Marilyn Dick, philanthropist, dies at 95

Betsy PickleObits

Marilyn Mandle Dick, 95, “passed peacefully and gracefully into heaven” on Thursday, Feb. 8, according to her obituary. But she also left with a sense of humor. When she was asked what she wanted in her obituary, she said to put “SHE CAME AND SHE WENT.”

“We should all be that lucky to live that long and live such a beautiful life as she did,” says Frank Graffeo, one of her biggest admirers and a dear friend.

Marilyn Dick (Photo by Dr. Elise Denneny)

Mrs. Dick was born April 27, 1923, in Paris, Tenn. She survived her husband, James Allen Dick Sr., also originally from Paris, by eight years and two days. He was the astute businessman who founded Dick Broadcasting Co. in 1952 – and subsequently turned WIVK into a dominant force in radio, and together the couple became leading supporters of several notable Knoxville arts entities.

They gifted the Historic Tennessee Theatre to Knoxville, and they, along with others, founded the Joy of Music School.

Graffeo, executive director since 2005 of the Joy of Music School, which provides music lessons free to underprivileged youth through the support of volunteer teachers, first got to know Mr. Dick and, when his health began to decline, then Mrs. Dick.

“Mrs. Dick became the benefactor, for lack of a better term, and my friend,” Graffeo says. “I was honored to have her as a friend. I want to say to anyone who has never met her, ‘You will never meet someone like her.’

“I don’t know how else to describe it. It’s too cheap to say it’s like meeting a celebrity because celebrities, their fame is what sort of gives you a charge. With Mrs. Dick, it had nothing to do with fame; it had nothing to do with wealth. It just had something to do with goodness. It was always just a pleasure being with her.

“Anytime we talked about the school, her questions were about the kids, always. It wasn’t, ‘How are the finances? How’s the building?’ And she was always there for us.”

Graffeo describes the late Mr. Dick as “an absolutely magnetic person” and says the couple was well matched.

“His charisma and connection with people were legendary. When I assess that relationship, I think they were both fortunate to have each other. Not because they filled in for each other’s weaknesses but because they were both amazing people. We all wish for that in relationships.

“I just think the two of them were unique, and I’m sorry that they’re gone now.”

There will be a celebration of life for Mrs. Dick at 3 p.m. Saturday, March 9, at Sequoyah Hills Presbyterian Church, 3700 Keowee Ave., Knoxville, with Dr. William R. Barron officiating. Following the service, the family will receive friends in Barron Hall.

In lieu of flowers, Mrs. Dick requested contributions to the Joy of Music School, 1209 Euclid Ave. NW #1, Knoxville, TN 37921, or to a charity of the donor’s choice.

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