Ruth Kelley Payne was born in Ellijay, Georgia on October 2, 1937, to Sedger and Grace Bunch Kelley. On the afternoon of January 4, 2019, she peacefully passed at her home in Chamblee, Georgia, with Earl W. Payne, her husband and best friend for over 60 years by her side.
She lived a rich, amazing life, always chasing ambitious dreams for herself and family. She graduated from Gilmer County High School in 1955, receiving a Varsity Academic Letter, a cherished possession throughout her life. She dreamt of college, but for a young woman from rural North Georgia in the 1950’s, it wasn’t within reach. Instead, she moved to Atlanta to chart her own course in the world, not knowing that she would soon meet Earl, who grew up minutes away in North Georgia.
She and Earl were married in 1958, moving to Whitestone, Georgia, for a short period before returning to Atlanta. The City of Atlanta grew up around them, and in 1963, Earl was drafted into the Army and stationed at Fort Irwin, in Barstow, California. Ruth stayed in Atlanta, working with the Phoenix Mutual Life Insurance Company, and taking her first airplane trip in 1963 to visit Earl in California. It was the first trip of what would become a lifetime of travel, always wanting to give her family the opportunities that she never had as a child. Earl completed his service and was honorably discharged in 1965. Upon returning to Atlanta, Ruth and Earl did something that their children still can’t quite believe. They both left their jobs and spent three weeks on an epic road trip to the 1967 World’s Fair in Montreal, seeing much of the U.S. and setting the stage for what would become annual family trips – to beaches, historical sights, national parks and foreign countries.
Ruth and Earl moved to Chamblee, Georgia in 1965 and welcomed their daughter, Cheryl, in 1968, and their son, Brian, in 1973. Ruth returned to work with the Phoenix Mutual Life Insurance company once both Cheryl and Brian started school, and this time, she was going to make certain that college was not out of reach for either of her children. Two of her proudest moments were when Cheryl and Brian both graduated from Georgia Tech. Cheryl married Robert Griggs in 1992, and Brian married Heather in 2000. Ruth soon welcomed two granddaughters, Kasey and Kylie Griggs, and two grand-kitties, Mesia and Marmalade.
In her later years, life became more difficult as rheumatoid arthritis slowly took away her ability to easily get around, and childhood ear infections from long ago resulted in hearing loss. Getting older isn’t easy, but she worked through the pain as long as she could, celebrating her and Earl’s 60th wedding anniversary last August and her 81st birthday in October.
Ruth is survived by Earl W. Payne, husband and best friend for over 60 years; daughter, Cheryl Payne Griggs, son-in-law, Robert Griggs, granddaughters Kasey and Kylie Griggs, all of Simpsonville, South Carolina; son, Brian Payne, daughter-in-law, Heather Payne, grand-kitties Mesia and Marmalade, all of Maplewood, New Jersey.
The family will receive friends at Logan Funeral Home in Ellijay, Georgia, starting at 5PM on Sunday, January 6, 2019, followed by a celebration of life service at 7PM in the Logan Funeral Home Chapel. Ruth will be buried at the Georgia National Cemetery in Canton, Georgia, at 9:30AM on Tuesday, January 8, 2019, with a small service for family and friends. The family requests flowers, or donations may be made to Whitestone Baptist Church Cemetery Fund, c/o Deryl Hyde, 53 Cripple Creek Lane, Ellijay, Georgia 30536.
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