Blanche Whitfield Gaither, formerly of Oak Ridge, died early Saturday morning Jan. 25, at home in Knoxville.
Born Jan. 28, 1915, in Belmont, Miss., Blanche would have been 99 years old on Tuesday. Her parents were Arthur David Whitfield and Bertha White Whitfield. She attended school in Belmont and at age 16 was valedictorian of her high school graduating class.
Blanche and Charles Burgess Gaither, were married Sept. 26, 1936, and lived in Fulton, Miss., and Sylacauga, Ala., during World War II. They moved to Oak Ridge in 1944, when Charles came to work in the Operations Division at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
She was preceded in death by her husband in 2001 following almost 65 years of marriage and by her parents and sisters, Edith Streetman and Merle Strickland.
Survivors include daughters Charlotte Gaither Turner and husband Stephen, of Oak Ridge, and Gwendolyn Gaither Wallace, of Knoxville; son Michael Gaither and wife Donna; and granddaughter Beth Ann Gaither, of Maggie Valley, N.C.
Blanche was a charter member of Glenwood Baptist Church, where she taught Sunday School and training union for both juniors and adults for more than 50 years. She also served as a Sunday School department director and on various church committees through the years.
Her adult Sunday School Class members have said that, for Blanche, being their teacher included “a loving and caring during-the-week ministry,” and they recall how often she comforted them or celebrated with them.
In addition to teaching, beginning in the early 1950s Blanche served for more than 30 years as the church greeter and visitor. She was at the front door each Sunday and made follow-up visits to the new people who came.
Blanche’s hobbies included crossword puzzles, reading, sending notes and cards to friends, vegetable gardening, quilting, crocheting, and crewel embroidery.
An inveterate newspaper reader, Blanche followed community and world activities and was strong in her religious and political convictions.
Unable to attend church since 2006, her worship experience continued through the Sunday morning televised services of First Baptist Church Knoxville. Following her move to Knoxville in November 2006, she was ministered to by both churches through the church bulletins, cards, letters, and visits of staff members and her assigned deacons who brought communion. Blanche was especially appreciative of these efforts by the churches and for the many other friends and family members who came to visit.
She attributed her longevity to the Lord, to her primary physician for more than 32 years, Dr. David Seay, to her daughter Gwen with whom she lived during most of her long illness, a special group of wellness nurses at Methodist Medical Center of Oak Ridge, and the support of all her family and friends.
Her philosophy of life—”When a task is once begun never leave it until it’s done. Be the labor great or small do it well or not at all “—was one by which she lived.
Services were held Wednesday, Jan. 29, at Glenwood Baptist Church. The receiving of friends began at 11 a.m. with the funeral service at noon, followed immediately by a graveside service at Oak Ridge Memorial Park.
Weatherford Mortuary is in charge of arrangements.