Stevens, Bernice Marie Cantwell-- of Knoxville, passed away Saturday, August 4, 2018 at 2:39 p.m. at home, 11 days before her 94th birthday. She was surrounded by her loving family and caregivers. Bernice was born on August 15, 1924 and raised on a farm in Rutledge, TN. Bernice was owner and president of Stevens Mortuary. She was a faithful member of Smithwood Baptist Church and the Ruth Sunday School class for more than 60 years. She was an avid supporter of the Lady Vols and attended many games with friends and family. She was active in a variety of organizations in the area, including Knoxville Woman’s Club, Holston-Mascot OES #55, Quota Club and Ossoli Circle. Bernice contributed to many charities, often anonymously, and lent her support to several churches. On more than one occasion, she provided clothing to families who did not have appropriate clothing for the burial of their loved one.
She is preceded by: husband, Thomas Claude Stevens (1918-1978)
daughter, Brenda Faye Stevens Worsham (1946-1997)
granddaughter, Janet Lynn Grindstaff (1969-2013)
parents, Lon Everett and Ethel Dalton Cantwell
grandparents, David and Molly Clement Dalton
Thomas and Emily Mills Cantwell
Survivors: daughter, Evelyn Marie Stevens Grindstaff, of Knoxville.
Grandchildren: Doug Grindstaff II (wife Tammy) of Nashville, Melinda Grindstaff (husband Lance) McAlindon of Centerton, Arkansas, Dina Worsham Gibson of Maryville, and Craig Worsham of Knoxville.
Great grandchildren Alexandra Grindstaff (husband Thomas) Ritter, Doug Grindstaff III, Caroline Grindstaff, Margaret, Elizabeth, James and Jonathan Parker McAlindon, Cheri Gibson (husband Jacob) Ruble, Courtney Rogers, Lester Whitted, III.
Great great grandchildren: Rylan Ruble, Carter Rogers.
Beloved sister, Mary Evelyn Cantwell, who assisted Bernice with the management of the funeral home when Tommy passed away in 1978. When Bernice retired, Mary, a graduate of the Ward-Belmont College of Nashville, the University of Tennessee and the Cincinnati College of Mortuary Science, became COO of the business. Daughter Evelyn is Vice President.
Bernice and Tommy founded the business in 1958 in a small house on the corner of North Broadway and Raleigh in the Fountain City area. In 1961, they expanded their growing business to the current historic site on Oglewood Avenue. Built in 1833 by Colonel James Scott, Jr., the plantation home known as “Cedar Grove,” was extensively renovated. A talented interior decorator, Bernice selected period furniture, art work, and hand-carved square-grand pianos from local auctions and estate sales to create a comfortable and gracious space for the families they would serve. She loved to take people on tours of the building and share stories about her antiques and collections. Tommy and Bernice made their home on the upper level of the former plantation home where they were available around the clock. In their personal living room, Bernice replicated the oval recessed ceiling of the historic Tennessee Theatre---including colored lights for different effects. They hosted many family occasions and enjoyed the fellowship of old and new friends.
She loved country music and even tried her hand at song writing. She always laughed when relating Eddie Arnold’s advice to her after listening to a couple of her songs: stay in the funeral business…not music.
Following Tommy’s death, Bernice became president of the business and director of all activities of the funeral home. For many years, she was the welcoming face at the door and comforting arms for families. This year, Stevens Mortuary commemorated 60 years of service to generations of families and the community they loved. Bernice and Tommy leave behind a legacy of personal and professional commitment of service that lives on.
The family extends deep gratitude to Bernice’s loyal and loving caregivers: Tina Johnson, Oranga Stanfill, Patsy Bridges, and Bitsi Watson. Always willing to assist: Steve Vandergriff, Bill Whedbee, Don Haynes, Jerry Silcox, Chip Lenear II, Stephen Vandergriff, and Ron Brown.
Tennova Hospice provided exceptional care of Bernice and of the family/caregivers. They were skilled and knowledgeable, patient and loving, and guided us each step of the way. Thank you to Donna, Casey, Amanda, Cindy, Stephanie and all.
The family will receive friends from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Tuesday, August 7 at Stevens Mortuary. A funeral service will be held at 11:00 a.m. Wednesday in Stevens Chapel with Dr. David Crutchley officiating. Lynn Bennett and Steve Johnson will provide the music.
Following the funeral service, interment will be 12:30 p.m. at Lynnhurst Cemetery. Pallbearers: Doug Grindstaff II, Craig Worsham, Lance McAlindon, Thomas Ritter, Jacob Ruble, Steve Vandergriff, Chip Lenear II, and Tim Wheeler. Honorary pallbearers are East Tennessee Funeral Directors.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to a charity of your choice.
The City of the Dead
By Bernice C. Stevens
As I was walking in the city,
The city of the dead,
Over by an open grave,
I heard what this preacher said.
As you place your loved one here beneath the sod,
It’s just the house they lived in.
Their spirit returned to God.
But, when the trumpet of God shall sound,
The grave will know His voice.
You don’t have to die the second death.
God gave you a choice. So bow your head
And search your heart, soul and mind.
Will you meet Him in the air or will you be left behind?
Stevens Mortuary, Oglewood Avenue at North Broadway is serving the family.
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