Dee Pritchett passes away over the weekend
By Sabrina Bates
Her smile was contagious. Her laugh was infectious. Although Dee Fields Pritchett was small in stature, her personality was larger than life. That was apparent from her constant presence in her community. Anyone who knew her, knew of her love for all things Martin, and especially the University of Tennessee at Martin.
Her life was one that was full of friends, family, sports, education, faith and business. She was managing broker for Fuller Partners Real Estate in Martin. Dee Fields Pritchett passed away over the weekend, leaving a large hole in the community she took great pride in.
It was common to find her on the sidelines at UT Martin Athletic events. She was a 1973 graduate of UTM. She was past president of the Skyhawk Club and received the Chancellor’s Award for University Service from UTM in 2007. As a member of Alpha Delta Pi sorority and advisor, Dee was a mentor to thousands of women through the years.
Campus Remembers Contributions
“In her own way, she offered empowerment to women in our community. She truly fed off of conversations she had with others; you could tell how she felt by the look on her face. Dee embodied the selflessness giving of her time and made a lasting impact on all of those around her,” Dr. Charley Deal, UTM Vice Chancellor for University Advancement, shared. Dr. Deal met Dee in 1992 and began working closely with her on campus fundraising events in 1997.
“You can’t say UT Martin without saying Dee Pritchett. There weren’t many boards for the university that she didn’t serve on. She would give us feedback, some of it was to tell us what we were doing wrong. But that was because she cared about UTM. She knew how important it was to the community and it was always because she wanted to make us better,” Dr. Deal added.
As of this year, Dee had consecutively donated to UT Martin for the past 43 years. There are four endowed scholarships she helped establish in Business, Music, Education and Athletics at UTM.
“She made our university a better place because she cared about the community, staff and students and it showed. Her legacy will carry on,” Deal said.
“Dee Pritchett was a tireless advocate for the University of Tennessee at Martin since she came to campus as a student. She’s loved and supported all aspects of campus life, from the performing arts to athletic events. Dee was our greatest ambassador and one of the most philanthropic people I have ever met. She was one of the best advisors I ever had as chancellor. Dee Pritchett loved UTM with her whole heart – and we loved her back,” former UT Martin chancellor Dr. Keith Carver shared.
“Everyone in UT Martin Athletics loved Dee and her impact on our department was immeasurable. You could always count on seeing Dee up in the stands no matter the sport that was being played – many times she would beat all of us to the games and be the first one in the building,” Ryne Rickman shared on behalf of the UT Martin Athletics Department. She encouraged friends, family and community members to support the Pacers, who would later become Skyhawks. Her advocacy for UTM Athletics was apparent in her sporting of all things orange and blue in color. It seemed fitting that her real estate business was dubbed the “orange awning team.”
“She was a friendly, comforting face to hundreds of student-athletes and coaches alike over the years and will be sorely missed. Her smile after a big UT Martin win was truly infectious – she sure loved her Skyhawks and that was evident by anybody who had one conversation with her,” Rickman added.
Dedication to Local Communities
Dee was one to express her opinion on various topics. She would not hesitate to pick up the phone and share her thoughts on matters. Deal said he will miss those 30-second phone calls that started out as “hello darlin.” She was one to call her mayor as well.
“I’ve known Dee for a long time, going back to college. She was a great person and great person for the community. She loved UT Martin deeply. She would tend to speak her mind and tell you in a heartbeat, but I knew her and knew how to take it. I thought a lot of Dee. I will truly miss her. I will miss those phone calls saying ‘you need to do this and you need to do that.’ But the community will miss a truly great person,” Martin Mayor Randy Brundige shared. She served on the city’s Economic Development Board and the Martin Parks and Recreation Committee.
“She was a tremendous friend. She was a tremendous citizen of Martin, Tennessee. She engaged, contributed and she was a tremendous friend of the University of Tennessee at Martin. Her gifts of time to the various committees she served on. She was sought out to serve on some of them, the tougher ones that had to deal with things that affect the future of the university and the future of the city. She was virtuous and how about a tremendous businesswoman. I went to church with Dee. Loved by many. She will be missed of course,” Martin Alderman David Belote said.
“Like her or not, she was good at what she did. She was firm, she was fair. She was the best around. I’ve bought and sold houses with her, and I can’t say enough good things about her,” Martin Alderman and contractor Randy Edwards said.
“Two things I always admired and appreciated about Dee. First was her ability to sweep in and out of a room or meeting. Dee was busy so she would show up, state her case, and she was moving on to the next thing. Secondly, you always knew where you stood with Dee. She held nothing back and was honest in her opinions,” Weakley County Mayor Jake Bynum shared.
“Some of my favorite memories of Dee were she, Kim Longacre, and John Hatler serving as an unofficial coffee cabinet in Kim’s shop during my first campaign. Dee had her finger on the pulse of the county and never hesitated to let me know what the community needed,” Bynum added.
Dee also served on the Weakley County Economic Development Board as well as the Board of Directors for the Weakley County Chamber of Commerce. She was present at ribbon cuttings, grand openings and business anniversary celebrations. She promoted local businesses across the county, supporting them and advocating for their success.
“Dee was also a partner in business, and faithful to the Weakley County Chamber. We are very saddened by the loss to our community. She has done so much for our community and the Chamber. Faithful to attend – golf tournaments, banquets, board meetings – it didn’t matter what we had, she was always there. For that, we will always be grateful. She will be missed by the community and all who knew her. We are saddened, but we know she is not in pain anymore,” Weakley County Chamber of Commerce Director Barbara Virgin shared.
“We’re losing pillars of our community. And when you lose pillars, the impact is greater than people realize,” she added.
“Dee always wanted the best for our community and served on the Industrial Development Board of Weakley County with distinction. Additionally, she previously served on the Executive Board for Weakley County Chamber of Commerce for numerous years. She sold our community to prospective buyers from across the globe and always made sure everyone had a place to call home or would work tirelessly to find it. You cannot replace her, and our staff grieves with her family during this time. Her legacy will live on in Martin and Weakley County for generations to come,” Justin Crice, CEO Weakley County Joint Economic Development Corporation with Chamber Director, Barbara Virgin and Administrative Assistant, Angie Lassiter noted.
Asset and Support to Local Businesses
In addition to countywide support of the business industry, Dee was a constant presence at Martin Business Association events.
“Dee embodied the qualities of a true community champion. Dee was a genuine advocate for public education, arts, academics, sports, music, local restaurants, commerce, industry, and overall opportunity. From school programs to University events, ribbon cuttings, community meetings, you name it, Dee was there. She might have been small in stature, but Dee exuded a larger-than-life passion and presence that will surely be missed,” Martin Community Development Director Brad Thompson said.
Dee was an advocate for education and lover of the arts. She was a former teacher at Bradford High School. She was also one of the female pioneers seated on the Weakley County School Board. She was also a C.E. Weldon Public Library board member.
Her daughter, Brittan, followed in her footsteps as an educator. She teaches fifth grade at Martin Elementary School.
Several years ago, the UT Martin Department of Fine Arts launched a “Guitar as Art” exhibit as part of the annual Tennessee Soybean Festival. Local artists would turn salvaged guitars into works of art. Dee helped with the venture and even helped supply some guitars each year for the art exhibit.
“I’m so sad that we lost Dee. She was a tremendous friend, supporter, and advocate for UTM and the arts here on campus. Every year Dee donated to our can (canned goods) sculpture, bought and supported Guitar as Art, came to openings and plays, and loved meeting students. She did this for several departments and programs, not just ours. Personally, she was a friend, and always knew just what to say to make me laugh. She could work a room in 25 minutes and make everyone feel that way. One day, I saw Dee at the gym in the morning, at one of our events, then later at a women’s basketball game. Her energy and passion for the things and people she cared about always inspired me. We love you Dee, you will be missed often and by many, UT Martin professor of art Jason Stout noted.
She was also an advocate for local media outlets, supporting her local newspaper through advertisements of her real-estate business. Dee made weekly visits to a local newspaper when Lynette Wagster served as the paper’s General Manager. She wasn’t one to gossip, but she was one who would express her opinion on local news of interest.
Wagster recalled the personal and business relationships she shared with Dee.
“Laughter – always laughter. A fiery and passionate woman who was always there to support … community, family, friends. Local was her mantra … local restaurants, shops, our schools, her newspaper. All were important to her, and she faithfully did her part to see that they thrived and survived,” Wagster shared.
“She supported me during a hard time with true love and a bag of wigs! What a woman. She will be forever remembered,” she added.
Celebration of Dee’s Life
From helping newcomers to Weakley County with new-home purchases to showing up for community events, Dee is a force of nature who will be remembered for her dedication to her community, service to the business sector, time spent volunteering to serve on committees and the friendships she has made in the area for the last 72 years.
A Celebration of Life and Memorial Service will be held at 5 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 19, 2023, at the First United Methodist Church in Martin with Pastor Amanda Crice officiating. Friends are invited to stay after the service for a visitation at the church. Dee served as past chairman of the trustee and finance committees of the church.
She is survived by her daughter, Brittan (Aaron) Knott and two grandsons, Charlie Sutherland and Preston Knott, all of Martin. Community members may leave condolences online at https://www.murphyfuneralhome.net/obituary/dee-fields-pritchett.