Marquita Gillenwater died peacefully on Jan. 28, 2018, at her home in the South Fork community of Barren County.
She was the eldest of five children born to Willis and Gertrude Peel in Lauderdale, Mississippi.
After attending Dixie Highway School and graduating as Valedictorian, a scholarship allowed her to continue her education at the Meridian Municipal Junior College, where she graduated at the age of 18. She then attended Peabody College, now part of Vanderbilt University, while working as a telegraph operator for Western Union. Marquita graduated with a Bachelor's Degree in both English and Spanish. After graduation, she put that Spanish language education to good use working for a medical supply company in Tennessee and Mexico.
While in college, she was successfully pursued and wooed by a Vanderbilt law student named James Edward Gillenwater, whom she later married. After a honeymoon accompanied by James' mother, Lillian Gillenwater, the couple settled in Glasgow and began a family.
James practiced law while Marquita was a stay-at-home mother, until the children were all enrolled in school. At that time, she began her own career, first assisting in her husband's office, and then working for many years at the Pedigo-Lessenberry Insurance Agency. While there, she became only the second woman in Kentucky, at that time, to sit for and pass the Kentucky insurance adjuster's licensing examination.
Marquita was a past president of the Glasgow Woman's Club and a member of the Ladies' Matinee Musicale. She was an avid birder and became an officer in the Kentucky Ornithological Society. Her proudest accomplishment, however, was a successful mission to clear invasive thistles from the fields of surrounding farms and roadways. The trunk of her car always contained a grubbing hoe to dislodge the offending plants, thick gloves for protection from the prickles, and a large garbage bag in which she placed the plant for the roots to dry out and keep the seeds from spreading near and far.
Marquita was preceded in death by her husband, James; and daughter, Mollie.
She is survived by one sister, Ann McCoy; a daughter, Emily Laird (Roger); a son, Tim Gillenwater (Kim); five adored grandchildren: Kirk Laird, Mollie Freeman, Dayton Parr and James and Justin Gillenwater; and five great-grandchildren: Jay Freeman, Nick Wallace and Evelyn, Madeline, and William Parr.
Pursuant to her request, there will be no public funeral service. A small memorial service will be held at a future date for family members and a few close friends.
Our thanks go to the T.J. Samson Hospice nurses and staff and to her wonderful and compassionate caregivers: Shirley, Diane and Trudy.
Any desired expressions of sympathy may be made to the Kentucky Ornithological Society, BRAWA or Community Medical Care.
Published on January 30, 2018