Mary Julia Thomas entered the world on May 22, 1934, born in Savannah, Tennessee to Okla Orville “O. O.” and Frankie Barker Thomas. She attended school in her hometown, eventually earning her high school diploma before marrying the love of her life, Robert Hassell “Bob” Adkisson on June 6, 1953. They had almost 66 wonderful years together before his death on January 27, 2019.
During her early years, Mary Julia worked as a telephone operator at a time when phone calls were manually connected through a switchboard. Several years later, she and her sister-in-law Claudette Thomas opened The Savannah Kiddie Shop, offering children’s clothing and accessories, until an accident forced Claudette to sell her share of the business to another sister-in-law, Geraldine Adkisson. Mary Julia always loved the sales profession, perhaps because it gave her the opportunity to do something she truly enjoyed—visiting with others. Her affiliation with Doncaster was a natural extension of that love, just with a somewhat more mature clientele.
She was always very involved in the activities of her husband and children, in her church, and in the community as a whole. Bob trained and rode Tennessee Walking horses for decades, and judged shows across the country for more than 20 years, an endeavor she always supported. Before every trip, Mary Julia and her good friend Jane Lay would spend hours frying chicken and making pimento cheese sandwiches to be served with Lay's potato chips and brownies. When they’d arrive at their destination, the Adkissons and the Lay clan (John, Jane, and their boys) would set up for a grand tailgate party, one that everyone would migrate to once word spread that the Adkissons and the Lays had arrived. Her adventures weren’t limited to horse shows though; she and Bob traveled around the country and even overseas, usually accompanied by Gerald and Belinda Colbert.
Mary Julia certainly had the heart of a servant, an attitude that was evident in everything she did. She filled the traditional parental roles when her daughters were in school, including that of a Room Mother and PTO President, not to mention being a Brownie leader. She often helped with local elections until her health forced her to stop—and her skill in the kitchen benefited many families at the birth of a child, a loss due to death, or an illness of some form. She loved gathering for Bridge Club or periodic games of Rook, and she especially enjoyed working with her close friends to plan and host teas and showers for young women who were preparing to wed or expecting a child. Often the beneficiaries of her gracious hospitality were young women who attended the Savannah Church of Christ where she was a member; she’d known many of them for years, having served as their second grade Sunday School teacher. She was also a collector and, of all the things she could choose to collect, she chose clowns—much to the dismay of her daughters. They humored her love of the slightly creepy figures, but don’t plan on squabbling over who will inherit the collection.
Mary Julia Thomas Adkisson left her family for her next great adventure on Friday, August 18, 2023, at the wonderful age of 89. She leaves behind her three daughters, Diann Wilkins and her husband Dick, Julie Gail Adkisson, and Bobbie Lynn Clark and her husband Keith, and her fourth “adopted” daughter, Catherine Carroll, all of Savannah, Tennessee; her five grandchildren, Erin Latch and her husband Chad, Leslie Eldridge, Luke Pilkinton, J.T. Clark and his wife Jada, and Julia Lynn McAfee and her husband Colton; and her seven great-grandchildren, Laura Ann Pilkinton, Preston Eldridge, Elijah Latch, Abigail Eldridge, Paul Robert Pilkinton, Kate Clark, and Ty Clark. She also leaves her sister-in-law June Vinson of Adamsville, Tennessee.
Other than her husband and parents, Mary Julia was preceded in death by her brothers and their wives, Billy Joe and Shirley Thomas, Jack and Joyce Thomas, and Bob and Claudette Thomas.
Memorial donations may be made to:
Savannah Church of Christ Youth Group
1175 Pickwick Street
Savannah, Tennessee 38372