Thomas “Tom” Edward Orr

February 6, 1939 - January 3, 2021
Thomas “Tom” Edward Orr

Gifts & Memorial Donations

Thomas Edward Orr, “Tom”, age 81, died on January 3, 2021, at Pardee Hospital in Hendersonville following a brief and sudden illness. Tom was a native of Hendersonville born on February 6, 1939. He was the son of Edward Rickman Orr and Alva O’Briant Orr and the brother to the late Patricia Orr Mebane and David Rickman “Rick” Orr. He is survived by his sister in law, Carole Beck Orr and nieces Ashley Orr Self and Diana Mebane McHenry and nephews David Rickman Orr Jr, Scott Mebane, and Mark Mebane. Tom was a graduate of Hendersonville High School in 1957 and received his degree in Education from UNC-Chapel Hill followed by a master’s degree from Western Carolina University.
Tom was a dedicated teacher of English and Theater at Hendersonville High School for 32 years. His dedication is best described from a prestigious teaching award he received, The Parker Award, from UNC. He was described as “a young man whose training and experience in theatre arts may have taken him to the professional theatre world or to one of the nation’s major universities to teach, but chose to put his skill to work as a high-school teacher in his home-town.” His students have thanked him for giving them life-changing inspiration and challenging them to do great things in life and taking risks to achieve it. His love for teaching drama and English instilled that same love in those he taught.
There are many prestigious awards and positions that he held during his teaching career. President of the Educational Theatre Association, president of the Southern Theatre Conference, state director of the North Carolina Thespian Society, president of the North Carolina Theatre, finalist for the North Carolina teacher of the year, Outstanding Teacher-Mentor award from the NC School of Mathematics and Science, Outstanding Teacher of Drama/Production and Design from NC School of the Arts, Presidents Award from the Educational Theatre Association, the John Parker award from UNC-Chapel Hill, the Stanton H. Proctor Award for Teaching Excellence from Western Carolina, president of the Educational Theatre Association and a founder of the Hendersonville Little Theatre.
After retiring from teaching in the classroom, Tom served on the Board of Public Education as chairman, the board of trustees of Flat Rock Playhouse, chairman of the Boys and Girls Clubs program, was on Blue Ridge Community Colleges board of trustees, chairman of the Historic Courthouse Centennial Committee, was inducted to the Hendersonville High School Hall of fame, and initiated and directed the Messiah production at First Baptist Church. Tom wrote weekly columns for the Times-News sharing history from Henderson County since 2009. He was instrumental in the founding of the Walk of Fame that honors Henderson County residents who were notable citizens.
Another joy later in Tom’s life was being a great Uncle to Briant Self, Alva Self, and Jacob Thomas Self of whom he was named after. He was proud of their accomplishments and took great interest in their lives.
The family will hold a public celebration service at a later date this year. In lieu of flowers, please donate to the scholarship fund to the HHS Alumni Association in memory of Thomas E. Orr. It can be mailed to,

1 Bearcat Blvd
Hendersonville, NC

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  • January 17, 2023
    Jenna says:
    Dearest Mr Orr and all who loved you. I was so sad to hear you passed. You were such an inspiration to me and the times we shared I will treasure. I remember meeting you in 1992 and you heard me sing and said you would live to see me in the chorus and drama and your words are why my high school experience was so wonderful. You always believed in us kids and you taught us so much. I remember seeing you well into my adulthood around town and you always stopped to say hello, and give a special word. I will never forget you, thank you for so many years of memories, I will cherish them all the days of my life. Love Jenna Collins

  • January 10, 2021
    Bill Stokes HHS Class of 1981 says:
    Mr. Orr had a woven Thoreau quote hanging on his wall when I was in school: “If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.” I am so glad the music he heard kept him in our community for so many years. RIP, good sir. Godspeed!

  • January 10, 2021
    Alyson Reim Friedman says:
    He referred to me fondly as his “impudent hussy”, a nod to My Fair Lady - our senior play. I played Eliza Doolittle under his direction. He supported and honed my acting training in high school. We participated in many one act festivals statewide and those experiences gave me a foundation on which I still continue to build on. He remained a friend and cheerleader - always encouraging. I will hold on to his memory forever and I am so grateful he was one of my mentors. I will miss him deeply.

  • January 11, 2021
    Felicia Williams says:
    Mr. Orr was the best teacher I ever had. He would challenge me to do the right thing and even force me to be in a play. He was and always will be the BEST.

  • January 11, 2021
    Johnny Gibbs HHS class of '69 says:
    Mr.Orr was a standout during my high school years as well as afterwards. Always took time to stop and chat about anything and everything. We have lost a true champion and Bearcat, much too soon.