A woman known for her enthusiasm, persistence, generosity and bubbly personality, Trousdale County native Dixie Mae Taylor-Huff lost her battle against non-Hodgkins Lymphoma at Centennial Medical Center Wednesday, May 23, at the age of 71.
"She has really meant more to this community than anybody that I know, just in what she has done civically, what she has done through her church, and what she has done to help people support their families," 15th District Attorney General Tommy Thompson said. "She is an example for anyone to follow. In my lifetime I don't know anybody that has done more to help the average person by giving them the opportunity to be employed. She had patience. A lot of times she would give more than one opportunity."
"I just wanted to say that she is one of the best people that I ever met in my life," Former U.S. Congressman Bob Clement, who is also a former president of Cumberland University, said. "She was a champion when it comes to quality health care in the United States. She was truly a national leader in healthcare.
"She is truly going to be missed by her family and friends."
Taylor-Huff was admired for her achievements and to her service in Wilson and Trousdale County. She was the owner of Quality Care Nursing Home and Cedars Health Care in Lebanon, Bellwood Assisted Living, Richland Place Senior Living Center in Portland, Tenn., former treasurer to the Tennessee Democratic Party, past president of the Nashville Women's Political Caucus, a member of the Board of Directors of MainStreet Media, and part owner of Trousdale County Senior Living Center in Hartsville.
"Dixie and her children have been a lifelong friend to me," Administrator and RN of Trousdale County Senior Living Center Janie Oldham. "She was always full of fun, smiling, laughing and always willing to help anyone at any time. She will be sadly missed by more people than anyone will ever know."
She was also well known for being politically active. She lobbied for support of legislation that benefited education, health care and senior adults. The Nashville Women's Political Caucus honored her March 17, 2008, during their annual Spring Revue.
"One I first started doing this work, it was really scary, but she always said, 'Be strong, and never let them see you cry.'" Trousdale County Attorney Betty Lou Taylor said. "I was standing in the courthouse, I had a jury trial going…bad, I was standing looking out the window and thinking, 'If I could just run out the door. If I could just cry.' And I could hear Dixie in the background say, 'Don't ever let them see you cry.' And I went back into the courtroom. Whenever I get afraid, I think about that."
Tennessee Democratic Chairman Chip Forrester posted Wednesday on the democratic website, "Tennessee lost a great democrat with the passing of our dear friend Dixie Taylor-Huff yesterday. Over my many years in Tennessee Democratic politics, Dixie was a key advisor, powerful mentor and valued friend. A powerful fundraiser, Dixie was a 'go-to' leader for candidates all across this state. And she will be remembered for her powerful entrepreneurial flair as she blazed new trails as a woman in the health care profession building a premier Tennessee company. We have lost a good one."
Taylor-Huff was the oldest of four children born to the late Goldman Seay Gregory and Louise Cunningham.
Taylor-Huff started her foray into senior care at the age of 13, working for Budgie Oakley at Oakley's Pharmacy. At the time she did everything from pulling sodas to delivering medicines to nursing homes. Her love for helping with the elderly developed during her time there.
"I have always loved being around older people," Taylor-Huff said in an 2008 article in the Hartsville Vidette. "I loved their stories and hearing the wonderful things they had to tell about how things used to be."
She was a 1959 graduate of Trousdale County High School, and in 1963, Taylor-Huff went to work for Fred Beene at Beene's Boarding House [now known as Hartsville Convalescent Center].
During her time there she learned the nursing home business from the ground up.
In 1969, she began her career with Dr. Carl Adams, working on a reimbursement system with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee. Soon after, Beene, along with his business partners, Dr. Jimmy Bradshaw, Judge Robert Bradshaw and Robert Oldham asked her what they could offer her to stay.
"I said, 'I want half the business and I want to build a new nursing home,'" she recalled in the article. "I said it as a joke, but they did it! They loaded me the money and held the note for me!"
The nursing home was the first 100 beds of Cedars Nursing Home that would later become Quality Care Nursing Home in Lebanon.
Taylor Huff is survived by her husband, Tommy Huff of Castalian Springs; three daughters, Tony Gregory of Hartsville, Sonya (Ted) Kemp of Pleasant Shade, and Kristi (Jeff) Carter of Carthage; five step-children, Sharon Huff, Karon Huff, Vicki McPhearson, Tommy (Rachel) Huff Jr. and Wayne Huff; six grandchildren, Allen (Tabitha) Kemp, Mandy (Robbie) Dixon, Samantha (Craig) Kemp-Mullins, Justin Gregory, Zachrey Carter and Taylor Carter; four step-grandchildren, Rachel McClendon, Houston McPhearson, Tommy Huff III and Will Huff; five great-grandchildren, Tyler Dixon, Jak Kemp, Sam Mullins, Kaylee Dixon and Tinsley Kemp; brother, Jerry Dexter (Janice) Gregory of Tampa, Fla.; two sisters, Sarita (Bobby) Enoch and Tamera (Tony) Gulley, both of Hartsville, and several nieces and nephews.
Services for Mrs. Taylor-Huff will be 2 p.m. Saturday, May 26, at the Trousdale County High School Gymnasium with Elder Kevin Harrison and Elder Jeff Blackwell officiating. Visitation will be Thursday, May 24, from 5-9 p.m., Friday, May 25, from 11 a.m. until 9 p.m., and Saturday, May 26, from 11 a.m. until service time at Anthony Funeral Home, 337 McMurry Blvd., Hartsville.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Sherry's Run.
Lebanon Democrat Staff Writer Sabrina Garrett and former Hartsville Vidette Managing Editor Liz Ferrell contributed to this story.
Hartsville Vidette Managing Editor Marie Corhern can be reached at 615-779-3133 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.