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1936 Hansel 2024

Hansel Lavoy Cantrell

May 22, 1936 — April 17, 2024

McMinnville, Tennessee


Mr. Hansel Lavoy Cantrell, 87, of McMinnville, Tennessee passed away on Wednesday, April 17, 2024. He was born to the late Thomas Pleas and Ressie Frances (Cope) Cantrell on Friday, May 22, 1936 in their hometown of Smithville, Tennessee. It didn't take long for Mrs. Ressie to determine that Hansel was going to be Thomas, Jr. His mannerisms and hobbies aligned with his father's, and Hansel quickly grew into those shoes.

Growing up in Dekalb County, Hansel thrived with his merry nature and outgoing personality. His amicability and carefree ways made him a likeable person, and he never did meet a stranger. Even so, he was born in the middle of the Great Depression, so life couldn't be all fun and games for little Hansel. He learned quickly to work just as hard as he played.

Hansel left school as a ripe preteen ready to work and help his family. Thomas and Ressie got just shy of 10 years of work out of Hansel before he answered the Nation's call just shy of his 21st birthday. Hansel joined the U.S. Air Force on March 12, 1957 and made longer journeys from Dekalb County than he'd ever imagined. After 4 years of honorable service and attaining the rank of Airman 2nd Class, Hansel received his discharge from active duty on January 9, 1961 at McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey and made a beeline for home.

His service must have solidified his love for Dekalb County because the furthest away he endeavored to live after that was Warren County. And once he got back to Tennessee, he hit the ground running where he had left off — working and having fun. Hansel didn't let Vietnam change the big kid he was at heart, but the military definitely added to his work ethic. For about 3 years, he ran a service station during the day and worked on the line at Carrier at night. 

Burning the candle at both ends didn't slow Hansel down one lick. Whether he was at work or at home, he was working on something. He made sure he provided for his family financially and then by doing projects around the house. A fine shade tree mechanic, Hansel could cobble together just about anything and get it to run. Striving to recreate that relationship he had with his own father, Hansel about had his children convinced that there wasn't anything Daddy couldn't do.

In his earlier years, Hansel found solace out riding horses. He must have had a place in his heart for the underdog because most of his horses over the years were mutts. However, he did have some Spotted Saddle Horses that he kept for about 20 years. It wasn't until he got older that he decided to trade in the horses for a fishing pole. His spot was out at a pond on Pea Ridge near his home, but even retired, Hansel didn't slow down on working around the house.

At the age of 84, Hansel had an accident busting wood, breaking his ribs and even puncturing his lung. Knowing how stubborn he was, you'd reckon he would have finished busting and then called someone. Not one to be big on having a doctor involved, Hansel decided to hold off on the calling someone part for a bit, but eventually, his ear got to hurting, so he let his children know and agreed to go to the doctor. His grit, self-reliance, and determination were forged in the droughts of the Great Depression and the firing of the Air Force. 

There are so many stories that will go untold and experiences that will go unspoken, but Hansel wouldn't have wanted any commiseration. Instead, he would have wanted his kids to remember the fun they had together and, of course, to keep believing that Daddy could do anything. 

In addition to his parents, Hansel was preceded in death by his daughter, Donna Harris; brothers, Willard Cantrell, Wallon (Marth Sue) Cantrell, and Larkin Cantrell; and son-in-law, Donnie Howard. 

He is survived by his daughter, Sherry Howard of Sparta; sons, Steve (Robbie) Cantrell and Charlie (Deborah) Cantrell both of McMinnville; son-in-law, Michael Harris; sisters-in-law, Reba Cantrell and Jean Cantrell; granddaughter, Kaitlyn (Cody) Seal; and great grandchildren, Cora, Ezra, Rue, and Damon Seal.

The family will hold private services to lay their father to rest.

Share memories and condolences at Gentry-Smith Funeral Home, 303 Murfreesboro Rd. Woodbury, TN 37190, 615-563-5337 Because every life has a story

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Hansel Lavoy Cantrell, please visit our flower store.

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