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Charles Tester

Charles Herman Tester, age 86, of Sulphur Springs community, passed away May 23, 2020 at Johnson City Medical Center, surrounded by his family. He was born April 23, 1934 near Old Butler in Johnson County, Tennessee, the son of the late Luke L. Tester and Delores Cable Tester.

Herman grew up in the Midway community near Old Butler. He graduated from Johnson County High School in the Class of 1952 and from East Tennessee State University with BS and MA degrees. He resided in Sulphur Springs since 1963, where he and Nancy raised their family.

He was a veteran of the US Army, serving in the Signal Corps during the Korean Conflict era.

He was of the Baptist faith, and attended Oak Hill Baptist Church when his health permitted.

Mr. Tester enjoyed a 42-year career in the Washington County Schools (1959-2001), serving as teacher, coach, and principal. He taught history, geography, and physical education; notably, he was baseball coach at Sulphur Springs School (1965-1971) before consolidation, and principal at Sulphur Springs (1971-1984) and at Daniel Boone High School (1987-2001). He was a strong school leader, was well respected among his peers and in the community, and was a positive influence on the lives of countless young people in Washington County throughout these years. It is said that Mr. Tester remembered the name of every student he ever had.

The creation of Watauga Lake in 1948, when he was 14 years old, was a major event in Herman’s life. His homeplace was the closest not displaced by the lake. The submerging of Old Butler disrupted school and many other activities for Herman, and he greatly missed his childhood hometown. The lake served a positive role in many other aspects of his life, though, from helping his dad operate an early boat dock to taking his grandchildren on Fourth of July pontoon boat rides. He maintained a strong interest in the history of the Old Butler/Watauga Lake area. Herman authored several books on the area’s history, acted as unofficial historian, helped numerous families with their family history, and served as chairman of the Butler Museum board from 2005 until his passing.

Herman took joy in sports throughout his life, both playing sports as a younger man and as a spectator always. His time playing baseball with the community Midway Bluegills team led to lasting friendships and reunions. He was a successful high school coach at Sulphur Springs, worked with numerous youth teams in various sports, and advocated for the sports programs in his many years as a principal. Mr. Tester was elected a charter member of the Daniel Boone High School Athletics Hall of Fame in 2015.

He was a lifelong fan of the Boston Red Sox and University of Tennessee athletics.

Herman took great pleasure in working and walking the “pond” property, acquired in 2004. His dogs, Digger, Hershey and Laddie, were constant companions of his while at the pond. (Snowball was his canine companion from an earlier time) He appreciated all aspects of nature and being outdoors.

He led numerous summer car trips with family, driving many miles and including trips that went coast-to-coast. He visited all US states except Hawaii. He unexpectedly achieved a longtime wish when he walked on the Great Wall of China in 2003.

Herman is survived by his beloved wife of over 62 years, Nancy Fritts Tester, two sons: Rob (Diana) of Columbia SC, and Roland of Johnson City; beloved grandchildren, Louise Tester and Emma Tester of Columbia SC; sisters Juanita Wilson of Elizabethton, Carolyn Wagner (Bob) of Bluffton SC, Pat Icenhour of Mountain City, and brother Steve Tester of Butler; Sister-in-Law Betty Hilbert of Sulphur Springs and her family: special niece Amy Boling (Travis) and nephew Aaron Hilbert (Renee); nieces and nephews from the Tester side of the family: Doug Laws (Peggy), Brent Laws (Jeri), Mike Wilson, Danny Wilson (Jennifer), Todd Wagner (Jeannette), Tammy Melott (Jim), Kim Hayworth (Kevin), Tracy Jones (Mark), Sam Icenhour (Deena), Billy Icenhour (Jennifer), and Taylor Tester; and lifelong friend Jack Cable (Louise). In addition to his parents, he was predeceased by sister Charlene Laws, and Brothers-in-Law Sammy Hilbert, Jack Wilson Jr., and Chalmas Laws.

Because of the pandemic, there will be no public visitation with the family. All of Herman’s many friends are invited to pay their respects at Dillow Taylor funeral home in Jonesborough on Thursday, May 28 from 9 AM to 2 PM. Graveside services, with social distancing protocols in effect, will be held on Thursday, May 28 at 3:00 PM at Sulphur Springs Cemetery with Pastor Sam Icenhour presiding. Active pallbearers will be Lee Chase, David Ford, Mike Ford, Joey Ketron, Benny Massengill, and George Moody. Honorary pallbearers include Ed DeVault, Dan Stansberry, Dr. Brian Way, and the fellow members of the Butler Museum board.

Memorial donations may be made to the Butler Museum, 123 Selma Curtis Road, Butler TN 37640, or to the charity of one’s choice. Herman lived a full life, always showing pride and a great love for his family. He was a wonderful husband, Pop, Papa, son, brother, colleague, mentor, and friend. We will miss him very much, but he will live in the hearts of his loved ones for the rest of our lives.

Condolences may be sent to the Tester family online at Dillow-Taylor Funeral Home & Cremation Services, Jonesborough, TN 753-3821.