A Life Lived: Mattie Payne’s life was marked by music and caring

Published 11:17 am Tuesday, July 25, 2023

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Editorial Director
Author Jane Austen said, “It isn’t what we say or think that defines us, but what we do.”
Rita “Mattie” Payne spent much of her adult life doing for other people. “It was something she not only did out of necessity, but because she enjoyed helping others,” said her husband, Nat.
Mattie, as she was known to family and friends, died June 28 at the age of 87. She grew up in the Stoney Creek community and lived there all of her life except for a short time after her marriage to Nathaniel C. Payne, when they lived in Oklahoma while he was in military service.
Nat served in the military for 20 years and met Mattie on a blind date, which she was hesitant to accept. However, it worked out and they dated for 10 days before he had to leave on a year-long military assignment to Turkey – and letters followed five days a week to each other while he was away. After Nat came home from Turkey, the couple married. Following his discharge from the military, Nat went to work for the post office, and Mattie was a faithful homemaker.
Mattie was a talented musician and for a number of years served as pianist and organist at Unaka Baptist Church, and later played some for the early service at Memorial Presbyterian Church, where the couple attended in later years.
She did work some, for a brief time at the Elizabethton Housing Authority during Urban Renewal and at the local rayon plants. However, she was always there for her family when help was needed. “She helped take care of her brother’s wife when she suffered from cancer and a staph inflection. For three or four months, she took her to chemotherapy and everyday to physical therapy,” said Nat. “She also took care of her brother when he had cancer, and cared for various other members of her family. It was something she enjoyed doing, and it came natural to her.”
When Moody Aviation was in Elizabethton, Nat said Mattie took a lot of the students “under her wing” and cared for them. “She often would gather up four or five of them and we would get a bag of deli sandwiches and go for a Sunday afternoon outing on the Blue Ridge Parkway. She really enjoyed her time with the students and being a friend to them,” shared her husband.
Mattie loved her Lord and the church. She was faithful in attendance and service at Unaka Baptist when she attended there, and later at Memorial Presbyterian, where the couple had attended the last several years.
“Mattie was a homebody. She didn’t like to travel much. However, we did make make a couple cross-country trips to California to see my sister. And, we went to the beach a few times, but she didn’t like the interstates, so we usually took the backroads. For the most part she enjoyed home and her family, her church family, and helping out where she could,” said Nat.
“She was a quiet person. She enjoyed music and writing poetry. She had written bunches of poems and on her brother’s 70th birthday she wrote him a book of verses titled ‘Growing Up With Anthony.’ Mattie was a very talented person,” shared Nat, who lamented, “I miss her so much. It breaks my heart that she is gone.
“She has cared for so many family members, including a niece, and her mother, when she was on a feeding tube. Watching Mattie, I learned it takes a special person to be a caregiver. It takes much love and patience, and she had both. She was just wonderful as a caregiver,” Nat shared.
Mattie could cook, but it wasn’t her favorite thing to do. She would much rather go to Cheddar’s in Johnson City and have a lunch of chicken alfredo.
Next to caregiving, she loved her music, especially playing hymns and her version of “Moonlight Sonata” by Beethoven.
Mattie Grindstaff through her giving and caring is an example of how God has chosen all of us to “just walk each other home.”
Mattie was laid to rest at the Mountain Home National Cemetery.

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