Elaine Causey Trauger died peacefully at home on Nov. 12.
Born on Oct. 18, 1922, Elaine grew up on the family farm near Greensboro, N.C., with her loving parents, Roscoe Cheek Causey and Isabel Craven Causey, and her dear sister Belle Eloise Causey (Butler). They were surrounded by a wonderful extended Causey family, especially including her late cousin Benson, who was like a brother to her.
A brilliant student, Elaine graduated from high school at age 15 and from Greensboro College at age 19. After teaching school for a year, Elaine struck out on her own and moved to New York City to obtain a master’s degree in foods and nutrition at Columbia University.
The excitement of the World War II years in New York culminated for Elaine when she met the Nebraska farm boy who was to become the love of her life, Don Trauger. A nine-month whirlwind romance led to their marriage in her family church, Mt. Pleasant (United) Methodist Church, on Sept. 2, 1945. Elaine and Don’s almost giddy affection and profound love for each other never waned through their 63 years of marriage.
The newlyweds found their way to Oak Ridge in 1946. They expected a temporary stay, but it lasted the rest of their lives.
Elaine became the chief dietician and manager of the Oak Ridge High School cafeteria for three years until the birth of their son, Byron, in 1949. Another son, Tom, followed in 1951.
Elaine loved Oak Ridge. She threw herself into charitable and civic life, initially through First United Methodist Church, where she served in many capacities, notably as the first woman chair of the administrative board. For 15 years in mid-life, Elaine taught the senior high Sunday School class at First Church, and one of her great joys in her later years was to learn of the successes of those students whom she called “my kids.”
Elaine loved the YWCA, where she served on the board and taught money management classes for many years. She also taught cooking classes for the Girl Scouts and served many other local organizations. She was one of the founders of the volunteer program at Methodist Medical Center.
Elaine’s most visible service to her community began in 1977, when she was elected the second woman member of the Oak Ridge City Council. Initially opposed by the Chamber of Commerce, the Labor Council, and by both the Republican and Democratic parties, Elaine won her first election overwhelmingly. By the time she retired in 1989, she had earned the respect and support of all four organizations—and of many others.
She served on the steering committee of the National League of Cities’ Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Policy Committee, was a founding member of the Women in Government organization in Tennessee, and was vice chair of the Tennessee Committee for the Humanities.
As a member of the City Council, Elaine was blind to party labels, but was passionate in support of public education, economic development, and beautification. She was especially devoted to the Oak Ridge school system, even when that meant taking unpopular positions.
Elaine loved connecting with people and was a faithful friend. She was devoted to the members of her bridge clubs, and for more than 50 years regularly met with close women friends in what they called the Sewing Club. In the early years, they actually did sew together, but the group evolved into a gathering of soul mates.
Elaine and Don loved to entertain their friends, and all appreciated Elaine’s culinary genius. They hosted brunches on Christmas Day for several years, invited scores of foreign visitors to home-cooked meals, and regularly entertained friends and colleagues in large parties and intimate gatherings.
Elaine survived two earlier brushes with death. The first, in 1959, resulted from a renal shutdown following the death of an infant daughter. On that occasion, Elaine experienced what has since been described as a “near-death” experience, which confirmed her strong belief in the life hereafter. The second, in 1987, occurred when she was stricken with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. She used that experience later to counsel others who suffered from cancer.
Elaine was preceded in death by her parents, her sister, her infant brother, two infant children, Harold Joseph Trauger and Caroline Sue Trauger, and her husband, Donald Byron Trauger.
She is survived by her sons, Byron Roscoe Trauger (Aleta) in Nashville and Thomas Charles Trauger (Jana Belsky) in Washington, D.C.; two granddaughters, Hallie Causey Trauger and Katherine Aleta Trauger; a great-granddaughter, Riley Grace Trauger; and many beloved members of the Causey family in North Carolina and of Don’s Nebraska family.
A service of remembrance and celebration will be held at First United Methodist Church in Oak Ridge on Saturday, Dec. 1, at 1 p.m. with visitation to follow.
The family requests that, in lieu of flowers, contributions be made to First United Methodist Church or to a charity of your choice.