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1927 Laura Lea Knox 2024

Laura Lea Knox

April 6, 1927 — February 13, 2024


Laura Lea Knox, a much-loved pillar of her family and community, died peacefully on February 13 at the age of 96. She was the daughter of the late Percie Warner Lea and Colonel Luke Lea, founder of The Tennessean and former U.S. Senator, and granddaughter of the late Mr. and Mrs. Percy Warner and the late Mr. and Mrs. Overton Lea. She was preceded in death by her husband, William N. Knox, brothers Luke Lea, Jr., Percy Warner Lea, and Overton Lea, sister Mary Louise Lea Tidwell, and son-in-law Z. Alexander Gentle.

   Laura attended Parmer School, West End High School and Vanderbilt University. At Vanderbilt she met Bill Knox and they married in 1953. While raising three young children, Laura enjoyed staying home and doing volunteer work. When her youngest child started school, so did she, obtaining a M.S. in Special Ed. A fulfilling career followed. She taught graduate students at Vanderbilt, and in true Laura fashion, felt she learned more from them than they from her! Later she found a passion for helping improve communication between children and adults, leading workshops on this topic with parents and teachers nationwide. Laura also wrote a parenting book titled “Parents Are People Too" based on pure common sense—of which she had no shortage.

   Three projects were most gratifying for Laura: serving as President of the Nashville Symphony Guild; working alongside her husband to bring to life his vision of a local gathering place for young Black and white adults in the tumultuous 1960s; and playing a role in the formation of University School of Nashville when Peabody College announced an abrupt closing of the Dem School. Additionally, Vanderbilt’s graduate Department of Hearing and Speech Sciences established the annual Laura Knox Humanitarian Award for “students who possess and exemplify compassion for others through service and leadership.”

   Laura and Bill raised their children to travel and appreciate other cultures, taking them on month-long vacations for many summers. The first trip in 1966 included a stay in Maine. They were captivated by the state’s beauty and ruggedness. In 1979 Laura and Bill began summering there, later building a cottage in the woods near the coast. Laura continued to spend half of each year there until age 93. Maine was a sanctuary for them both.

   Laura found beauty, wonder, and tranquility in nature. The out of doors was her second home! She especially enjoyed spending time in the Warner Parks, where she walked almost daily into her 90s. Hardly a bird, wildflower, ray of sunlight, or patch of moss went unnoticed by her. Laura’s father, Luke Lea, gifted the original 868 acres to the city of Nashville to be used as a park, naming it for his father-in-law, Percy Warner. In more recent years when Laura could no longer walk in the park, she loved hearing friends and strangers alike express what the park means to them. She believed her father would be amazed to see how much the park has grown and how deeply it is treasured by the community. 

   Laura was a lover of the arts. While she was the first to admit she couldn't carry a tune to save her life, music brought her immense joy! She regularly attended symphony concerts and rarely missed the Met’s weekly opera broadcasts. For decades she hosted musicians from the Blair School of Music who gave piano and strings performances in her home. And private performances by her grandchildren were treasured! She referred to herself as a lifelong learner. In that spirit, she invited a Vanderbilt professor to her home for many years to lead a group of friends in discussions of various works of literature. 

   More than anything, Laura loved people and cherished her friends of all ages. She never met a stranger and took a genuine interest in others. To know her was to feel seen, heard, loved, and uplifted. Family and friends often commented she was the happiest, most positive person they knew! She was known for asking thought provoking questions that encouraged others to go inward, allowing for meaningful conversation. She was full of grace and a radiant example of how to live in the moment with deep gratitude for every single day. Her enthusiasm for life was palpable and contagious!

   Laura is survived by her children Elizabeth Knox, Bill Knox (Gail), and Leah Knox Rubino (Bill); grandchildren Alicia Knox Kurek (Alec), Jeffrey Knox, Will Rubino (Jess), Laura Lea Rubino Cavopol (Michael), Christopher Gentle, and Ryan Gentle (Anna Catherine); as well as three great grandchildren and many nieces and nephews.

   A Celebration of Life will be held at the Warner Park Nature Center (7311 Hwy 100) on Sunday, February 25th with a 3:00pm service and visitation to follow. Held outside weather permitting. Valet parking available for those needing assistance. 

   The family wishes to thank lifelong friend Rob Schneider and Laura’s devoted caregivers—all of whom made it possible for her to stay in her home till age 95. Additionally, the loving staff at NHC Place at The Trace was remarkable in every way.

   Laura can be honored by taking the time to meet a stranger or having a meaningful conversation with a friend. Organizations close to her heart were Friends of Warner Parks, University School of Nashville, Nashville Symphony, Radnor Lake, and Belfast Senior College (Maine).

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Laura Lea Knox, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

Past Services

Celebration of Life

Sunday, February 25, 2024

3:00 - 4:00 pm (Central time)

Warner Park Nature Center

7311 TN-100, Nashville, TN 37221

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