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Edna White Phelps Tate

May 6, 1923 November 30, 2020
Edna White Phelps Tate
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Obituary for Edna White Phelps Tate

Edna White Phelps Tate of Plymouth, North Carolina was called to her eternal home on Monday, November 30, 2020. She was 97 years old and was surrounded by her loving family in her final days. A Celebration of Life will be held in her honor on Thursday, December 3, 2020 at 2:00 pm at Hillside Memorial Gardens on Highway 32. Family and friends are invited to join us as we say goodbye to our beloved Edna. The service will be outside and observing current health precautions with masks and distance.

Edna was born in 1923, the middle of three children born in Askewville, Bertie County, North Carolina, to Oliver and Nellie Ellen White.

In 1938, she married Albert Lindsey Phelps, and they built a home in Plymouth, where she lived most of her life. Together they raised a garden, livestock, and two spirited daughters, Marian and Ellen. Lindsey called her "Sun," saying that she was the sunshine of his life. She was a founding member of their church, the Original First Free Will Baptist Church of Plymouth, where she remained a devoted community member for the rest of her life.

Edna's door was always open. She loved to host guests and cooked for a crowd every Sunday, expecting friends, family, and her church community to stop by. Edna was famous for her delicious layer cakes and her classic southern cooking, including fried chicken, dumplings, biscuits and fried cornbread. Always proud of her children, Edna insisted that they be impeccably dressed just as she was her whole life. Her friends said that she "looked like she stepped right out of a band box."

After 49 devoted years of marriage, Lindsey passed away in 1987. Edna was volunteering at the Plymouth nursing home when a friend introduced her to a slightly mischievous fisherman from Belhaven, North Carolina, who had lost his wife. She eventually married David Mitchell Tate, and came to embrace his infectious sense of humor and the extended Tate family. Mitchell was passionate about fishing, and Edna actively supported him, taking fish to market, learning to cook all kinds of seafood, and even making a few overnight fishing trips herself.

Mitchell passed away in 2015, after 25 happy years of marriage. Since then, Edna's closest friends and family have sustained her. She could never have enough company and visitors could never stay long enough. She delighted in constant visits and calls. Friends were never surprised to get a busy signal knowing that she was ever a popular lady who enjoyed a good long chat. Edna's inquisitive nature led her to befriend people from all walks of life. Edna had a gift for engaging people with her vivid story-telling, her incredible memory for detail, and her sharp mind and wit, which she maintained until the last week of her life.

Edna never lost her own sense of adventure. Her niece and dear friend Ann Taffer says, "All you had to do was say the word 'go' and Aunt Edna was in the car." She made her first trip to Germany with her daughter Ellen at age 75. She and Mitchell went river rafting and took a cruise to the Caribbean at age 80. Just last year, she celebrated her 96th birthday in California, where she was the guest of honor at her granddaughter Christina's wedding. She always looked forward to upcoming events and wanted to know where it was, who was going, what she should wear, and what was going to be served to eat...especially the sweets.

She was truly the matriarch of her entire family. She changed all of our lives and we will not be the same without her but find comfort in our many wonderful memories and the example she gave us of a remarkable full life full of love.

Edna was predeceased by her parents Oliver Duncan White and Nellie Ellen Faust White, her brother Connie Earl White and sister Fannie Mary Woolf Wobbleton, her daughter Marian Phelps Forbes, her first husband Albert Lindsey Phelps and her late husband David Mitchell Tate. She is survived by her daughter, Ellen Sass Respass and husband H.A. of Plymouth, NC; Grandchildren: Michelle Grandi of Greenville, NC, Lin Forbes (Carla) of Savannah, GA, Michael Sass (Holly) of Charlotte, NC, and Christina Sass (Eric Nonacs) of Sonoma, CA; Great Grandchildren: Michael and Laura Grandi, Amanda Forbes Rhodes, Aaron, and Josh Forbes, Cooper, Hudson and Adeline Sass and Georgia Sass Nonacs; Four Great Great Grandchildren and many beloved nieces and nephews. She also remained close to her late husband Mitchell's extended family, the Tates of Belhaven, NC and the Schulkes and Burlesons of West Virginia and Texas.

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