Mavis Vanderpool Kohler of Oak Ridge died peacefully Sunday morning, September 6. She was 99 and a veteran of World War II.
She was predeceased 10 years ago by her husband of 62 years, Peter Bogart Kohler, and earlier by her parents, Laura Hall Vanderpool and John Vanderpool.
Born in the small mountain town of McDowell, Kentucky, she was one of six children. Although her parents had only grade-school educations, she was graduated from Pikeville College (now University of Pikeville) with a teaching degree. She vividly remembered the day Pearl Harbor was attacked, sitting in her dorm room listening to the President’s speech on the radio. She returned home to McDowell and Floyd County, where she took a one-year teaching job in a two-room schoolhouse; she served as principal and taught fourth, fifth, and sixth grades.
With her two older brothers enlisting in service, she also answered the call to duty and became among the first group of women to enlist in the U.S. Navy’s WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service). Leaving eastern Kentucky for the first time in her life, she boarded a train and reported to Hunter College in New York City for basic training. Following basic and advanced training, she served as a Pharmacists Mate in the Medical Corps and was based in Washington, D.C., working in U.S. Navy clinics and hospitals.
After her honorable discharge, she moved to Oak Ridge, where she worked in an administrative position for the Atomic Energy Commission at the Castle on the Hill. There she met Pete Kohler, another World War II vet who was from New York State, and they married in 1948 in Clinton, Tennessee. After a relocation to Hanford, Washington, and other cities, they moved back to Oak Ridge in 1953, where they lived the rest of their lives.
Extremely proud to have served her country in World War II, she had been recognized with a Quilt of Valor and as an honoree in the annual Veteran’s Day parade. She and her husband participated together in an Honor Air Flight to Washington, D.C., in 2009.
Until retirement, she was an employee of the Oak Ridge school system, working as a substitute teacher and as a teacher’s aide, primarily at Woodland Elementary School. In addition, she served several terms as President of the Republican Women’s Club and was active in Republican events. She looked forward to basketball season every year and loved pulling for her University of Kentucky Wildcats. During the off-season, she enjoyed working in her yard and was honored as Yard of the Month more than once. She doted on her family and grandchildren and enjoyed time with friends and relatives.
In addition to her husband and parents, she was predeceased by her sisters, Magia Vanderpool Carver and Shirley Vanderpool Emory, and her brothers Ralph, Ottis, and Rayce Vanderpool. She is survived by her daughters, Deborah Kohler Woolley of Nashville and Laurie Vanderpool Kohler of Clinton, and her son, Peter Bogart Kohler II of South Carolina. She is also survived by her half-sister, Joanna Vanderpool Griggs of Humboldt, Tennessee, two grandchildren, several cousins, and numerous nieces and nephews and great-nieces and great-nephews.
The family would like to say a special thank you to her medical team—Dr. Andre Churchwell and Dr. Sara Martin, both of Vanderbilt Medical Center in Nashville—who took exceptional care of her for the past 10 years. Most of all, the family says a heartfelt thank you to Rhonda Teague, her private nurse of almost four years, who gave her both professional and loving care.
Because of the pandemic, there only will be a graveside service where people can easily attend and socially distance. She will be buried in Oak Ridge Memorial Park with full military honors. It will be held Thursday, September 10, 2020, at 1:30 p.m. in The Garden of Valor, the veteran’s section of the cemetery. Both the Patriot Guard Riders and the East Tennessee Veterans Honor Guard will participate.
Weatherford Mortuary is handling the arrangements. An online guest book can be signed at www.weatherfordmortuary.com.