School 17

Garda "Dusty" Marie (Gillen) Tatum

December 10, 1948 ~ March 7, 2024 (age 75) 75 Years Old

Garda "Dusty" Tatum Obituary

Mrs. Garda Marie “Dusty” Tatum, 75, of Eastover, NC, died on March 7, 2024, at Cape Fear Valley Medical Center, Fayetteville, NC, surrounded by her family.

Dusty was the oldest of four children, born December 10, 1948, in Monmouth, IL, to Billy Junior Gillen and Iris Faye Walters Gillen. Her family travelled all over Illinois and Ohio as her father helped build the interstate highway. Dusty began to love learning and to love God at an early age. She cared deeply for her younger siblings and helped her mother care for all of them.

Dusty joined the United States Air Force in 1969 and completed her basic training in San Antonio, Texas. From there, she was stationed at Langley Air Force Base in Hampton, Virginia where she met and married her soulmate, Curt, and began a family. Dusty raised her children while going to school part-time for 12 years. In that time, she sold hand-crafted dolls, worked in radio and television advertising, and advocated for the educational rights of her disabled son. Armed with knowledge of new legislation, fierce determination, and support from the Eastover community, Dusty fought for Curt Jr. to be provided a public education in a mainstream classroom, setting a precedent for others and changing the course of her son’s life.

Dusty continued her education and her fight for the rights of children. She completed her Bachelor of Science degree at Fayetteville State University and began teaching in 1986. She taught at E.E. Smith High School, Pauline Jones Elementary School, and Stedman Junior High School. Dusty embraced the middle school philosophies that were beginning to evolve. Focused on providing effective education through meaningful connections to students, Dusty loved and served her students with devotion. She coached Forensics and Boys Soccer during her time in Stedman. In 1995, Dusty was selected to be a Principal Fellow. She completed her Masters Degree in School Administration in 1997 at Fayetteville State University, becoming a proud two-time Bronco. Dusty served as an Assistant Principal for six years and then Principal of South View Middle School for 8 years. During her time as an educational leader, she advocated for the safety and security of her students and staff. Dusty was an innovative and loving leader who focused on the needs and the dreams of her South View family.

Dusty retired in 2010 and spent her remaining years deepening her faith and investing all that she had in her marriage and her family. Dusty would tell you that the best thing she ever did was care for her children and grandchildren and she was grateful for the opportunity to help raise and care for Matthew and Tatum.

Dusty loved to read, study the Bible, debate politics, laugh, sing and listen to music. Her favorite pastime was riding in the car with Curt talking or reading to him and holding hands. Landing Road in Little River, South Carolina was her happy place.

Dusty was preceded in death by her beloved parents, Billy and Faye; in-laws, Harry and Catherine Tatum; sister, Sarah Williamson; brother, Shawn Gillen; brother-in-law and sister-in-law, Linda and Harry Tatum.

Dusty is survived by her husband of 54 years, Curtis Norman Tatum; son, Curtis Norman Tatum, Jr; daughter, Stacy Tatum Pritchett-Mason (and husband Lewis); grandchildren, Tatum and Matthew Pritchett; brother, Casey Gillen; brother-in-law, Wes Williamson; sister-in-law and brother-in-law, Cathy and Donovan Vinson; nieces and nephews, Jenny, Eric, Shelly, Ashley, Mary Catherine, Carrie, Billy Jo, Marsha, Presley, Grant; a loving extended family of cousins, grandnieces, and grandnephews.

The family will receive friends on Saturday, March 16, 2024, from 4:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m. at Jernigan-Warren Funeral Home.  A funeral service will be conducted Sunday, March 17, 2024, at 2:00 p.m. at Salem Methodist Church, 2165 Middle Rd., Fayetteville, NC 28312.  Burial will follow in the church cemetery. 

The family requests that charitable donations be considered in lieu of flowers. Monetary gifts can be made in her name to Salem Church in Eastover, NC., Alzheimer’s research, Cerebral Palsy research, or your local school to serve students in need.

Online condolences may be sent to

Funeral arrangements by Jernigan-Warren Funeral Home, 545 Ramsey St., Fayetteville, NC 28301

“The Lord is my shepherd, I have everything I need” Psalm 23:1

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March 16, 2024

4:00 PM to 6:00 PM
Jernigan-Warren Funeral Home
545 Ramsey St.
Fayetteville, NC 28301

Funeral Service
March 17, 2024

2:00 PM
Salem Methodist Church
2171 Middle Rd
Fayetteville, NC 28312

March 17, 2024

3:00 PM
Salem Methodist Church Cemetery
2171 Middle Rd
Fayetteville, NC 28312


Salem Methodist Church
3947 Dunn Rd., Eastover NC 28312
Tel: 1-910-483-8959


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