Tribute Prepared by
Karen Dellinger Bouldin
Richee Dellinger at age 96 is one of Gleason’s oldest life-long
residents. Opal was born in Gleason at home on College Street and
has lived on that street all of her life, although she has lived in
three different houses. She was born on January 31st, 1917, to
Mattie Wray Richee (1880-1963) and Alton Monroe Richee
She was the youngest of three children.
Her brother was Vernon Richee (1908 -1996) and her sister was
Rubye Richee Taylor (1911 -1998). Their father Alton Richee was a
merchant and part owner of Richee Brothers and Parks, a general
store that sold everything from dry goods to groceries. The store
stood at the corner of College Street and Front Street with the main
entrance facing Gleason School.
One of Opal's fondest memories of the store
was getting to look into the big glass front candy case and choose
candy that was in individual glass containers. She enjoyed sampling
the candy there at the store and then selecting her favorites to
put in a brown paper sack to carry home. She continues to eat
at least one piece of candy or chocolate each day and believes that
doing so has helped her have such a long life.
She also tells that when her father,
"Papa", would walk home from the store for lunch, he would often
bring a small block of ice held together by a brown wool rope for
their iced tea. On summer days, much of the ice melted before he
could get home. Lunch was a special part of the day for the family
to be together and enjoy the delicious meal that “Mama” had
prepared for them. During her childhood, relatives and neighbors
frequently visited on front porches on warm evenings. They enjoyed
sharing desserts and ice tea and talking about the news of the day.
The children were happy and busy playing games such as
hide-and-seek, tag, kick the can, jump rope, roller skating,
and marbles. These activities were a part of life and filled many
summer days and evenings.
The Richees were members of the Gleason
Cumberland Presbyterian Church and Opal became a Christian and
joined the church in 1926. Opal was blessed with the talents of
music and teaching. She served as pianist for the church and taught
a Sunday school class for children while she was in high school.
Opal attended school at Gleason. She liked school and her teachers
and classmates. She was well liked too and was a class officer and
a member of the Music Club. She especially enjoyed the trips when
Miss Reba Oliver took the Music Club to the Oliver Family Cabin on
the Harpeth River near Nashville. Opal graduated from Gleason High
School in 1934 and continued her education at Bethel College for two
years (Fall 1934 - Spring 1936). At that time one could begin
teaching after completing two years of college. Opal's first
teaching job was at Peace and Harmony School, two miles south of
Gleason. The school had grades 1 - 8 and "Miss Opal" taught grades
1 - 4 and had 21 students in her class. She drove the family car
to Peace and Harmony when the weather was nice, but when the weather
became bad and the roads impassable by car, she walked the two miles
to school. During the cold winter weather, Opal stayed close to the
school with Herbert and Vera Wray and their children. Mr. Herbert
was a cousin of Opal's mother. Opal always talked about the
delicious country meals and hot biscuits that Miss Vera cooked.
Opal continued to teach at Peace and
Harmony for two years but declining enrollment forced a change so
she taught at another rural school, Shady Grove, for the l941-42
school year. She had 20 students in her 1st through 4th
grade class. A teaching position opened up in town at the Gleason
School and Miss Opal began teaching there in August of 1942. She
taught a fourth grade class for several years until a second grade
class became available.
On September 2, l945, Opal Richee married
Ray Dellinger. Ray was returning to his hometown of Gleason after
serving his country in the U.S. Army during World War II. Ray saw
combat service in North Africa and Italy where he received the
Purple Heart. He completed his Army service in Niagara Falls, NY.
One year after their marriage their only child Karen was born.
Opal stayed home to care for the new baby for two years (until
August 1948) when she began teaching again at Gleason Elementary
School. During the school day while her mother was teaching, Karen
stayed with her Grandmother Richee who lived only two houses away.
When Karen was old enough to start school, she was in her mother's
1st and 2nd grade classes and loved it. Opal
continued to go to Bethel College and took classes at night and in
the summer. She graduated from Bethel in June 1953 with a Bachelor
of Science in Education degree.
For most of her teaching career, Miss Opal
taught first or second grade or an overflow
class made up of first and second graders. In the 1950s, many
classes had 30 - 35 children
and during her 34-year teaching career she taught almost one
thousand students. Miss Opal loved teaching and loved "her
children" and she was loved and respected by them. Her favorite
activity was teaching the children to read. She
always said that teaching children was "the best job in the world"
and considered it her calling , her mission in life. She enjoyed
teaching and did it well. She cared deeply about others and wanted
each child to feel loved. It continues to give her great pleasure
when former students say something sweet about their experiences in
her classes so long ago and to send her cards and flowers on her
birthday or at Christmas.
Miss Opal retired in May of 1974 when her
husband Ray retired from the elected office of General Sessions and
Circuit Court Clerk of Weakley County. During her teaching and
retirement years, Opal also served her church, the Gleason
Cumberland Presbyterian Church, as pianist, Sunday School teacher,
summer Bible school teacher, CPW leader, and deacon then elder. She
and Ray, who was also a deacon then elder, led the youth ministry
for the church for many years.
Opal was also a compassionate caregiver
during her active years. Opal and Ray built an addition to their
house in l959 and Opal’s mother moved in with them, staying there
until Mrs. Richee’s death in February l963. She also did much for
her sister, Rubye Taylor, for over 30 years following the death of
Rubye’s husband, Doc, in 1963 and their 19-year old son, Ronnie, in
1965. Rubye died at age 88 on September 20, 1999. Opal’s husband,
Ray, was diagnosed with cancer in 1973 and was in and out of
remission until January of 1980 when his cancer returned. Opal
cared for him at home that year until he died on December 29, 1980.
After Ray's death, Opal became even more
active in the Cumberland Presbyterian Women (CPW) and was honored
with the Lifetime Member award. She was also very active in the
Gleason Woman's Club, held several offices and served as its
president two different terms. She was an active member of the
Weakley County Democratic Women and the Retired Teacher's
Association and served as an officer in each organization.
Opal was happy and busy in her retirement
years. She loved to be outside when the weather was nice and she
could work in her yard and flowers. She also enjoyed her cats and
seeing that they were taken care of and well fed. Spending time
with her brother, Vernon and his wife Lucille, and her sister
Rubye was important to her. Over the years she enjoyed visits with
her daughter, Karen, son-in-law, Donald Bouldin, and grandson,
Andrew, who was born in 1985. She was able to visit them even more
frequently after they moved to Brentwood.
Opal continued to be active in the things
she loved until May 2008 when it began to be difficult for her to
maintain her independence and live alone. She is able to stay in
her home with 24-hour caregivers there with her. Those who have
spent a lot of time with her in the last few years enjoy her
pleasantness and her humor. There are many good times and many
clear moments when she amazes you with some of the things that she
remembers and her attention to details, realizing things that need
to be done. She continues to enjoy and be thankful for each day
and be an example to all. She loves Gleason and still thinks it is
the best place in the world to live.
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