Leslie W. Vanhook

Staff Reports • Dec 18, 2017 at 1:33 PM

Funeral services for Mr. Vanhook will be Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2017 at 1 p.m. at Ligon & Bobo Funeral Home with Brother Matthew Meridieth officiating. Interment will follow at Wilson County Memorial Gardens. Visitation will be Tuesday from 3-7 p.m. and Wednesday after noon at Ligon & Bobo.

Pallbearers will be Bill Badger, Mike Bright, Tommy Spivey, Tommy Jones, Tony Kelley and Tinker Kelley.

Mr. Vanhook, age 92, of Lebanon, passed away Saturday, Dec. 16, 2017 at Lebanon Health & Rehab.

Born Sept. 9, 1925 in Wilson County, he is the son of the late Frank and Pauline Rice Vanhook. At the age of 7, he started Leeville School, where he attended for three and a half years, at which time his family moved to town and he attended McClain School. When he was very young, he would go to work with his dad and learned the carpentry trade. After he was old enough to drive, he got a job delivering groceries from Lea’s Market, which was on East Main Street. After doing this for two years, he was promoted and he got to help in their butcher shop. While working at Lea’s Market, he met a young lady who worked as a telephone operator in the phone company next to the market by the name of Mildred Dedman. After a brief courtship of a little more than six months, he proposed to her in front of the old Lebanon Bank, which was located on the town square after they had attended a movie. They were married Oct. 6, 1945; he was 20, and she was 19. In the late 1940s, he had a band, the Silver Star Roundup Band, and they played at many places in the area, including live on WCOR radio station in Lebanon. When he was of age, he started his own business as a contractor, building both residential and commercial properties. In 1963, he was contacted by the county school superintendent and asked to teach the trade and industry class at Lebanon High School, which he did until 1972. His classes would complete one house a year, and it would be sold at auction, and the proceeds would be used the next year to build another. Many of his students went on to work in the trade. While teaching, he started framing pictures on the side, and when he left the school, he opened a retail picture framing business, Leslie’s Art House. Throughout this time, he worked at the radio station, eight years as a country disc jockey, and for 28 years, he had the Lighthouse Gospel Program on Sunday afternoons. For two years, he also had a gospel program on the local cable television. He also built the first miniature golf course in Wilson County, operating it for many years on Highway 231 South. He was a member of Fairview Baptist Church, where he had served in many capacities, including as music director, Sunday school teacher and sang in the choir. For many years, he sang at countless weddings, revivals and funerals. He also was a member of the Fiddlers Grove Woodcarvers. He designed and built the log home that he still lived in, along with all the barns, outbuildings, shop and even a working gristmill, in which he ground corn meal for more than 25 years. 

In addition to his parents, he was preceded in death by his wife of 68 years, Mildred Dedmon Vanhook on Dec. 9, 2013; three sisters, Ruby Lanius, Lillian Apple, Jean Allison Edwards; and four brothers, Horace, John Richard, J.C. and Robert Leon Vanhook. 

A lifelong accomplished artist, songwriter, singer and musician, he was best known for his mule paintings, which he had prints made and sold to people all over the United States, including Cracker Barrel. He also was a woodcarver and sculptor.  Some of this work included birds, horses, mules, Biblical figures, cowboys, historical people, and, in later years, he began building trains, carriages, wagons and buggies out of many different species of wood. Up until the day he had his stroke, he was doing what he loved most, creating, whether it be out of a piece of wood, playing his guitar and singing a song or painting a beautiful picture. After the stroke took the use of his hands, his desire to work never went away. While in rehab, he decided to write a book, and with the help of a friend, he became an author, publishing “The Life and Art of Les Vanhook, His Fascination with Wood and Watercolor.” Over the years, he recorded numerous gospel songs in his studio at his home, many of which he sang more than one part and also played the music. His life and work was featured in several publications and also on Tennessee Crossroads.

Recently when asked what he enjoyed doing most of all during his life, his answer was “I like to see something come out of something that ain’t nothing.” 

He is survived by his son, Rusty Vanhook; three grandchildren, Alex and Annabelle Vanhook and James Vaughn; brother, Fred (Faye) Vanhook; and numerous nieces and nephews.

Special thanks are extended to the entire staff of Lebanon Health & Rehab for their loving care.

Ligon & Bobo Funeral Home in Lebanon is in charge of arrangements, 615-444-2142, ligonbobo.com.

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