Lin Christenberry: ‘She might have been an angel’

Lin and Chris Christenberry at Cherokee Country Club in November 2014 at a fundraiser for the East Tennessee Historical Society. Jack Hanna was the speaker.

Even after the ushers had lined the aisles of St. John’s Episcopal Cathedral with folding chairs, the memorial service for Lin Christenberry was standing room only in downtown Knoxville last night.

You knew the flowers would be beautiful. Lin, an award-winning floral designer, would have loved the lush arrangements of hydrangeas and cream-colored and pink roses on the altar and adorning the processional crucifix.

“Those were Lin’s go-to flowers whenever she was doing an arrangement,” said Martha McClellan, a member of St. John’s Flower Guild and close friend of Lin and her husband, Chris Christenberry. “Lin loved pink roses of every shade.” The Guild is divided into teams, with each team being assigned to arrange flowers every week at the church. “It was a coincidence that Lin’s team happened to be assigned to do the flowers this week,” McClellan said. “It’s safe to say those flowers were arranged with extra love.” They were stunning.

Lin, left, with her friend, Judy Morton, in May 2014 at the Glass Ball celebrating the renovation of the Knoxville Museum of Art and the Richard Jolley installation, “Cycle of Life.”

Lin, a pillar of Knoxville’s civic life and a frequent presence on the Blue Streak, passed away just a few weeks after having been diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. The community is still reeling from the shocking news. Her friend Anne Sprouse, a chaplain at the University of Tennessee Medical Center, noted from the podium, “I’m sure many of you didn’t even know she was sick until you heard that she had died.”

Her friends and family members described at the service how they discovered a bag labeled “Lin’s funeral” after she had passed. In it, she had placed clippings from funerals she had liked, along with Bible verses she wanted to be read at her own memorial.

As a result, the service was as upbeat and comforting as any memorial service could be. The Very Rev. John Ross said he was bowled over by the number of stories he’s heard about Lin since she passed away on Friday. “Lin loved stories,” he said. “And I keep hearing stories and stories and stories about her from all kinds of people. I’ve never heard so many stories!”

All the speakers remarked on the adjectives used by others to describe Lin Christenberry: beautiful, poised, kind, funny, gracious, loving. “She might have been an angel,” the Very Rev. Ross noted during his homily.

Richard Krieg and Lin at the Knoxville Botanical Garden for the Green Thumb Gala in October 2014.

Her daughter, Mary Grimm, said her mother loved three things: flowers, entertaining and “being Nana” to her seven grandchildren. We all chuckled when Mary related how, at Christmas, the grandchildren looked forward to the arrival of “Nana Claus” even more than that of Santa Claus.

Lin’s sister, Marti Neblett Tyler, brought smiles when she related that after Lin died, Mary came to her and said, “Aunt Marti, Mom was my Google. I’d always go to her with questions like, ‘Can I wear white linen after Labor Day?’ and she’d give me the answer. Now you are going to have to be my Google!” Marti’s reply: “Mary, I have bad news for you. Lin was my Google, too!”

Pastor Ross said Lin did not want people to be sad at her service. “She wanted us to be happy. She wanted us to celebrate her,” he said. Because of that, the closing hymn of the service was the Easter anthem, “Jesus Christ is Risen Today.” Have you ever heard a more joyous sentiment?

And the poem that Lin’s daughter, Anna Ottaviano, read also was very appropriate for that goal. Contained in “Lin’s Funeral” bag, it was called “Miss Me, but Let Me Go.” Here it is:

When I come to the end of the road
And the sun has set for me
I want no rites in a gloom-filled room.
Why cry for a soul set free?
Miss me a little but not too long
And not with your head bowed low.
Remember the love that we once shared,
Miss me but let me go.

For this is a journey that we all must take
And each must go alone.
It’s all a part of the Master’s plan,
A step on the road to home.
When you are lonely and sick of heart
Go to the friends we know
And bury your sorrows in doing good deeds.
Miss me, but let me go!

Click here to read the paid obituary for Lin Christenberry that ran in the News Sentinel.

Joan and Victor Ashe with Lin in October 2016 at the Green Thumb Gala at the Knoxville Botanical Garden.

From left, Lin and Chris Christenberry, John Gill and Ruth Fielden at an inauguration party for Gov. Bill Haslam in Nashville in January 2011.

New Year’s Eve of 2011 at Bistro by the Tracks. From left, John McCallie, Patsy and Tim Wright, Anne Sprouse and Lin.

This amazing arrangement garnered Lin an Honorable Mention ribbon in October 2014. It was part of a Knoxville Garden Club contest at the Knoxville Museum of Art called “Frame of Reference” that required floral designs to mimic pieces of artwork with which they were displayed. Very creative.

But, arrangements like this more reflect Lin’s personal style, according to her friend Martha McClellan. This arrangement was at a recent dinner party Lin hosted. (Photo by Martha McClellan.)

A centerpiece from that same party. (Photo by Martha McClellan.)

Lin also loved orchids, like these at her house. (Photo by Martha McClellan.)

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21 Responses to Lin Christenberry: ‘She might have been an angel’

  1. Alan Carmichael, on November 7th, 2017 at 2:08 pm said:

    What a nice person she was, and those floral arrangements are stunning.

  2. Pam Rhoades, on November 7th, 2017 at 2:08 pm said:

    Beautiful tribute, Cynthia.

  3. MARY PAT TYREE, on November 7th, 2017 at 2:19 pm said:

    Beautiful tribute for a beautiful lady. Condolences.

  4. Sara Rose, on November 7th, 2017 at 3:15 pm said:

    She was a perfect lady and my Google, too.

  5. Lauren Miller, on November 7th, 2017 at 4:25 pm said:

    Wow. I didn’t have the privilege of knowing Lin, but I am grateful for the opportunity now to be inspired by her kind and joyous spirit. I hope we all provide our loved ones such warmth and comfort as she did in life as well as death.

  6. Michelle Henry, on November 7th, 2017 at 4:33 pm said:

    Love the poem, love her choice of hymn and love your tribute, Cynthia. Well done!

  7. Cynthia Moxley, on November 7th, 2017 at 5:04 pm said:

    Thanks for your comments, everyone. Despite how uplifting the service was, I find myself very sad today. So glad to have known Lin.

  8. Fay Bailey Carr, on November 7th, 2017 at 5:24 pm said:

    What a beautiful lady. Love the poem As usual job well done

  9. Jane McCarty, on November 7th, 2017 at 5:36 pm said:

    One of the best ways I will remember Lin, other than her friendliness and kindness, was the absolute quality of her voice, very beautiful, and always saying something that was very worthy of saying. She will be missed by many, and remembered.

  10. James R Martin, on November 7th, 2017 at 7:27 pm said:

    She was a lovely lady and a wonderful friend.

  11. Gay Lyons, on November 7th, 2017 at 8:02 pm said:

    Lovely tribute for a lovely lady.

  12. Lily Holleman, on November 7th, 2017 at 10:55 pm said:

    Lin was sublime. She was my aunt. I always have and always will absolutely adore her.

  13. Cynthia Moxley, on November 7th, 2017 at 11:55 pm said:

    Lily: We all are so sorry for your loss. Lin was amazing. You are so lucky to have had her as an aunt.

  14. Larsen Jay, on November 8th, 2017 at 2:29 pm said:

    Everyone at Random Acts of Flowers is honored to be recycling Lin’s memorial arrangements on behalf of the Ottaviano/Christenberry families – they’ll bring a lot of smiles to people in the coming days!

  15. Cynthia Moxley, on November 8th, 2017 at 3:11 pm said:

    Larsen: That’s wonderful. Thanks for posting that info.

  16. Harry Christenberry, on November 8th, 2017 at 5:28 pm said:

    Thank you, Cynthia!

  17. Cynthia Moxley, on November 8th, 2017 at 8:59 pm said:

    Harry: I’m so sorry.

  18. Patsy Wright, on November 8th, 2017 at 11:52 pm said:

    She was a special friend, I miss her dearly, but she left me with so many wonderful memories!

  19. Taylor Watson, on November 9th, 2017 at 10:09 am said:

    What a special lady who will be greatly missed by all who knew her.

  20. Mary Wilson Huff, on October 15th, 2021 at 3:28 pm said:

    Sorry I didn’t know Lin through adulthood, but really liked her through our days at Webb.

  21. Andy Morton, on August 6th, 2022 at 2:38 pm said:

    Lin was both beautiful inside as well as outside, and it was an honor for me when she worked
    at Andrew Morton so many years ago. She was a pleasure to all that knew her!

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