Cousin Tuny and the Center

Cousin Tuny was a friend of the Center and our Mission: Preventing Child Abuse, from the very beginning along with Carl Perkins. Her energy and enthusiasm were alwayse vident this time of year as The Circles of Hope Telethon approaches. She was one of our Anchor Hosts. Her positive energy and caring will remain with us. We honor her and will carry on with her and her family deep in our thoughts and prayers.

"A hundred years from now, no one will know who you were, what you did, or how much money you had. But the world will be a little better, and brighter, because you were important in the life of a child."

-Cousin Tuny

Cousin (Doris Freeman) Tuny is one of the most giving volunteers that I have ever had the privilege of knowing.  Her heart is bigger than she is and her smile will warm your heart on the coldest of days.  When she walks in a room it lights up because love and happiness surround her very being.  She has been a volunteer for most of her 84 years of living in this world.  She started volunteering as a child when her mother would take her with her to give food to neighbors that were needy or sick.  She then performed at age 5 for the National Exchange Club meeting on a rooftop to help the Club with their projects.  Her volunteer work never stopped.  She visited nursing homes, sang and entertained at events to raise funds for cerebral palsy victims, cancer victims, and child abuse victims.  She lent her time and talents to many other agencies in West Tennessee including the Children’s Museum.  She has performed for the victims also, bringing smiles and lots of joy to their lives.  Her energy and enthusiasm was contagious and she would just about do anything to help a child.  She spent at least half of her waking hours speaking, performing, educating, or raising funds for children in our community.  She was taught at a very young age to always give back to others, and she has done that her entire life.

I have had the pleasure of knowing and working with Tuny for more than two decades.  She has always worked to help children in West Tennessee.  For years she had hosted the Cerebral Palsy Telethon to benefit children with cerebral palsy.  For the past 30 years she has hosted the Circles of Hope Telethon to benefit children who have been victims of child abuse in West Tennessee.  Her love for children was evident in those bright eyes, and mile long smile.  She truly cared about children and worked her entire life to make the world a better place for the youngsters in our community.

Cousin Tuny hosted a children’s television show back in the late 1950’s.  She surrounded herself with kids each day, and every child in West Tennessee dreamed of being on the “Cousin Tuny Show” to celebrate their birthday.  She had hot dogs, cake, ice cream and milk.  She shared her love, morals and values with everyone.  To this day many grown women and men would walk up to her and say “Hey Cuz, I was on your show.”  She laughed that big belly laugh and always remembered them.  Tuny shared  stories and jokes about the show and the kids for hours.  She brought much love and laughter into the homes in our community. Children adored her and she helped make many happy memories for many children and their families.  But she also taught them life lessons that they used throughout their own personal and professional lives.

During this time she was a single mother raising four children.  She never complained.  She just worked at her paying jobs through the years with the Radio Station, Television Station, Old Hickory Mall and Jackson Madison County General Hospital and was a dedicated mom.  But, even then, she always had time to volunteer many hours a week to help the many agencies, nursing homes, and other needy causes in West Tennessee.  She never forgot what her mom taught her and credits her mom with instilling in her the need to always give back to others.  She too, has instilled this in her own family as well as everyone who knew her.

Tuny indeed had a life of giving back.  I have seen her sick, physically exhausted  and emotionally drained, but she would not quit.  She always went that extra mile and brought from within her that determination to make a difference in someone’s life.  She was always giving to others and would sacrifice her own wants and needs to serve them.  She never hesitated when asked to do something for her fellow man or community.  She always put others above herself, and expected nothing in return.  She achieved the goal of raising dollars so organizations could operate for years, serving thousands of children and families.  She had gained community support for agencies and generated resources so agencies could grow and connect with others in the community.

From her book “Cuz” she talked about a very special moment in her life when her mother, who was very ill at the time, took her hand one day and said these words, “Doris, you have been a joy to me.  I want you to always keep that bubbling personality and that big smile.  You’re smart and you’re talented, and God has a reason for you to be on this earth.  Promise me that you’ll work hard and that you’ll graduate from high school.  I want you to know that you’ve been the light of my life.”  Tuny said, “Thank you, Mother.  Yes, I promise.”  Tuny did not know at the time that those would be the last words she and her mother would share with each other.  Tuny was only thirteen when she lost her dear mother, and that alone would be a challenge for anyone.  But, she overcame that and many terrible things that happened to her after the loss of her mother.  She just kept remembering her mother’s words and all the things she had taught her.  This is what has been her drive and motivation.  Truly her mom was right and God did have a reason to be on this earth.  A very special reason.  She was a beacon of light for all, gave hope to those who need it.  She was an Angel on earth.  

Tuny would tell you that she had a wonderful and blessed life.  But, she is very modest when individuals share with her how she has blessed their lives.  She  had many songs and poems written about her and her volunteer work.  Carl Perkins and her daughter, Connie, wrote some of them….but even they could not put into words everything that Tuny means to West Tennessee.  You just can’t capture the magnitude of things she has done to improve the lives of others.   She did this on a daily basis, and lived and breathed volunteerism.

One of Tuny’s favorite quotes is by George Bernard Shaw when he said, “Life is not just a little candle to me, it’s a great big torch and I want to make it as bright as possible before I pass it on to future generations.”  Tuny took those words to heart, and we all should.  If the world were made up of thousands of Tunys’, just imagine what our lives would be like.

Tuny was 91 years old in March, but her age did not stop her from her volunteer work.  Her drive and dedication to help others is what makes our community, state, and country such a wonderful place to live.  Her life has been and continues to be a testimonial of true volunteerism to all of us.   She is the most deserving person that I know, who should receive this special award. She lived fast, loved hard, laughs often, and made beautiful memories for everyone……..yessirreebobbolinko!

Pam Nash 

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