Cover photo for Marie Dunavin's Obituary
Marie Dunavin Profile Photo
1923 Marie Dunavin 2023

Marie Dunavin

October 20, 1923 — November 10, 2023



Just 21 days ago Mom actively participated in her grand 100th Birthday Event! At this age, most Centurions would have had all their friends and family preceding them in death, right? But not her, she knew the extended family of all those friends and acquaintances. She easily made new and younger friends! She was a light of elder wisdom. People would often stop by to ask questions and to hear shared stories of Tahlequah’s history; back to 1946 when she sold ads for the local newspaper to businesses along the Main Street of Tahlequah. It’s so fitting that her last shared story would be her own. Marie Etta Teters Dunavin left her earthly life in the wee hours of the morning, on November 10th.

Mom used to tell me with a wink of her eye and a hand gesture, “Con, anything that you want to remember, you better write it down, then every once in a while, look at it and read it over, then you’ll keep it in your mind!”

So, Mom, here it is, written down with love, albeit an abridged version of the life of a Centurion who lived fully and authentically. Mom, I know I won’t have to read this again, as I will never forget you or us.

Marie was born on a Saturday at 5 AM on October 20th in 1923, in Springdale Arkansas. The second oldest child of 6 siblings and, as she used to tout, was the only one to cause her parents any trouble! She established her Independence as a socially spirited adolescent, who loved telling jokes, being witty, and making others laugh. She loved music, going to dances, smoking a cigarette, and having an occasional cocktail; she even admitted to sneaking outta-the-house to attend these activities only to get picked up by her dad, earning a ‘well-deserved’ spanking! Marie was the only sibling to move away. In 1943 at the age of 20, she boarded a bus for Tulsa, OK. meeting her two high school girlfriends and working at Douglas Aircraft till WWII began winding down. The trio lived on South Denver Street in downtown Tulsa.

In 1945, they moved to Muskogee, OK. Marie worked in the National Advertising Dept of the morning Muskogee Phoenix and the evening Times-Democrat and worked at Camp Gruber as the assistant manager of the PX. This history is documented in a 2016 Tahlequah Daily Press Article titled ‘Independence Brought Dunavin Interesting Jobs, Friends.’ Read article here:

Mom and Dad had met and by August of 1946, married and moved to Tahlequah. My brother, Tom, was born in 1947. They moved to California in 1952 and I came along in 1957. In 1959 we all moved to Wichita Falls Texas before returning to Tahlequah, purchasing a 180-acre farm, and moving to the Shady Grove Community in 1961, I was four years old.

Initially, mom worked at Liberty State Bank. She said the bank CEO, Mr. Earl Squyres, had asked her if there was a ‘Singletree’ on the Old Farm Place; Mom told him, no, there are a whole lot of trees!! (Some of you may need to look this up to understand, lol.) Her first time on a farm, she said she learned the difference between a heifer and a steer, that you don’t plant the whole package of squash seeds for the garden (unless you plan on feeding the whole community!), how to drive a tractor, put up bailed hay, cut Cain, and haul it 31 miles to Christie, Oklahoma’s sorghum mill… all this, to leave with only (2) quart jars of sorghum! That’s when Mom said: ‘This farm work is hard!’ She taught me how to work hard, finish a day’s job, and chat during manual labor; to make it go faster! Mornings together, we would head out to the neighbors' houses for ‘coffee and conversation,’. She first had to get the old Ford truck started, which she flooded, more often than not!

Marie was an active part of the Shady Grove Community and the Ladies Home Demonstration Club, putting on the school’s Pie Supper and Bean Dinner Fundraisers! Between farm work and living eight miles out from town, her friends and neighbors were everything to her! Mom maintained her Shady Grove friendship with Jewel Burg, and even Mary Shankle attended her 100th birthday event!

The farm was sold in 1971, and we moved into Tahlequah. Mom and Dad purchased the old Judge Miller property of 200 acres on East Allen Rd and began building a new house! Marie worked part-time during tax season in the Treasures Office at the Cherokee County Court House. She loved working for Betty Neal and Charlene Vance. This job brought back access to city life, the opportunity to meet new people, and reconnected her to those extended families who had Mainstreet businesses in the late 1940s. After 24 years, Mom finally retired in 1992!

Throughout the 70’s and early 80’s, Mom, LOVED my friends and having them AT the house. To some, it was a wonderful house of refuge where they could come and go for fun and, to discuss everything from current events to life situations that they couldn’t talk to their parents about. Mom never condoned questionable behavior, but she never condemned or judged either! She always taught us responsibility even as she shared her wisdom. It was, after all, her idea to tell Penni and I to ‘just plug the house Christmas Lights in, in August, so people would know where the Party was!!” On several occasions when I arrived home, I found friends at my house visiting Mom and Dad, and mostly Mom! She always said her chosen daughter was Penni! A favorite memory she recalled, was that Penni chose to get ready ON her wedding day at OUR house; because she was made to feel that it was her home too.

In 1978 and 1979, Mom had personal heartbreak that involved Tom, and his addiction, divorce, and disappearance for 2 years. Added to that, her only granddaughter, then 11, Tonia, couldn’t continue her weekend and summertime visits. Making memories with Granny on the road to Arkansas to visit cousins with stops in Apple-Town and Tontitown for Concord Grapes, all came to an end. As years passed, Granny found a way and communicated through Tonia’s high school friend, Rhonda to keep up with her life. They eventually reconnected after graduation – Yes! Grannies, like mothers, are smarter than the FBI when they NEED to find someone!

During the summer of 1981, my mother was left heartbroken after 35 years of marriage. She divorced my father after learning of an affair. In those days, most women just put up with it: but not my Mom.

I married in 1982 and moved to St. Louis. Tom returned and lived with her temporarily. She eventually met Ned Gladd, spending 19 caring years together. Mother and Ned had a very supportive relationship; they shared a love for music and dancing, attending the Elks, Masons, and American Legion events. They were a daily couple at the Senior Citizens Center and about town!

By 1997-98, without reservation, Mom, then in her 70’s, rose to the need, and with gratitude did much of the raising of Tom’s two younger daughters, aged 6 and 5, Whitney and Brittany. For the next (2) decades, she stayed focused on her granddaughters and the hardships of her son. She and the girls shared the best times and some very challenging times as well.

Brittany says Marie taught her everything that a mother would teach a daughter and did granny duties too! She recalls evenings on the couch with Granny, listening to the Police Scanner. Granny had a ‘list’ of the call signal abbreviations, and they would quickly look them up to try and figure out what was happening! Upon hearing that story, I was grateful that that scanner wasn’t a part of Mom’s household in the 1970s!!

Both Brittany and Tonia remember Granny teaching them how to dance the two-step; an event that usually occurred in the kitchen, while playing music and simultaneously teaching them how to cook! Great memories were made with Granny while working on crafts, gardening the flower beds and the vegetables, canning Ketchup, playing board games and solitaire, and making a favorite summertime Lemonade (which was mostly all sugar!). Each summer she taught Whitney and Brittany from school workbooks to prepare them for their upcoming school year! She was fun, even amid chaos spinning around them. She performed the role of teacher, mother, and granny while treasuring these years of Love, sweat, and tears. She was proud of her granddaughters! How fitting that Tonia and Brittany gave her (5) Great grandsons!!

Marie embraced, and never complained about life’s challenges, instead choosing to cherish its abundance. The great capacity my Mom had for Love, she had double that, for forgiveness!

In the mid-2000s, Mom in her 80s, was declared legally blind and had to stop driving. Some of us who rode with her were a bit relieved at this point! But that wasn’t going to slow her down as she would occasionally call the KATS Bus to Wal-Mart for a few items. The Sr Citizens Bus would pick her up daily for the trip to the Center, and once weekly drop her off at June’s & later at Sallies Salon where our dear Dottie Sprague would coiffure Marie’s hair! Sometimes they’d call me at work to let me know they were ‘Driving Ms. Daisy’ home, to my house.

In 2013, Marie was 90 yrs. old. A few weeks after Mother's Day, Tom died only (5) weeks after his diagnosis of metastatic cancer. At this time, she learned he had again fallen from recovery.

On Sunday, June 10th, 2018, Mom fell while heading to the front door to catch her ride to church. Over the decades, she had sustained multiple fractures, pins, an ankle fusion, etc. but this one tipped her in the wrong direction. Her dominant right arm had 10 fractures and she was no longer a candidate for surgery. When she entered Cherokee County Nursing Center and Rehabilitation… she said that she found Heaven on Earth! For the first time in her life, she had no responsibility! Meals and medications were hand-delivered, she felt SAFE, her room was clean, and after decades, at the ripe age of 94, she had time to be herself, again: An adept storyteller, who loved music, dancing, laughing, telling jokes, reciting old-timey rhymes, advocating for others, and being on the go, being SOCIAL! She officially called herself the Hall-Walker! Where the average stay in a care home is 3 years, Marie thrived for five and a half! Always the trend sitter, she was in for the long run. Mom endured like no other; stating, “Con, you have to feel it, process it, and then you have to let it go!” Those wise words from the mother I thought that for over nearly a century had captured the right way to live in denial!!

She also said, “Con, we can’t give up” and she finally DID reach that rare 100th birthday milestone! She became an official Centurion!! My mother LIVED every moment she was given! She hid her pain and embraced every and anything that came her way. If she had encouraged sympathy or held resentment and anger, she would have been gone decades ago! To sum it up, my mother was a survivor, tough. And unique, that despite it all, she saw purpose and positivity! She did that by ‘feeling it, processing it, then letting it go!’

Due to some current books and a popular Netflix series, we now know that there are places in the world, known as the BLUE ZONES, where it is not uncommon for centurions to be found thriving and weeding their gardens. Marie created her own kind of Blue Zone where CONNECTION, COMMUNITY, family, activity, and love grew like weeds in the garden of love and resilience where she donned her work gloves and set her hands to the soil every day!

Mom, I missed you the moment you stopped breathing. Others are missing you too. I take solace in knowing you are happy in Heaven, reconnecting with old friends and family, connecting with new people, creating community by being YOU and being Social! Remember, I Love You The Most!

You’re with God now, things are different up there, so try and watch your Jokes, okay?!

Thank you, to everyone who touched her life. If you haven't submitted a memory in tribute to my mother Marie, please do.












































To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Marie Dunavin, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

Past Services

Memorial Service

Monday, November 20, 2023

Starts at 1:00 pm

Hart Funeral Home- Tahlequah

1506 N Grand Ave, Tahlequah, OK 74464

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