular, longstanding patients but also meets new people from the neighborhood. He has good parking, a great staff and, with far fewer patients, the flexibility to fit people in that call him that day. His focus on customer service is precisely why people still drive from Sweetwater to his new office location to see him and why his practice will surely continue to thrive for many years to come!
Dr. Harvey’s new office is located at 1612 Choto Markets Way. If you would like to schedule an appointment with Dr. Harvey, call 865-218-7485 or visit TennovaMedicalGroup.com.
It’s hard to find genuinely kind people in this world. Too often, a kind word can be precluded with unkind motivations, a hug with an end game, a gesture with a favor attached. I had the privilege of meeting one of these few people who give without holding back. My old high school was Knoxville Christian School. It wasn’t perfect, but there was one man who kept it running and made it feel like a home for the students who attended it. That man was Jim Fox.
Jim Fox wasn’t always at the quaint little school, however. He was actually born in Princeton, Kentucky, though good luck on getting him to tell you the year. It was there, and Paducah, Kentucky, where he was raised with the strong Christian values he still holds today. “I was blessed with a mom and dad.” Jim said, “My mother made the primary impact on my life. She was strong, and gentle, and always had something nice to say about everyone.” Though she died at the age of 52, young Jim made it his goal to follow in his mother’s benevolent footsteps.
He decided to pursue education. This is when he met his wife, Susan. They were students at the Western Kentucky University, and married in 1967. They’ve been married almost 50 years now, and even today, as I watch this couple, it’s all too evident the absolute devotion these two have had over the years. He wasn’t able to attend the college for long, however. His studies were interrupted when he joined the US Military, where he served on active duty for the US Army.
Finishing law school at the University of Memphis in 1970, Jim found work in Memphis, Tennessee, as a clerk for a federal judge, then practiced law in another local law firm. Three years later, his son Graham was born. That same year, he began working for TVA in Knoxville, as a trial attorney. A year after, his son Austin was born. Jim mentions that during this time, “It was difficult to stand on my Christian values.” He tried to get it right, but sometimes he had doubts on what was right. His trying paid off, and the company rewarded him for their success- they moved him up in litigation, then both Vice-President and Deputy General Counsel for TVA. He worked as a lawyer for thirty years, retiring in 2001. He continues to practice law to this day, however, working with children to finalize adoptions and other services pro-bono. Despite the demanding job, he was determined to be active in his community.
Jim started out at the Laurel Church of Christ for five years, then moved to the Farragut Church of Christ when they moved. There, Jim taught Sunday School and worked as an elder and deacon for 18 years. Jim and Susan now attend the Hardin Valley Church of Christ, where Jim serves as an elder. It was in these churches that he saw the need in his community, and wanted to help further.
But this requires a brief history lesson. You see, Albania was once controlled in an area where Christianity wasn’t allowed. God’s name could not be spoken, Bibles could not be brought in. “They were thirsty for God’s word.” Jim said. He brought the Bible to them as an undercover missionary. Over the course of his life, Jim Fox has traveled to Albania 22 times. As he’s traveled and worked, he has had the privilege of seeing the Bible spread in the Albanian communities he’s worked in, and even farther. Jim Fox serves on the World English Institute which provides Bible materials and studies to people, now with students in every country in the world.
His impact strikes close to home, as well. Jim Fox hasn’t just been working as a lawyer, he’s worked at Knoxville Christian School for a long, long time. Since 1989, when his wife Susan began teaching there, Jim Fox has been active in student lives. At first, he worked with his two sons, but after they graduated he saw the value of a Christian education and wanted to do more. Once he retired from TVA in 2001, he became interim principal several times, serving on the Board of Directors, and then president in 2011, and remained there until last year, 2016. He serves on the Board of Hillbrook Christian Association which operates camps for young people and
I attended that school. This man not only impacted the facility, but me. He would genuinely try to get to know all of the students by name, and would bring us candy every Friday. If a student had questions about faith, his door was always open and a Bible at the ready. Because of the work he’d done the school increased in students. People believed in the school and the work it was doing, because he believed in the school. He believed in nurturing the students towards Christ. Most importantly, he believed in the students themselves.
And to be believed in?
That was the most important gift someone could give.
Jim Fox is one of the kindest men that I know. Whether he’s working for the law or working for education, Fox’s impact cannot be ignored not just on students, on his employees, but on the community at large.
Growing a successful garden takes time, patience, a lot of hard work and one very important aspect—the right tools. When Neal Caldwell and his wife, Alice, built their home in Knoxville, Tennessee, they certainly possessed the determination to tackle their difficult yard, and fortunately, Neal had the innovative know-how to create the tools they would need to make their garden grow. What began as a project to beautify a plot of land others saw as useless developed into a series of inventions and even a successful business!
Neal Caldwell is a graduate of Knoxville High School and the University of Tennessee, where he earned degrees in both physics and mathematics. For 40+ years, the seeds he began to sow in his own backyard led to numerous successful products and the birth of Dalen Products, Inc., which manufactures innovative, quality gardening products. Of the products Dalen offers, Neal is especially proud of the Dalen Great Horned Owl.
Each Dalen Owl is hand-painted by American workers and serves as a scarecrow to frighten various critters away from developing gardens. The Dalen Owl has had several modifications over the years, including the additions of solar power and a swivel head that moves in both wind and sun to make it appear more lifelike. Neal enjoys interacting with his customers and encourages them to send in photos of the Dalen Owls they see or what his supplies have helped build. In germinating the seeds of trust with his consumers, he builds relationships and proves that gardening can truly bring people together.
In addition to building a successful business, Neal Caldwell has helped build up his spiritual community at the Cedar Springs Presbyterian Church, where he has served several roles over the years, including deacon, elder, Sunday School teacher and superintendent, small group leader and a community Bible study leader. Not only does he volunteer for his own church, he was also on the building committee as chairman for the New Covenant Presbyterian Church. His heart for serving the community has led him to volunteer as a Board of Directors member for Knox Area Rescue Ministries (KARM) and to work for several charities abroad and here in Tennessee. Neal also believes the growing seed is the most important part of development and needs to be cared for in order to grow into a healthy individual plant. This is why he invests in young people by serving on the Board of Trustees at King’s College, as well as the Jobs Partnership Board of Knox County.
Neal tirelessly works to grow and improve his community, from helping others cultivate a garden to improving their daily lives through charity and volunteer work. The seeds of his tenacity and generosity continue to spread throughout our region, leaving a lasting legacy that will bloom for many years to come.
Balloon Meister 1957-2017
Roy Smith has been contributing to the future of kids and the joys of spectators as the Balloon Miester for Monroe Life Magazine’s Muscadine Balloon Festival since it began 4 years ago. Last year was Roy’s final opportunity to serve the kids, the pilots and the community. This spring, he surrendered an epic fight to a 6 year battle with cancer.
Roy’s joy was helping kids in hopes for the adults they would become. He did it through service in this festival and also through his contributions as Vice President of the Shiloh Riders; a local motorcycle club that raises money to provide a Christmas for the children of East Tennessee who would otherwise miss a few presents and the love that accompanies them.
His joy and passion live on in those who were close to him and even in those he never got to meet. It is with glad hearts and knowing Roy’s desire to see this event be a success that we continue his efforts. This year, we will fly in memory of our friend and leader, for the kids.