Anne Holt’s Tennessee: Stories of local people who make our lives better

(Graphic: WKRN)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – This year we brought you stories of local people who make our lives better, from a Lebanon sharecropper family who is paying it forward to a therapy owner that makes hospital rounds, and the state’s official poet.

These are just a few of the people you’ll meet again in Anne Holt’s Tennessee.

Maggi Vaughn

Maggi Vaughn (Photo: WKRN)

“The hand me down china and linens were saved for the dining room. That’s where we ate on Sunday with the silver knife, fork and spoon,” said Maggi Vaughn, the poet laureate, as she read from her most popular book “The Light in the Kitchen Window.”

“To me a poem first of all, it has to say something,” Vaughn told News 2.

Her poem “Who We Are” speaks volumes about the people of Tennessee. She wrote it for the state’s 200th birthday.

“We’re the one room schoolhouse in the holler. We’re the university grad and the front porch scholar,” she continued to read.

Vaughn was appointed the state’s official poet in 1996. She travels across the country promoting literature and teaching others how to become authors.

Andy and Cooper

(Photo: WKRN)

Meet Andy Garmezy and his 2-and-a-half-year old Golden Retriever named Cooper.

Both are volunteers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Cooper is a certified therapy dog and, make no mistake, the rock star of this team.

There’s a designated Cooper Day at the cancer center’s infusion clinic.

“It’s Cooper Day, and everyone just automatically gets happier,” said nurse Janell Penrose.

Cooper is definitely good medicine. Janice Lloyd comes to the clinic each month.

“As soon as we could see you down the hall, it made me smile. He’s a sweet dog. He reminds me of my grandchildren and their dogs,” she told New 2.

“I think it’s wonderful that you can come into the hospital and do everything that you do and let Cooper love on everybody,” said visitor Leslie Goerke.

Wharton Market

Courtesy: Wharton family

A country store in Lebanon preserves a way of life for African Americans in 1960s Wilson County.

“If you came in and said your crop didn’t come in or you got laid off, you got credit. You’d come in get your meat, your bread, your eggs, your sugar or whatever,” said AC Wharton Jr.

Wharton and his four siblings worked in their parent’s one-room market. They learned the value of a dollar and how to earn a dollar.

“If we wanted something, instead of giving us the money to buy it, he found us a job. He found me a job working at the pharmacy,” said Kenneth Wharton.

Today, Kenneth is a retired physician. His three sisters, top professionals in education, and AC is an attorney. Their contribution lives on in a scholarship awarded to a Wilson County student studying business at Cumberland University.

Donald Marshall

(Photo: WKRN)

“Without a song, the day would never end. Without a song, the road would never bend.”

That’s Donald Marshall singing a song from the Broadway musical “Great Day.”

“Well I used to be pretty good,” he told News 2… good enough to sing his way from Columbia, Tennessee, to the United States Army chorus in Washington, DC.

A Christmas performance for former first lady Mamie Eisenhower was memorable.

“I did ‘Sweet Little Jesus Boy,’ and she came up and gave me a kiss on the cheek. Now that was special,” he said.

On Sundays, you’ll find Marshall in the role of choir director at St. Peters Episcopal Church in Columbia. It’s his 39th year.

Click here to read more stories from Anne Holt’s Tennessee.