William Taylor (‘T’) Henry, Jr. passed away on April 24, 2021, two weeks before his 92nd birthday.
The second son of William and Nell Hardie Henry, Dad was born in a coal camp in Gatliff, Kentucky on May 6, 1929. His family grew up poor and hard and bounced around Appalachian coal mining camps until the family settled in Oak Ridge in early 1944. Due to all the moving, he was two years behind in school, but he quickly caught up and graduated on time from Oak Ridge High School in 1948.
Dad proudly served in the U. S. Army 4th Infantry Division from 1950-1952 and then returned to Oak Ridge. He never lived anywhere else or had any desire to. He was proud of Oak Ridge and its history, and he was always full of ideas of how to improve and promote his beloved hometown.
In February 1955, he married Billie Sue Looper of Hickory, North Carolina, and they had two sons. Dad was a hot cell operator at Oak Ridge National Laboratory for over 30 years before retiring—but he definitely did not slow down. He enjoyed whittling, traveling, working in his yard, collecting old tools, and spoiling his grandkids. He enjoyed listening to old-time country and bluegrass music, and he was an avid reader of Appalachian literature and classic poetry. His keen intellectual curiosity and interests were alive and thriving to the very end.
Dad never met a stranger and had a kind word for all. His genuine affection, generosity, kindness, and consistent good humor resulted in countless loyal friendships lasting for decades.
Dad developed a love of old tools, which led to whittling exquisite miniature versions, a hobby that he pursued for over 60 years. Numerous awards were bestowed on him, including the 2015 Tennessee Governor’s Arts Award for Folklife and demonstrating his craft at the Smithsonian Festival of American Folklife. He was a lifetime member of the Southern Highlands Craft Guild and a charter member of the Foothills Craft Guild. Dad was also a stalwart at the annual Fall Homecoming of the Museum of Appalachia.
His family expresses their deep thanks and affection to all of his nurses with Primary Case Management. They became his extended family through their dedicated, selfless service and made his final few months comfortable with their compassion, companionship, and omelet making skills. Words can’t express the love and respect we have for them all. We also wish to thank the dedicated compassionate professionals with Amedysis Hospice Services.
He was preceded in death by his parents; brothers Jim, Tom, and John; and sisters Juanell, Nedra, and Atha. He is survived by sons David L. Henry of Old Hickory, Tennessee, and William T. Henry III (Sandi) of Oak Ridge; grandchildren Daniel (Cally), Jonathan (Bridgette), Leanne, and Anika; special friend and loyal companion Jean Byrne of Eufala, Alabama; and numerous nieces and nephews, all of whom he made a positive and lasting impact on.
A memorial service will be held May 16, 2021 at 2:00 at the Museum of Appalachia’s Reception Hall. Masks are required.