Sudartha Ellen Vann, who started the girls basketball team at Oak Ridge High School and coached the first sanctioned game in 1973, died Friday, February 16. She was 81.
Born in Radford, Virginia, on December 5, 1936, Vann graduated from Oak Ridge High School in 1955. After graduation, she worked for the Oak Ridge Recreation Department as a playground director for two years at Woodland Elementary School.
Later, she earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Tennessee in 1964 and a master’s degree in 1970. She taught health and physical education at Oak Ridge High School for 30 years, according to her obituary.
Vann was a good athlete, and she loved basketball, her obituary said. She participated in the 1954 and 1955 Southern Appalachian Basketball Tournament at Chilhowee Park. These teams were comprised of Oak Ridge Church League players and coached by Margaret Gotshall. Vann earned numerous relay medals swimming at the Oak Ridge Municipal Pool at the ACAC swim meets, where large crowds would gather to watch swimmers compete from several southern states, and she played softball for more than 10 years for the Kerns Methodist team.
She started a girls basketball team at Oak Ridge High School. She coached the first sanctioned game in 1973.
“Sudartha enjoyed coaching and attending camps with her players,” her obituary said. “Sudartha’s players were impressed with her love for reading the Bible and her faith. Sudartha started reading her Bible daily in 1946. The team presented her with a lovely Bible in 1974. That Bible was always a prized possession of hers.”
Vann coached through the 1978 season at Oak Ridge High School, when Jill Prudden became coach.
“She truly loved her daily interaction with all of her students,” Vann’s obituary said. “Her colleagues and friends at Oak Ridge High School held a very special place in her heart.”
Vann was preceded in death by her parents John and Ola Tate. She is survived by her husband Tracy Vann and her children Victor Vann, Johnny Vann, and Kimberly Vann Cox and son-in-law Phil Cox; sister Deloris Pullum and brother-in-law Lanis Pullum; sister Lorraine Hensley and brother-in-law Carl Hensley; nine grandchildren Justin Vann, Jarod Vann, Josh Vann, Johnny Vann II, Julia Vann, Brianna Vann, Callie Cox, Trevor Cox, and Eli Cox; and two great-granddaughters Ryleigh Vann and Alice Vann.
Vann enjoyed reading, watching her grandchildren play sports, traveling, and spending time at her mountain home in the Laurel Valley Community in Townsend, her obituary said.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to Girls Inc. of Oak Ridge, 1798 Oak Ridge Turnpike, Oak Ridge, Tennessee 37830 (phone number (865) 482-4475).
A service was held at the Oak Ridge Memorial Gardens chapel for family and friends on February 20 with Pastor Robert Melton of Ridgepoint Church officiating. Mott’s Floral Designs and Martin Oak Ridge Funeral Home handled all arrangements.
You can see Vann’s obituary here.