Columbia resident Tatie Payne, businesswoman and mother, dies at 91

Thursday, July 3, 2014 | 6:46 p.m. CDT; updated 10:26 a.m. CDT, Friday, July 4, 2014

COLUMBIA —When Tatie Payne moved to Chicago with her husband in 1948, she had ambitions to work at the Chicago Tribune.

But the Tribune told her, "we don't hire women in the newsroom," her son Taylor Payne said, and she was rejected.

She took matters into her own hands, later founding a well-known real estate business in Columbia, raising four children and volunteering for Calvary Episcopal Church.

"My mother was one of those people who was probably ahead of her time," her daughter, Ann Cleek, said. "If there was any adversity, she just said, 'I will deal with it. I will carry on.'" 

Frances Taylor "Tatie" Payne of Columbia died Tuesday, July 1, 2014. She was 91.

She was born May 3, 1923, in Roanoke, Va., to William and Frances Taylor. She married Thomas Payne on Oct. 8, 1948.

In 1934, Mrs. Payne moved to Columbia with her parents and older sister, Nancy Taylor. There she met Thomas Payne, and the two remained friends throughout childhood. They both attended Hickman High School, where, as a freshman, Mrs. Payne addressed a message in Mr. Payne's senior yearbook "to a real swell kid," their son John Payne said.

The pair went on to attend MU. Mrs. Payne graduated with degrees from the College of Arts and Science and the School of Journalism in 1944.  

She then served with the Red Cross during World War II. Just after the fighting ended, she was in a devastating car crash in Germany and broke multiple bones, including her back and pelvis.

"When the medics arrived, they looked down on her and said, 'That one's not gonna make it,'" John Payne said. "She only survived through sheer will and determination."

She returned to Columbia to recover and to marry her husband. They moved to Chicago for four years after their wedding, but eventually they returned to mid-Missouri, where she became a real estate agent.

"By the time I was 16, she decided she wanted her own company," Cleek said of her mother's career goals. "That was at a time when women just didn't have their own companies. They made good nurses, secretaries, teachers and homemakers."

Tatie Payne Inc. was founded in 1970, five years after Mrs. Payne became a real-estate agent. She was the first woman in Columbia to single-handedly open and own her own real estate company, John Payne said, and she became an early affiliate of Coldwell Banker.

"She had superb leadership ability," said Janet Krause, who worked with Mrs. Payne for more than 20 years. "She had this contagious enthusiasm about her and true charisma. It was a privilege to work for her."

Bill Payne was not only her son, but also her business partner.

"She was good about knowing the little nuances and sharing that," Bill Payne said.

Mrs. Payne was also president of the Women's Council of Realtors, the first female president of the Columbia Board of Realtors and a 10-year member of Centerre Bank's board of directors.

"Mom was a person of the community," Taylor Payne said. "We talk about the business community, social community, bridge community, she was an active member of her church community, too."

During her down time, when possible, Mrs. Payne liked to play bridge with her husband and friends.

"Free time?" Taylor Payne said. "If you're a working mom with four kids, what free time?"

Taylor Payne said his mother spent a lot of her time off planning family vacations. After her children grew up and left the house, she and her husband went on cruises with other bridge players instead.

They shared a marriage of 54 years.

"They were absolutely inseparable," Bill Payne said. "They were each other's best friends — they did everything together and enjoyed it."

"Mom and Dad liked to get together with friends and have a drink, play some cards." Taylor Payne said. He said they spent the last several weeks of her life reminiscing about their vacations.

Even at 89, she continued playing bridge on an iPad, which was a fun side of her to see, Cleek said.

"She loved to have fun, absolutely, in everything she did," John Payne said. "You could just fill up a room with her spirit."

Mrs. Payne died while a visiting minister was praying over her.

"I thought, 'Wow, how blessed,'" Bill Payne said. "It was just a life well-lived."

Mrs. Payne is survived by a daughter, Ann (Payne) Cleek, and her husband, John, of Columbia; three sons, Taylor Payne, and his wife, Jenny, of Evansville, Ind.; Bill Payne, of Columbia; and John Payne, and his partner, Ed Wynne, of San Jose, Costa Rica.

Her husband, Thomas Payne, died earlier.

Services will be at 1 p.m. July 24, at Calvary Episcopal Church, 123 S. Ninth St. A reception will follow at the same location.

Memorial contributions can be made to the Cecile Taylor Sheldon Fund, c/o Kathy Digges, 7 Bingham Road, Columbia, MO 65203; the Kappa Kappa Gamma Alumnae Association, 530 E. Town St., P.O. Box 38 Columbus, Ohio 43216; or the Calvary Episcopal Church, 123 S. Ninth St., Columbia, MO 65201.

Condolences can be posted at Parker Funeral Service and Crematory.

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