Bernice Tompkins

Published 11:54 am Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Bernice Elizabeth “Bee” Horne Tompkins of Tryon, age 98, passed away early on January 12, 2018 after a long bout with cancer.

She is preceded in death by her father, James Ransom Horne; mother, Eva Sims Horne; brothers Harold and Alvin Horne; sister Vera Horne Robles and beloved husband Clarence Howard “Cee” Tompkins.

Bee was born in Polk County, North Carolina, and after short stays in Rutherford and Buncombe counties, the family moved to Tampa, Florida when she was age 12. There she graduated from Hillsborough High School, attended the University of Tampa earning a Bachelor of Science in Education degree, and taught school in Hillsborough and Palm Beach counties.

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In 1943 she enrolled in the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky where she earned a Master of Religious Education degree. In 1945 she served as the Director of Christian Education at Fifth Avenue Baptist Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. In 1946 after a 12-year courtship, she married Clarence Tompkins in a ceremony at the First Baptist Church in Tampa.

The couple moved to New York City where Bee began teaching in the public schools in 1947. In back-to-back maternity leaves, she bore four children between 1952 and 1957, returning to teach full-time in 1960. She continued teaching public school until her retirement in 1977.

While in New York, the family enjoyed many travels and events, including three World’s Fairs, a 12,000-mile trek around Europe, and countless plays and concerts. The whole family was very active in The Riverside Church with Bee singing in the Chancel Choir there for 28 years.

In 1968, the family purchased Bee’s old home place in Green Creek near Tryon, North Carolina, where many summer vacations were shared with friends and kin. Upon retirement in 1977 Bee and Cee relocated to her native North Carolina where they moved into “Thrushwood,” their home on 22 acres in Hendersonville, and then moved to Tryon in 1992. There, they shared many memories and cultural events together until Cee passed away in 2008, leaving Bee alone to carry on her very vital and active life up until her recent hospitalization.

She is survived by her sister, Clara Horne Evans (Seldon); son James Lane (Lisa) of Waxhaw, N.C.; daughter Mary Ann (James Mummey, deceased) of Lakeland, Fla.; son Evan Marcus (Donna) of Hendersonville, N.C.; son Rollin Putnam (Kathie) of Asheville, N.C., as well as nine grandchildren and five great-grandchildren and one great great grandchild.

There will be a memorial service honoring Bee at the Tryon Congregational Church at 210 Melrose Avenue, Tryon, N.C. at 11 a.m. this Saturday, January 20, 2018. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Foothills Music Club, PO Box 463, Lynn, NC 28750.