John T. Little Jr. passed away peacefully Sunday, September 15, at Wellmont Holston Valley Hospice House. He was surrounded by his loving wife of 60 years, Anna Ruth Sanders Little; and daughters, Pam Cox (Kingsport) and Andrea Edmondson (Elizabethton).
Born January 16, 1934, to John Thomas Little Sr. and Leona Elizabeth Fleenor in Kingsport, John spent the majority of his life in Kingsport. In recent years, he and Anna Ruth moved to Elizabethton, Tenn., to be closer to John’s beloved boys (grandchildren) Lee and Max Edmondson.
John’s family had a long history in Kingsport, with his grandfather, Jacob Bean Fleenor, serving as Sullivan County’s first magistrate. Jacob is the man represented in Wes Venable’s painting of the Kingsport Train Station. John graduated from Dobyns-Bennett High School in 1952, where he played football. He attended ETSU, and he and his brother-in-law, Doug Moles, enlisted in the Army during the Korean Conflict. They were stationed in Fairbanks, Alaska, where Anna Ruth and John’s sister, Pat Little Moles, joined their husbands. There John and Anna Ruth met John and Mary Jane Bobbitt, Peoria, Ill., and became lifelong friends.
After returning from Alaska, John worked a short time at Raytheon in Bristol before joining Eastman Kodak in Kingsport, Tenn. He retired in April 1996 after 35 years working as a drafting engineer. Many folks at Eastman will remember John as the “Peanut” man because he bought and sold boiled Virginia peanuts to his co-workers.
John and his brother, Jack, were huge jokesters and prided themselves in scaring the daylights out of all their children and nieces. John was forever teasing his youngest daughter and her friend, Carolyn Hobbs, that the Ridge-Run-Bo-Alice (some monster) was going to get them. He loved spending time with his brother, Jack, and his family, and they took many beach trips together.
In his spare time, John loved to shoot pool at the Kingsport Moose Lodge 921, where he was a lifelong member. He also liked to dance; and, fortunately, he and Anna Ruth enjoyed many years of dancing together almost up to the end of his life.
John was also the “Original American Picker,” and he spent many years roaming the back roads of Southwest Virginia and Northeast Tennessee in search of that “Honey Hole” as today’s pickers Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz refer to as a great pickin’ spot. He had an eye for antiques, and many of his pieces ended up in museums like the Smithsonian.
He was preceded in death by his parents and brothers, Howard Little (DeKalb, Ill.) and Jackson Sheryl Little (Jackson, Tenn.); brother-in-laws, Doug Moles and Glen Sproles (Kingsport), beloved in-laws, Bass and Edna Sanders (Kingsport); niece, Teri Moles Dedmond (Ft. Smith, Ark.); and grand-niece, Ashley Nicole Skelton (Kingsport.)
Left to cherish his memory and fun times together are his wife, Anna Ruth Sanders Little (Elizabethton); daughters, Pam Cox and husband, Keith Wilson (Kingsport), and Andrea Edmondson and husband, Glen Lee (Butch) Edmondson Jr. (Elizabethton); sisters, Pat Moles Baxter and husband, Jim (Ft. Smith, Ark.), and Lilly Little Hash and husband Eddie, (Walnut Creek, Calf.); grandchildren, Jessica Cox Osborne and husband, Patrick (Knoxville), Max and Lee Edmondson III (Elizabethton); step-grandchildren, Carolyn Wilson and husband, Vance Fraley (Cookeville, Tenn.), and Douglas Wilson and wife, Kate (Richmond, Va.); step great-grandchildren, Tate and Logan Fraley (Cookeville) and Emery Claire Wilson (Richmond, Va.).; and his best friend, Bill Phillipe.
Also left to remember “Big Uncle John” are nieces, Sherry Little Short (Jackson), Robbin Sproles Metcalf and husband, Rex (Kingsport), Chavela Sproles Gragg and husband, Joe (Kingsport), Lisa Moles Roland (Fayetteville, Ark.), Janet Moles Crockett and husband, Tony (Ft. Smith, Ark.); nephews, John Charles (Chuck) Little (Jackson), John Randall (John) Little and wife, Amy, New York City, Jeff Little (DeKalb, Ill.); Johnny Baxter and wife, Melissa (Ft. Smith, Ark.); and John, Sharla and Michael Hash (California). John is additionally survived by several grand nieces and nephews and great-grand nieces and nephews, and also his sister-in-laws, Patsy Bishop Little (Jackson), Betty Sanders Sproles (Kingsport) and Patsy Sanders Clonce and husband, Sammy, (Kingsport).
The family would like to thank the ICU staff at Holston Valley Hospital; ETSU physicians Dr. David Guinn and, especially, Dr. Shadi Nakhla for never giving up on John; ICU RN Hester Burns for the care and attention given to John; Holston Valley Chaplain Jeno Smith for his beautiful spirit and for listening to Anna Ruth’s stories for hours on end; and Wellmont Holston Valley Hospice nurses, especially Jennifer Cox, for their compassion and commitment to serve families of the dying.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to Wellmont Holston Valley Hospice House or Hale Community Ministries, Backpack Ministry, 1301 Arney St., Elizabethton, Tenn. 37643 in memory of the John Little Family. You may call Becky Brummitt at 423-547-2560. This ministry feeds children at risk of going hungry on the weekends.
A memorial service will be held Saturday, Oct. 12, at 3 p.m. at Calvary Baptist Church, 1238 Pine St., Kingsport, with the Rev. Dennis Wilson, Lynn Valley Baptist Church, Elizabethton, officiating. The family will receive friends immediately following the service in the Fellowship Hall of Calvary Baptist Church; light refreshments will be served.
As in life, John was always giving to anyone in need; he donated his body to ETSU Quillen Dishner College of Medicine with the hope that someone will be saved with the knowledge gained from John’s earthly body.