Laura Austin (1-31-17) service 3-11-17

Laura Ione Martin Austin, age 83, retired business woman, died Tuesday, Jan. 31, after suffering a stroke.
Family, friends and volunteering were her passion. Laura often spoke of her long life as a gift granted to her so she could support and be here for her family, especially the great-grandchildren. She was no stranger to giving back in all areas of her life. In addition to having been a perennial room mother, scout leader, dance coach, cheerleader, babysitter and event organizer for her family, Laura was a three time winner of the McWherter Senior Center “Volunteer of the Year,” recipient of the Exchange Club of Memphis “Golden Deed of the Year” award, a five year Service Core of Retired Executives volunteer counselor, and while president of MidSouth Exporters Roundtable was instrumental in obtaining an organizational “President’s E-Award” from President George Bush. Laura served as vice-president for BiWOOD International, Inc., on the Board of Directors for the World Trade Club, and was the principal of Austin Associates, a consulting firm.
Perhaps her favorite volunteer work was with seniors and dance. Having been a dancer most of her life and invited to teach line dancing in and out of state, Laura was able to share her love of dance and help so many older, lonely people become active, involved, make friends, get exercise and begin looking forward to life by founding The Tennessee Twisters, a line dance organization for seniors. She taught free of charge at McWherter Senior Center, Pickering Center, Asbury United Methodist and other venues. Laura never accepted payment, and donated any proceeds to the church or center.
As a group, the Tennessee Twisters performed at nursing homes, schools and festivals, even once making an appearance on a nationally syndicated show. Even though the average age in the troop was 68 years old, they danced like pros due to Laura’s instruction. While director of the Tennessee Twisters, Laura organized the first county wide, line dance festivals, which united all area line dance instructors and invited participation from surrounding state clubs and their instructors. This very successful tradition has continued since Laura’s retirement as director.
Laura loved dancing so much that she often joked that she immediately married the best dancer she’d ever met. Laura won many dance competitions in her life as an amateur and pro. She also rolled her way to the Memphis Bowling Association Women’s Handicap Champion and competitive placements in Senior Volleyball and ski jumping in her youth.
While always active, Laura was an avid reader and watercolorist. Her paintings have been hung in galleries and won first place at the MidSouth Fair. A multi-talented woman, Laura remained fascinated by life and its opportunities. She shared a love of her church with her husband and was a frequent volunteer in a Christian ministry for adults with special needs.
She is survived by James Austin, her husband of 34 years; two daughters, Lori Clark and Debra Dixon; a brother Michael Martin and his wife Marion; her son-in-law, Wayne Dixon; her grandchildren, Bill Dixon, Rob Smith, Rachel Clark, Shelby and Joel McGartlin; as well as the great-grandchildren she adored, Camden Clark, John David Clark, Ella McGartlin and Aiden Dobbins. She is also survived by two stepsons, Joseph and Jim Austin Jr., their wives Stacy and Karey; ten step-grandchildren and two stepgreat-grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held at Forest Hill Funeral Home East, in Memphis, on Saturday, March 11, at 2 p.m. Visitation begins at 1 p.m.
The family requests that expressions of sympathy take the form of contributions to Friends of Faith at 4210 Alturia Rd. Suite 118, Bartlett, Tenn.  38135.

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