Kate: retired senior, volunteer and a downtown gem

Kate would not tell me her last name. She did not want me take a photo of her and certainly didn’t allow me to know her age. But this elderly woman is a kind, openhearted treasure in the middle of downtown.

Once a month, Kate volunteers at the Nashville Public Library on Church St. About twice a month, she volunteers at the Christian Science Reading Room diagonally adjacent to the library.

Kate has been volunteering at the reading room for nearly 15 years, and welcomes anyone to read any book they choose or to pick from theirs.

During conversation with Neat Nashville, she explained how she felt about many things, technology being one of the biggest.

Kate remains skeptical about social media and its effect on people. She’s intrigued by its power and its usefulness but is weary about the lack of interaction and interpersonal communication the old fashion way.


“Personally, I don’t want to be on Facebook,” she said. “My husband is on it, but I think sometimes people say too much.”

Kate said she doesn’t understand the need to be constantly connected to something. She said people are always walking with their heads down; it’s a wonder they don’t trip over anything.

“I’m a dinosaur,” she said when asked what she thinks about the social media in particular. “It can be good but there’s a lot of potential for bad stuff.”

She said a lot of senior members of the community get into it and like it, but insisted it just isn’t for her.

“I’ll have to admit, the information is incredible, not always accurate, but it all should be taken with a grain of salt,” she said.

Kate likes to read as well. I asked her what her favorite book was and she said there were too many out there, and still not enough time to read.

“I used to read science-fiction growing up but all this is beyond me.”


Kate was born in Nashville, and currently lives on the east side.

“I guess we’re pretty satisfied with it or we’d have gone somewhere else,” she said then chuckled slightly.

Before retiring Kate worked as a legal assistant for a major bank and then the federal government.

“[The bank] got bought out by someone bigger and then things changed a lot, so after that I went to go work as a clerk in bankruptcy court.”

Kate is married and has been for many years. She said before retiring her husband taught math and science at a local middle school and then went into the camera repair business.

She said once the digital movement happened with cameras, her husband, like many others, struggled to adapt. Since retiring her husband tutors math and volunteers as well.

She’s a big fan of the parks and greenways, the symphony and the ballet. She admits she’s a fair-weather hiker and only likes to go out when the weather is nice and warm.

“I love Tennessean trails,” she said. “Virgin Falls is wonderful. It’s about 8 miles and pretty strenuous.”

She frequents Shelby Bottoms and really appreciates that the city has taken the initiative to do something like that for the community.


Like every city, there are areas that need growth. Issues vary from person to person depending on their resources and their needs.

A recent popular social issue has been affordable housing with proximity to the downtown area.

“One of Nashville’s problem is housing for people who aren’t wealthy,” Kate said. “What bothers me is that the city is tearing down what looks like affordable housing and building these monstrous houses [and apartments].”

Kate said there are a lot of social issues that need help in the city with affordable housing being the biggest.

“Overall, and in the whole country, there’s a big gap between the have and the have-nots, and there isn’t enough in the middle. We have a lot of problems that need addressing.”

Kate also has a deep sympathy for people who abuse drugs and alcohol. She’s weary for the younger generations involved in the ubiquitous drinking culture. Kate, who doesn’t drink herself, doesn’t see anything wrong with alcohol as long as it’s not abused.

“I think colleges should crack down on irresponsible behavior and not encourage the drinking culture. That’s not good,” she said.


“You’re never bored if you have something to read,” Kate said adding she’d like to keep volunteering, hiking, and reading as long as she can.

“I have been able to travel a little bit, and I wouldn’t mind travelling some more,” she said. “I’d like to go to Alaska, but during the summertime, of course, when all the bugs are out.”

Kate said in the future she’d like to see people being more tolerant of each other.

“We should love one another no matter what, and that’s hard to do sometimes,” she said. “People are important. They have stories, and they have lives.”

Kate said growing up her parents never taught anything else but how to love people. She grew up in segregation and went to an all white school. Then things started to change.

“It had to change because it was not right,” she said, “How can you hate someone when you don’t know them? How can you hate a group of people when you don’t know them?”

She said people need to be judged by what kind of person they are and nothing else.

“I don’t have an exciting life,” she said then whispered, “and I like it that way.”

If you have a morning or and some time in the afternoon, stop in by the Christian Science Reading Room and look for Kate. If she’s not there another friendly face will greet you just the same.

Thanks for reading, Nashville!