Cover photo for Emma Buchanan Chastain's Obituary
Emma Buchanan Chastain Profile Photo
Emma Chastain

Emma Buchanan Chastain

d. November 28, 2023

Emma Buchanan Chastain of Rabun Gap, Georgia, forever 39, left us in a hurry on Tuesday, November 28, 2023.  While her passing was a shock to all of us, Emma was never one to leave home unprepared and so, naturally, her hair and makeup were perfect when she met Jesus.

To capture a life as beautiful, full, and impactful as Emma’s in a few short paragraphs is impossible. 

Emma was born in Waynesville, North Carolina, the youngest of five children, to Millard and Shirley Buchanan.  She moved to Rabun Gap in her youth, fell in love with the mountains and Tommy, and never left.  Emma graduated high school from Rabun Gap-Nacoochee School.  She was a founding student member of Foxfire, a phenomenon of education focused on the pioneering era of southern Appalachia and traditions still thriving in the region.  Emma remained active in Foxfire throughout her life and personified the maxim that our past embodies who we are and what we can become.

After high school, Emma earned an associate degree in cosmetology from North Georgia Technical College.  She returned to Rabun County to open her own business.  Her salon was not only extremely successful, but it was also a place of community where Emma spread beauty, love, and a little bit of gossip.     

Following her successful cosmetology career, Emma took a leap of faith and applied her tireless work ethic to a career as a Woodmen of the World life insurance and financial services agent.  She quickly became one of Woodmen’s most successful agents in the nation. She earned numerous accolades, was repeatedly recognized as a “Top Hat” agent (the company’s highest honor), and trained and mentored agents from across the country.  More than the financial reward and accolades, Emma most appreciated that her career with Woodmen allowed her to serve her community and to help others prepare for difficult times.   

Emma loved her community and always found time to volunteer as a servant leader.  She served on too many boards, committees, and foundations to list. She took a particular interest in organizations dedicated to the community’s young people.  She served on the Rabun County Board of Education and holds the putative world record for sales of raffle tickets, booster club memberships, donuts, and wrapping paper. She loved to cook and loved to see young people eat her food.  If you have ever been to Emma’s house you have been forced to eat at least a biscuit, maybe three.  Some of Emma’s most impactful charity was hidden.  Many a family had food on the table, gas in the tank, and presents under the tree thanks to Emma.

Emma and Tommy’s love story is the stuff of movies.  The first time Tommy saw Emma at Rabun Gap-Nacoochee School, he turned to a friend and said, “I’m going to marry that girl.”  He made good on that promise a few years later when he and Emma “snuck off” and exchanged vows that they would honor for the next fifty-four years.  They never lost their longing for one another, and they supported, honored, and respected each other every step of the way.  Emma traveled the world and ate meals fit for the queen that she was.  However, her favorite meal was the hamburger, french fries, and Coca-Cola that she and Tommy shared at the Clayton Dairy Queen on their wedding night and every anniversary thereafter.

Emma was the matriarch of her family, and she considered everyone family.  She doted on her children, Wesley, Crystal, and Joseph. She praised their accomplishments to all who would listen, and always imparted her wisdom and advice upon her children (even when they didn’t ask for it).  She held high expectations of them but was not above serving as their driver on a late-night mission to toilet paper a friend’s house.  Emma spoiled her grandchildren to no end.  She showered them with love, praise, advice, and gifts (even when their parents told her not to).  Just like with her children, she held high expectations of them but was not above joining them on the back yard slip and slide. 

Emma loved her Lord, and she loved her church, the Head of Tennessee Baptist Church.  She did everything possible at the church, including singing in the choir (sometimes off key) and cooking in the kitchen (always on point).  She was a permanent fixture in the young adult Bible study.  She lived her life with the boldness of knowing that Jesus walked this Earth, died for her sins and the sins of others, ascended to heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father.  Her eternal resting place with Him is secure. 

Emma leaves behind her husband of fifty-four years, Tommy, and three children, Wesley (Rhonda), Joseph (Amy), and Crystal Baker (Stan) as well as her prized grandchildren, Anna Beth Baker, Bella Grace (“BG”) Baker, Sarah Chastain, Dalton Keener, and Cole Keener. Also surviving are her sister Carolyn Roberson (Philip), brother Earl Buchanan (Shelby), brother Joe Buchanan (Wanda), sister-in-law Pat Bennett (Rick), many nieces and nephews, and countless friends who consider her a sister.

Emma’s legacy is her life of service.

“Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.”  Proverbs 31:29

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Head of Tennessee Baptist Church and designated to the Youth Group or the Emma Chastain Kitchen Fund.

Visitation will be held at the Head of Tennessee Baptist Church in Dillard, Georgia on Friday, December 1, 2023, from 5:30 pm to 8:00 pm.  Funeral service will be held on Saturday, December 2, 2023, at 11:00 am at the  Head of Tennessee Baptist Church. Please join us in the church fellowship hall after the service and let Emma feed you one last time.

Hunter Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements. For more information, please call them at (706) 782-4243, or visit her Memorial Tribute at


To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Emma Buchanan Chastain, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

Past Services


Friday, December 1, 2023

5:30 - 8:00 pm (Eastern time)

Head of Tennessee Baptist Church

895 Franklin Street, Dillard, GA 30537

Enter your phone number above to have directions sent via text. Standard text messaging rates apply.

Funeral Service

Saturday, December 2, 2023

Starts at 11:00 am (Eastern time)

Head of Tennessee Baptist Church

895 Franklin Street, Dillard, GA 30537

Enter your phone number above to have directions sent via text. Standard text messaging rates apply.


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