'Modest' Knoxville Woman Leaves $6.7 Million to Charity

Nadine Brantley Dempster, a Knoxville resident who lived "modestly," has left an estate valued at $6.7 million to eight charities, seven of them in eastern Tennessee.

Before her death in 2012 at the age of 93, Dempster established a trust that will award each of the eight groups $770,000. "This is huge," said Ann Buttry, fiscal director of the Humane Society of the Tennessee Valley, one of the eight groups named in Dempster's bequest. "The past several years...donations have been down....We want to invest this to make sure it will be around for years to come. This will help sustain the society so we are not begging every day." Six of the other recipients — East Tennessee Children's Hospital, Emerald Avenue United Methodist Church in Knoxville, the InterFaith Health Clinic, the Knoxville Zoo, the Holston United Methodist Home for Children in Greeneville, and Bachman Academy in McDonald — are local, while the other recipient, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, is in New York City.

An animal lover and committed Christian, Nadine Brantley grew up on Knoxville's Oldham Avenue, a street over from Emerald Avenue United Methodist Church, where she worshipped her entire life. Her father, Daniel Milton Brantley, worked in a textile mill. After high school, she became a stenographer at Ashe Hosiery Mill and then at Dempster Brothers — the inventors of the Dempster Dumpster — in Knoxville, where she met Robert Dempster. The two married in 1951 and had a child, Jane, who died in 2009 at the age of 51. Robert Dempster passed away in 1969.

"She was very pleasant, very gentle," said Steve Diggs, executive director of Emerald Avenue Youth Foundation. "She lived a very modest life. Because of the company her family was associated with, you recognized she might have some money but really didn't know from her lifestyle. She was one of those ladies who quietly went through life caring about others."