Mary Lee Freeman Blair, 85, retired teacher of Columbia, died Tuesday, September 26, 2023 at Life Care Center of Columbia.
Funeral services will be conducted Saturday, September 30, 2023 at 11:00 A.M. at Oakes and Nichols Funeral Home with Rev. Lee Stevenson officiating. Burial will follow at Polk Memorial Gardens. The family will visit with friends Friday, September 29, 2023 from 5:00 P.M. until 7:00 P.M. at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home.
Born August 8, 1938, in Cumberland Furnace, Tennessee, Mary Lee was the only child of the late Robert Clifton Freeman and the late Olivia Jones Freeman. She grew up on Freeman farm and attended a one teacher elementary school for six years and graduated from Charlotte High School in 1956. She was selected to represent her school at Volunteer Girl’s State in 1955. Mrs. Blair earned a B.S. degree in Home Economics with a minor in Music from Peabody College in 1959. In 1960, she moved to Columbia to become a Home Extension Agent working for UT in Maury County with the 4-H Club. This is where she met the love of her life.
On December 17, 1960, she married Neal Fraser Blair who preceded her in death May 13, 2023. For 62 years they enjoyed traveling the world, visiting museums, square dancing with the Wagon Wheelers alongside their closest of friends; Dr. Taylor and the late Connie Rayburn, Joyce and the late Jimmy Cranford. Mary Lee returned to school to add an Elementary certificate and a Kindergarten endorsement to her teaching qualifications. She served as President of A.A.U.W., the Home Economics Club, and the Lioness Club. She began teaching at Riverside Elementary in 1973 and joined M.C.E.A., T.E.A., and N.E.A. She transferred to Baker Elementary in 1976 and taught Kindergarten and First Grade for 23 years. Mary Lee went back to college while teaching at Baker Elementary and earned her M.A. in Reading from Vanderbilt University in 1980. She became a Career Ladder III teacher in 1981. She raised money for the American Heart Association by overseeing the Jump-A-Thon. She was a member of Baker P.T.A, M.C.T.A. (school representative for 2 years), T.E.A, and N.E.A. She was invited to join Delta Kappa Gamma, an honorary society of women educators in 1992 where she served as president for 2 years. She was nominated for inclusion in Who’s Who among America’s Teachers by a former student in 1994. She retired in 1997 and joined the Polk Memorial Association, Maury County Retired Teachers and served as president for 2 years, T.E.A. Retired, and became a life time member of N.E.A. One of her most prized accomplishments was being a co-author of the Ag-In-The Classroom Curriculum called “Plant a Seed in Tennessee” featuring the main character Tenneseed.
A devoted Christian lady, Mary Lee was an active member of The First United Methodist Church where she was sunshine chairman of Dorothy Jackson Circle and actively involved in the music ministry. She was a member of the Bruce Strother Sunday School Class, where she served as president for one year. She served on several committees including: stewardship, children’s spiritual and inspirational; and served as chairperson of the worship committee for 2 years.
Survivors include her daughter and son in law, Carol Lee Blair Peterson (Todd) of Memphis; son and daughter in law, Neal Freeman Blair (Karen) of Columbia; brother-in-law, Dr. John Rodney Blair (Sandra) of West Palm Beach, Florida; sisters-in-law, Mary Patsy Blair Johnston of Nashville; Roseanne “Rocky” Blair of Memphis; six grandchildren, Daniell Neal Blair (Allison), Corey Freeman Blair (Maggie), Parker Blair Peterson, Mackay McTigrit, Graham McTigrit, and Andrew Hight; and two great grandchildren, Reagan Blair and Abel Hight.
Pallbearers will be Daniell Blair, Corey Blair, Parker Peterson, Mackay McTigrit, Graham McTigrit, and Chris Hight. Honorary pallbearers will be Dr. Taylor Rayburn, the Bruce Strother Sunday School Class, the Retired Teacher Association and Delta Kappa Gamma.
The family would like to express a special thanks to the doctors, nurses, techs, and staff at the Gardens of Life Care Center of Columbia and Caris Hospice, in addition to Joyce Cranford and their caring and loving neighbors.
Memorials may be made to First United Methodist Church, 222 West 7th Street, Columbia, TN 38401 or The Alzheimer’s Association or American Kidney Fund. Online condolences may be extended at www.oakesandnichols.com.