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Emily Ann (Hartzell) Dewhirst


1929 - 2019
Emily Ann (Hartzell) Dewhirst Obituary
Emily Ann (Hartzell) Dewhirst

Decatur, TN

(11-13-1929 to 02-04-2019)

Emily Dewhirst lived a life of extreme adventure and remarkable accomplishment. She had an innate curiosity and fierce love of travel. She was bold and independent. She was an unwitting role model to future generations of women and to her children. Her passion for life was never eclipsed by the impossible or the improbable.

Emily was born in Minneapolis, MN to George Ranier Hartzell and Mary Alberta Wright - parents of Swedish and English descent. She was a descendant of Abraham Clark a signer of the Declaration of Independence. She graduated with Honors from the University of Minnesota. In 1947, as the Allies re-opened Europe after World War II, she set out by herself at age 17 to bicycle through Europe and help rebuild youth hostels destroyed by war. Emily studied at the University of Paris, the Sorbonne, and became a tri-lingual interpreter for Fiat in Turin, Italy. She travelled by motorcycle to the Arctic Circle and climbed Le Vignemale, the highest peak in the French Pyrenees. In 1952, Emily became a stewardess for Pan American Airlines and travelled the world extensively. While in New York City in 1955 she met her future husband, an FBI agent, James David Dewhirst. They were married 40 years and had four children, James Wilder, Margaret Ann, Caroline Clark and David Wright.

In addition to raising her children, Emily earned her Masters degree at Northwestern University, became a beloved high school teacher and later a university French professor. Upon her husband's retirement in 1975, Emily and her family moved to Decatur, TN to restore an antebellum home and farm. She raised flocks of sheep for fiber production. Emily was a

master weaver, spinner, knitter and lace-maker teaching

classes around the South from her experiences gathered around the world.

In her later years she joined the US Peace Corps serving posts in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Armenia and Moldova. She was at that time the oldest serving Peace Corps volunteer at 82 years old. She was able to communicate effectively in seven different languages.

Emily was one of the earliest residents of Downtown Knoxville moving there in 1994 to restore her own historic building on Market Square. She collected many international historical artifacts from around the world and opened a boutique called NOMAD on Market Square to display and retail the products of her many adventures.

Emily passed away in her Market Square home on February 4, 2019 at the age of 89 with her family at her side. In addition to her children, Emily leaves behind eight grandchildren, one great grandchild, her elder sister Mary Clark Fritz of Belleville, WI and very close friends and adopted families all over the world.

The family is holding a private memorial service.
Published in Knoxville News Sentinel from Feb. 9 to Feb. 10, 2019
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