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Hampton Louise Wilkey

September 30, 1924 — January 6, 2024

Calera

Born September 30, 1924 in Jacksonville, Florida, Hampton Louise “Lou” Jungemann Miller Wilkey passed at age 99 on January 6, 2024 in Maryville, Tennessee.

“I’ve had fun,” Lou often said about her life. In 1942, her favorite dance partner, Earl Wilkey,   proposed before they graduated from Woodlawn High School in Birmingham, Alabama, and he enlisted in the Navy. She enrolled in college at Montevallo but left because attending an all-girls’ school “just wasn’t interesting.” After quitting an office job (“It was okay, but I was bored”), she and a friend headed to California by train to return Earl’s engagement ring. The trip, which continued up and down the west coast, ignited her wanderlust.

Lou had never been on a plane, but Capital Airlines hired her as a stewardess. Her flight to the training center in Washington, D.C. was cancelled due to stormy weather, so she took a train and arrived on the day classes started. After four weeks, she boarded a plane for the first time, a DC-3, only 20 minutes before her 21 passengers arrived.

“I’ve never flown before,” a passenger said, and she burst out, “Neither have I!” She was so nervous that she could only remember two drink orders at a time. That year, she rushed to serve hot coffee and hand-scooped ice cream without spilling them onto the passengers who balanced trays on lap pillows during often turbulent flights. Then Capital introduced the 60-passenger DC-4 and added a second stewardess to help serve breakfast, lunch, coffee, and dinner on the 30-60 min legs of Lou’s new route between New York, Pittsburgh, Knoxville, and New Orleans. During layovers, the stewardesses modeled high-end fashion for department stores.

In 1951 Lou married Capital/United Airlines Captain Frank C. Miller, based in New Orleans, and retired from flying. They had four children before he died in 1980. Never one to sit still, she and her widowed sister vowed to see as much of the world as they could before their “dancing on the table tops” days ended. They took off for Australia, New Zealand, China, Thailand, Hungary, Germany, and the Czech Republic—and then Earl returned.

At 81, Lou ran into Earl at a high school reunion and married him 63 years after he had first proposed. They lived in Calera, Alabama until his death at age 90.

Lou is survived by her children, Kathryn Slover, Alyson Miller, Mary Elizabeth “Betsy” (Glenn) Midtbo, Frank C. Miller, Jr., and her grandchildren Gregory Midtbo, Kevin Midtbo, Madeleine Gallagher (Ben), C. Logan Landrum, IV, and Wade Landrum. She was predeceased by her parents Hampton Mary (née Pound) and Henry W. Jungemann, her sister Elyse (George) Van Dyke, and her son-in-law William “Smokey” Slover. The family is holding a private memorial service in her honor. Smith Funeral and Cremation Service, Maryville, 865-983-1000, www.SmithFuneralandCremation.com.

 

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