A light goes out in Knoxville, but look for the signs

Mickey with Caesar Stair III, this past New Year’s Eve at an over-the-top party she helped plan at Historic Westwood.

I was at a Knox County Commission meeting last week when I began receiving worried text messages and, ultimately, a phone call with the news about the incomparable Mickey Mallonee’s passing. Mickey has been a wonderful part of my and Alan’s lives — both professionally and personally — for many years and I was having a hard time grasping that she would no longer be here.

Despite 12 years of Catholic schools, I am not an overly religious person. But, I have to tell you, over the past week or so, I have felt Mickey’s presence. I think she is trying to comfort me. I am told that other friends of hers have been experiencing the same kinds of things.

For me, it started with the flowers. That Monday night of the Commission meeting, I noticed them everywhere. A bouquet of sunflowers — in November! — on the hostess stand at the Bistro where I went right after the meeting ended. And a single stunning, perfect white rose in the ladies’ room. At home, an arrangement left over from a dinner party days before seemed strangely fresh and unwilted. It caught my attention.

Mickey with a “Black Cat Martini” during a progressive dinner with friends in downtown Knoxville in 2014. She loved the drink, but she said she had to stop sipping it because she could no longer feel her lips! (Yep. It was pretty strong!)

On Wednesday, I walked into the City County Building and was brought up short when, in the lobby, was a large PURPLE Christmas tree. One of Mickey’s signature colors. Saturday, at a friend’s house, the host came out wearing a purple shirt he’d never worn before. Again, I don’t want to make too much of these little things. But they have brought a smile to my face. And they have given me comfort. So, my advice to anyone who had the pleasure of knowing Mickey: Look for the signs!

Mickey’s photograph has appeared on the Blue Streak more often than anyone else’s, with the possible exception of Alan, my husband. One of my favorite posts about Mickey was the one about her retirement party from her job as director of special events for the city of Knoxville. Click here to see that one.

I had the honor of speaking at Mickey’s service this week. It was a joyous celebration, just as she would have wanted. It was followed by an even more festive party at Historic Westwood, home of Knox Heritage, where Mickey served as director of events after leaving her city post.

Other speakers at the service were her friend Dino Cartwright, who called Mickey his mentor; Eddie Mannis, CEO of Prestige Cleaners and founder of HonorAir Knoxville; and Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, who was Mickey’s boss when he formerly was mayor of Knoxville. Click here to hear some of Gov. Haslam’s thoughts about her.

There was an overflow crowd at Berry Funeral Home for Mickey’s service on Monday. (Photo by Erin Donovan.)

Her favorite colors were purple and red. The flowers at the service reflected that. (Photo by Erin Donovan.)

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam said that when he was mayor of Knoxville, he liked to drop by Mickey’s office because there always was a party being planned. (Photo by Erin Donovan.)

One day when he dropped in unexpectedly, Haslam said, he noticed that, after a few minutes, Mickey kept sneaking a glance at her watch. “Mickey, do you need to go somewhere?” he asked. “Am I keeping you from something?”

“Well,” the bright redhead replied. “Did you really think that my hair color was its natural shade? If I don’t get to my hair appointment in 15 minutes, you are going to see my natural shade for the next month!”

Dino Cartwright, longtime promotions director for WVLT-TV, said Mickey gave him a passion for event planning. It shaped his career. (Photo by Erin Donovan.)

Eddie Mannis brought down the house when he whipped out a copy of a magazine where he and Mickey were both named “Singles of the Year” in 2010. He said he told her that if the two of them were still single in 2020, they should just move in together and share expenses! “She beat the deadline by just about a year,” he said, referring to her passing. (Photo by Erin Donovan.)

Here are a few of the 100 or so photos of Mickey that have appeared on the Blue Streak:

At a fundraiser for the Knoxville Jazz Orchestra in 2017.

With a vintage truck at Bush Brothers headquarters in Chestnut Hill, Tenn., during a 2017 Knox Heritage Summer Supper.

With her friend Helen Harb at a 2016 fundraising dinner for the Arts & Culture Alliance on the Gay Street Bridge.

With her friend Ellen Adcock at a fundraiser for Young-Williams Animal Center last September.

Mickey with Diana Morgan at the Fantasy of Trees in 2014.

With Judith Foltz during a downtown progressive dinner in 2011. This sign was in Mickey’s condo in The Emporium on Gay Street. Judith followed Mickey as director of special events for the city. So the sign was very appropriate.

Mickey with Rosa Mar and Alan Carmichael at a Summer Supper at Victor and Joan Ashe’s home last year.

From left, Narda Cappuccilli, Helen Harb and Mickey at a release party for “The Final Season,” a book by Maria Cornelius about Pat Summitt’s last year as Lady Vols coach. The party was at Sweet P’s Downtown Dive in fall of 2016.

Mickey with Monique Anderson, center, and Phyllis Nichols at a shrimp boil at the Knoxville Botanical Garden in 2016.

Mickey and Alan Carmichael at that same event. Moxley Carmichael represents Cherokee Distributing — the Miller distributor — so we asked her to be sure the label was showing in this photo!

Mickey and Scott Bird in 2016 at the Knoxville Area Urban League Gala.

Mickey and broadcaster Hallerin Hill at Dogwood After Dark in 2012.

With Natalie Haslam and John Butler at Symphony in the Park at Ijams Nature Center in 2011.

Mickey had this cute little jester that she’d bring out at various times. We called him her “boyfriend!” This picture was from a Mardi Gras-themed Summer Supper in 2011.

So, as you can see, Mickey loved a party. I think she’d have liked the “after party” at Historic Westwood that followed her service earlier this week.

Caterer Holly Hambright provided a huge spread of edibles for the occasion.

The thumbprint cookies featured purple icing centers, natch!

And the flowers were perfect.

Mickey’s son, Mason Foley, with Holly Hambright, center, and Dorothy Stair.

Julia Gleason McCormick, left, with Mickey’s daughter, Lisa Marie Foley. The two have been best friends for many, many years.

Brenda Murphy Mullins, left, with Dino Cartwright and Shelba Murphy.

Margie Nichols and Victor Ashe.

Melynda Whetsel, left, with Joan Ashe.

From left, Helen Harb, Cathy Briscoe-Graves, Gay Lyons, Deborah Franklin and Gail Jarvis.

From left, Kyndra Brewer, Elaine Frank, Judith Foltz (standing), Traci McDonell and Sheila Haynes Kohl.

From left, Barry Henderson, Mike Dunthorn, Leslie Henderson, Randy Kenner (standing) and Bob Whetsel.

Janet Testerman and Bill Lyons.

Gail Jarvis and Gary Bentley.

Dorothy Smith and Sam Maynard.

David Brace and Mary Bogert.

Craig and Donna Griffith.

Cindy Hassil, left, and Allyn Purvis Schwartz.

So, farewell for now to Knoxville’s queen of hospitality. Mickey was a gentle soul with a generous heart. I am very grateful to have shared some time on Earth with her.

Until we see you again, Mickey, we’ll be looking for the signs.

November 23, 2018.

Click here for Mickey’s official obituary.

Click here for a story on Mickey’s passing in the News Sentinel.

Click here for a tribute from Victor Ashe, former Knoxville mayor and U.S. ambassador to Poland.

Click here for a column by Shane Rhyne, who played Santa for Mickey for many years.


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20 Responses to A light goes out in Knoxville, but look for the signs

  1. Jenny Eversole, on November 28th, 2018 at 2:20 pm said:

    What a lovely tribute!

  2. Maria Cornelius, on November 28th, 2018 at 2:25 pm said:

    I was in the Kroger in South Knoxville a couple of years ago and heard someone yelling my name in the friendliest of ways. I looked up at the checkout line, and it was Mickey leaving with her grocery cart. She waved, and I walked over to talk to her. She indeed brightened everyone’s day who crossed her path.

  3. Pam Rhoades, on November 28th, 2018 at 2:44 pm said:

    Wonderful tribute, Cynthia, to a great lady. She will be missed. 🙁

  4. Deborah Sams, on November 28th, 2018 at 2:58 pm said:

    I had the pleasure of sitting near her on the KH Special Events Committee for a couple of years. What a delightful person—her face always seemed to glow from a special light within. I feel privileged to have served on her committee for the Summer Supper at the Victor Ashe home and learned more about setting up an event that day that I will ever learn elsewhere. I could not know that our October committee meeting would be the last time that I would see Mickey Mallonee or I would have thanked her for being such a wonderful leader and so kind to me over the years. It won’t be the same without her. I will remember her smile from across the table and miss her very much.

  5. Cynthia Moxley, on November 28th, 2018 at 3:09 pm said:

    Thanks, Jenny.

    Maria: That sounds just like her! This is a tough, tough loss.

    Pam: Thanks. I agree she will be greatly missed.

    Deborah: That was a wonderful Summer Supper at the Ashe home! At least we have been blessed to have known her. I am grateful for that, as I know you are.

  6. Gay Lyons, on November 28th, 2018 at 4:09 pm said:

    What a wonderful tribute. The photos bring back so many memories. I’m seeing signs, too. Those flame-colored dwarf Japanese maples at the entrance to Berry Funeral Home made me smile & think of Mickey.

  7. Jim Klonaris, on November 28th, 2018 at 4:15 pm said:

    Cynthia, thanks you for creating such a wonderful tribute to this humble and much loved LADY. Anyone who has ever had the pleasure of even meeting Mickey understands the significance of her passing. Mickey Mallonee will be forever missed from within the walls of this community! May Mickey’s memory be eternal.

  8. AlanCarmichael, on November 28th, 2018 at 4:19 pm said:

    All of the speakers at the funeral did a great job of capturing the essence of Mickey. And Mickey would have loved the reception at Westwood. Mickey’s children are a great testament to her.

  9. Cindy Hassil, on November 28th, 2018 at 4:20 pm said:

    Thank you for this tribute to Mickey. I will miss her presence and her light, but take comfort in the fact that hers is a shining example of a life well lived. She was loved and she loved. She made so many things happen, and she did it all with grace and a smile. She brightened this city, our lives and the lives of countless others. It was an honor to know her and be her friend.

  10. Allyn Purvis Schwartz, on November 28th, 2018 at 4:31 pm said:

    Perfect, Cynthia! I was blessed to know Mickey! I was a charity event planner for many years before I met her, but the level of the events I have planned since, have most definitely stepped up a big notch! I will miss her kind and strong guidance more than I can say. I look forward to seeing her again, in all her loving glory!! <3

  11. Melinda Meador, on November 28th, 2018 at 4:42 pm said:

    Beautifully done, Cynthia. We will miss her so.

  12. Cynthia Moxley, on November 28th, 2018 at 5:04 pm said:

    Gay: You are right about those trees! Alan mentioned that, too.

    Jim: We are so lucky to have had her.

    Alan : Mason and Lisa Marie are great people. That’s such a tribute to Mickey.

    Cindy: I agree with you. She was a role model.

    Allyn: Sweet commment. You actually remind me of her.

    Melinda: I was so touched by your comment on my Facebook page that I paraphrased it for the headline of this post.

  13. Mickey Dearstone, on November 28th, 2018 at 8:20 pm said:

    I dare say that I may have worked with Mickey organizing events with the city more than anybody when I was Promotions Director at WIVK. Our Listener Appreciation Shows, Saturday Night on the Town, the Honda Hoot and Fourth of July at World’s Fair Park. This is the way a phone call would go:
    Me: Mickey Dearstone
    Mickey: Mickey this is Mickey (chuckle). I feel like I called myself!
    We always laughed about our names being spelled the same. I would tell her that her parents were smart people…..spelling her name the correct way.
    Mickey was a friend but always professional! It didn’t take me long to learn what I could get away with and what I couldn’t. She taught me a lot about organizing events.

  14. Gina, on November 28th, 2018 at 9:03 pm said:

    Thank you for taking us along with you for this tribute/journey.

  15. Kathy Brennan, on November 28th, 2018 at 9:40 pm said:

    Mickey and I shared an apartment between college and marriage for close to two years. We were tellers for 1st American Bank. Every morning going to work, we would get into her little blue Renault and Mickey and I would say a prayer that it would start, miraculously after a few tries it did start and off we would go on our way. We shared fun moments laughing and crying together. Mickey and Jack were a beautiful couple. These memories shared with Mickey are in a good place in my heart. God is good❤️

  16. Regina Dean, on November 29th, 2018 at 3:46 am said:

    Still can’t quite grasp the fact she’s gone. I was unable to go to the funeral or Westwood and so appreciate this wonderful tribute to a woman who has touched many of our lives. When we moved to Knoxville in 1995, Mickey was among the first people I met and she was so warm and welcoming and quickly made me feel ‘at home’. Her love for this town was infectious and I’m So blessed to have known her.

  17. John Dominic Barbarino, on November 29th, 2018 at 10:48 am said:

    Beautiful tribute and archivally perfect. A monument to a monumental person. Her moves will continue to reverberate through Knoxville and beyond. I remember the 5×7 mock ups of the Emporium triptych on the floor on Court Street Brooklyn causing a guest to exclaim “what a cool place.” Of course, those thoughts were always about Mickey and her inspiring ways. The final exhibition prints were toned and framed in Itailan wood. Mickey believed fully in excellence. And Knoxville was fully hers at all times. Her reach is legendary.

  18. Monique Anderson, on November 29th, 2018 at 4:50 pm said:

    Mickey was in my Leadership Knoxville Class. We became friends immediately and our friendship grew when Bruce and I moved downtown. I will miss her so much.

  19. Melissa Charles, on December 1st, 2018 at 9:43 am said:

    Cynthia, what a wonderful tribute to a fabulous woman who I was privileged to call my friend. I met Mickey in 2012 when we both joined the board of Knox Heritage. We became instant friends because of our passion for entertaining. She came into my life right after my mother had passed and Mickey filled a void in my life that I thought could never be filled. She will be missed by all who knew her but I hope we can all practice the loving, kind, and generous spirit toward others that was our Mickey.

  20. Cynthia Moxley, on December 3rd, 2018 at 2:52 pm said:

    Mickey: I can almost hear you all having that conversation! Thanks for sharing!

    Gina: Thanks for reading.

    Kathy: What a cute story! Thanks for telling it!

    Regina, John and Monique: Agree with you all about how special she was.

    Melissa: Will miss Mickey, too. You all truly do share a passion for entertaining.

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