Col. Will  Rhea  Winfrey




Services Held for Well-Known Resident Col. Will Rhea Winfrey.                               

Colonel Will Rhea Winfrey, Sr., well-known resident of the Somerville Community, answered his greatest call into God's service on December 12, 2011 at the Baptist Memorial Hospital in Memphis where he had been a patient for six days. He was 95 years of age and died following a brief illness.

A Celebration of Life Service for Colonel Winfrey was conducted at 3 P.M. Friday, December 16th, at Somerville First Presbyterian Church with Rev. John Michael Krech of the church officiating. Special music was provided by Judy Henderson, Mary Aline Flaniken and Georgette Turner. Interment with Full Military Honors followed in the Somerville City Cem-etery. Arrangements were provided by Peebles Fayette County Funeral Homes and Cremation Center - Main Chapel of Somerville.

Born September 1, 1916 at the Winfrey Family Home-stead, "Chestnut Hill", six miles north of Somerville, Colonel Winfrey was the fourth and youngest son of Arthur Peter Winfrey and wife, Harriet Rhea Winfrey, early residents of Fayette County. He, with his six brothers and sisters, were fourth generations to live and work on the family homeplace at Chestnut Hill, circa 1830.

Will Rhea attended Glade Springs School and Somer-ville Elementary School and graduated from Fayette County High School in 1935. He accepted a football scholarship to Southwestern Col-lege (now Rhodes College) in Memphis, where he excelled in sports. He was a member of the 1936, 1937 and 1938 Southwestern football teams and he remembered well that the 1936 Southwestern Lynx Squad defeated Vanderbilt 12-0 and the 1937 squad defeated Mississippi State 7-3. Will Rhea, an outstanding fullback, served as Alternate Captain on the 1939 football team known as the "Iron Men."

At Rhodes College Athletic Hall of Fame, a plaque stated "no one in the state of Tennessee was better than Will Rhea Winfrey in the shot put. His throw of 46' 11" broke the Tennessee record, as well as the school record. He also set a school record in the discus with a throw of 126'7". In 1938, Will Rhea was the top point man for the Lynx track and field team and was named Most Valuable Athlete for his accomplishments." He was inducted into Rhodes College Athletic Hall of Fame in October 2006.

Upon graduation from Southwestern, Colonel Winfrey served with distinction in World War II and retired as a Colonel in the United States Army. Upon returning from the war abroad, Will Rhea married Marguerite Mason on September 11, 1945 in Memphis during leave after escorting a train loaded with soldiers from Washington, D.C. to Georgia. His uncle, the Reverend Herman Butts, had the pleasure of officiating at their wedding. Marguerite preceded him in death on November 30, 2005.

His military service took him, his wife and son, Will, to Europe and Japan. He also served a 3 year tour in Austria, where he commanded the 25th TC Battalion. Later they returned to the United States where he served as Commanding Officer and Professor of Military Science and Tactics at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, before retiring in 1961 as Colonel from the United States Army.

Will Rhea moved his family back to Fayette County in 1961 and built the family home, "The Woods" next to his beloved homeplace, Chestnut Hill. Until his death, the Colonel, as he was affectionately known, at 95 years of age and visually impaired, remained active and involved with his family, community, church and county politics. Colonel Winfrey will be remembered by all for his patriotism and love for his country.

Colonel Winfrey is survived by his son, Will R. Winfrey, Jr. of Fayette County and a great extended Winfrey family. Haywood County survivirs include his nieces: Libba Walker Reid and Patsy Walker King and husband Allen King. Colonel Winfrey was preceded in death by six brothers and sisters.

Those honored to serve as casketbearers were Hunter Winfrey, Mont Winfrey, Bill Winfrey, Bob Walker, Gooch King, Bob Winfrey and Jay Walker.

Honorary casketbearers were Sam McFadden, Ray Lynch, Franklin Tapp, Jerry & Judy Wilson, Leona Graham, Earl Martin, George Michael, Joe Murphy, Fay Steele, Douglas Mayo, Al Wunderlich, Charlie Bischof and Charles Crouse.

The family requests that memorials be directed to the Somerville First Presbyterian Church, 12940 South Main Street, Somerville, TN 38068, the Foundation Fighting Blindness, 11435 Cronhill Drive, Owings Mills, MD 21117 or the Fayette County Chapter of the American Heart Association.

Obituary added by Mary Kay Dancy Smith



Downloaded and used by permission from
The Fayette  Falcon
Somerville, Tennessee