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1928 J W Cathey 2024

J W Cathey

November 7, 1928 — May 7, 2024




Mr. J.W. Cathey, age 95, of Murray, Kentucky passed away on Tuesday, May 7, 2024, at the Murray-Calloway County Hospital.


          Mr. Cathey was born on November 7, 1928, in Stewart County, Tennessee in what is now the Land Between the Lakes.  He was the third child of the late Lonnie A. Cathey and Bertia Spiceland Cathey.


          Mr. Cathey spent his early childhood in the tight-knit rural community near Model, TN where his ancestors had lived since the late 1700s.  He attended the one-room schoolhouse at Crockett’s Creek until 1939 when his family moved to Murray, Ky.  As a teenager, Mr. Cathey worked at Wallis Grocery and Lavern Wallis became his mentor and role model.  He graduated from Murray High School in 1947, then served in the U.S. Army.  He met Emily Jo Thornley while working at the campus grill, The Hut.  They were married in January 1952 at the Broadway Methodist Church in Paducah.   Mr. Cathey earned a Bachelor of Science degree in 1957 and Master of Arts Degree in Education in 1958 from Murray State College.  In 1957, the young couple was recruited to teach in Garden City, Michigan where he taught Physical Education and Social Studies at Burger Junior High.  He lived in Dearborn, Michigan for 28 years until his retirement when he moved “back home” to Murray, Kentucky.


          Enjoying an active retirement, Mr. Cathey served on the board of directors of the Bank of Murray and volunteered at the National Boy Scout Museum.  He was a member of the First Baptist Church.  He spent his later years visiting friends and family, keeping up with his students and colleagues from Michigan, taking trips to the Land Between the Lakes, and working on his farm.


          Known for his storytelling ability, his sense of humor and remembering everyone he met, Mr. Cathey considered himself fortunate to have lived the life he did.  


          In addition to his parents, he was preceded in death by his wife, Emily Jo Thornley Cathey; three sisters, Ruth Bailey, Evelyn Lockhart, and Shirley Toon; one sister-in-law, Marilyn McCuiston; one niece, Sharon McDonald; as well as one brother, Gene Cathey, two brothers-in-law, Ab Davis and Elva Bailey, and one nephew, Joe Bailey.


          Survivors include one daughter, Phyllis Cathey McKenna and husband Dave of Murray, Kentucky; one grandson John Connor McKenna of Murray, Kentucky; one sister-in-law, Sally Davis of Newbern, Tennessee; brother-in-law, Bob Toon of Murray, Kentucky; nieces, Kathy Domescik-Adams of Murray, Kentucky, Laura Wright and husband Stephan of Newbern, Tennessee, Shara Olivier and husband Mike of San Diego, California, and Mitzi Cathey of Murray, Kentucky; nephews Larry Lockhart and wife Myra of Murray, Kentucky; Steve Davis and wife Amanda of Millington, Tennessee, Monty Cathey, Mike Cathey and wife Donna of Murray, Kentucky.


          A funeral service will be held at 1:00 p.m., Saturday, May 18, 2024, at the J.H. Churchill Funeral Home & Cremation Services with John Dale and Rev. Boyd Smith officiating.  A burial will follow in the Old Salem Cemetery.  Visitation will be held from 5:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m., Friday, May 17, 2024, at the J.H. Churchill Funeral Home and Cremation Services.


          Expressions of Sympathy can be made to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, 501 St. Jude Place Memphis, TN.  38105.


          Online condolences can be made at  



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Service Schedule

Today's Services

Funeral Service

Saturday, May 18, 2024

1:00 - 2:00 pm (Central time)

J. H. Churchill Funeral Home

201 S 3rd St, Murray, KY 42071

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Past Services


Friday, May 17, 2024

5:00 - 8:00 pm (Central time)

J. H. Churchill Funeral Home

201 S 3rd St, Murray, KY 42071

Enter your phone number above to have directions sent via text. Standard text messaging rates apply.


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