Christine Steele Echols, 77, of Brunswick, Ga., passed away June 10, 2017, at Southeast Georgia Health System, surrounded by her loving family. She was born on March 29, 1940, in Maryville, Tenn. Chris attended College of Coastal Georgia, formerly known as Brunswick Junior College.
A resident of Glynn County for 59 years, she worked at Southern Bell during the golden age of the 1950s as a switchboard operator connecting phone calls by asking each caller “number, please.” Her proudest professional accomplishment was being the first female employee at the Georgia State Patrol where she served as a radio operator and later a license examiner in the 1970s. She turned heads in the early 1970s as a woman driving State Patrol cruisers around coastal Georgia, an uncommon sight at the time. Chris left the State Patrol to care for her family, but shortly thereafter managed meals for inmates as the sheriff’s wife in McIntosh County during the 1980s and early 1990s. She completed her professional career in the hospitality industry on Jekyll Island.
Chris was the matriarch of the family and affectionately referred to as the “Steel Magnolia” and “Nonnie” to her grandchildren. A fiercely independent Southern woman in the tradition of Scarlett O’Hara who did things her way, often beginning conversations with “honey, how are you” but sometimes ending them with “hush your mouth” if someone strayed off course.
Chris considered her family to be the greatest accomplishment in her life, completely devoting herself to them. She was a loving and selfless wife, mother and grandmother. Her smile could light up a room and she was the ultimate storyteller, especially when telling family stories from growing up in Tennessee.
Chris was well known for her love of Elvis, Auburn football — particularly beating Alabama and history of the Golden Isles. She had a passion for reading, and her hobbies included spending time on St. Simons and Jekyll, gardening, cooking, politics, entertaining and most importantly, being with family. She considered herself a patriot and loved the armed forces since all of her brothers were war veterans.
Chris is preceded in death by her parents, Joseph and Key Steele; brothers, Joseph Steele, Don W. Steele and Bud Steele; sister, Francis Stroud of Maryville, Tenn.; as well as two children, Alice and Jeff Swaney, of Brunswick, Ga.
She is survived by her devoted husband of 42 years, Lamar Echols Sr. of Brunswick, Ga. In addition to her husband, she is survived by two children, her daughter, Lisa and her husband, David Cichan, of Charlotte, N.C.; and her son, Lamar and his wife, Rachel Echols, of Arlington, Va.; as well as three grandchildren, Alex and Christian Cichan of Charlotte, and Elise Echols of Arlington.
The family is grateful for the care provided by Dr. Mitchell Jones and the nurses and staff at Southeast Georgia Health System. In addition, the family is grateful to all of her friends who provided loving support, especially Rudine McDonald, Francis Owens and Nadine Moon.
A visitation will be held from 6-8 p.m. June 15 at Edo Miller and Sons Funeral Home.
A celebration of her life will be held at 11 a.m. June 16 at Jekyll Island Baptist Chapel on Jekyll Island, Ga. The Rev. Jim Crandall will officiate the service. Interment will follow the service in Palmetto Cemetery. David Cichan, Alex Cichan, Christian Cichan, Walter Caldwell, Craig Self, and Robert Head will serve as pallbearers. Honorary pallbearers include Don W. Steele Jr., Franklin Steele, Joey Steele, Jack Smith and Steve Bryant.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Peace Officers Association of Georgia, P.O. Box 1040, Reidsville, GA 30453, in memory of Chris Echols.
Arrangements are in the care of Edo Miller Funeral Home, www.edomillerandsons.com.