Mattie Lou Lee, 94, Oliver Springs

“I have fought the good fight; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith.”   ~2 Timothy 4:7

On the beautiful spring day of May 17, 2021, our Mother, Mattie Lou Lee, finished her earthly race and was greeted by her Savior as she entered her eternal home in Heaven.  When Jesus whispered her name, our Mother departed her earthly existence peacefully, quickly, and easily.  For those who were present, it was beautiful to witness because we strongly believe “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord” [2 Corinthians 5:8].

Mattie Lou’s earthly race began as a home birth on January 28, 1927 at the family home in Oliver Springs, Tennessee.  As the 6th of 8 children, the Borums were a close-knit family that didn’t realize their humble surroundings and upbringing.  It was an era where “family was everything”.  Growing up in the depression brought difficult times that taught life-lessons that were instilled in Mattie Lou for the rest of her life.  Imagine 5 sisters being able to share one baby doll!  Entertainment was simple such as collecting rain water as it dripped off the roof on a rainy day, or playing sports with the 3 brothers.  On the rare occasion when there were excess funds, the siblings would walk to the downtown drug store for an ice cream cone.  A hard and honest work ethic was instilled in all the Borum children by their parents.  Papa (Borum) was a coal miner and he, Mama (Borum), and the kids also maintained a large garden to make sure there was food for the winter.  At a young age, Mattie Lou accepted Jesus as her Savior, and was baptized in a creek in Windrock, Tennessee.  She never ventured from her belief in Christ, and her faith was the foundation of how she lived her life and raised her family. 

In her teens, Mattie Lou was smitten by a charming and good-looking  young man, Gene Lee, who had to quit school to care for his siblings, but showed promise, ambition, and drive. What a sweet love story they had!  A little flirting quickly turned into love.  Now-a-days Mattie Lou would be termed a “cougar” because she was the oldest in the relationship (by 5 months).  One morning while she was sitting in class at Oliver Springs High School, she heard the toot of a car horn just outside the windows.  She promptly left class and skipped the rest of the school day to run off to Georgia to get married.  But, alas, education was not sacrificed because she made it back the very next day for class.  This was the start of a 52 year marriage (partnership) that ended when her beloved Gene died in 1996.  For her entire life, Mattie Lou only had eyes for one man, and they shared a once-in-a-lifetime love and commitment.  Their relationship would probably be considered strange in today’s society of dual-incomes and equal decision-making – but it worked for them.  In their marriage, they had very separate and distinct roles – Gene was the breadwinner and handled the finances; Mattie Lou took care of the home and the family.  Everything was purchased in cash.  They never owned a credit card.  Mattie Lou never worked in a paying job outside of the home.  Gene often told her he “did not marry her to work”, but she could outwork anyone around.  She maintained an immaculate lawn, with beautiful blooming flowers for each season, and her house was spotless.  She was famous for her delicious country cooking. 

Early in their marriage, Mattie Lou and Gene began a family with the birth of a son, Kenneth Allen.  Although they would have liked to have had more children, that did not work out — at least not initially. But, as we all know, God is often weaving a tapestry for our lives.  After Kenneth graduated from High School and moved away to college, the Lee family was expanded by two little girls, Joy and Lisa Bell.  Although biologically they were nieces, they were raised as daughters after the untimely deaths of their parents.  Mattie Lou never saw Lisa and Joy any differently than as her own.  Growing up in the Lee household, there were always home-cooked meals together for breakfast and dinner.  This was a time for everyone to share what was going on in their lives and staying connected. Mattie Lou instilled her hard work ethic in the kids with assigned tasks – mowing the large yard, picking bag worms (you haven’t lived until you do this!), keeping bedrooms straight, washing dishes, sweeping the patio, etc. Beds had to be military-made (no wrinkles), or they were re-done. 

Because of her focus on the family, Mattie Lou always put herself last.  She had a servant’s heart and enjoyed doing things for others.  Much of this centered around cooking because that was her forte.  When there was sickness or death of someone she knew, she would not just make one dish – she would make an entire meal.  It wasn’t uncommon for her to make a huge pot of chili – and then separate it for 6 or 7 families to enjoy. 

Initially, Mattie Lou may come across as shy and a bit introverted but, once she got to know you, she could out-talk anyone.  She was quite the practical joker and had a great sense of humor. Growing up, the family had a 2nd home on Watts Bar Lake.  Mattie Lou did not like water and would typically spend her time maintaining the cabin.  When she did venture out on the boat to appease Gene, she would be wearing triple protection – a life jacket, a ski belt, and a flotation cushion. As a Chevrolet dealer, Gene won many international trips, which was also hard on Mattie Lou because she had a fear of flying.

As with most women from her era, her focus was on her family and not herself.  However, she developed two very close friendships after they all were widowed and lived in the same neighborhood. Dee Jones became her “walking buddy”, and Yvonne Collins became her Saturday night Shoney’s date. Mattie Lou was a life-long resident of Oliver Springs and a faithful lifetime member of First Baptist Church in Oliver Springs.  Other interests included UT football and basketball, and attending functions that featured her grandchildren  and great-grandchildren.

Besides our Dad and her son, Kenneth, relatives that are in heaven to await her homegoing include her parents Roy & Mattie Ann Borum; brothers Lawrence Borum, James Borum, and Roy Jr. Borum; sisters Alice Childs, Ruth Bell, and Lela Parten; brother-in-law Charles Lee; and sister-in-law Barbara Smith.  Family left to cherish her memory include daughters Joy Doyle from Charlestown, WV; Lisa Brown (Larry) from Oliver Springs; sister Edna Acuff (Oak Ridge); daughter-in-law Donna Lee (N. Myrtle Beach, SC); grandchildren, Jennifer Lee (Oak Ridge); Tony Lee (Knoxville); Krysta Brown (Oak Ridge); Corey Lee (Oak Ridge); Joseph Doyle (Charlestown, WV), and Kathlyn Doyle (Charlestown, WV); great-grandchildren, Jackson, Loren, and Matti Hart (Oak Ridge); Brennon Rosario Lee (Oak Ridge); Emma and Elliott Nelson (Charlestown, WV); and Landen, Liam, and Logan Doyle (Charlestown, WV).  She was also very close to niece, Melanie Parten. Caretakers, lovingly referred to as “Team Mattie Lou”, consisting of Sharon Cantrell, Debra Campbell, Phyllis Duggins, Jennifer Griffith, Melanie Parten, Trisha Schubert, and Aleaha Stubbs are now considered “family”. Our family is very appreciative of the care provided by the Amedisys Hospice team that included Cindy Gallaher, Greg Crowe, and Brandi Tackett, among others. 

Our family would love to invite all of our friends, along with Mom’s friends and extended family, to join us to reminisce on a life well lived by celebrating her life at Beech Park Baptist Church in Oliver Springs on Wednesday, May 19, from 5:00 pm to 7:30 pm, with the funeral service to follow at 7:30 pm. A graveside service will be held on Thursday, May 20, at 11 am at Anderson Memorial Gardens in Clinton, with Mom’s final earthly resting place being beside our Dad.

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