This will serve as the earthly announcement for the one that was made in heaven at 3:30 am, Thursday, January 25, 2018, of the passing of William Lawrence Gaultney from life to eternal life. Bill, or Mr. Gaultney, as he was called by many, passed away in his sleep, at home in Bean Station, without pain, just as he had wished.
Bill was born in “The Comet”, a humble two room log cabin on a farm in Giles County, Tennessee. His parents were Grace Orton Gaultney and Bert Hood Gaultney. The date was July 6th, 1925, or so the neighbors recalled when they finally went to get his birth certificate. There was no water or electricity; the same as when two Tennessee governors had been born in the cabin nearly 100 years before. Bill and his siblings grew up together on the farm. Jack, Samuel, Betsy, Lucile, and Mary rounded out the clan. They plowed with mules and threshed wheat and milked cows by hand. The ground was rocky and the hill behind the cabin was called Hardscrabble. It was a wonderful life in a loving Christian family. Oh, the stories that they could tell.
Bill attended Elkton High School and was just ready to launch into life when life launched him, like millions of other young people, into the Second World War. He volunteered to join the US Navy on his 18th birthday and after proudly serving on a ship in the Pacific Theater until the war was over, and for four years in the Naval reserves. He never forgot those formative years of his life, but like many who went to war, he did not talk openly about many of the experiences there. He was proud of the United States of America and of its flag, which he always hoisted at the entrance to the main meeting room of the Gaultney family reunion. He was a member of the American Legion.
Bill returned home to the great melting pot of the GI Bill and landed at the University of Tennessee where he met the lovely and vivacious Maria Doka from Morristown, Tennessee. They were married on August 28, 1949, five months after he graduated with a degree in Agricultural Engineering.
Bill and Maria left the hills of East Tennessee for the slightly smaller hills of southern Indiana. They moved to Huntingburg, then Jasper, and finally Paoli, where he managed a large crop and livestock farm that was associated with the famous French Lick Springs Hotel. They found contentment in each other, their friends, and their church.
An opportunity to move back to East Tennessee and be nearer family was too good to pass up and they moved to Greeneville in 1955 where Bill became the farm manager for the Holston Methodist Children’s Home. In addition to milking cows and all associated activities, his job was to train the young men, many of whom were orphans, to grow into hard-working, trustworthy, and competent contributors to society. The evidence indicates that he was successful in many cases as decades later the graduates from those classes have funded a scholarship at the Holston Home in the names of Bill and Maria Gaultney. While living in the farmhouse there, two sons were born, Lawrence Doka on April 4, 1956, and Michael Bert, on August 4, 1957.
The next phase of their lives together can only be termed an adventure. They left the friendly hills of Tennessee to go half way around the world to one of the poorest countries in the world, East Pakistan, to serve as missionaries. It was like going back in time. The mission house in Naogaon, had neither running water nor electricity. They lived there for almost four years. Bill helped start a school and taught agricultural principles and new farming techniques to young farmers from the villages. Maria taught sewing and cooking to the ladies and girls from the local villages. They made a great team. By the time they left, the house had running water and electricity. They also had two more children; Mark Samuel, born September 15, 1960 and Anna Maria born October 6, 1962.
After a memorable and epic journey across Europe in a 1963 Volkswagen minibus that spanned from France and Italy and Greece up through the Balkan countries, Germany and ending in Amsterdam, the family of six finally landed back on the good earth of East Tennessee on August 2, 1963. The family lived in Morristown and then Rogersville as they became reacclimated to life in the US. In 1966, Bill became the County Supervisor for the USDA Farmer’s Home Administration in Grainger and Union Counties. He found the family a lovely house on a 25-acre farm and, after years of wandering, they were all finally home.
The definition of home quickly expanded from the 25 acres of pasture land where he proudly raised black angus cattle before they came in vogue, to the entire county and beyond. Bill was active with the Boy Scouts of America as the children grew. He started a Little League baseball team for the young men of Poor Valley, Kingswood School for Children, and the Rock Haven area. The team went from last place their first year to county champions in a few short years. He was proud to join with neighbors and friends to help start the Ecumenical Easter Sunrise Service at the top of Clinch Mountain. He has never missed a service there and always invites whoever he meets to join the gathering on Easter Sunday. Perhaps one of the most meaningful experiences of his life and one which has continued for over 30 years is the weekly visit to the Grainger County Jail to meet with the folks who are there, male and female, to give encouragement and share Christ’s love by a short Bible reading, a few songs on his harmonica, and a short prayer. It is hard to say how many folks have been touched by his faithful presence there every Friday night, rain or snow, holiday or not, even as he became frailer and needed help entering the facility.
Many people live amazing lives and never receive the honor that they deserve for helping others. Bill’s obvious caring for his fellow travelers was too hard to miss and he was honored with several acknowledgements of his contributions to society, among which are: 1969 and 1970 Tanasi Girl Scout Council Campaign; 1989 USDA Award for Superior Service; 1991 Grainger County Chamber of Commerce Person of the Year; 1998 Service to the Adult Literacy Program; 2006 Imprint Award from Camp Wesley Woods; 2008 Selfless Acts of time and dedication to Grainger County Adult Education; 2008 Volunteer of the Year of the Tennessee Association for Adult and Community Education; 2010 Foundation for Evangelism Harry Denman Evangelism Award; and a plaque presented by the Grainger Country Ecumenical Thanksgiving Service for many Years of Faithful Christian Service.
In summary; Bill Gaultney lived a life well spent: he helped raise a family, traveled across the world, helped wherever he could to make other people’s lives a little better, and passed on the legacy and the faith handed down to him by generations of Christian forbearers.
Bill is survived by his loving wife of 68 years, Maria; Larry and Heidi of Elkton Maryland and their three children Peter and wife Dixie of Nashville, Wendy and husband Brett of Catonsville, Maryland, and Cecilia of Washington DC. ; Michael and Clara Jean of Chilhowie, Virginia and their two children Caroline and husband Brian of Marion, Virginia, Leah and husband Nathan of Four Oaks, North Carolina ; Mark and Becky of Whitesburg, Tennessee, and their three children Samuel and wife Jessica of Knoxville, Angela and husband Houston of Oak Ridge, and Christine of Pine Mountain, Kentucky; and Anna of Townsend, Tennessee. He has four greatgrandchildren.
The family would like to extend deepest appreciate to all of the friends and family who visited during Bill’s time of illness, and to Covenant Healthcare personnel who visited and cared for him during this difficult time.
Family will receive friends at the Rutledge United Methodist Church, 7961 Rutledge Pike, Rutledge, TN from 2 to 4 pm on Sunday, January 28, 2018. The funeral service and a celebration of Bill’s life will commence at 4 pm. A graveside ceremony and the interment will be at 5 pm in the church cemetery. A time of food and fellowship will be held in the church immediately following the interment. Allen Funeral Home of Morristown, Tennessee is in charge of all arrangements. Flowers may be sent to the church or to Allen Funeral Home at 200 Jaybird Road, Morristown, Tennessee. In lieu of flowers, please send donations to the Holston Home for Children, PO Box 118, Greeneville, Tennessee, 37744 with the donation designated for the Bill and Maria Gaultney Scholarship Fund.