Remembering my beloved grandmother, who died this week. – kag
Nancy McLean Orr Anderson, age 92, died peacefully at her home in Bell Buckle, TN on November 4, 2010, with her three children and many grandchildren by her side.
Mrs. Anderson was born on October 4, 1918, at Edgewood Arsenal in Maryland where her father was stationed near the close of World War I. She spent much of her youth on her family’s farm in Mooresville (Marshall County), Tennessee, where her family had settled shortly after the Revolutionary War. She spent her adolescence in Nashville, attending Peabody Demonstration and Ward Belmont Schools there, and enjoying a lively social life. Upon graduation from high school, she enrolled at the University of Alabama, where she pledged Chi Omega.
However, to her parents’ dismay, the young Miss Orr soon realized that her true passion was for journalism. She transferred to the University of Missouri, receiving her degree in 1939 from what was the first professional journalism school in the United States.
Upon graduation, she accepted employment as a newspaper reporter with the Daily Independent in Kannapolis, North Carolina. While living there, also to her parents’ dismay, she fell in love with and married Ray Steven Anderson, a local airplane pilot, stunt skydiver, motorcycle enthusiast, and hot-air balloonist whom she had met only a few weeks before they eloped. She and Mr. Anderson were married for 68 years, until his death in 2007.
Mrs. Anderson’s career progressed quickly, notwithstanding her gender. She worked as a writer and editor for several newspapers in the Southeast, including the Birmingham Post, before moving to Los Angeles in the 1950s with her husband and three young children. While in California, she worked as a reporter for the South Bay Daily Breeze, among other publications, before accepting a position with Photoplay Magazine as West Coast Editor.
In her role as Photoplay Editor, Mrs. Anderson became a Hollywood fixture and, as a result, developed friendships with fascinating characters like John Wayne, Walt Disney and Elvis Presley (for whom she baked chess pies, since they were both from Tennessee). During the 50s, 60s and 70s, her interview subjects included Ronald Reagan, Harry Truman, Eleanor Roosevelt, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Bob Hope, Ferdinand Marcos, “Baby Doc” Duvalier, Imelda Marcos, the Shah of Iran, Julia Roberts, Warren Beatty, Dustin Hoffman, Sammy Davis, Jr. Robin Williams, Gene Kelley, Julie Andrews, Laurence Olivier, Bette Davis, Jack Nicholson, Frank Sinatra, and many other entertainment and political celebrities. Following her retirement from Photoplay, Mrs. Anderson went on for many years to write a weekly entertainment column for Copley News Service, and her interviews and profiles continued to be featured in a number of national magazines.
Mrs. Anderson is predeceased by her parents, Jones and Virginia McLean Orr and her brother Jack Orr, as well as by two of her great grandchildren, Ward Anderson and Henry Granju. She is survived by her sister, Mrs. George Terry of Nesbitt, Mississippi, her children, Mr. and Mrs. Roger Anderson of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, Susan Anderson Allison of Smithville, Tennessee and John Anderson of Bell Buckle, Tennessee. She is also survived by her seven grandchildren: Paige Anderson Hickernell, Katie Allison Granju, Elizabeth Anderson Renneisen, Betsy Allison Tant, Robert Allison, James Anderson and Thomas Anderson, and by her sixteen great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild: Jessica Rhoades Gee, Morgan Rhodes, Jane Granju, Elliot Granju, Gray Anderson, Jack Anderson, Eleanor Tant, Jones Allison, Anna Allison, McLean Tant, Helen Allison, Nicholas Allison, Nancy Tant, Charlotte Hickman, Leo Anderson, Georgia Hickman and Hannah Rhoades.
Mrs. Anderson was an amazing, loving, brilliant woman with impeccable manners and a generous heart. She was a devoted Christian, and an active member of many clubs and organizations, including Daughters of the American Revolution and the Shelbyville Garden Club. She made wonderful blackberry cobbler, and she gifted her grandchildren and great grandchildren with a love of history, poetry and political discourse.
A memorial service will be held at 4 p.m. on Saturday, November 27, 2010 at Bell Buckle United Methodist Church. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that any memorial donations be made to:
c/o The East Tennessee Foundation
625 Market Street, Suite 1400
Knoxville, TN 37902