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Drive: Tribute to Jeannette Tate

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Jeannette Tate didn’t get her driver’s license until she was 47 years old. But boy, did she ever take that mobility and run.

Long before then, she’d arrived as a new mother in the place she’d call home the rest of her life. Piedmont, SC. She’d come to the area when her husband John ascended to the Chicago Cubs AA affiliate stationed in Selby, they brought six month old daughter Debbie along too. Sunkissed Southern summers spent by the ballparks of 1950’s Carolina. Nine years after Debbie, John Jr. was born and the family was whole. And all that time, she never drove. At all.

At least, until 1973 when Jeannette suddenly found herself…a little stranded. With a husband gone to work, a daughter all grown up and a teenage son in her care, she needed to find her mobility in life for herself. She needed, in retrospect, her drive.

And when she found it — a woman approaching 50 — she floored it. Debbie snuck off one day with her mom and they scored Jeannette’s first driver’s license. Debbie’s husband bought Mrs. Tate a car to mark the occasion. Soon thereafter, she was everywhere; driving up I-85 to visit Debbie in Gastonia and John Jr. at his home.  

Jeannette became something of a community leader, with this newfound reach of hers. She was elected 1990’s Citizen of the Year at the Piedmont Lions Club for her efforts delivering meals on  wheels. There was nothing Jeannette would not do for the folks in Piedmont. She had drive, alright. When John Sr. passed away in 2001, Jeannette moved into a little apartment and kept right on serving the ladies of Piedmont.

And when, in 2013, she moved to Simpsonville, S.C.’s famed independent living community The Springs at Simpsonville, she brought that drive right with her. She was happy all the time at the Springs; a persistent smile and laugh. She joined the ladies club — The Spring Chickens — and served her heart out. Even when dementia forced her to move into a memory care community within the Springs, she was helping. Assisting.
Her daughter Debbie and son John Jr. buried Jeannette Tate in her Springs Chicken shirt — a nod to her unshakable commitment to her people —  in the days that followed the July 4th celebrations this year. Tates legacy, of giving and service, family and community, and relentless drive were honored then, as they will be for as long as the Tates are still driving the Carolina streets.

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