Gayle VanHooser is a familiar face in Grundy. She is the Register of Deeds for the county and is active in volunteer work.
When asked if she was from Grundy County, Gayle gave a resounding yes.
“I absolutely love this question. I am so proud to say yes! I am from Grundy County, born and raised. Every meeting I attend, and every person I meet, I proudly tell them where I am from and then I proceed to tell them about our beautiful county.
“They usually ask if I work for the Chamber of Commerce.
“I have had the unique opportunity of living and working in almost every area of this beautiful county. I was born in Coalmont, to Frankie Winton and Howard Winton. And, I have three wonderful siblings – Patricia Fuqua of Monteagle, Mike Winton of Manchester, and Tim Winton of Pelham.
“I was raised in Pelham, and I lived in Gruetli-Laager for 15 years, and my husband Jerry and I have lived in Tracy City for the past 23 years.”
“Getting older, I see so many of God’s blessings that I received by having had the opportunity to attend this small school in this small close knit community. The old African Proverb ‘It takes a village to raise a child’ is so true in my life.
“My Mother was a single parent raising four children on a shirt factory income. We planted a family garden with our grandparents. We had aunts and uncles that brought us clothes and took us places. We had Miss Jewel’s store that allowed us to get food on credit until Mom got paid that week.
“We had a principal and teacher, Ms. Mary Ellen Patton, who taught me respect, accountability and gave us encouragement. I had many teachers that would take us to cultural events and expose us to so many things that I might never have had the opportunity to see or do. They would even take us to their homes, especially Mr. and Mrs. Shetters. I had coaches that would pick me up and bring me home, Ms. Judy Rickner.
“We had business leaders that gave us jobs. We had community leaders that reached out to include us in positive endeavors. I had friends that made me feel accepted and loved. I always say we were raised poor, but I had what money could not buy.”
After Pelham Elementary, Gayle went on to Grundy County High School and has a unique memory of her time there.
“Cinnamon Rolls! Ms. Layne and Ms. Sanders made the absolute best. You could smell them all the way to the science department.”
“Again, I was so blessed throughout high school. I have so many wonderful memories. I had some great teachers and administrators that provided me with a wonderful education. I tried to play basketball, but those girls were really good, and I didn’t quite measure up.
“I didn’t let that get me down, so I decided to try out for cheerleading. Perfect fit for this big mouth. I also enjoyed being the statistician and “Bat Girl” for the baseball team. This feels a little funny talking about it now, but you asked so… I was chosen Homecoming Queen and Most Popular in my senior year.
“The year 1976 was a wonderful year and our class has enjoyed getting together every ten years for our class reunions We have a really big one coming up in 2016, number 40. I can’t wait to see everyone again.”
Gayle says one of her biggest regrets is not finishing her college degree.
“Even as old as I am, I still think about going back to get my degree. I admire working mothers who accomplish this. I started work right away and I took night classes with Tennessee Tech and Motlow and ended up with two years of credits in the field of Business and Finance. I graduated from the Tennessee School of Banking at Vanderbilt in Nashville in 1987. I also received the designation of Certified Public Administrator from the University of Tennessee and I annually complete the educational requirements for maintaining this designation.”
Immediately after her high school graduation, Gayle went to work in the banking industry.
“I worked 15 years in the local banking industry. I have a little unique experience here as well. I worked through two FDIC bank closings at Coalmont Savings Bank, which was purchased by First Bank of Marion County, and First Bank and Trust in Tracy, which was purchased by First National Bank of Shelbyville. Both experiences gave me the opportunity to work all over this wonderful county. I still enjoy fellowship with all my co-workers and customers from my banking days.
“I later went to work for Home Beneficial Life Insurance. It was the first time that I had ever really worked outside of Grundy County and I knew that I had to find a way to come back home to work. I love our county and the people. In all those years of banking, that was the favorite part of my job – talking with people and being involved in our communities.
“So, in 1993 after almost two years in the insurance business and the encouragement of a dear friend, I decided to look into running for Register of Deeds. My husband, my family and my friends were completely engaged in the campaign. Without that overwhelming support, I would have never been able to execute a successful campaign. I was ecstatic about the possibility of being able to work in our beautiful county again. On September 1, 1994, I was sworn into office of Grundy County Register of Deeds.”
Gayle loves many things about her job. We asked her to tell us a few.
“Wow! This is a loaded question for me. I absolutely love every aspect of serving our county as Register of Deeds. I am excited to get up everyday. I can’t wait to talk to our first customer of the day and everyone that walks by. It’s almost like Captain D’s here; you walk in the back door and I holler ‘Hello.’ I’ve got my desk sitting right in front of the door and I can’t wait for you to stop by.
“I am blessed to work with the best lady ever; Ms. Connie Gallagher and I have been together for several years. Like it says in the movie, ‘She completes me.’ I am always bouncing all over the place. I think if we had the diagnosis back when I was a kid, I would probably have been hyperactive, but she is calm and very organized. Every so often we also have Ms. Jamie Weaver in the office and she does a wonderful job.
“The citizens have entrusted me with the responsibility of serving as the Grundy County Register of Deeds, and I do not take that task lightly. I strive daily to give the citizens an office they can call their own and be proud of. The Grundy County Register’s office has one of the largest databases per capita in the State of Tennessee.
“Currently, all deeds, plats, and indexes are scanned into the computer system back to the earliest records in 1852. It is a work in progress, with indexing underway daily; we continue to build an excellent source of data for all the land records of Grundy County. It is a personal goal to have all available records indexed in the computer system. The scanning and indexing process is an avenue to preservation of some of Grundy County’s most precious pieces of history. It is essential that the records in the Register of Deeds office be preserved by us, for future generations.”
In addition to serving as Register of Deeds, Gayle is very active in the community and in the state.
“I have always been very active in our county, and I feel that it is our duty as citizens and public officials to take a proactive role in our service to others. I serve as the secretary and charter member of the Grundy County Lions Club, I am a 2002 Leadership Grundy graduate, and I serve on the board and grant committee for The Community Fund of the South Cumberland Plateau.
“I love volunteering at Tracy City First United Methodist and the Youth Program, Grundy County Youth Leadership Board Member, and the Grundy County Veteran’s Historical Society.
“I am the secretary of the Grundy County Democratic Party, and a volunteer for the St. Jude Weekend fundraiser (for 20 years) and various other county-wide organizations.
“Statewide, I have served as past president of the Tennessee Register’s Association. The Grundy County Register of Deeds had the distinct honor of bringing home to Grundy County, the recognition of Tennessee Register of the Year for two consecutive years and was later recognized as Tennessee County Official of the Year by the County Officials Association of Tennessee. Grundy County Register’s office is recognized statewide for the hard work and positive steps taken so that we always strive to make the best, better. I continually look for ways to improve on service to the citizens of Grundy County. As you can see, I love this job.”
One of Gayle’s favorite subjects is her family.
“Jerry and I met while I was working at the bank. He always had this beautiful little white headed girl with him. She and I would talk and laugh. She was absolutely beautiful (Alice).
“It’s kinda funny how we actually got to the point of going on our first date. Bubbie Conry and Cindy Green Northcutt seemed to think that Jerry and I should go on a date. Each of our friends told each of us a little fib. Cindy told me that Jerry wanted to go out with me, and Bubbie told Jerry that I wanted to go out with him. Jerry called the bank to ask me out, and I asked for a rain check, then, 30 minutes later, after council from Jackie Jordan, I called him back and redeemed my rain check. It was love at first date – and the rest is history.
“We married on July 24, 1992, and have three children, Ryan VanHooser, Nathan (Jill) Myers, and Alice (Nick) Roberts. And, we have eight of the best grandchildren ever, Trey VanHooser, (student at Tennessee Tech); Kathlyn VanHooser and Sydney VanHooser, (seniors at GCHS); Nathanael Myers, (in the eighth grade at North); Elijah Myers, (a third grader at North); Maksim Roberts, (in Pre-K at Monteagle); Kross VanHooser, (in Pre-K at Swiss); and our youngest Piper Roberts is five months old. I think that most people my age would agree that their children and grandchildren are truly gifts from God. Jerry and I enjoy the time we get to spend with each of them.”
What does Gayle love about Grundy County? She says it is an amazing place to live and raise a family.
“The people and their willingness to always help a neighbor, the natural beauty, the rich history, the cultural diversity – these are my favorite things about the county. We must always focus on the positives.”
In her free time, Gayle enjoys decorating, hiking, walking, and reading. However, her favorite hobby is her grandchildren.
“I fully enjoy spending time with my ‘Grands’ as I lovingly call them.”