Published 12:00 am Monday, August 16, 2010
Thelma Lee Jones Atkins went to be with her Lord on Sunday, August 15, 2010. Imagine the wonder of the Angel Band as they welcomed her sweet, pure voice into Hillbilly Heaven. Born in New Bern, NC, she was a daughter of the late Claudine Estelle (Jones) Jones and Dewey Duffy Jones, Sr. As a young lady she moved with her family to Suffolk, VA where she met and married her husband, the late Horace Edwin “Dee” Atkins. She worked hard all of her life and at an early age sang with her father in a band on the radio. Her love for music carried her through many heartaches and sorrows and, along with her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren, brought her the most joy in her life. She played music and sang in numerous talent shows, fish fries, family gatherings, and nights sitting in the kitchen picking. She taught her children at a young age to sing and dance. They were grown with families of their own before she followed her dream of becoming a professional musician. Her dear friend, Charlotte Price, lead guitar player, encouraged her and promoted her to make her dream come true. Having played in Richmond with her band, “The Southern Sweethearts”, they went on the road in 1971. The band changed their name to “The Nashville Kitty Kats” and Thelma cut a record in Nashville in 1973, fulfilling a lifetime dream. Traveling with the all girl band they performed in cities and towns all over the United States and Greenland, earning numerous friends and followers and their own “star status”. The Nashville Kitty Kats played back-up to many country music stars over the years, including Tex Ritter, Marty Robbins, Barbara Fairchild, Porter Wagoner, and too many more to mention. After retiring from the road the band continued playing locally with Thelma’s sisters, daughter and son until the band took full retirement in 2001. Thelma was 72 at the time and her voice was still ringing strong and beautiful. Thanks to Charlotte for seeing that her dreams came true. She was “The Wind Beneath Thelma’s Wings”.
Thelma is survived by her children, Edwin Lee Atkins, Roger Dean Atkins, and Rose Atkins Stalnaker and her husband, Eddie; sisters, Jackie Branch and her husband, George, LaRue J. Brittle, Jean J. Albertson, Molly J. Fowler and her husband, Steve, and Joni J. Joyner and her husband, Gene; brothers, Dewey D. Jones, Jr. and his wife, Gayle, Vernon Jones and his wife, Sue, William E. “Bill” Jones and his wife, Elna and Frank Jones; former son-in-law, Bob Biven; grandchildren, Cindy Johnson, Mindy Director, Paul Atkins, Tracey Davis, Evan Atkins, Tina Showalter, Chad Heath, and Michael Biven; great grandchildren, Austin, Kaitlyn, Tori, Noah, Ben, Parker, Everette, Layla Rose, Hannah, Clarissa, Gale, Casey, Alexis, Dean, and Bryson; dear friend and companion, Charlotte Price; close friend, Mary Barna; numerous nieces and nephews and her beloved “baby”, Sugar.
The family will receive friends from 3 to 5:00 pm on Tuesday, August 17, 2010 at the Purviance Chapel of J.T. Morriss & Son Funeral Home & Cremation Service in Wakefield. A funeral service will be held at 5 pm following the visitation with Re. Ray Rowland officiating. Burial will be private. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to Down Syndrome Association of Greater Richmond (DSAGR), P.O. Box 70789, Richmond, VA 23255. Condolences may be registered at www.jtmorriss.com.