Matriarch of Chaffin Family, of Barn Dinner Theatre Fame, Dies in Nashville

Matriarch of Chaffin Family, of Barn Dinner Theatre Fame, Dies in Nashville

Edna Lou Neblett Chaffin-perhaps better known to members of Nashville's theater community as "Puny"-one-half of the couple who created the internationally renowned Barn Dinner Theatre that ultimately became Chaffin's Barn Dinner Theatre, died Monday, December 10, after a long illness.

Mrs. Chaffin, who with her husband A.W. Chaffin, established The Barn Dinner Theatre as the first professional theatrical venue in Music City USA, was also the founder of Nashville's first daycare center: The Play Pen.

According to her published obituary, Mrs. Chaffin's "final days were spent surrounded by family and friends that she had touched in some small way. Her gentle smile, tiny fingers and sweet sense of humor brought so much joy to everyone."

Mrs. Chaffin was born November 21, 1922 in Palmyra, Tennessee, the youngest of 13 children. She was preceded in death by her parents William Robert Lee Neblett and Annie Lou McCauley Neblett. Her grandmother, Ophelia Harper, was a member of the Cherokee nation and a distant cousin of Pocahontas.

Mrs. Chaffin attended Clarksville High School and Austin Peay State University.

She is survived by Asberry "John" Warden Chaffin, her husband of 70 years; her daughter Sherry Einwag (and son-in-law Don Einwag); her son John Perry Chaffin (and daughter-in-law Janie Chaffin, who are now the owners of Chaffin's Barn Dinner Theatre); and her son Scotty Chaffin. She is also survived by six grandchildren, eight great-grandchildren and three great, great-grandchildren.

An active member of Pasquo Church of Christ, Mrs. Chaffin enjoyed traveling and reading. "Although she was so tiny and petite," according to her official obituary, "she gave us all such courage and hope and reminded us of the preciousness of life."

A life celebration service will be at 2 p.m. on Wednesday, December 12, at Harpeth Hills Funeral Home with Marc Jones officiating. Burial will follow at Harpeth Hills Memory Gardens. Visitation is set for 4 to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, and 11 a.m.-2 p.m. on Wednesday at Harpeth Hills Funeral Home, 9090 Highway 100, Nashville.

Pictured: A.W. and Edna 'Puny' Chaffin

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Jeffrey Ellis Jeffrey Ellis is a Nashville-based writer, editor and critic, who's been covering the performing arts in Tennessee for more than 25 years. He is the recipient of the Tennessee Theatre Association's Distinguished Service Award for his coverage of theatre in the Volunteer State and was the founding editor/publisher of Stages, the Tennessee Onstage Monthly. He is a past fellow of the National Critics Institute at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre Center and is the founder/executive producer of The First Night Honors, held during Labor Day Weekend, which honor oustanding theater artists in Tennessee in recognition of their lifetime achievements and includes The First Night Star Awards and the Most Promising Actors. Midwinter's First Night, held the first Sunday in January after New Year's Day, honors outstanding productions and performances throughout the state. Further, Ellis directed the Nashville premiere of La Cage Aux Folles, The Last Night of Ballyhoo and An American Daughter, as well as award-winning productions of Damn Yankees, Company, Gypsy and The Rocky Horror Show, with Ellis honored by The Tennessean as best director of a musical for both Company and Rocky Horror.


 
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