All posts by Tim Gathany

Rebecca “Becky” Annette Gathany-Bailey

Becky Gathany, eldest daughter of Leon & Rachel Gathany passed away recently. She served as Secretary of the Foundation for the Leon & Rachel Gathany Museum of Natural History. She participated in the Museum activities and enjoyed her role as Mrs. Claus for the Saint Nicholas Visit to the Musuem with brother Richard Gathany as Santa Claus. The Obituary below provides more information. We in the extended Gathany Family miss her dearly.


Rebecca ”Becky” Annette Gathany-Bailey joined her husband in Heaven on May 28, 2023. She was born June 17, 1954, in Binghamton, NY. The family then lived in Great Bend, PA, but moved to Mt Lake, MN when Becky was six. While there, she attended Mt. Lake Christian Day School. After 4 years in Minnesota, the family relocated to NE Georgia. Becky attended Toccoa Falls Elementary, then Toccoa Falls Academy where she sang in the choir, sextet, and trio and played for the girls’ basketball team.

Following high school, Becky attended the University of Georgia and received her Bachelor of Arts in Social Work. In her career, she brought confidence, determination, and a knack for organization to administrative roles in the childcare, interior design, architecture, and healthcare industries.

In 1994, she married Donald “Don” E. Bailey at Santa Rosa Beach, FL. They enjoyed traveling together, especially to the U.S. Virgin Islands. Becky also accompanied Don on a business trip to France, where she fell in love with Paris. Her passions included UGA football, the Atlanta Braves and Hawks, home décor (especially the Eiffel Tower), upcycling and family. She was universally loved and a true friend.

Becky is preceded in death by her husband, Don Bailey, and her parents, Leon and Rachel Gathany. She is survived by her three siblings, Richard Gathany, Timothy Gathany (Eleanor), and Deborah Keeney (Rick); her stepsons, Andrew Bailey (Irina) and Anthony Bailey (Ashley); her grandchildren Olivia, Liam, and Emma; and numerous cousins, nieces, nephews, and other extended family.

A Memorial Service will be held on June 17, 2023, at 2:00 p.m. at the Toccoa Alliance Church (220 Alliance Drive, Toccoa, GA 30577). In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Leon and Rachel Gathany Museum Foundation, Inc. (4081 Madison Hwy, Greensboro, GA 30642). McCommons Funeral Home, 109 W. Broad St., Greensboro, GA, (706) 453-2626, is handling arrangements. Visit us at to sign the online guest register.

Charles Warren Smith, Pharmacist

Photo: Charles Warren Smith (left) and Leon B Gathany (right) at the Grand Opening of The Leon and Rachel Gathany Museum of Natural History in 2013. Today they are celebrating together in Heaven.

Mr. Charles Warren Smith, age 91, of Addington Drive in Toccoa, Georgia passed away January 30, 2020 at the Oaks at Scenic View in Baldwin, GA.

Charles was a local pharmacist and dear friend of Leon Gathany.

CWS Photo

Photo: Smith Pharmacy Staff Photo from 1969 Toccoa Falls Forrester yearbook.

He was a major player in the effort to establish the Leon & Rachel Gathany Museum of Natural History on the Toccoa Falls College campus.

Following are some excerpts from the autobiography of Leon Gathany describing Charles’ role and expressing Leon Gathany’s appreciation for his efforts.

Those of us who knew Charles respected his accomplishments and contributions, but also enjoyed his personality. The second excerpt here from the autobiography is an example of his unique character.

Excerpt 1:

The Museum

Occasionally, Charles Warren Smith said to me, “What is going to happen to all of your collections when you are gone?” My response was, “I hadn’t even thought about it.” However, Charles’s question triggered some serious consideration in my mind, and the concept of housing all my collections in a Museum of Natural History was born. Shortly after that, some friends hosted a “get together” in my honor, and the idea of a museum was discussed at that ceremony. From that point on plans began to materialize, and today the museum has become a reality.

Charles came up with a unique idea for raising funds for the building of the Leon and Rachel Gathany Natural Museum. He was able to have medallions “struck” by a firm up in Alberta, Canada, I believe. The idea was that when someone gave a donation, we, in turn, would give them a medallion. One side of the medallion is stamped with a picture of Toccoa Falls, and the other side has a picture of the “Old Man of the Mountain”; none other than me. The manufacturers gave me quite a “stash” of the medallions, and I have given them to many of my friends. At the time, I tell them that these medallions are normally given to people who donate to my museum. I do not verbalize this, but my hope is that they will do the same.

I have great appreciation for the efforts of Charles Warren Smith and Jerry Snell, who were instrumental in raising funds for our museum. Most of the contributions came from the enthusiastic local community and the Toccoa Falls Alumni Association.”

Excerpt 2:

Hunting in Wyoming

Here is a humorous hunting story. Ken Deitle, a friend of ours, was a hunter. We hunted together on numerous occasions. He had been a former student at Toccoa Falls, but now was a Methodist pastor. One day he said to me, “Come over tomorrow morning early, eat breakfast with me, and then we’ll go out hunting.”

When I got to his house, I noticed that there was a gentleman sitting over in the corner. Ken introduced him as Charles Warren Smith. I acknowledged him and promptly forgot his name. The man sat there quietly, not saying a word, while Ken and I sat at the breakfast table. I was telling Ken all about my many hunting experiences, about the times when I hunted deer and antelope in Wyoming. This gentleman spent quite a bit of time with us as I was telling about all these exciting experiences. I didn’t think any more about it, but we headed out to our hunting place; the stand we were going to occupy. This gentleman rode with us. Then he disappeared, and I didn’t see him again.

Some weeks later there was a chicken-que at Toccoa Falls Elementary School, and since a couple of our kids were attending at the time, we decided we certainly ought to go and support it. When I walked through the door at the Chicken-Que this gentleman came up to me. I didn’t remember ever seeing him before in my life. He said, “Oh, there you are, do you remember when you and I hunted together in Wyoming?” I said to myself, “I don’t think that I have ever seen this guy before. What is he talking about?” Then he proceeded to tell several interesting experiences that he claimed that he and I shared. He went on like that, and I was absolutely dumbfounded. I didn’t know what was going on, and suddenly he stopped, looked at me and laughed, and he said, “Don’t you remember me? I was sitting in the corner at Ken Deitle’s the morning you were telling him all about your experiences in Wyoming.” It was then that I learned that Charles Warren Smith was quite a character.

The Posters

Some people in business suggest, “If you can’t put an idea in a PowerPoint slideshow, it’s not worth sharing.” It is no mystery that seeing, in addition to hearing, is an important complement to learning and communicating. Presentation tools like PowerPoint can be used to illuminate ideas and enhance their understanding.

However, long before computers, multimedia presentations, and PowerPoint slide shows, there were the Posters. The Posters were the artistic creations of Leon and Rachel Gathany: text and pictures on poster board used in their presentations to Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, and other church groups. They were used to teach the words to a song or tell a Bible story. These Poster were a visual medium to communicate God’s love and his message of redemption.

Youngsters were singing songs in church with Pastor Leon holding a poster and pointing to the words for each line. They learned the words to many songs with the posters, while the matching pictures enhanced the meanings of these words.

Some of these early posters have been lost with time. However, the graphic below is a recreation that captures the feel of these hand-made displays.

Step forward many years. Leon was a Georgia State Park Naturalist and he and Rachel were presenting nature awareness programs for schools, civic clubs, church groups, senior citizens, and campers. They used this same seemingly low-tech medium of posters to present concepts and ideas in a memorable fashion.

Following are samples of posters that were used in their presentations.

Prey, Predator and Scavengers:

                A predator feeds on other living things (prey),

                while a scavenger eats animals that are already dead.

Native Americans Ways of Life:

                How did they treat the environment?

                What from their culture do we see every day?

Insects (Not Just Bugs!)

                Insect Orders.

                Head, Thorax and Abdomen.

God’s Amazing Creation:

                On the fifth day of creation God filled the sky with

                birds and the seas and rivers with living things.

Joe Berry, Nature Photographer

The Leon and Rachel Gathany Museum of Natural History is pleased to have been the beneficiary of a collection of nature photographs taken and contributed by Joe Berry. Joe Berry is an extraordinary Wildlife Photographer and a Certified Georgia Master Naturalist. His photographs of plants and wild animals in their natural habitat are amazing.

The following information was adapted from a bio used with the prints he contributed for an annual fund-raising auction at the Elachee Nature Science Center ( in Gainesville GA.

Photo 58 Leon and his guitar 1

“Wildlife enthusiast photographer Joe Berry has lived in Northeast Georgia for most of his life, being raised hunting and fishing by his Dad. He replaced his gun with his first DSLR (digital single-lens reflex camera) in 2012.  Joe credits his success in wildlife photography to his hunting skills and use of camouflage.  In 2015 his “Still Waters” took second place in a Georgia Nature Photographers Association ( contest to be in a display at Fernbank Science Center ( in Atlanta. Since then his prints have been sold at local galleries and a limited edition featured in a fund-raising auction package that went nationwide. The Georgia Department of Natural Resources has used his images on their web-site, Facebook page, and a cover on an annual fact sheet. Joe has contributed images to Elachee that have been used on their website and some printed items. In 2019 his three submissions for the Georgia Nature Photographers Association’s “On the Banks and Shores of Georgia” contest were chosen for the twenty-image display at the Chattahoochee Nature Center in Roswell GA, where one photo was awarded second place.

Photo 58 Leon and his guitar 1

As a young boy in a single parent home Joe would often slip into the woods across the road to explore. This led to encounters with wildlife in nature and neighborhood kids that are good memories, but also some encounters with other youth and teens that are not good memories. While getting his Georgia Master Naturalist certification at Elachee, Joe saw the great outdoor education that the children were getting in a very safe environment and made a personal commitment to promote and support Elachee with his wildlife photography.”

Additionally, Joe has responded to several questions and shared these thoughts about his work and experience:

Q: What training does a naturalist typically need and how did your background fit with this training? What types of educational activities do naturalists do?

A: The Georgia Master Naturalist certification is an unbiased community outreach and awareness program created by the University of Georgia ( . It was a breath of fresh air to get good information without a political agenda being woven into it. We were aware of the political diversity that was present, but it never came up once in our group to cause distraction.

As I became involved with Elachee I learned of the Master Naturalist certification on their web site. It appealed to my hunter component: “Learn your quarry.” And my photographer component: “Learn your subject.” It just seemed like the next step to getting more pictures of wildlife, but it broadened my subject matter beyond hunted wildlife that initially drew me into the hobby.  

Q: What inspired you to take up nature photography?

A: As a youth I saw documentaries by Marty Stouffer and dreamed of being able to do that type of work as an adult. Back then getting film developed made photography an expensive hobby. Later in life after my kids were grown up, I delved into digital photography. My first real camera, a point and shoot, took amazingly good images without formal training or expense. I was able to learn what I needed from the forums on the internet and see the results without paying for prints.

Photo 58 Leon and his guitar 1

Q: What are some of your favorite nature photos that you have taken? Why?

A: I guess my favorite images are ones that turned out good because of ideal lighting and being in a good location for composition. A few were pure blessing of being at the right place at the right time. It takes many hours to find where the chances of the encounter are possible, then plan the blind location for lighting angles and background/foreground composition. And finally getting up in time on a good weather day and getting in place to increase the odds of getting the shot.

Photo 58 Leon and his guitar 1

Q: What is your dream location that you would love to visit to do nature photography?

A: I would probably like to return to Alaska where my Son, Dad, and I went fishing many years ago to do wildlife/nature photography.

Q: What would you like folks to think when they see your nature photos?

A: What I hope people realize when they see my images is that this Earth and all the natural beauty in it is not by chance. It took a divine creator to put it here. It is fragile, and we must be good stewards of what God has blessed us with for it to last so that generations to come may also be sustained and blessed.

Q: We appreciate your photographic contributions to the museum, since they will enhance the educational mission of the museum.

A: I want to thank you and your family for allowing my images to be displayed at the Gathany Museum. Your Dad began a legacy that is now a legacy thanks to his children’s time and efforts. I’m honored to be a part of it.

For an interesting feature on Joe Berry and his work, check the following link:

All Photographs © Joe Berry and used with permission.

The Blue Candles

Note from Tim Gathany for the Holiday Season:

The Blue Candles

This is a personal family story, but I felt it was appropriate for the Christmas and New Year Season since the attached poem illustrates the lives of Leon and Rachel Gathany in their Toccoa home.

When I lived in Pennsylvania, my family and I would often travel to Georgia for the holidays and spend Christmas with Leon and Rachel. One of my children’s favorite memories was arriving at their grandparents’ home in Georgia and seeing a candelabra in the front window lit with blue bulbs. The blue candles fascinated my oldest son, Nicholas, since he thought the blue lights were not the colors you would expect from candles.

Grandma Rachel had obtained the candelabra years ago when she lived in Pennsylvania and family friends were moving to Florida and downsizing. These Christmas decorations included many items that today would we considered vintage. Apparently, the donated candelabra always had blue candles and Rachel continued using this blue color for the bulbs in her several homes in Pennsylvania, Minnesota and Georgia.

These blue candles took on a special meaning for the family, as a memento of our visits to Georgia and the excitement of reuniting with my children’s grandparents. Even when we could not make the holiday trek to Georgia, the question in our telephone calls was always asked, “Are the blue candles in the front window?”

The poem was written in commemoration of those visits to Grandpa’s and Grandma’s home and the sights and events surrounding the holiday season. For example, Leon traditionally read the poem, “When Father Carves the Duck,” before we sang a seasonal hymn and were finally allowed to enjoy Rachel’s delicious holiday feast. Rachel would sit down at the piano to play and sing Christmas songs with her grandchildren.

Our visit would not be complete without a tour of the log barn to view the progress in restoring this vintage building and in organizing Leon’s mounted animal displays and other collections. Many of those items are now in the Leon & Rachel Gathany Museum of Natural History on the Toccoa Falls College campus.

Rachel wasn’t fond of one line in the poem, the one about gag gifts. However, she had a mischievous side to her and we expected that at least one family member would get a “white elephant” gift, something unusual that would cause much laughter.

So, whether or not you ever visited Leon & Rachel Gathany in their Toccoa home, read this poem and imagine you’re there during the holiday season. What would you see and hear?

The Blue Candles

Christmas 2004

Grandma’s in the kitchen
cooking pumpkin pie,
Grandpa’s getting wood
and stoking up the fire.
Later she’ll be singing
while her grandkids play along.
He’s got that duck poem ready for
the reading and the song.

Fox is playing loudly as
the talking heads profess.
Then there’s knocking at the door
from unexpected guests,
Still someone’s calling on the phone
with roadkill to be mounted.
There’s much to hear, see and learn
and blessing to be counted.

Outdoors the winter wild birds
feast and gladly sing
While compost sets the garden
right for the coming spring.
The chimney smoke paints
backdrops for this winter wooded view
And God watches over house and
barn and surely these precious two.

Inside the tree is lit and garnished with
their vintage memories.
The gag gifts have been chosen,
wrapped and placed beneath the tree.
They’re thinking of their loved ones
both near and far away.
Grandma’s blue candles are brightly lit
and everything’s OK.

Copyright 2004 TAG

Jon “JT” Thorne, Taxidermist

The Gathany family just recently learned about the passing of Jon “JT” Thorne.

JT was a dear friend of Leon & Rachel Gathany and he played an important part in the development of the Museum.

Leon mentions JT and his family in his autobiography as helping to care for their dog when he and Rachel were traveling.

More importantly, JT was the taxidermist who originally mounted many of the animals on display in the Museum.

When the Museum displays were being setup, JT also helped clean and spruce-up each of the mounted animals.

The Gathany family is saddened to learn of this loss and wish to express their sympathy to the Thorne family and thanks for JT’s contribution to the Museum.

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Obituary for Jon “JT” Thorne

Mr. Jon Edwin “JT” Thorne, of 2757 Starrs Bridge Road, Canon, Ga., husband of Linda Woody Thorne, went to be with the Lord on Saturday morning, April 30, 2016 at his home surrounded by his loving family.

Born February 24, 1956 in Bronx, NY., he was the son of the late Richard A. Thorne and Evelyn Pearson Ferzoli.

He was a taxidermist and a member of Zidon Baptist Church of Royston.

He is survived by his wife; daughters, Anna Thorne of Athens and Kacie Thorne of Canon; adopted daughter, Farzin Avari of Marietta, Brothers, Richard Thorne of Opelika, Al and Larry Thorne of Royston, and sister Michelle Ferzoli of Adairsville, GA. Step Mom, Vera Thorne of Lecanto , Fl., 2 Step Brothers, Brian and Keith Svendsen, Step Sisters, Pam Svendsen and Claudia Manzella, and his beloved dog “Jack.”

A memorial service celebrating the life of Mr. J.T. Thorne was held on Tuesday, May 3, 2016 at 2 pm at Zidon Baptist Church in Royston, GA.

Pastor Andy Bond officiated. Burial was in the church cemetery.

Coile-Hall-Spagnoli Funeral Home in Hartwell, 333 E. Johnson St. Hartwell, GA was in charge.

Online condolences may be sent to the family by visiting


Nature Awareness Programs

The following abridged excerpts from “The Old Man of the Mountain: An Autobiography by Leon B. Gathany” describe his experiences as a park naturalist and presenter of nature awareness programs.

“By the time the Toccoa Falls high school closed, I was thoroughly into the business of doing nature programs. I had a fairly good display of mounted mammals, birds and fossils from Florida, North Carolina, and even some from Wyoming. I also had an extensive assortment of insects and a very good collection of rocks and minerals. I used the collections with posters that summarized the characteristics of the artifacts I was displaying.

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In the summer of 1977, a friend of mine recommended that I take the position of summer Naturalist at Tugaloo State Park. A park naturalist’s responsibility is to present nature programs to the campers vacationing at the park. Subsequently, I began doing nature presentations at the park, which was the start to my adventures as a naturalist.

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Tugaloo Alaska

When I completed my programs for the summer, the Park Manager, expressed his appreciation and indicated that whenever I retired from teaching, I could work for him as Park Naturalist. So in 1983, I started working at Tugaloo State Park regularly in the summer months during the camping season. I would present morning and evening programs, especially on weekends. Also, on a few occasions I did presentations for other organizations, such as civic clubs, schools, scouts and churches.

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Through my programs at Tugaloo, I met the most interesting people and learned a great deal about various places in the United States.  One of my favorite friends was Dr. Don Griffith, the Superintendent of Decatur GA City Schools.  He attended my nature programs frequently when he camped with his family at the park. One day Don asked me, “Have you ever done programs at schools? I’d like for you to come down and start doing programs for the City Schools of Decatur.”

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So I began doing regular programs for City Schools of Decatur high schools and middle schools. Eventually I limited my programs to the elementary schools with kindergarten through sixth grade classes. These younger students’ desire for knowledge made my work there a true joy. The spring and fall programs at the eight elementary schools continued for several years.

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When I ceased to be a naturalist at Tugaloo State Park, I became a free-lance naturalist programmer and actually presented even more programs, including seventeen different Georgia State Parks and Historic Sites. My wife, Rachel, also presented programs and we worked together and conducted over two-hundred programs per year for schools, state parks, civic organizations, scouts, churches, home schooled children, Elderhostel groups, and much more.

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We had a repertoire of eighteen unique programs including: Mammals, Birds, Snakes, Insects, Creatures of the Night, Beaver, Oceans, Producers and Consumers, Composting, Bats, Fossils, Rocks and Minerals, and Indian Ways of Life. Also our color slide programs included: Alaska the Last Frontier, Wild Flowers, This is My Country, Autumn Leaf Color, and Hawaii the Beautiful.

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Among the many nature programs we presented, the Alaska Program was always one of the favorites.  As a result, I traveled to Alaska thirty times and forty-two different folks joined me on these trips. Many of these fellow travelers have gone back again and also inspired their family and friends to take an Alaska vacation. How rewarding!”

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Debra Ramsey Interview

Debra Ramsey currently conducts group tours of the museum. She has been integrally involved in the development of The Leon & Rachel Gathany Museum of Natural History, working with Leon Gathany and the Gathany family to organize, label and maintain the museum displays.

Note: The Gathany Museum is currently open by appointment.  To schedule a tour click here on our –> Visit/Contact Us link.

Interview with Debra Ramsey:

Tell us about yourself – – anything you wish to share. For example, how did you decide to be a teacher?

I have wanted to be a teacher as long as I can remember. I used to get the old discarded school books thrown out by the school and take them home and play “school” with them. I wanted to be an elementary school teacher but after I got started classes at Piedmont College, I just wasn’t satisfied. I decided to transfer to Brenau College and take special education classes. I felt like that was what the Lord wanted me to do. It was my calling.

Tell us about your connection to Toccoa Falls and the museum.

I attended Toccoa Falls High School in the early 70’s and graduated from there. Mr. Gathany was my Principal and Science teacher. He was always my favorite Principal, and when I retired from education, I was approached by his daughter to assist him to write his book. About the time his book was finished, we got word that the President of Toccoa Falls, Dr. Myers, wanted to get the museum open to the public. So he and I worked together to move the artifacts to the museum building on campus. Together, we all arranged the displays and got the museum ready to open. After the museum opened, I assisted Mr. Gathany in giving tours to various groups.

What are the types of groups that have toured the museum?

We have had a variety of groups coming to the museum. Home school groups and individuals have made up the most of the groups. Special education groups have enjoyed the tours, and well as community groups, such as 4-H, Senior Center groups, Clary Center, and special interest groups. Also, we have had afterschool programs and day care programs bring groups out to enjoy the displays.

What was the largest group you hosted?

Regional Home School Educators group has been the largest group that has been to tour the museum. They had a total of 54 people, including children, adults and teachers. The home school groups usually have the largest numbers or participants to visit.

What was the most interesting question a visitor asks?

“How did he manage to find so many different and unique items?” is the question that many adults ask but the most interesting question the children ask is “Did you shoot all these animals?”

What is your favorite artifact in the museum?

It’s hard to say what my most favorite artifact is, but if I had to choose one it would be the loggerhead turtle. It was donated to the museum by Andy Beckman and he brought it to Mr. Gathany in a box, in pieces. I had to lay it all out on my kitchen bar and piece it together for it to take the shape it has today. It took me three weeks to complete the task of putting it together.

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How do you introduce the visitors to the museum?

I give a quick overview of the man behind the collection and a history of his life and how the museum came to be. I tell them about how Mr. Gathany wanted everyone to be able to enjoy the things that he had collected since he started at age 13. He wanted the museum to continue his legacy of education and learning about the world around us.

Leon Gathany often said there is a story for everything in the museum. What is your favorite story?

Yes, there is a story surrounding each and every item, but my favorite story is about the bear head and paws hanging on the wall. One night Mr. Gathany received a phone call telling him that a bear had been found over near the Trestle, thought it had been hit by a train, and did he want to come and get it. He said he would love to have it so he got up, dressed (even though it was the middle of the night), and went to pick it up. He wasn’t sure what he needed to do, so he took it by the police station and told them that he had it and what did he need to do to report to authorities that he had it. They didn’t know what to do either, so they told him to just take it on home. When he arrived at home with the bear in the back of his truck, the DNR game warden was already at his house. They wanted to take the bear to do a necropsy on it to see why it had been hit by a train. Generally bears do not get that close to train tracks. Well, he convinced the DNR guys to let him at least have the head and the paws, so he agreed to that. Later on, after they finished the necropsy on the bear, they discovered that she had eaten polk berries that were fermented and she was drunk.

What would tell someone who asks about the museum and wonders if they should visit it?

The museum is a very unique collection of unusual items that you will not see in other museums. So are very rare and priceless. Others are beautiful and interesting. There is something in the museum that will appeal to all ages, children to adults.

What would you like to see for the future of the museum?

I would love to see people coming from all over just to take a tour. I would also like to see the classroom set up for educational instruction for teachers to have access to. There have already been people visiting from other countries. I would love for the museum to be open to the public all week so that more people would have access to the wonders that the museum holds.

Useful Again

Rachel Essie Pritchard Gathany was born on August 17, 1926 in rural Hart County, Georgia, the daughter of Rufus Almond and Flora Johnson Pritchard.  She went to meet the Lord on July 8, 2007 at Emory Hospital in Atlanta from complications associated with treatment of lymphoma.

Visitation will be at Whitlock Mortuary on Friday, July 13 from 7:00 to 9:00 PM.  The celebration of her life and home going to Heaven will occur on Saturday, July 14, 2007 at 2:00 PM at Grace Chapel at Toccoa Falls College.  Internment will be thereafter at Stephens Memorial Gardens.

After the death of her father when Rachel was three years old, her mother moved the family to Asheville, North Carolina in 1935.  Rachel graduated from Lee Edwards High School in Asheville.  In 1943 she entered Toccoa Falls Institute where she met her future husband, Leon Gathany.  On December 31, 1946 Rachel and Leon were married in Great Bend, Pennsylvania and moved to Nyack, New York where her husband completed his degree at Nyack Missionary College.

In 1948 Rachel and Leon moved to Birmingham, Alabama where Leon became the pastor of the North Birmingham Gospel Tabernacles and Rachel became a pastor’s wife.  In 1950, expecting their first child, Rachel and Leon moved to Great Bend, Pennsylvania where Leon became minister of the Great Bend Christian and Missionary Alliance Church.  While serving in Great Bend, Rachel and Leon had four children, Richard, Timothy, Rebecca and Deborah.

After eleven years in Pennsylvania and four years in Minnesota, Rachel and Leon returned to Toccoa Falls where Rachel completed her Bachelor of Science degree in 1972.  She continued on to the University of Georgia where she completed her Masters of Education in 1975.

She became the Director of the Stephens County Mental Retardation Service Center in 1973 and continued in that position until her retirement in 1988. She was a lifelong working mother, having always worked outside the home as an accountant, teacher and administrator.

In retirement she worked tirelessly with the local Association of Retarded Citizens, the Child Evangelism Fellowship, the Toccoa Falls Women’s Auxiliary, and other activities with the First Alliance Church of Toccoa where she was a member. In 2006 Mrs. Gathany and her husband received the Toccoa Falls College Alumni Association Service Award. She often assisted with her husband’s nature programs at Tugaloo State Park, schools and churches around the state.  She was a mother and grandmother figure to hundreds of children throughout the United States and perhaps the world.

Rachel Gathany is survived by her husband, Leon Gathany of Toccoa; two sisters, Bonnie Denson of Toccoa and Mary Haynes of Hudson, NC; a brother, Waymon Pritchard of Jacksonville, NC; four children, Richard Gathany of Stone Mountain, GA, Timothy Gathany of Kennett Square, PA, Rebecca Gathany-Bailey of John’s Creek, GA and Deborah Gathany-Keeney of Sandy Springs, GA; five grandchildren, Stephen and Nicole Gathany of Stone Mountain, Nicholas and Philip Gathany of Kennett Square, PA, and Erin Keeney of Sandy Springs, GA; two daughter-in-laws, Jessie Gathany of Stone Mountain, GA and Eleanor Gathany of Kennett Square, PA; two son-in-laws, Don Bailey of Johns Creek, GA and Rick Keeney of Sandy Springs, GA;  three step grandsons, Ricky Keeney, Andrew and Anthony Bailey; and a host of nieces and nephews.  She was preceded in death by two brothers, George Pritchard and Joseph Vaughan.

Memorials may be made to the Northeast Georgia Child Evangelism Fellowship or the Leon and Rachel Gathany Museum Foundation at Toccoa Falls College.

Speech and Poem at Service / Richard Gathany (Son)

Here is the text of my speech and original poem at the Celebration of the Life of Rachel Gathany

Hello and Greetings to you from the family of Rachel Gathany.

As most of you know I am Richard Gathany, the oldest son of Rachel and Leon Gathany, and was blessed to have been around my mother for over fifty-seven years.

This can be a solemn time as we reflect on the past few days. But we are here to celebrate the life and the home going to Heaven of Rachel Gathany. The family would like this time to honor Rachel Gathany and her accomplishments. We want to remember the wonderful and caring person that she was.

While we mourn our loss we must remember to rejoice that mother has lived her life to the fullest and has now entered Heaven. If we are a sad perhaps it is because we will not have her here to do those things that she once did for us.

Certainly we were all touched by her caring personality and her generosity. We received much benefit from being around her, by being near her. She was always asking if we needed something, if we were comfortable, if we were hungry. And if we had a need she would what she could to help.

She was always looking out for others and sometimes paid little attention to her own needs. When she was in the hospital she thought not about herself and that she might never return. She was concerned that she be able to serve others and desired to get better so that she could “be useful again.

So here is a small poem in tribute to my mother that expresses how I feel about her life and recent troubles.

Useful Again

Mother’s life was a message of service,
For her family, her church and the world.
Many were touched with her concern,
And thoughts and deeds for others,
She made herself useful again and again.

While mother was laid up with illness,
She told us to the very end,
That she had to soon get better,
And continue to serve others,
To make herself useful again.

So there is no doubt in our minds.
She has gone to a better place.
For she has gone to Heaven,
To be with God; and to serve,
And to make herself useful again.

This time is not for sorrow,
This time is not for pain.
For Mother has gone to Heaven,
To be with God; and to serve,
She has made herself useful again.

Copyright 2007, RSG

Stephens County Nature Collector

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Georgia Journey: Stephens County Nature Collector

Scott Myrick     WNEG NewsChannel 32    Friday, December 1, 2006

Take a walk through Leon Gathany’s back yard, and he’ll show you some of his special things.

It’s just like Lincoln Logs. There are no nails or pegs or anything,” Gathany tells NewsChannel 32.

Things like the 90-year-old barn he moved from Mt. Tabor and put back together himself. It took 15 years to get it the way he wanted. You’d better set aside some time if you want the grand tour.


“I appreciate that. So many people are in such a big rush,” he says.

Around back, he’ll show you the fireplace he built –by hand — a few years ago, with stone he collected on cross-county trips.

“This is a piece of Pennsylvania Blue Stone. This comes from where I was brought up in Northeastern Pennsylvania,” he says.

The stonework is impressive, but his real treasures are inside. His most prized collection: 4,600 arrowheads. But there’s more to see ? like fossils.

“My wife says I’m a fossil. She’s about right,” he says.


Gathany started collecting all this stuff when he was a young man. At 86, he’s still going, but he didn’t find all this stuff himself.

“For instance, the Arctic Fox that was sent to me and given to me,” he says.

Friends have helped him all along the way, finding new, interesting things for his backyard museum.

“You didn’t know this, did you? I also collect insects,” he laughs.

But he wishes he could share his collections with more people, and the old barn can barely hold what he has.

“All of this has a story — I’m just giving you the top of the list,” he chuckles.

Gathany taught at Toccoa Falls when it still had a high school. Now the folks at the college want to make sure they keep a part of him around forever. They’re building the Leon B. Gathany Natural History Museum so all of Northeast Georgia can see his collections from nature.

“There’s a history behind everything, and I enjoy sharing this with other people,” he says.

He’s got mixed feelings about having his name on a museum. It’s an honor, but he wishes it could be named for his friends. It’s friends, after all, that make him — and his collections — what they are today.

Toccoa falls still needs about $27,000 to build the $140,000 museum. Contact the school if you want to help. Project organizers hope they can break ground in a year.

Note: The Gathany Museum is currently open by appointment. To schedule a tour click here on our –> Visit/Contact Us link.

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