David Wetzel called ‘larger than life’

Sandra ClarkNortheast Knox, Obits

Friends and former colleagues of David Wetzel, 83, are sharing stories today. Because of COVID-19, many won’t be able to travel to Dr. Wetzel’s funeral, set for 2 p.m. today (7/14) at Memorial Park Funeral Home, Gainesville, Georgia.

During a long career, Dr. Wetzel was a principal (at Carter High, Carter Elementary, Mascot), teacher, associate professor at LMU, reading supervisor for Knox County Schools and superintendent for Elizabethton City Schools. He graduated from Elizabethton High School where he played football, baseball and basketball. He played baseball at Carson-Newman College and received his doctorate from ETSU.

Retired principal Martha Jean Bratton says he was larger than life.

“David was a fabulous educator with ideas galore and so much fun! He was insightful and clever in his assessments. When Knox County parents were in an uproar over a decision about school buses, he said to the superintendent, ‘Didn’t Miss Doyle teach you not to make all areas of the county mad at the same time?’

“After a lengthy, rather dull, presentation about technology, he said, ‘They are speaking in an unknown tongue.’ After hearing an inspirational program, he said, ‘If this doesn’t light your fire, your wood is wet.’”

Conley Underwood paid tribute to his former principal and friend: “He treated me, like so many others, like his own son. He (and wife Shirley Frost Wetzel) gave a group of young boys a place to hang out on the weekends and grow into young men. He taught us to fish, taught us how to play Rook, watched Hawaii football with us at 2 a.m. and kept us in line.”

Underwood said when the Carter community fought for a new elementary school, Dr. Wetzel gave advice from afar: “I would be getting frustrated with everything going on. He would call and tell me to ‘keep givin’ ’em h—, Underwood, they’ll crack eventually!’” They did.

There is much more to tell. The full obituary is here.

A celebration of life will be held in Elizabethton at a later date.

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