Mary Grace Feezell Starnes, 76, died Monday, Oct. 17, 2016, at her residence. Mary was born to the Rev. Lee Asbury and Nettie Hope Feezell on Feb. 3, 1940, in Meigs County, Tenn., and has lived in East Ridge, most of her adult life. In 1956 at age 16, Mary became a student at Tennessee Wesleyan College, where she sang in Jack Houts' concert and traveling choir, edited the school newspaper for two years, served as president of the academic honors fraternity, was elected senior class secretary, chosen for major roles in several important dramatic productions including "Kismet", and held office and leadership positions in many other organizations and campus activities, graduating in 1960 with inclusion in "Who's Who in American Colleges and Universities." Mary began her teaching career in 1960 at McMinn County High School and transferred to East Ridge High School in Hamilton County. In 1964, at a double ring ceremony, with her sister, Elizabeth, and Bill Smith, Mary and Paul Starnes were married at Pisgah Baptist Church. During this time, Mary taught at Etowah High School and McMinn Central High School in McMinn County, Tenn., while Paul was Dean of Students at Hiwassee College. While at McMinn Central, she wrote the lyrics to the alma mater. At that period of time, she was included in the publication of Most Outstanding Young Women of America. In 1969, Mary returned to teach in the Hamilton County School System. Mary was an educator and totally involved in her profession and in civic and social activities, receiving numerous awards for her leadership and service on both local and state levels. Mary adored language, took great delight in communicating with people, and was always convinced she should use this medium to make a real difference in the world. She was imaginative, an admitted dreamer, a practical idealist, and an extrovert who enjoyed an audience of one or hundreds. For over 30 years, she was a speaker every hour as she taught secondary English; she was chosen to address professional groups, civic organizations, churches, reunions, state conventions, and to speak to all ages and to varying size groups in town, and out of town. She was asked to express the thoughts that would lift the human spirit, inspire, challenge, inform, persuade, and move people to action. After 36 years serving as a teacher and as Hamilton County School's Coordinator of Language Arts, she retired. Mary continued to delight in gardening, antiquing, and adding to her various collections. After retirement, she enjoyed entertaining friends in her beautifully landscaped back yard. She was convinced that expressing creativity and appreciating beauty in all its forms are basic elements to an enjoyable life. Mary was rewarded by frequent telephone calls, letters, and visits from so many of her former students. Mary personified kindness and had an unquenchable exuberance and true dedication of life. She focused on assisting all people and cherishing God's magnificent creation. She will be remembered as a person who made everyone feel special and that they were important. Mary was predeceased by her husband, Paul M. Starnes, former State Representative; her brother, Sam L. Feezell and his wife, Nancy; her sister, Elizabeth Hope Feezell Smith; and her sister-in-law, Carolyn Ann Starnes-Vincent. She is survived by her special son, Jarrell F. Bowers; her brother-in-law, Ronald M. Starnes (Ethel); and their children, David (Rhea Jeanne) and daughter, Hannah Starnes, Michael (Valeska) and their children, Madison and Phillip, and Susan (Arch) Howell; and sons, Will and Sam Pesterfield; brother-in-law, Steven Vincent and his sons, Richard and Ivan, and brother-in-law, William A. Smith, cousins, many wonderful and great neighbors and friends. The family wishes to thank Mary's caretaker and personal assistant, Angi Lee, for her care and dedication. Services will be held Friday, Oct. 21, 2016, in the funeral home chapel, with Rev. Gary W. Grogg and Rev. Dr. David Harr officiating. Burial will follow at Pisgah Cemetery, Decatur, Tenn. Visit www.heritagechattanooga.com to share words of comfort and view the memorial tribute. The family will receive friends Thursday from 4 to 8 p.m. and Friday, from 10 to 11 a.m., at the East Brainerd Chapel of Heritage Funeral Home, 7454 E. Brainerd Road. This obituary was originally published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press.
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