A Live Lived: Ruth Orr, through her teaching, touched a lot of hearts

Published 12:34 pm Tuesday, March 22, 2022

BY ROZELLA HARDIN
Editorial Director
rozella.hardin@elizabethton.com
It has been said that “A teacher takes a hand, opens a mind, and touches a heart.”
Ruth Orr, who taught for a number of years at Hampton High School, did just that.
So many of her students on the funeral home tribute page expressed their admiration for Mrs. Orr, who taught English as well as home economics at the school.
John Hilman, Jr. wrote: “…she is the very reason of my success. When others said I would be a loser she refused those labels. She on more than one occasion told me I could do anything I wanted to, but I would have to want to. My favorite thing was helping her and Mr. Orr on the farm along with Pam and Joe. In her last conversation with me a few years ago, she told me that when they took the Bible out of schools, she called it quits and retired. She felt that God and his words were more more important than politicians. That was Mrs. Ruth Whittington Orr. That was my teacher.”
Mrs. Orr was a life-long resident of Ripshin Mountain. She and her husband, Jimmy, also an educator, raised two children, Joe and Pam. They also farmed and raised cattle as well as hay to feed the cattle. Mrs. Orr enjoyed gardening and cooking for her family.
Also among her loves was teaching. I was in a couple of her English classes, which consisted of a semester of grammar and a semester of literature. She was very thorough in her teaching, and it was in her classes I learned much of what I know about sentence structure, how to write, and the correct usage of the parts of speech. In literature, I wrote many essays in her classes and I came to appreciate many of the great authors of earlier years.
One of Mrs. Orr’s favorite authors was Shakespeare, and she could quote many of the verses he wrote. Often, before you left her class, you, too acquired an appreciation not only for Shakespeare, but other writers, such as Robert Frost, Ernest Hemingway, John Milton, and Chaucer, just to name a few.
Another student, Patricia Fair Palmer, wrote: “She was kind and stern in the same expression. There was truly something very special about her.”
Nancy Ingram Miller wrote: “She was a lady, but could drive a mean logging truck.”
Rachel Highsmith, who was in Mrs. Orr’s home economic class, wrote: “She taught us how to be proper ladies, to keep a proper home, and proper etiquette for young ladies. Jimmy and Ruth were the best…good Christian people.”
Judy Simerly Guinn, who grew up on Ripshin Mountain and attended church with the Orrs, shared: “She always made time for the little people, the unknowns in life. Even after my family moved off the mountain, she never forgot me. She was very kind and encouraging to me. She was a true mentor and Christian woman. There was none quite like her.
“She loved her flowers and garden, and when you visited her, she always wanted to feed you. I remember she and Jimmy did some traveling. She shared with me about their trip to Europe, to New York City, and other places. She was a true lady, but she was a hard worker. She would work with Jimmy in the fields, and could drive that tractor as good as any man,” said Judy.
Mrs. Orr and Jimmy were leaders in the little church on Ripshin — Morgan Chapel Free Will Baptist Church. Her pastor, Rev. Greg Whitehead, shared that Mrs. Orr was not only his high school English teacher, but had been a big part of his ministry at the Ripshin church. “She encouraged me, both she and Jimmy. They were a wonderful couple. Where you saw Ruth, you saw Jimmy,” he said.
Mrs. Orr died March 10 at the age of 92 and was laid to rest in the Peters Cemetery on her beloved Ripshin.
Mrs. Orr was one of those good teachers, who explained what she taught. She also demonstrated it, but, most of all she inspired her students. She touched the lives of many young people, who today still remember her.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox