Rosamond Clark Christenbery: ‘The Clipping Lady’

Dr. Jim TumblinFountain City, Our Town Stories

Rosamond Clark was born into a family of 13 children in Paris (Henry County), Tenn., on Feb. 2, 1891. After graduating from grade and high school, she entered Union University in Jackson and graduated an honor student, planning a career in education.

She was reputed to be the youngest high school principal in the state when, in 1909, she became principal of Puryear High School in Henry County. In 1913, desiring to return to the classroom, she became a teacher in Cumberland Gap Elementary School. Challenged by her faith, she used her after-school hours to ride her mule into the community and, Bible in hand, teach adults how to read. She later became principal of the school.

Her teaching career ended when she married Dr. William Fred (W.F.) Christenbery (1886-1965) in 1915. It is interesting that he was born in Chicota Indian Territory (now Oklahoma) and lived there until his teen years when his family moved to Wheat, Tenn., now a part of Oak Ridge.

He acquired his medical degree from the University of Tennessee Medical School in 1913 and pursued training in general surgery in New Orleans before studying with surgeons in Chicago and New York and specializing in care of the eye, ear, nose and throat. Until 1957 when he moved to Fountain City, his offices were in the Doctor’s Building downtown.

Although he was a first cousin to Dr. H.E.  Christenberry, who founded the Christenberry EENT Clinic and brought his two sons into the practice, the family name is spelled differently. Dr. W.F.’s father, John S. Christenbery, felt the name was quite long enough without that second “r” near the end and dropped it.

Dr. W.F. and Rosamond Christenbery moved to Fountain City in 1932 and became integral members of the community, making their home on Fountain Avenue. They joined Central Baptist Church where he was a deacon and she used her skills to teach 12-year-old boys in Sunday School for more than 40 years. He was a 32nd degree Mason, member of Master’s Lodge and 50-year member of Kerbela Shrine.

Rosamond was known far and wide as “The Clipping Lady.” Only a short time after she married and moved to Knoxville, she began scanning both the Knoxville News Sentinel and the Knoxville Journal each day with scissors in hand. She clipped articles about births, weddings, obituaries, honors and human interest stories and mailed them to the subjects of the articles living all over the world. Overseas mail went to the American Field Service representatives. Each clipping was accompanied by a handwritten note such as, “I thought you might appreciate the extra clipping.”

Her granddaughter remembered helping her carry sacks of mail, rubber-banded together, to the post office. Some were addressed to only a name, city and state and the postal service would still deliver them. During the early years, undeliverable mail was rarely returned to her but that would change with the advent of zip codes later on.

The recipients often sent thank you notes and Mayor George Dempster recognized her by inviting her and her Sunday School Class for lunch at his company’s cafeteria. The Northside Kiwanis Club made her “Citizen of the Month” in November 1964 and Fountain City Town Hall named her Woman of the Year on Memorial Day in 1979.

After 53 years of faithful service as a physician, Dr. W.F. Christenbery died on Sept. 14, 1965, at Fort Sanders Hospital. He was interred at Lynnhurst Cemetery. Mrs. Rosamond Christenbery survived her husband by 15 years and passed away on Sept 19, 1980.

The Christenberys were survived by a daughter, Virginia (W.S.) McFadden; four grandchildren, Virginia Kay McFadden, Pamela McFadden Calloway, Rosamond McFadden and William Fred McFadden; and three great-grandchildren.

Author’s Note: Thanks to Linda Phillips, Virginia McFadden and GiGi Bayne for their assistance with the text and graphics for this article.

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