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Sumter, SC… Iris Atkinson DuBose, beloved wife of 69 years to the late Robert "Bobby" Caswell DuBose, died on Wednesday, November 8, 2023, at Prisma Health Tuomey. She passed peacefully with full knowledge that she would be joining loved ones in the presence of Jesus Christ. Her faith provided her great comfort, especially in her final days. Her loving daughter Sandra Floyd and granddaughter Samantha Abrams were by her side.
Born in Bishopville, SC in 1934, Iris was the daughter of the late Madison Arthur Atkinson and Sara Poole Atkinson. Iris was the 8th of 9 children. Her early life growing up with seven brothers and one sister in a small farming community most certainly contributed to her fighting spirit, love of family and strong faith. It also taught her to deeply appreciate the simple things in life such as gardening, deep connections with loved ones, and long walks with her friends.
Iris and Bobby met in 1950. As Bobby always said, she was the prettiest girl he'd ever seen and that never changed. Bobby determined in an instant that she was the girl for him and dedicated his life to providing her the best of everything. Her natural elegance and grace evolved as Bobby enjoyed spoiling her with beautiful things. She became well known amongst her friends for her tremendous style. Iris and Bobby dedicated themselves to his 22 year long Air Force career, in large part motivated by their desire to help support their parents.
In 1952, Iris's only child Sandra was born. Sandra would become not just her daughter, but Iris's very best friend. Bobby's military service had the family relocating nearly every year and living in unique and faraway places including Hawaii and Japan. With these moves, Iris and Sandra formed a bond that would carry them through many hardships. They unfailingly supported each other through Iris's last moments here on Earth.
Iris was a masterful homemaker. With every relocation, often on a shoestring budget, she quickly set up a warm, beautiful home and made community connections and dear friends, such as Zane and Francis Bell. In many places, she found meaningful work and volunteer activities with local parishes while Sandra attended school. These roles included caring for others who were in need and often showcased her exquisite style such as working at a dress shop and learning the Hula dance in Hawaii!
The 1970's brought grandchildren, a return to Iris and Bobby's home in South Carolina, and a second career for both of them at S&D Auto. Iris was the quintessential woman of her time, the strong woman behind the successful man. Her personal grace, ability to connect with people from any walk of life, her intellect and her organizational skills kept their very complex and fast-moving business in order. She was not intimidated by the grease, grit, or masculine energy of the shop. She kept Bobby, the mechanics, and the customers running on schedule and the coffee brewing. She could find an auto part, a file, a receipt or a needed phone number in a flash. She gracefully held reluctant debtors accountable and intuitively knew when a struggling family needed compromise. During this time, Iris brought her own ailing mother into her home and provided gentle, loving care for her final years.
Always a dedicated, loving, indulgent grandmother to Samantha and Jason, she became their primary caregiver for several years in the early 1980's so that Sandra could care for her hospitalized husband Sam. Iris stepped into this role without question or qualm. She added to her already busy life with school drop offs, dance classes, t-ball games, and homework. With her usual grace, she balanced the roles of parent and grandparent, always supportive, loving, and so much fun. In the years after Sam's death, she provided the support that Sandra, Samantha, and Jason needed to get their lives back on track, continuing to be a daily chauffeur and frequent chef.
Iris loved to dress up and go out dancing with Bobby and their dear friends. Saturdays were often spent hosting pool parties, couples game nights, and family barbecues. Sundays were always enjoyed with Sunday School, Shaw Heights Baptist Church, and family dinners. Iris demonstrated her faith and dedication to her Church family by attending to people in the hospital, bringing meals, and donating whatever was needed to families in crisis.
The mid 1980's made Randy Floyd her son-in-law and she embraced him completely. His daughters Rhonda and Amanda were the unexpected gift of two additional grandchildren, and she enjoyed buying them pretty dresses and taking them for ice cream.
The 1990s brought Iris and Bobby's retirement to their dream home on Emerald Lake just moments away from Sandra and other family. Having traveled extensively throughout their military career, they primarily enjoyed quiet times gardening and fishing in their lake. Iris was a proud caretaker of her beautiful garden and home. When her first grandson Robert was born in 1998, she gave up the ease of retirement, gardening, and lunches with friends to become his almost a full-time nanny for two years. Over the next 10 years, Iris and Bobby spent countless hours caring for grandsons Robert and Adam, which allowed Samantha to build her career knowing the boys were always in the best of hands. Often, Iris spent weekends attending her great-grandchildren's events and cooking them their favorites: her famous Macaroni & Cheese and her unbeatable Banana Pudding. She also enjoyed vacationing in the mountains, visiting friends from across the globe, and ocean cruises. Her door was always open to family and to friends old and new.
During her last 10 years, Iris brought her indomitable spirit to caring for her husband Bobby. Until the end, she honored his every wish, catered to his needs, and firmly but quietly kept him in line! During this time, she was blessed with five more great grandchildren: Randa, Garrett, Braven, Genevieve and Caroline. Although her own health and her dedication to carrying for Bobby somewhat limited her time with them, she relished every visit, every photo, and every story of her great grands.
Iris is survived by her daughter, Sandra DuBose Floyd and Sandra's husband Randy; four sister in laws: Evelyn Pender Atkinson, Charlotte Atkinson, Jean DuBose Hodge, and Mary DuBose Griffin; four grandchildren: Samantha Maierle Abrams and her husband Steven, Jason Suffoletta and his wife Stephanie, Rhonda Smith and her husband Jody, and Amanda Martin and her husband Daniel; seven great grandchildren: Robert Maierle, Adam Maierle, Randa Smith, Braven Smith, Genevieve Smith, Garrett Whiten Martin, and Caroline Martin: numerous nieces and nephews: especially Lynette Atkinson McKenzie, Glenda Atkinson Ellison, and Kathy Atkinson Guilds; her lifelong friend Zane T. Bell; her beloved church family and friends at Shaw Heights Baptist Church, most especially, Pastor Bob; her dear friend and loving caregiver Minnie Lesane, and her always protective canine companion Precious.
In addition to her husband and parents, she is preceded in death by her son-in-law Sebastian "Sam" Suffoletta, one sister, and seven brothers.
A funeral service will be held on Saturday, November 18, 2023, at 11:00 am in the Bullock Funeral Home Chapel with the Rev. Bob White officiating. The interment will follow the service in the Evergreen Memorial Park Cemetery.
The family will receive friends one hour prior to the service on Saturday, November 18, 2023, from 10:00 – 11:00 am at Bullock Funeral Home.
Memorials may be made to Shaw Heights Baptist Church, 2030 Peach Orchard Road, Sumter, SC 29154 or St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, 332 North Lauderdale, Memphis, TN 38105-2479.
You may go to www.bullockfuneralhome.com to sign the family’s guest book.
The family has chosen Bullock Funeral Home for the arrangements.