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Southern Middle TN Today News with Tom Price 5-21-24


Southern Middle Tennessee Today

News Copy for May 21, 2024

All news stories are aggregated from various sources and modified for time and content. Original sources are cited.

We start with local news…

Mary Susan Kennedy Remembered (MSM)

Family and friends are mourning the loss of Mary Susan Berry Kennedy, who died Friday, May 17 at the age of 67 after an accidental fall in Columbia.

She was known for her dedicated service to the community through a number of organizations, including St. Peter’s Episcopal Church (choir, Daughters of the King, vestry, altar guild, flower guild, and a children’s Sunday school teacher); Monteagle Sunday School Assembly (Board member and Secretary of the Executive Committee, President of the Women’s Association, Co-Chair of the Youth Committee, Long Range Planning Committee and Assembly choir); The Centennial Club (chorus member), Daughters of the American Revolution, Garden Club, Columbia Breakfast Rotary, Chamber of Commerce Spring Hill (chamber ambassador), Maury Alliance, James K. Polk Memorial Association, Pay Grace Forward and Kappa Alpha Theta.

“She was always at every ribbon cutting, interviewing business owners. She would have the grandkids in tow and she was coaching them to be well-mannered in true Mary Susan fashion,” said Rebecca Melton, executive director of the Spring Hill Chamber of Commerce. “She was selected to be Ambassador of the Month this month and we’ll honor her on Thursday. We all got to know her more intimately because of her being an ambassador, and the rest of the community will now get to learn about all of the effort she put into the community here and in Columbia and Franklin.”

Mary Susan is survived by her husband of 43 years, Sam Delk Kennedy Jr.; children, Sam Delk Kennedy III (Rachel Vest) and Mary Susan Berry Kennedy II; grandchildren, Margaret Berry, Samuel Delk IV and Anne Ridley Greenfield Kennedy; and her siblings, Dewees Berry, Doug Berry, Will Berry and Amanda Moody.

“She just shined a light everywhere she went,” Delk Kennedy said. “I just want to say thank you one more time for the overwhelming support, thoughts and prayers we’ve gotten wherever we go. It’s amazing – of course we knew Mary Susan was amazing. To hear all these folks talk about her, if anybody deserves the Mother Teresa Award, it’s her.”

Mary Susan was the daughter of Sue and Dewees Berry of Franklin and was raised on a farm off West Harpeth Road that she loved. She rode horses, played in the woods and developed a love of nature that she kept the rest of her life. She and her husband of 43 years, Delk, raised their children, on their own farm, Glendale Farm. Mary Susan hosted countless people at Glendale, and for her, any guest was an occasion for breaking out the silver and good china. She was known for her beautiful flower arrangements and for putting anyone who showed up to work.

Mary Susan was deeply loyal to lifelong friends from high school, college, Columbia and the Monteagle Sunday School Assembly, and she absolutely adored both the Berry and the Kennedy families.

Mary Susan loved playing with her children and grandchildren – hiking, reading, riding horses, singing and playing “pretend” as a serious business. She was game for an adventure, and was proud that she was the brave one who jumped off the waterfalls when she was young, and was renowned for being an active grandmother at Monteagle and beyond.

“She always kept her loved ones built up and made sure you were feeling good,” said son Sam Kennedy.

One friend said, “I don’t know how she does it. She goes to EVERYTHING – lectures, excursions, porch parties, movies, canoe trips, caving adventures, float trips, twilight prayers, etc.! I can only hope I’m like her when I have grandkids!”

She graduated from Harpeth Hall High School, where she just celebrated her 50th reunion. She earned her B.A. at Vanderbilt University and remained a devoted fan of the Commodores, a master’s in Business Administration from Southern Methodist University and her Ph.D. from the University of Memphis. She was a professor at Columbia State Community College for 40 years before retiring to become busier than before, participating in civic organizations, helping run the family’s WKOM and WKRM radio stations and working with her son to manage the cattle and sheep at Glendale Farm.

“I was speaking with another dear friend of Mary Susan’s and she said, ‘I knew I was her very dearest friend, and the person I was speaking to said they were her very dearest friend,’ and I said but wait – I was her very dearest friend. The fact is, if you knew Mary Susan, you were her very dearest friend. She had countless best friends. If she knew you, you were hers and you never knew where the venture was going to take you,” said friend Kristi Martin.

A memorial service will be held at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, Columbia, on Thursday, May 23, 2024 at 3:30 p.m. Visitation with the family will be held Wednesday, May 22 from 3-5 p.m. 

Memorials may be made to St. Peter’s Episcopal Church or to the Monteagle Assembly Endowment Fund Corporation.

Columbia State Professor Pronounced Dead in Brazil (CDH)

A Columbia State Community College professor, accompanying 12 students from across Tennessee on a study-abroad trip to Brazil, died after a large wave hit the teacher and three students.

Brazil authorities and search and rescue crews worked since Thursday to locate Clifford Gordon, who was swept out into the water. Columbia State Community College spokesperson Amy Spears said they received word Monday morning that his body was found and recovered.

"We were heartbroken to hear of this tragic accident,” said Dr. Janet F. Smith, Columbia State Community College president. “We are thankful that no students were seriously injured. Our college family mourns the loss of Clifford, who was a talented artist and greatly loved by his students. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends, and students.”

Gordon and a dozen students — from Pellissippi State, Columbia State, Walters State and Southwest Tennessee Community College — left May 6 for a three week tour studying art in Brazil, according to a Monday email from Rick Locker, a spokesman for the College System of Tennessee.

Gordon and three students, two from Pellissippi State and one from Walters State, were walking along an oceanside road near Paraty, Brazil, and stopped to take a picture when the wave hit, Locker said.

Two of the students were taken to a medical center and released. The third student was treated on site, Locker said.

"All three are safe," Locker said.

The students left Paraty Sunday and will board a flight home from Rio de Janeiro. They are scheduled to be back in Tennessee Tuesday, Locker said.

"The students have been offered counseling services, which will continue when they are back in Tennessee," Locker said.

Gordon held an Associates Degree in art from Chattanooga State Community College, a Bachelor's Degree in art from Tennessee State University and a Master's Degree in studio art from the Memphis College of Art.

He began working for Columbia State Community College in 2008 as an adjunct professor in the Humanities and Social Sciences division, Spears said. He began working full-time in 2013 and taught Intro to Visual Arts, Art History, Painting, Drawing, Printmaking and Foundation Studio.

"He was also a talented artist and had numerous exhibitions throughout the state," Spears said. "Clifford was known for producing amazing works of collage and painting to draw the viewer into a world informed by various ideas, traditions and modern discourses. In addition, Clifford traveled to Brazil many summers and taught himself how to speak Portuguese."

Mayor’s Youth Council Honored (CDH)

As the school year comes to an end, the city recognized this year's Mayor's Youth Council at City Hall and shed some light recently on the group's project to better utilize The Duck River.

The group gathered at City Hall during the council's May regular meeting. There, they were joined by council members and Chaz Molder, who founded the Youth Council as a way for young people to better understand the workings of local government as well as undertake a project that could benefit the local community.

"This year's work was particularly exciting and admirable," Molder said. "This was the first year that the Mayor's Youth Council has sort of taken the steps to 'level up' the youth council. We've had some returning youth council members, and we had our very first freshman this year."

This year was the first since the council's founding in 2021 that it had grown beyond Columbia, Molder said, noting that schools were being represented this year from all across the county.

"We've had county schools represented, city schools represented, private schools represented, home schools represented," Molder said. "It's just been really unique seeing the service that these young people have already committed themselves to, to make their community a better place."

Former Mt. Pleasant principal Dr. Ryan Jackson, who helped facilitate the group's project, also recognized its work and potential for the community's youth.

"I knew this was going to be cool, but I wanted to challenge the council in such a way that we can empower young people to do something special," Jackson said. "We came up with a challenge for these students that would empower them in such a way to make a direct impact in their community, and it started with this idea of environmental conservation."

Earlier this year, The Duck River was named among the top endangered rivers in the nation.

The designation was primarily due to its over-usage, caused by rapid growth in the region, officials have noted.

For the Youth Council's project, students were broken up into teams with two goals in mind. The first goal was for the students to create a policy as if they were a part of an actual city council. The second goal was for them to take that policy and create a social media outreach campaign to maximize its influence.

"They truly stepped up to the plate, went above and beyond, created not only some very interesting policy ideas for the mayor to chew on, but then knocked it out of the park with their social media outreach videos," Jackson said. "They did absolutely amazing."

Council members were later shown three videos created by the students, each offering facts and data about The Duck River, its biodiversity and ways residents can benefit from conserving their water usage. It not only saves people a few bucks on their monthly power bills, but ensures the Duck River can continue to thrive.

The social media campaign was also part of a contest, wherein the mayor and council would choose the best to post on social media. After seeing all three, Molder made the executive decision to post not just one, but all of them to the McEwen Group (the project's sponsor) website and the City of Columbia Government's social pages.

"All three of those videos will be shared, and I'll just say congratulations again to all of you," Molder said.

“Enclave” Apartments Change Game in Downtown (CDH)

Finding a place to call home can mean more than four walls.

Sometimes, it's about community, especially when a place is right in the heart of a thriving downtown.

The Enclave is one of downtown Columbia's newest residential developments and its developers say its set to change the game for living, opportunity and more. Located just off East 9th and South Main Streets, The Enclave will include 16 units, with primarily townhome-like layouts that each include three stories, a drive-in garage, lots of natural light and picturesque views of downtown.

The first four units have already been completed, with the rest estimated to be ready sometime in 2025.

Over the last year and a half, owner Dawson Reigns and his wife, Whitney, have been hard at work on the project, which has involved a lot of approvals, inspections and assessments about whether downtown Columbia was ready for something like this.

After all, the Reigns' say The Enclave, once completed, will be "the first of its kind" for the district.

"We feel like we've become a part of the community since we chose to develop here, but meeting other business owners and other people ... it makes us feel like part of the community," Dawson Reigns said. "And when people are seeing these units, they are seeing certain patterns starting to develop downtown. It's a big part of not just what people can get with the building, but in being part of the community."

Hailing from Ontario, Canada, Reigns and his wife moved to Columbia in 2011 after many visits, some which left a lasting impression that "something good is happening here, and we want to be a part of it.

"I've had family in Ann Arbor, Michigan, my grandparents for half of my life in Florida. I've been 'snowbirding' as they call it, coming down for six months to get away from the cold weather," he said by way of explanation. "The U.S. has been just like a second home, and we love it down here, especially Tennessee, because there is so much to see, so much to go to."

In particular, they had their sights set on the downtown Columbia district.

Of The Enclave's 16 units, no two units will be exactly alike, Dawson Reigns said

"Basically, when I was looking at design, it was open concept, big windows and a lot of natural light, which has really been received well," he said. "I think once we get people moved in here, when everything is lit up at night, it's really going to intensify this corner."

This could include something like different color schemes, positioning and other certain visual aesthetics.

"We are doing four different designs that are set, whereas if one sold, you've got the choice of the next three," Dawson Reigns said.

Price points for each model include:

Clean Modern - $485,000

Modern Boho - $485,000

High Contrast - $475,000

Modern Farmhouse - $475,000

Each unit is set up on three stories, with three bedrooms, a two-car garage, dining room, full and half-bathrooms, as well as spacious walk-in closets and pantries. There is also space for laundry and an outdoor terrace for lounging.

"Hopefully we can have all of the southside along East 9th built by 2025, with everything done by Christmas. That's our target," Dawson Reigns said.

And as far as pets are concerned, Dawson Reigns said they are welcome, within reason. The units have been designed to provide decent sound-proofing for residents.

"We do allow dogs and cats, but small dogs, nothing too big. No exotic pets, obviously," he said. "We love animals, but we have to restrict it, size-wise, just with the proximity. We've also installed cinder blocks and sound barriers, a lot to make sure sound doesn't go through."

While developing, selling and providing a home for future residents is the goal, the Reigns' also feel like what they are offering goes far beyond a standing structure, but a lifestyle.

This is part of why they say they chose downtown Columbia specifically, as The Enclave will provide walkability to downtown events like First Fridays, not to mention private parking for things like parades, the New Year's Mule Drop and other major celebrations.

Beyond having first-rate access, it's about building a community that continues to grow, and has a lot more on the way over the next few years. This includes Columbia's first high-rise apartment complex, The Drake, which broke ground earlier this year.

"When people ask about Columbia and aren't aware of it, we love telling them about how great it is," Dawson Reigns said. "There is so much more to offer now that Columbia does. We want people to know that while you are buying here, there is a vast number of other things the city tries to bring to the people. A lot of people don't really know about that."

For more information on The Enclave, visit Muletown Development's website at or call Whitney Reigns at (615) 878-6690 or (615) 895-8000.

Massey Promoted at Randolph Howell (Press Release)

Maury County Public Schools has named longtime Marvin Wright Elementary Principal Marisa Massey as the new principal of Randolph Howell Elementary STEM School.

MCPS Superintendent Lisa Ventura announced Massey's appoint this week, noting that she "brings a wealth of experience and dedication to her new role."

She previously served for 13 years as Marvin Wright's principal, and she has almost three decades of overall experience teaching and working in Maury County schools.

"Mrs. Massey will be a valuable addition to Randolph Howell Elementary," Ventura said in a press release. "Her extensive experience and dedication are well-suited to the school's commitment to excellence. Her collaborative approach is expected to inspire both students and faculty, promoting a culture of inquiry, critical thinking, and achievement.

"Mrs. Massey has a strong commitment to students, parents, and staff. She leaves a legacy of excellence and community at Marvin Wright, and I look forward to that attitude and sense of community permeating the halls of Randolph Howell.”

Massey holds a Bachelor of Science from Middle Tennessee State University, a Master's in Administration and Supervision from Tennessee State University and a Master's Plus 30 from Drake University.

Her education career began in Maury County, first at Highland Park Elementary School in 2000, where she taught various grades from Title 1 to fourth grade. She later transitioned to Marvin Wright in 2011, first serving as assistant principal for five years before her appointment as principal.

“It was a great privilege becoming the principal at Marvin Wright in 2015," Massey said. "I will miss the Marvin Wright community; however, I am very excited and blessed to start my next journey with the Randolph Howell community. I look forward to serving the students, parents, and staff.

"It is a true honor to continue working in Maury County as I have served many students, parents, and staff members over the past 23 years of service."

And now, Your Hometown Memorials, Sponsored by Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home…  

Okerleen Mabry Thompson, 94, resident of Columbia and beloved mother, grandmother and great-grandmother, died Wednesday, May 15, 2024 at her residence.

Funeral services will be conducted Wednesday, May 22, 2024 at 2:00 PM at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home.  Burial will follow at John Lay Cemetery in Ethridge.  The family will visit with friends Wednesday from 12:00 noon until time of the services at the funeral home.  

Mary Susan Berry Kennedy died on Friday, May 17th, at the age of sixty-seven. 

A Memorial service will be held at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, Columbia on Thursday May 23, 2024 at 3:30 pm. Visitation with the family will be held Wednesday May 22 from 3pm to 5pm at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church.


Walter Henry “Hank” Keller III, 46, of Columbia, Tennessee passed away at his home on May 5, 2024.  

The family will visit with friends on Saturday, June 1, 2024 from 11 until 1 at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home in Columbia, with a graveside service immediately following at St. John’s Ashwood.

…And now, news from around the state…

3rd Grade TCAP Retake Options (Press Release)

Today, the Tennessee Department of Education is highlighting the multiple promotion pathways for 3rd grade students who may need extra learning supports, including the 3rd grade English Language Arts (ELA) Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP) retake assessment and the appeals window for families of 3rd grade students. 


“Third grade is a pivotal year for students to strengthen the foundational building blocks of reading comprehension, which shape academic success in fourth grade and beyond,” said Lizzette Reynolds, Commissioner of Education. “I am grateful to our districts and schools for having essential conversations with families and students to determine the best path forward for future success.” 


The 3rd grade ELA TCAP retake window will be administered from May 22nd through May 31st. Districts can make this option available for 3rd grade students that scored "approaching" or "below" on the ELA section of the spring TCAP as an additional opportunity to demonstrate proficiency. 


Families of students in 3rd grade who scored “approaching” on the ELA section of their spring 3rd grade TCAP or the ELA TCAP retake may also submit an appeal to the department beginning May 28th through June 28th. Beginning this year, authorized district personnel may submit an appeal on behalf of a student with parent or guardian consent.


If an appeal is denied, students and families have additional pathways to potentially determine promotion to 4th grade. 

In 2021, Governor Lee and the Tennessee General Assembly passed two key pieces of legislation to ensure all students have the support they need to read and perform on grade level. Third grade students who score “approaching expectations” or “below expectations” on the ELA section of the TCAP assessment can get key learning supports from their school for free to ensure they are ready to move on to the 4th grade, including the TCAP retake opportunity, free summer camp and/or tutoring in the upcoming school year. 


New and updated resources are available to support districts and schools as they work with families in determining the best pathway for students. For additional information about Tennessee’s 3rd and 4th grade learning acceleration strategy, visit Additional updates will be shared throughout the summer. 

Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

The City of Columbia Parks and Recreation Department will launch Chalk the Walk at Riverwalk Park on May 23rd from 2:30 PM to 4PM.

All ages are welcome.

Come on down to the Riverwalk Park Splashpad to celebrate the end of the school year. Get your graffiti art vibes flowing with sidewalk chalk all around the splashpad.

Riverwalk Park is located at 102 Riverside Drive

For more information, check out Armory Recreation And Fitness on Facebook or call Christina Walls at (931)698-0088


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