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Stephen Worley - Columbia Daily Herald

Stephen Gwaltney Worley, 59, lifelong resident of Hampshire, died Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020 at his residence.


Funeral services will be conducted 1 p.m., Saturday at Maury Hills Church, 101

Unity Drive, Columbia.

Burial will follow in Worley Cemetery. The family will visit with friends 3 p.m.– 8 p.m. Thursday at the church.


Oakes & Nichols Funeral Directors are assisting the family with arrangements.


Memorials can be made to Maury Hills Church, 101 Unity Drive, Columbia, TN 38401; Hampshire School Foundation, 4235 Old State Rd, Hampshire, TN 38461; and Worley Cemetery c/o Luke Jones, 4423 Stephenson School House Road, Hampshire, TN 38461. Condolences may be extended online at www.oakesandnichols.com.


Born Sept. 20, 1960, he was the son of Samuel Alonzo Worley and Jean Gwaltney Worley. Mr. Worley was valedictorian of Columbia Central High School’s class of 1978 and earned his B.S. Degree in Plant and Soil Science from the University of Tennessee. He owned and operated Worley Farms for many years and was a member of Maury Hills Church.


He is survived by his wife, Karen Marie Mitchener Worley, whom he married July 19, 1986; children, Brenton Samuel (Jessica) Worley, Katherine Marie Worley, and Stephanie Jean Worley all of Hampshire, TN; parents, Samuel A. Worley and Jean Gwaltney Worley of Hampshire, TN; sisters, Jan Worley (Blair) Maust of Clayton, NC, and Beth Worley (Roman) Kickirillo of Franklin, TN; grandchildren, Eugene Stephen Worley and Evelyn Beth Worley of Hampshire, TN; father-in-law, Keith Mitchener of Columbia, TN; sisters-in-law, Sherri Mitchener of Columbia, TN; Ginger Jackson; nieces & nephews, Demetria Worley, Frances Worley, Andrew Worley, Josh (Anne) Maust, Becky (Jonathan) West, Michael Kickirillo, and David Kickirillo.


He is preceded in death by his brother, Eugene Neil Worley; and mother-in-law, Helon Mitchener.


Stephen loved God, his family, and his community. His love of the Lord showed in his love for people. During his life, he was a vital part of two church communities, Cathey’s Creek Church of Christ and Maury Hills Church, and he loved those people dearly.


One of the ways he showed love to his family was his work at home. Despite a physically demanding job, he would never turn down a request for a game of catch, pickup basketball or board game. He was always ready to fix a failing home appliance. He took joy (and sometimes frustration) in learning how each was assembled and in diagnosing the failed part. As such, he preferred to address a problem when it was beginning rather than when it became acute.


He showed his love to his community by serving in a variety of ways. Through the years, he had served on the county level as a member of the Maury County Farm Bureau board of directors, serving four years as county president; the Maury Farmers Co-op board of directors; and the Maury County Planning and Zoning Commission, serving several years as chairman. He served on the state level as chairman of the Tennessee Young Farmers and Homemakers (now Young Farmers and Ranchers), as a member of the Tennessee Forage and Grassland Council, and as a member and chairman of the Tennessee Beef Industry Council.


On the national level he served as a member of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Board. He was honored as the Farmer of the Year for 2019 by the Kiwanis Club. At the time of his death, Stephen was still serving on the Maury County Farm Bureau board of directors and as an elder at Maury Hills Church.


Stephen strongly valued education. He spent his first 10 school years at Hampshire School and then transferred to Columbia Central for his last two years to take courses that were not available at Hampshire at that time. He made a difference at both those schools, believing that we should all work together to improve our schools.


That work ethic continued during his years at the University of Tennessee. He majored in Plant & Soil Sciences but was also a top student in chemistry, engineering, and math.


While at UT, he served a year as the national president of the Student Agronomy Society. He also enjoyed competing on the soil judging team. This group of people learned how to identify specific soil types, so the landowner could better know both the potential and limitations of different areas of soil as well as how to improve them with different conservation practices. During two of those years, he won the national collegiate soil judging contest.


At the end of his college career, he was recognized as one of the 1982 Torchbearers, the highest student award given by the university. The torchbearer’s motto is “One that beareth a torch shadoweth oneself to give light to others.” Stephen lived his entire life that way.


As his children grew up, he served with the PTO at Hampshire School and in the last few years, he was instrumental in the founding of the Hampshire School Foundation, which seeks to offer financial support to teachers and students for specific learning projects.


His love of the land was deep and strong. He was proud to be part of the fifth generation to farm their land in Hampshire. After returning from college he joined his father, Sam, and brother, Neil, in pioneering no-till and conservation farming techniques on their own farm, as well as proclaiming its benefits to farmers throughout Tennessee.


After Sam’s retirement, he and Karen partnered with Neil and his wife Ginger to continue running the family farm. When Neil passed away unexpectedly in 2001, he continued on with the help of his family and friends in the busiest times, especially the late David Jones while working new calves for many years. In 2002, He and his family were honored to be recognized as a Tennessee Century Farm. He considered himself a caretaker of the land, carefully choosing its best use and leaving it improved for the next generation.


In 2012, Stephen welcomed his son, Brent, home to farm, and spent countless hours working with and mentoring the sixth generation of family to work the farm. He welcomed a daughter-in-law, Jessica, in August of 2014, who is the first person in the family who could match his intensity in Scrabble. He was first diagnosed with cancer in April 2015. The news was sobering, but he met the diagnosis as he had any other challenge in life: with a plan, hard work, and the mindset to defeat it.


After spending much of the summer and fall in treatment and recovery, he emerged with a positive prognosis and as strong as ever. He welcomed his daughter, Katherine, back to Hampshire in 2016, when she began teaching at Hampshire School.


On July 19, 2019, he welcomed twin grandchildren, Eugene and Evelyn, on he and Karen’s 33rd anniversary. Though his cancer returned four times between the fall of 2018 and January 2020, he never quit, never shrank. He fought to stay with his family until all medical options had been exhausted. His family and friends will miss him tremendously, Stephen is now home with his Savior where the fight is finished and the battle is won.


Active pallbearers will include Al Pogue, Elliott Hampton, Brian Smart, Andy Lawrence, Scott Arnold, Gwynn Savage, Robert Pogue, and Michael Massey. Honorary pallbearers will include elders, shepherds, and staff at Maury Hills; past and present Small Group Members at Maury Hills, Maury County Farm Bureau Board of Directors & Office Staff; Phillip Griffith, GaryVanWormer, Paul Whiteside and Joe Shannon.

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