He was not one of the familiar voices you heard on WJLE everyday. He never hosted a dee jay show, never served as a play by play announcer for any local sporting events, and never recorded a commercial, but he was a pioneer in local broadcasting.
Today, we at WJLE mourn the loss of Dr. W.E "Doc" Vanatta, the 91 year old founder, former owner and President of WJLE, who passed away Thursday morning at his residence.
The funeral will be Saturday at 2:00 p.m. at the Smithville Cumberland Presbyterian Church. Larry Green will officiate and burial will be at DeKalb Memorial Gardens. Visitation will be Friday from noon until 8:00 p.m. and Saturday from 9:30 a.m. until 11:00 a.m. at Love-Cantrell Funeral home and from noon until 2:00 p.m. at the church.
Dr. Vanatta was a Chiropractor and a member of the Smithville Cumberland Presbyterian Church. Dr. Vanatta was ordained as an Elder in 1950 and he had been an assistant Sunday School Superintendent since 1947 and a Sunday School teacher at the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. He was one of the first members appointed to serve as director on the Smithville Electric System board when the utility was established in 1969 and he remained an active member and Vice Chairman until his death. He was also a talented musician.
Dr. Vanatta was preceded in death by his parents, Jasper and Amanda Elizabeth Estes Vanatta and his first wife, Louise Corley Vanatta. He is survived by his wife, Nell Vanatta of McMinnville. Two daughters and sons-in-law, Jeanne and Donnie Foutch of Old Hickory and Mary and Oscar Boyd of Smithville. Two step-sons, James Timothy and wife Ruth White of Atlanta, Georgia and Gerald Harvey and wife Charlene White of Georgia. Step-daughter, Marilyn and husband Tom Angelo of California. Two granddaughters, Renee and husband Eric Renner of Alabama and Robin and husband Jeremy Mahlow of Knoxville. Five great grandchildren, Camden and Mark Renner of Alabama, Eleanor, John and Oliver Mahlow of Knoxville. Special caregivers, Sherry Brannon, Linda Stahl, Ashley Beth Hobbs, Tammy King, Martha Fults, Rhonda Peet, and Mina Lyons.
Love-Cantrell Funeral Home is in charge of the arrangements. The family requests that donations be made to the Lighthouse Christian Camp and Gideon Bibles in lieu of flowers.
Dr. Vanatta was one of the original owners of WJLE, which was established in 1964, and he remained an owner until 2007 when he sold his interest to fellow partner and co-owner Leon Stribling.
In a 2001 interview with the Smithville Review, Dr. Vanatta explained how he helped bring DeKalb County's one and only radio station to Smithville. "I looked around in the early 1960s and saw we didn't have a radio station in Smithville and I thought, why not? I didn't know much about it, but I had some friends knowledgeable in radio and I assembled those together and we went on the air in April 1964".
The DeKalb County School System has two new buses in the fleet.
Peggy Pursell, Transportation Manager, says one them is a 54 passenger bus which will serve as a special education/regular ed bus on routes in the Holmes Creek/Cookeville Highway areas while the other is a 90 passenger, which will replace a 78 passenger bus on a route in the Blue Springs/Bethel area.
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The new buses, which were ordered earlier this year, have just arrived. According to Pursell,the special ed bus (#42) has already passed inspection and is now ready for the road while bus #24 is to be inspected and should be in service by later this week. "I'm glad we've got them. We ordered them in March. We've been waiting for them and we're just real fortunate to have them. Bus #11-42 is our special ed bus and we certainly were needing that bus because the one we're taking off the road has been on for several years. The air conditioner had gone out on that bus so we really needed this new bus. It's (#11-42) is the biggest special ed bus we've got now. It's a 54 passenger and it came equipped with temporary seats that we can set out with the tracks for the wheelchairs. So we can take seats out, put seats in as we need to. Right now we have one wheel chair on that bus so we took two seats out to accommodate that one wheel chair. We had to get that sized bus (54 passenger) because this bus is doing double duty as a special ed bus and a regular ed bus. Karen Adkins will be driving that bus (#11-42) and Freda Johnson is the aid assistant. All our special ed buses have aid assistants on them to care for the children."
Pursell says the new 90 passenger bus is larger than the one it is replacing, but since these buses are good for up to fifteen years, it can accommodate more students should there be more growth in population. "Bus #11-24 is a 90 passenger and it will run the route in the Blue Springs/Bethel area. Melissa Hicks will be driving that bus. We had a 78 passenger bus on that route but we replaced it with this 90 passenger bus because our county is growing and we want to be ready for it. This is also a fifteen year bus. In fact all these new buses we're ordering have to last fifteen years so we want to be ready for our routes to grow when more people move into our county."
Before they are put into service, Pursell says all buses are checked out at the school bus garage and then they must undergo a state inspection. "All buses have to be inspected before we put them on the road. Our shop foreman, Mr. Orlando (Guzman) inspects them first and then we get the tags, registration and everything on them. I then call Mr. Ronnie McBride who is our state inspector. He comes and makes sure everything is right on the buses and puts the state sticker on them that says these buses are ready to roll. Then we can put them on the road."
Pursell adds that more new buses will be ordered next year. "In January we will be getting specs together to order new buses. We order every year in order not to have a situation where we have to order a whole lot of buses in one year, because if you do you've got a bad situation."
The two buses being taken out of daily service can still be used as substitute buses until they turn fifteen years old. Then they have to be retired from service.
The school system has a total of forty five buses in the fleet including substitute buses to run about thirty routes in the county. Five of the buses are classified as special education buses.