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Norman D. O’Dell

Norman D. O’Dell, age 83, passed away Saturday, February 26, 2022 at his home in Unicoi, Tennessee after a brief battle with cancer. He was the son of Paul and Nelle Mae Rowland O’Dell. He was raised in Cocke County, Tennessee, but lived most of his adult life in Unicoi County. He received a B.S. Degree from East Tennessee State University with a major in Industrial Technology.  He completed post-graduate course work and taught Drafting as a Graduate Assistant at ETSU. Many people in Unicoi County remember him as part of the management team at Morrill Electric for 22 years.


He was a Christian and served as a deacon in four Baptist churches over a 55-year period, and he also enjoyed teaching a men’s Sunday School class. For several years, he drove a church bus for annual mission trips to Mexico and participated in the construction of churches there.


He was a member of the Jericho Temple Shrine Club and a 50+ year member of the Masonic York Rite and Scottish Rite. He served one term on the Unicoi County School Board and served many years for the Unicoi County Election Commission as a Judge and Machine Operator for elections.


As a member of the Unicoi and Jonesborough Ruritan Clubs, he served in several local, District and National Ruritan leadership positions over many years. He completed a five-year term on the Ruritan National Foundation, serving as President during his final year, and recently established a scholarship fund in his name. For many years, he helped the Unicoi Ruritan Club make Strawberry Preserves and old-fashioned kettle Apple Butter.  During the past several years, he directed Apple Butter cook-offs for the Jonesborough Ruritan Club and an annual Apple Butter cook-off at his sister’s home where all of the Apple Butter was given away to friends, Veterans, and others in the community. He eventually made his own propane gas burner to cook Apple Butter instead of using wood or borrowing a burner. For many years, he was a frequent volunteer at Clinchfield Senior Center in Erwin, performing all types of minor maintenance jobs, making biscuits for Apple Festival breakfasts, driving the Senior Center van to numerous locations for senior trips, and also driving the van as a shuttle during Apple Festival to and from the Blue Ridge Pottery annual show and sale. In recent years, he assisted with making Apple Relish as a fundraising item for the Senior Center.  


For almost 20 years, he designed Ruritan lapel pins for the annual Tennessee Rally held each year in Pigeon Forge as well as pins for other Ruritan occasions. He enjoyed attending car shows with his brother-in-law, Roger Cooper, whom he considered to be as close as a true brother.  They enjoyed cruising on Watauga Lake in a jointly owed pontoon boat.  (The word “cruising” is appropriate because they never caught a fish.)


He loved his grandchildren dearly and started tool boxes for them when they were toddlers, which he added to every year so they would have some tools when they are adults living on their own. He collected antique woodworking tools and Coca Cola memorabilia, and he was an avid recycler.  


Norman was preceded in death by his parents and sister, Wanda O’Dell Pratt.  He leaves behind to cherish his memory his wife of 58 years, Charlene Cooper O’Dell; daughter, Virginia O’Dell Mercer (Mike), Ooltewah, TN; granddaughter, Amy Mercer and grandson, Andrew Mercer, Ooltewah, TN; sister, Wilma O’Dell Bible, New Market, TN. Nephews: William Pratt, Phillip Pratt and Mark Pratt and several cousins.


The family will receive friends at the Unicoi Funeral Home on Saturday, March 5 from 2:00 pm until 4:00 pm. A Celebration of Life Service to offer tribute and remember the life of Norman O’Dell will begin at 4:00 pm. Norman was cremated in accordance with his wishes. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions are welcomed for his 501(c)3 scholarship fund at: Ruritan National Foundation, P.O. Box 487, Dublin, VA 24084. Designate the donation for the #1649 Norman D. O’Dell Educational Fund.


Online condolences, photos and memories may be shared with the O’Dell family at

Unicoi Funeral Home, 4428 Unicoi Drive, Unicoi, TN is privileged to serve the O’Dell family.