Kathy Baley Atkinson

kathy atkinson

April 7, 1948 ~ February 28, 2024

Born in: Asheville, NC
Resided in: Asheville, NC

Kathy Baley Atkinson passed away peacefully at home with her loyal dog, Teddy, by her side on February 28, 2024. Kathy was born in Asheville, NC, on April 7, 1948, to James M. Baley, Jr., and Diana Chandley Baley.

Kathy lived in Marshall, NC, during her early years, attending school on the island there until the third grade. The basement of the school was flooded routinely during those years which caused some excitement for the kids. She enjoyed happy years with her older brother, Jim, playing in the woods and trails adjacent to their home at the lower end of town, sometimes riding their broomstick horses, Little Billy and Big Billy. Their father took them to school and each day they would walk home together.

In January of 1957 the family moved to Asheville after their grandfather, James M. Baley, Sr., whom had lived with the family for several years prior, passed away. Kathy fondly remembered times listening to programs with her grandfather during the period he lived with the family in Marshall. For Kathy the move to Asheville came half-way through her third-grade year. At Grace School in north Asheville she immediately made an entirely new set of friends whom remained with her until she graduated from Lee Edwards High School in 1966. Kathy’s school years in Asheville were happy and quite successful. She was an excellent student and she and her friends enjoyed a lot of fun times together. She was a cheerleader in high school and near the top of her large graduating class. Kathy had an outgoing personality and was always doing things with her friends.

After graduation from Lee Edwards, she began college at St. Mary’s Junior College in Raleigh, a girls school where she made many lifelong friends. Her time at St. Mary’s was very important to her. She transferred in her junior year to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and graduated from there in June of 1970 with a B.A. degree in Secondary Education-English. After that she came home to Asheville for a couple of years and taught English and Mathematics at St. Genevieve/Gibbons Hall. Kathy discovered teaching was not to be her calling. She was drawn to the law, as many in her family have been. She studied to become a paralegal in Philadelphia in 1973.

Kathy decided it was time to leave Asheville and moved to Atlanta where she spent the next nine years working as a paralegal in the Commercial Real Estate Section for a large law firm there. She decided she would prefer being a lawyer over working for one. She left the law firm and went to Emory University School of Law, graduating with a J.D. degree in May 1985 and becoming a licensed member of the Georgia Bar that same year.

She then worked as an attorney for another law firm as an associate for two years before joining Metropolitan Life Insurance Company as an attorney in their Commercial Real Estate section, where she worked for the rest of her career before retiring as Assistant General Counsel for Met Life at the age of 60. At Met she supervised and reviewed the legal documents involved when clients borrowed money from Met to finance transactions including the purchase and leasing of shopping centers, apartment complexes and many other kinds of large transactions throughout the United States.

Kathy married Tyrus R. Atkinson, Jr. in 1978. Ty was an attorney in Atlanta, whom she met during lunches with her Aunt Deane who also worked in downtown Atlanta. Ty always seemed to be at the same restaurant at the same time and eventually conversations began. They enjoyed many happy years together until his death in 2013.

They enjoyed an active life with friends they knew both locally and from their extensive travels and time spent in other places. They made many trips to all sections of Europe. Ty especially enjoyed learning the history of each place and he thoroughly examined each castle he could find in all the countries he visited. Kathy was a patient listener and enjoyed hearing his enthusiasm in talking about what they were seeing. They also visited each summer with one of Kathy’s friends from St. Mary’s at the friend’s villa in Italy.

After their retirement they left Atlanta and split their time between Santa Rosa Beach, FL, and Asheville. Golf was a big part of their lives in both places. They enjoyed tremendous friendships and had great fun with trips and cruises to Europe continuing unabated. They had great times talking with each other about all the issues of the day and the history and cultures of the places they visited. Throughout Kathy’s life holidays played an important role, the Christmas season in particular being a time of year she loved.

Kathy leaves behind her brother, James M. Baley, III, and nephews, John W. Baley (Laura) and James W. Baley (Kit). Kathy was very generous and enjoyed spending time with her grand-niece, Ava Baley, and her grand-nephews, Drew and Myron Jack Baley. She is also survived by her sister-in-law, Marilyn Bollinger. She shared a very special bond with Teddy, her little dachshund, who was her constant companion and guard dog.

Kathy did not suffer fools and excelled at everything she put her mind to. She was a trailblazing attorney when it was not easy to be a woman in the legal profession. She was a wonderful daughter, sister, wife, aunt, great-aunt, and friend. Her family will forever treasure their memories of Kathy’s sharp wit, keen mind, warm heart, and talent for speaking directly to the truth of a matter. She will be fondly remembered and sorely missed.

The family would like to express their sincerest appreciation for Lillian Davis, who was Kathy’s constant friend and companion in the past several years.

A memorial service for Kathy will be held at 3:00 p.m. on Saturday, March 9, 2024, in the main sanctuary at First Baptist Church of Asheville, 5 Oak Street, Asheville, NC 28801, with the Rev. Dr. Buddy Corbin officiating. The service will be livestreamed from Kathy’s Facebook account beginning at 2:45 p.m. on Saturday. Kathy will be buried in the family plot at Pritchard Cemetery in Marshall.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Kathy’s memory to The Masonic Home for Children at Oxford, Inc., 600 College Street, Oxford, NC 27565, where her mother spent nine of her childhood years.


Memorial Service: March 9, 2024 3:00 pm

First Baptist Church of Asheville
5 Oak Street
Asheville, NC 28801


Private Burial:

Pritchard Cemetery

Marshall, NC

Funeral Home Assisting The Family:

Groce Funeral Home at Lake Julian
72 Long Shoals Road
Arden, NC 28704


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  1. condolences to the family and friends. kathy was our neighbor in santa rosa beach,and though we knew her for just a short while, she did endear herself to us on a regular basis. when she saw our michigan license plates she was fearful that we were in opposite political camps. once we alleviated that fear, she became a regular guest at cocktail hour, arriving with her white wine in hand and ready to discuss any and all matters of good and evil.. i loved her spunk, no holes barred. we corresponded irregularly once she moved as she wanted to be in on any news of the “hood”. rest in peace, dear kathy…

  2. Jim, Sending condolences to you and your family. I am fortunate to have been one of Kathy’s math students at St Genevieve’s before she realized it was not her calling! Rest in Peace.

  3. Dear Jim, My heart goes out to you and your family during this difficult time…
    It meant a lot to me to hear your stories about Kathy at her memorial service. I’d like to share with you my story about why Kathy was special to me…

    When Kathy and I first met, it was the year 1960, at David Millard Jr. High in Asheville. We were both 12 years old, sitting next to each other in Mrs. McMahan’s Core class, three hours each morning of Language arts and History.

    After living in Swannanoa for the previous four years, I thought Asheville was a big city. I didn’t know any one here and I was so scared that one of my teachers referred to me as a “china doll.”

    It wasn’t long though before Kathy took me under her wing and helped me feel at home. I was not alone any more. After that we were always together it seemed …for the next six years! That suited me fine. Even though we were different – she was outgoing and I was shy – we had a lot in common. We both loved our families, making straight A’s, home economics, and …parties!

    If I could describe our friendship in a literary way, I would say it was like “the city bird meets the country bird.” She was the “city bird,” of course.

    Those were happy years for me. After high school though, our paths diverged and we were never in the same life arena again. Our city and country natures affected our choices in career and life style, but it was always fun to see her at our reunions. I was looking forward to seeing her again soon when I heard the sad news of her passing.

    At her memorial service, knowing Kathy, I could imagine her wrapping her
    wings around everyone, saying “Everything’s going to be alright. Let’s be happy!”

    Well, it may take awhile to do that, Kathy, because we miss you … but we’ll try.

    Actually, after the service was over and everyone was milling around, I did hear the laughter of the grandchildren breaking out from time to time … and that made me smile … maybe they heard her, too.

    Thank you for those happy years, Kathy. Thank you for being such a wonderful friend to me.


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