Thomas Edward Orr, “Tom”, age 81, died on January 3, 2021, at Pardee Hospital in Hendersonville following a brief and sudden illness. Tom was a native of Hendersonville born on February 6, 1939. He was the son of Edward Rickman Orr and Alva O’Briant Orr and the brother to the late Patricia Orr Mebane and David Rickman “Rick” Orr. He is survived by his sister in law, Carole Beck Orr and nieces Ashley Orr Self and Diana Mebane McHenry and nephews David Rickman Orr Jr, Scott Mebane, and Mark Mebane. Tom was a graduate of Hendersonville High School in 1957 and received his degree in Education from UNC-Chapel Hill followed by a master’s degree from Western Carolina University.
Tom was a dedicated teacher of English and Theater at Hendersonville High School for 32 years. His dedication is best described from a prestigious teaching award he received, The Parker Award, from UNC. He was described as “a young man whose training and experience in theatre arts may have taken him to the professional theatre world or to one of the nation’s major universities to teach, but chose to put his skill to work as a high-school teacher in his home-town.” His students have thanked him for giving them life-changing inspiration and challenging them to do great things in life and taking risks to achieve it. His love for teaching drama and English instilled that same love in those he taught.
There are many prestigious awards and positions that he held during his teaching career. President of the Educational Theatre Association, president of the Southern Theatre Conference, state director of the North Carolina Thespian Society, president of the North Carolina Theatre, finalist for the North Carolina teacher of the year, Outstanding Teacher-Mentor award from the NC School of Mathematics and Science, Outstanding Teacher of Drama/Production and Design from NC School of the Arts, Presidents Award from the Educational Theatre Association, the John Parker award from UNC-Chapel Hill, the Stanton H. Proctor Award for Teaching Excellence from Western Carolina, president of the Educational Theatre Association and a founder of the Hendersonville Little Theatre.
After retiring from teaching in the classroom, Tom served on the Board of Public Education as chairman, the board of trustees of Flat Rock Playhouse, chairman of the Boys and Girls Clubs program, was on Blue Ridge Community Colleges board of trustees, chairman of the Historic Courthouse Centennial Committee, was inducted to the Hendersonville High School Hall of fame, and initiated and directed the Messiah production at First Baptist Church. Tom wrote weekly columns for the Times-News sharing history from Henderson County since 2009. He was instrumental in the founding of the Walk of Fame that honors Henderson County residents who were notable citizens.
Another joy later in Tom’s life was being a great Uncle to Briant Self, Alva Self, and Jacob Thomas Self of whom he was named after. He was proud of their accomplishments and took great interest in their lives.
The family will hold a public celebration service at a later date this year. In lieu of flowers, please donate to the scholarship fund to the HHS Alumni Association in memory of Thomas E. Orr. It can be mailed to,
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