Patricia Davis McKenzie

December 14, 1933April 2, 2021

Patricia Ann Davis McKenzie thoroughly enjoyed her 87-year adventure on this earth. She accomplished, created and gave so much throughout the course of her life. She was a remarkable actress, communicator, teacher, friend, wife, mother and family member. Perhaps most importantly, she was a good person, she believed in the inherent goodness of others and she put the power of that simple truth to good use. Those who knew her called her “Tish.”

Tish made her debut on December 14, 1933 in Salem, West Virginia, to Ruth Louise (Spaid) Davis, a schoolteacher and homemaker and Miles Smith Davis, Salem’s finest mailman and general store proprietor.

She loved tagging along on her father’s mail route and over time came to understand the value of delivering without fail. Her father had a smile that could light up a room and, in addition to passing that along to Tish he imparted a deep understanding of the importance of friendship, community and public service.

Her mother came from a long line of Quaker educators and she encouraged Tish to speak her mind, to seek out her place in the world and to value all people equally and respectfully. She gave Tish a keen awareness of the natural world and, later on, modeled how to be an exceptional Nana. Tish was a loving big sister to Laura, Steve and Louise and grew up with a multitude of wonderfully close cousins.

Tish had a gift for the spoken word and began public speaking before she was 2 and recited poetry in church by age 4. Encouraged to find her voice by her family, including her grandfather A. R. Spaid (a seasoned Chautauqua speaker), Tish became an outstanding young orator — winning national and regional speech contests and entertaining a myriad of audiences around the country.

Tish pursued higher education at Davis & Elkins College, supported in part by scholarships from an anonymous family benefactor and by working her way through school. D&E quickly became one of her favorite places on earth. She was drawn to the stage and breathed life into lead roles in The Philadelphia Story, Glass Menagerie and The Heiress (a role her daughter would reprise years later at D&E).

She was thrilled to meet a dashing seafaring senior named John James McKenzie when they were both cast in Pygmalion — as Eliza and Alfred Doolittle. The play was a hit and by closing night, Tish and John had booked each other for an extended run. They co-starred for 63 joyous years and are surely giving encore performances now that they’ve been reunited. John and Tish were married on August 11, 1957, in Salem. They called each other "Sil" (short for Silly) and through all of life’s ups and downs, they held each other close with love, respect and laughter. The sheer joy they felt while being together would inspire their children to find that same sort of happiness.

Tish was accepted at the Yale School of Drama, but she chose to follow a different path. Of all the parts she played, the role she loved best was that of wife and mother. Tish and John soon moved to a hilltop home in the Helderberg Mountains with expansive views overlooking Clarksville and the Hudson River Basin of upstate New York. They raised four kids, living happily there for 44 halcyon years while making frequent Cheez-it-fueled, fully packed station wagon trips back to Tish’s beloved West Virginia.

Tish applied her adroit storytelling talents in many ways, but none more thoroughly than in reading to and with her kids and grandchildren. She guided them through a great range of books including: The Boxcar Children, Dr. Suess, Norse Myths and the Complete Works of Edgar Allen Poe; and she wrote her kids into her own pioneer adventure stories. Tish laid out family picnics under the pine trees, helped produce plays on the living room stage and called the kids in for dinner with a whistle you could hear half a mile away. She mentored numerous Girl and Boy Scout projects and (prior to word processing) deserved an award for typing up the final draft of countless term papers over the years. She always believed in her children and encouraged them at every opportunity.

Tish employed all her skills as an engaging and adventurous educator, dedicating most of her 30-year career to special education at Clarksville Elementary School. She believed in the potential of every student and worked hard to create an environment in which they were excited to participate. Tish was remarkably resourceful at filling her classroom with amazing projects and activities such as six-foot dinosaur skeletons, puppet shows, a class “store,” poetry, Easter egg trees, plays, an Iroquois longhouse and annual pirate treasure hunts that made other students wish they had Mrs. McKenzie for a teacher.

Tish was a connector of people and she knew how much receiving a card, letter or package can mean to a sister, friend, cousin or grandchild. She always found and gave the perfect gift. As “The Sunshine Lady” for the Clarksville Community Church she reached out to congregation members in need of a brighter day. She cherished visits with her sister Louise and the Cadwalladers, Thanksgiving with Laura and the Auvils, “Sugar Lump” family reunions at the farm, alumni gatherings at D&E and family events in Canaan Valley, W.V.

Tish was a huge fan of western-themed films, shows and novels and may have singlehandedly turned Louis L’Amour into a bestselling author. She loved storytelling, archeology, making crafts, visiting Canada & Scotland and researching her ancestors. The wonders of nature were a never-ending source of delight for Tish. Her life was always filled with pets, including ducks, chicks, Scotties, Westies, cats, rabbits, gerbils, parakeets and doves. The wild animals she kept an eye out for: squirrels, chipmunks, deer, rabbits and countless birds – especially cardinals in later years – always put some pep in her step.

Tish and John moved to Greensboro, N.C., in 2009, living near their daughter Tara. At Guilford Park Presbyterian Church, Tish soon became a beloved member of Circle 1. Greensboro was a great place to put down new roots. They were grateful for the extra time with and support from Tara, her husband Steve and their son, Jeremy. Agnes and Diane, the friendly angels from 1st Choice Homecare, helped to make their later years even better. Tish and John hosted family get togethers, forged new friendships, wore their signature red fedoras on many an outing and spent every possible moment together. Tish Davis McKenzie was a luminous, kind and inspirational woman. She shared her inner light freely and was a touchstone to many. She believed that each of us is worthy of all the happiness and adventure that life can provide.

If you knew her, you were fortunate and your life, at the very least, had a bit more sunshine in it. If you didn't know her, you can still find her sparkle in the eyes and hearts of her family, students and friends. Tish departed this world knowing that she was deeply loved, that she had no regrets and that the love of her life was eagerly awaiting her arrival on the other side.

Tish is survived by her children, Tara McKenzie Sandercock (Steve) of Greensboro, N.C., Shawn McKenzie (Shawn Dorman) of Stevenson, Md., Mark Skye McKenzie (Diane Ventura) of Los Angeles, Calif., and Scot McKenzie (Ouida Maedel) of Mount Rainier, Md.; grandchildren, Jeremy Davis Sandercock, Gabriel Miles McKenzie and Hannah McKenzie, Bridget Murray (Robert), Kyle Tracy, Shawn McDonald Tracy, Nicole Tracy-Ventura (Paul Harsch); and great grandchildren, Caitlin, Logan, Jack, Erica, Max and Evie; sisters Laura Auvil (Ken) and Louise Cadwallader; brother Steve Davis (Mary Jane) along with beloved nieces and nephews.

Memorials may be made in honor of Tish McKenzie to Davis & Elkins College Theatre Program, Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro's Community Grants Program, Greensboro Urban Ministry Pathways Shelter or Southern Poverty Law Center. Online condolences may be made at Hanes Lineberry North Elm Chapel is serving the McKenzie family.


No public services are scheduled at this time. Receive a notification when services are updated.


Patricia Davis McKenzie

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James Van Gundy

April 13, 2021

Judy and I were so saddened when we read of Tish's passing in the Elkins Intermountain today. What a wonderful life she led and how many there are that loved her and will remember her with great fondness. We all, Judy and I and Doug and Susan, have many fond memories of the whole McKenzie family and our days together at D&E.

Karen Riley

April 6, 2021

Tish will be greatly missed. She was a wonderful person and we have many fond memories of her. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family.

Karen (Salisbury) & Rusty Riley
Clarksville, NY 12041

Bob Martin

April 5, 2021

Shawn and family,

You have Lou Ann and my deepest sympathies for your loss. We will keep you all in our thoughts and prayers.

Bob and Lou Ann Martin