Sean Robert Payne

February 1, 1970 ~ June 4, 2021 (age 51)

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Sean Robert Payne departed his earthly home in Knoxville, TN, on Friday, June 4, 2021, and entered into eternal life in the presence of his Lord Jesus Christ. Sean’s passing was sudden and unexpected, likely from an undiagnosed heart condition.

Sean was born in San Antonio, Texas, on February 1, 1970, where his father was stationed at Lackland Air Force Base. Sean cherished many memories from his early years living in Pittsburgh and relished trips back to visit family there and in Arkansas after the family later settled in Nashville, TN. After graduating from Hendersonville High School, Sean moved to Knoxville for college at the University of Tennessee, from which he proudly earned a Bachelor’s in Civil Engineering in 1999. Amidst his academic pursuits, Sean went line dancing one night in 1994, as did a group of nursing students from Carson-Newman College. Sean spotted Kathy Renee Boyd, and never has a man remained more smitten than Sean Payne from that night until his last. Sean and Kathy were married on August 5, 1995, at French Broad Baptist Church on Douglas Lake in Dandridge, TN, later welcoming four children - Kathryn, Elijah, Maddy Grace, and Levi. His devotion to his children rivaled that to his wife, yet he remained a dedicated son, grandson, nephew, and brother and found time to love and relish life with a host of in-laws, nieces, nephews, cousins, friends and neighbors – those next door, those he met at college and work, those at church small group and men’s study groups, and those encountered while working 15 years with Knox County Codes Enforcement and later with Corum Engineering. 

Sean loved not just with affectionate words and fun times, but with time, attention, and hard work. He was quick to spot a need and step in to fill it, from volunteering to mow the lawn of a neighbor with a broken foot to carving out extra time to soothe the wounded heart of a child of divorcing parents. He served his family and his friends through all manner of illness and struggle. He served in the children’s ministry at Fellowship Church, performing in skits, and volunteered at Knoxville Children’s Theater building sets. For his wife and children, he looked beyond their needs to their dreams. He encouraged them to dream big and then followed through in support of those dreams, eventually hosting epic video game jam sessions in the home that he and Kathy designed and built and watching proudly as his children performed in plays at KCT, Clarence Brown Theater, and Oak Ridge Playhouse after miles and hours ferrying them to and from play practice.

While Sean lived in awe and wonder at God’s creation, he also thrilled at the heights of human imagination. Roller coasters inspired his engineering degree, and he eventually shared these thrill rides with his children, from Dollywood and Disney to his most revered Cedar Point. His next imaginative thrill was movies. He loved Star Wars, Marvel superheroes, and Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, though being a man of taste, he preferred the book version of The Hobbit, recently reading it to his youngest son at bedtime each night, valiantly attempting a distinctive voice for each of 13 dwarves, a wizard, a hobbit, numerous elves, three trolls, and one dragon. These stories of human imagination may have served as entertainment for Sean, but he was always quick to spot every Biblical parallel to the self-sacrificing Love of God demonstrated for humanity in the Story of Jesus. Sean took the best of these stories and indeed Jesus Himself into his heart, and like Jesus, he poured himself out for his family and friends. The Force was with him.

Sean is survived by his wife, Kathy R. Payne; his children, Kathryn Lyndsay Payne, Elijah Boyd Payne, Madelyn Grace Payne, and Levi Anthony Payne; his mother, Ethel Beth Quiaoit; his father, Robert “Bob” Anthony Payne, and stepmother, Patricia Ann Payne; his sisters, Marlisle (Payne) Campbell and Tompkins “Tommi” (Quaioit) Jackson; and many in-laws, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, grandnephews, special friends, and close coworkers. He is predeceased by his stepfather, Barry “Bear” Quiaoit.

Sean’s only concession to contemplating death beyond anticipating being with Jesus was to request a celebratory send-off. Sean’s family invites his many friends and coworkers and our many friends and coworkers to join us for a Celebration of Life potluck on Saturday June 12th at Fellowship Church, Middlebrook Road, Knoxville. Kathy will receive friends at 5:30 p.m. with a brief service at 6:30. Then we will honor Sean by enjoying his favorite foods, listening to some TobyMac and U2, and swapping our fondest memories. Black may be worn by those who wish, but many of us will be wearing Sean’s favorite color, purple.  Bring food if you wish, or just bring yourselves. Feel free to bring your children. Sean loved a big party, and while we are unlikely to attain his boisterocity, we want to make an attempt and hope you will join us.

In recognition of Sean’s sudden departure, those wishing to spend time with his physical presence may call at your convenience at Gentry-Griffey Funeral Chapel in Fountain City between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. on Wednesday, June 9th. Immediate family may or may not be present. The family will have a small graveside service on Thursday, June 10th, at 11 a.m. at Sharp Cemetery in Luttrell, TN. Those friends who would find healing in this service may certainly attend as well.

In life, Sean surrounded his wife and daughters with flowers at every opportunity. For anyone wishing to honor Sean by doing the same, flowers are welcome at any service. Donations may also be made to a fund for educational, counseling and other such expenses for his children. (Details will be added to the Gentry-Griffey website and/or Sean’s Facebook page as they become available.) Sean’s memory may also be fully honored by extra fun with your friends, extra calls to your mama and daddy, extra tight hugs for your spouse, extra listening to even the silence of teenagers, extra forehead kisses for small children, mimicking Daffy and Mickey to nieces and nephews, and one more bedtime story, distinctively voiced. 

Gentry Griffey Funeral Chapel is honored to serve the Payne family and invites you to view and sign the online registry.

To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Sean Robert Payne, please visit our floral store.


Call at Convenience
June 9, 2021

10:00 AM to 4:00 PM
Gentry Griffey Funeral Chapel

Graveside Service
June 10, 2021

11:00 AM
Sharp Cemetery
Luttrell, TN 37779

Celebration of Life Potluck
June 12, 2021

5:30 PM
Fellowship Church Knoxville
8000 Middlebrooke Pike
Knoxville, TN 37909

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