Resident Spotlight: Sara and Gene Callaway


Sara and Gene Callaway

On April 5, 1936, a devastating tornado destroyed the home of the Callaway family in Tupelo, Mississippi. That tornado 78 years ago leveled 48 blocks and killed 200 people, injuring many more. Five-year-old Gene Callaway, along with his mother and brother, were trapped under debris and exposed to rain, thunder, and lightning for 30 minutes before being rescued. Fortunately for those of us at Kirby Pines and the world, Gene Callaway survived to become a prolific and famous artist.

Eugene Craven Callaway was born December 23, 1931, in Tupelo, Mississippi. His father worked for the TVA in East Tennessee and his mother was a homemaker for Gene and his brother in Tupelo. During the summer the boys, along with their mother, traveled with their father.

Following the destruction of their home, Gene’s father rebuilt and the family remained there until 1980. Gene finished high school and came to Memphis to enter business school. To avoid being drafted into the Army, Gene volunteered for the Air Force and was sent to Korea as an Adjutant’s secretary.

While stationed in the states, he attended Kansas City Junior College and Bowling Green State University in Ohio. Upon leaving the Air Force, Gene entered Memphis State University, receiving a Bachelors in Business. He was hired as an accountant by Ford Motor Company, but lacking seniority, he became unemployed when the company moved to Ohio. He re-entered Memphis State and received his Masters in Educational Administration. Following eight years of teaching at Kingsbury High School, Gene was promoted to Principal and served at White Station High School, Bethel Grove, and Cromwell Elementary Schools.

As a teenager Gene, being musically inclined, learned to play the piano and played for the Wesley Methodist Church. He also became interested in family history and genealogy becoming a charter member of the Callaway Family Association, Inc. Since 1975 he has served on the Board of Directors and as Vice President and President from 1993- 96. He is also a member of the Sons of the American Revolution, Sons of the Confederacy, Clan McLeod Society and the Tennessee Genealogical Society.

Upon retirement, Gene became an accomplished artist, ballroom and tap dancer and is known as “Twinkle Toes” Callaway by his friends. Portraiture became his love. His expertise led him to his acceptance into the art world. He was a member of the Memphis-Germantown Art League, the Bartlett Art Association and has exhibited his works in many shows. Currently, his paintings are in private collections internationally, museums, churches, and the Callaway Archives, Lagrange, Georgia.

Sara Bennett Callaway was born in New Albany, Mississippi in 1941. Her father was a farmer and business owner and her mother was a homemaker. She has one sister. During high school, Sara played varsity sports, playing basketball for four years. Even then, Sara was elected most dignified and best dressed! After graduating from Blue Mountain College, she began a teaching career at Grand Junction High School. While there she enrolled at Memphis State and received her Masters in Education and Guidance Certification. She then served the Hardeman County School System as Guidance Supervisor. Later, she became a Certified Counselor with the Memphis City School System.

Sara and Gene on their wedding day
Their Wedding Day 1967

Following a New Year’s Eve blind date, Sara became “smitten” with the rising, young principal, Eugene Callaway. They were married on Thanksgiving Day, November 23, 1967, and became parents to one daughter, Sara Elizabeth Callaway, now deceased. Following her daughter’s death, Sara became interested in duplicate bridge, traveling to bridge tournaments all over the South. She achieved the level of Life Master and beyond. To this day, bridge is her passion. The passion has given her the opportunity to meet many bridge greats such as Omar Shariff. Sara’s past hobby was crewel embroidery, English smocking, and needlepoint.

Upon retirement Sara has served in many volunteer organizations including Friends of the Orpheum, Stage Set Theater Memphis, where she served on the Board of Directors, The Callaway Family Association, serving as the newsletter director, the Salvation Army, and Church Health Center. For years she served with the 20/20 Vision Screening Center of Emmanuel Methodist Church. Sara and Gene have retained their membership at EMC since 1968. Gene has six paintings hung there.

Sara and Gene with one of Gene's paintings at Kirby Pines
One of Gene’s Paintings at Kirby Pines

In August of 2017, the Callaways moved from Germantown to Kirby Pines. Gene’s artistic and musical talents are greatly appreciated. His warm smile and gentle personality invite a warm reception. Sara has many talents and life experiences. Her beautiful styling and warm disposition make for an impressive image.

Both Sara and Gene are true assets for our family at Kirby Pines.