There are people who come into your life like a lightning bolt and change you in ways you don’t even realize. Too often they leave, unexpectedly, before you are done growing together. That was Deb McKay.
Forrest Edward Myers and June Maurice Bullock were married just a few years when they welcomed Deborah Dawn Myers into their lives on January 20, 1955, in Kansas City, Kansas. The unwitting world greeted a ball of fire. A few years later, Deb’s sister, Brenda (Mrs. Jim Lindgren), arrived.
Chief Warrant Officer Myers and his family moved around, as Army families do, until he retired. They settled in Clarksville, Tennessee, where Deb graduated from Northwest High School in 1973. Always describing herself as an “Army brat” and “Daddy’s girl,” Deb followed Forrest’s example and joined the Air Force. Later, Deb attended St. Leo University, where she pursued paralegal certification. Deb’s brilliant intellect, wit, and exceptional typing, proofreading, problem-solving, and organizing skills were prized by the attorneys she supported.
Deb was a technology visionary. In addition to her paralegal career, Deb spent her mid-life years running The Skeleton Closet BBS, a node on the FidoNet system that preceded the present-day Internet and allowed genealogists to share with fellow researchers around the world, free-of-charge. Deb could dismantle and reassemble computers and networks, making even a system held together by rubber bands sing in perfect harmony with its peers.
The Skeleton Closet grew from Deb’s deep, decades’ long genealogy obsession. A meticulous researcher, Deb traced and documented her own family history back several generations. Through her mother’s Bullock lineage, Deb always claimed distant kin to Tina Turner (born Anna Mae Bullock), saying “Look! I have her long legs!” Years before digital scanning and OCR-recognition were widely available, Deb transcribed and indexed stacks of historical records and books so she could post them on-line for everyone to have access. An information hoarder, Deb had mountains of “back-up” paper genealogical print-outs in storage, despite having them all dutifully scanned and stored in the cloud.
She was fiercely stubborn, both good (loyalty) and bad (smoking) and was truly a renaissance woman. Deb could tear down and rebuild a motor or transmission, race a car (loved her ‘stangs), bake perfect cheesecakes, tackle any sewing or craft project, keep a Harley upright on The Dragon, code computer programs and troubleshoot them, gut and remodel a house, and grow exquisite roses. Deb could hug like a bear, respectfully and intensely argue politics, laugh with gusto, or get into a breathless snicker-fest over silliness.
Marriage and motherhood were challenges, but Deb loved her kids, Krissi Flood and Jake Uhl, with all she could give. Deb adored her grandsons, Austin Hamilton and Kieran Marcie, and loved her partner of 11 years, John Baker, with fierce devotion. Deb felt blessed to have two wonderful step-mothers, Lucy Allender Myers and Barbara Lane Myers, both of whom predeceased her. Deb was also very close to her daddy’s half-brothers, two of whom survive – John and David Parr. Deb treasured her friends like there was no tomorrow...and now there are none.
Deb fearlessly faced several serious health challenges that could have killed her, but she fought mightily and conquered cancer cells, the brain injury and broken bones caused by a truck that stopped cold in front of her VW Beetle, and a couple of other scary moments until cancer recently returned. Perhaps the heartbreak of her beloved daddy’s death exactly a month earlier was too much for Deb to bear, and she was tired of all the chemo and procedures. She just didn't wake up from the last one.
Deb’s passion was endless hours, all-in, volunteering to support veterans, front-line responders, and people in crisis in the community. Deb never accepted “no” until she absolutely knew all options were exhausted. Deb could organize and motivate volunteers like nobody else. Many people across the Southeast have marched or ridden in parades with Deb’s famous Big Red Truck filled with American flags, followed BRT filled with Christmas wreaths for veterans’ graves, or joined her in honor missions, accompanying veterans and standing watch as a Patriot Guard Rider. Most recently, Deb was Tennessee state director for Thin Line Support, an organization that is a “first-responder for first-responders.”
Deb touched thousands of lives. Thousands. Many of them have no idea, because Deb didn’t ask for thanks. She left this world quietly on July 18, 2021. As Deb wished, she will be cremated with no services.
The words of poet Tonya Markul sum Deb up beautifully:
She wasn't angry – she was broken.
She wasn't sad – she was torn open.
She wasn't impatient – she was ablaze.
She wasn't mad – she was brave.
Godspeed, Debber. Save us a seat and keep the light on. We’ll be along eventually.
If you wish to make a memorial contribution in honor of Deb McKay, please consider Wreaths Across America (https://www.wreathsacrossamerica.org/pages/17151/overview/), Patriot Guard Riders (https://www.patriotguard.org/donate/), or Thin Line Support (https://sites.google.com/site/pgrfflagship/).
Baldwin Cremation & Mortuary Service is honored to be serving the family of Deborah Myers McKay.
Baldwin Cremation & Mortuary Service * 914 North Cherry Street * Knoxville, TN 37917 * (865) 633-5200 * www.mortuaryservice.com
To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Deborah "Deb" Myers McKay, please visit our floral store.
Wreaths Across America
4 Point Street, Columbia Falls ME 04623
Patriot Guard Riders
Thin Line Support