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Obituary: Helen Jane Taylor Jordan Wallenta

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Julia Jordan James, advanced practice RN and family nurse practitioner for several rural health clinics in Marlboro County, South Carolina for over 20 years sponsored by Marlboro Park Hospital and Laterby McLeod Physicians Associates of Florence, South Carolina and president of Beth Israel Congregation in Florence, South Carolina, announced the death of her mother, Helen Jane Taylor Jordan Wallenta, of Franklin, on Nov. 3, 2020 at Alive Hospice House in Murfressboro.

Julia and her siblings — Debra (Debbie/Deb), William (Bill) and Edward (Ed) — all of Williamson County, and their families, wish to thank their communities for their support and prayers during Helen’s final days.

Helen was born in Phoenix, where her father had moved the family for the health of Helen’s mom, Helen Jane Harsh Taylor, who suffered from tuberculosis and died while Helen was still an infant.

Everett Roy Taylor, her father, took his children Everett Roy Taylor Jr. and Helen around the U.S. as he worked on WPA projects during the Great Depression. Included in those projects were the Cave Creek Dam in Arizona, Boulder/Hoover Dam on the Nevada/Arizona border and many bridges along Route 66 from Chicago to Los Angeles. Her dad’s last project before retirement was the Lake Norris Dam which supplied the power to Oak Ridge, Tennessee via lines made from silver, as copper had too many other war uses.

Helen spent her high school years in “The City Behind the Fence” as Oak Ridge was called during World War II and is pictured among a group of teens in the book of the same name. She is the one holding the paper with the VJ Day headline.

Helen met Albert Drayton Jordan III while he was attending University of Tennessee after serving as a Marine during WWII, mostly at Paris Island and Quantico. Helen and Albert moved to his family’s homeplace on Jordan Road in Williamson County and raised five children, the four above mentioned and Albert Drayton Jordan IV (Chip).

Helen was preceded in death by her parents; her brother; niece, Rebecca Taylor Dorton of Morristown, Tennessee; son, Chip Jordan; and her dearly loved sister-in-law and former mayor of Thompson's Station, Jenalice Jordan Ramsey.

Most of Helen’s adult life she served others as a nurse. Over the years, she practiced in various types of nursing including office (Dr. Enke, Dr. Guffee) hospital (Williamson County), private duty, prison (State of Tennessee), inpatient mental health (State of Tenessee at Clover Bottom) and finally environmental for the Tennessee Department of Highways. There, she evaluated fatal and multiple car accident sites for hazards and with pictures she gave reports to the civil engineers of the environmental dangers that factored into the accident.

She also was a city girl who did her best to be a farmer’s wife to Albert for the 49 years of their marriage. Helen worked at Chicago Printed String in Franklin, sold real estate throughout Middle Tennessee with John M. Greene Realty of Franklinand and sold home interior decor at other times in her long life. Helen was a two-time survivor of breast cancer and a great supporter of the American Cancer Society and their Look Good, Feel Better and Sister to Sister programs.

As Metro Nashville ate into its centuries old GreenBelt, the family sold JordanDale Farm that had been home to Jordans since 1793. It lost its low tax status with loss of GreenBelt. The developers noted that the town of Franklin came to one side of the driveway and the town of Brentwood to the other and neither wanted smelly dairy cows in their midst. Helen and Albert semi-retired to Hickman County, Tennessee, near Centerville on Swan Creek Farms, raised beef cattle and rescued old horses with their sons Chip and Ed, daughter Debra and granddaughter Melissa (Deb’s only child and Helen’s primary family caregiver with Deb).

Albert III died in 1994 while Julia was pursuing her MSN at Michigan State University as a family nurse practitioner. Helen requested that Julia and her husband, James Edward James, come back south to help her prepare the Swan Creek Farms for sale as she had recently lost her son, Chip; her father-in-law, "Big Albert” and her husband, “Little Albert,” and she needed James’s help settling the sale of the farms so that she could retire to Lake Tansi in Crossville. There, the family had spent many summers on the cool Cumberland Plateau, away from the oppressive heat of Middle Tennessee in the days before air conditioning was the norm in homes and cars.

From the late 1990s to Dec. 1, 2002, Helen cared for Julia’s husband, James E. James (JJ), as he slowly deteriorated due to Lou Gehrig’s Disease (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis or ALS). She stayed in their home in Clio, Marlboro County, South Carolina. JJ was one of six ALS patients in Hospice of Marlboro County during 2002, a most unusual statistic in a county of less than 30,000 people. While Julia continued to work as an advanced practice RN, family nurse practitioner in rural health clinics sponsored by Marlboro Park Hospital and fulfill her duties as a commander in the United States Naval Reserve Nurse Corps around the U.S. and Europe.

Many years later (2005-06), while attending events at the Crossville Senior Center, Helen met Bob — Robert U. Wallenta — a widower with six grown children of his own. He danced his way into her heart and family. They were married at St. Raphel’s Episcopal Church, where Helen was a faithful member. They loved traveling to visit their children who were scattered over the U.S., including many trips to Middle Tennessee for events at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church — the Jordan Family home church and the oldest continually operating Episcopal Church west of the Appalachians.

As Helen and Bob aged, their health declined, and they could not maintain their independent lifestyle at Lake Tansi. They moved back to Williamson County, first at Maristone and later NHC, to be surrounded by Helen’s children, “grands” and friends that she had developed during the last half of the 20th century. Helen lost Bob in early 2020.

Helen was laid to rest in the Jordan Family Plots in Mount Hope Cemetery in Franklin on Nov. 5, 2020 with a simple graveside service featuring a lovely Irish poem and a gathering of children and grandchildren.

She is survived by her four children Julia Veretta Jordan, Ashley James (widow of Martin Ashley and later James E. James), Debra Jane Jordan, William Taylor Jordan (Lisa) and Edward Reams Jordan; grandchildren Jason, Louis and Ashley James (Elise) of Pasadena, Maryland, and Jeremiah, Lewis, Ashley James (Sabrina) of Gatineau, Quebec, Canada;Debra’s daughter Melissa Jordan (Mark Jergenson) of Chapel Hill, Tenessee; Damion Roberts (Chip’s son); Bill’s children Heather Jordan of Tampa, Florida and Taylor Jordan of Thompson's Station; and Ed’s daughter Isabella Grace Jordan Blue (Caleb) of Talihina, Oklahoma.

Her great-grandchildren include Gabriella Grace James, daughter of Jason and Elise James, of Pasadena, Maryland, and Raven Alyssa James, daughter of Jeremiah and Sabrina James, of Gatineau, Quebec, Canada. Her great-niece, Rachel Ann Taylor, is the granddaughter of Everett Roy Taylor Jr.

Helen is survived by many step children, step grandchildren and step great-grandchildren, step nieces and step nephews with Robert U. Wallenta, formerly of Racine, Wisconsin and Crossville, Tennessee.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made in Helen’s memory to her favorite charities: American Cancer Society, especially directed to either “Look Good, Feel Better” which provides wigs and head covering and beauty tips to women undergoing chemo and or radiation or “Sister to Sister” which helps women undergoing breast surgery by matching them with other women who have had that kind of surgery or reconstruction to support them during these emotionally trying times. Other charities include St. Paul’s of Franklin, St. Raphel’s of Crossville and Alive Hospice House of Murfreesboro.

Williamson Memorial Funeral Home of Franklin, TN served the family. Memories can be posted to their website for viewing by family and friends locally and around the world.