Annie “Jo” Simmons Parnell passed away peacefully in her sleep on Sunday, November 4, 2018, at her home in Navarre, Florida, after a long battle with Lung Cancer.
She was born to J.L. and Alma Christian Simmons at home in West Ridge, Arkansas, on April 19, 1944. She was a 1961 graduate of MISSCO High School at West Ridge, graduating just a few weeks after her 17th birthday. As a young woman, she was a gifted basketball player (she could palm a basketball in both hands), and was invited to try out for the All-American Red Heads basketball team, however because of her age, her dad felt she was too young to go. In November, 1961, she married Terry Joe Parnell, and embarked on her first career, as an Air Force wife. She followed him to several locations, beginning at age 17, making a home wherever they landed. They were first stationed in Washington, D.C., where they welcomed their son; in Blytheville, Arkansas, where she stayed during Terry’s assignment to Takhli, Thailand; in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, where they welcomed their daughter; in Washington, D.C., again; in Okinawa, Japan; and finally, they retired from the Air Force in Blytheville, Arkansas. Over those years, she made a home in every location and made lifelong friends wherever she moved. She also took great pleasure in learning from friends and neighbors who exposed her to new experiences, taking her from the small farm life she grew up on, expanding her recipes and bringing them back to her family in Arkansas. She was a talented cook, being able to make any tasty treat she set her mind to. She was very adept with her hands, and during the first assignment in Blytheville, she attended Classic Beauty College. In Florida, she took Wilton Cake Decorating classes, mastering cake decorating, and making several beautiful wedding cakes over the years. After Terry retired from the Air Force, the family settled back in Blytheville, and she started a career as Customer Service supervisor at Blytheville AFB Commissary, a job she loved because she was always a ‘people person’. While there, Terry and Jo’s house was open to numerous young Airmen who were away from home for the first time, as Jo became their surrogate Mom, offering them a home cooked meal on a weekend, or on a holiday. It wasn’t uncommon for there to be two, three, or more extra plates at the table.
Jo and Terry stayed in Blytheville for 12 years until the base closed, when they relocated to Navarre, and she became the Customer Service Manager at the Commissary at Hurlburt Field, Florida. She retired from Civil Service in 2003. She was active in Caring and Sharing before her retirement, after which she found a new focus to her energy: she joined the Navarre Garden Club and it quickly became a passion for her. She took every class she could and really enjoyed floral design. She had an amazing green thumb and could propagate just about any plant, and used her thoughtfulness in the sunshine committee to foster friendships with members of the club who were unable to attend regular meetings. She never wanted to miss a Garden Club function, enjoying fellowship with her friends and learning new ways to make her Garden grow.
She was preceded in death by her parents; two brothers, William, who died as an infant, and Earnest Lenard; and one sister, Pamela Grace, who died at age 12.
Annie is survived by her husband, of 57 years, Terry, of the home; son, Terry Dewayne (Jacquelyn) Parnell of Bay Minette, Alabama; daughter, Teresa (Andrew) Barnes of Altus, Oklahoma; five grandchildren, Penny Lewis, of Pace, Savanna Parnell, of Bay Minette, Alabama, Brandon Barnes and Hayley Barnes of Altus, Oklahoma, and Lindsay Barnes of Norman, Oklahoma; two great-grandchildren, and one great-great grandchild. She also leaves to cherish her memory, three brothers, Joe (Violet) Simmons of Glenwood, Arkansas, James (Linda) Simmons of Dolph, Arkansas, and Carroll (Tamra) Simmons of Hot Springs, Arkansas; two sisters, Benda Pearl Ridgdill of Lakewood, Colorado, and Rosa McCreary of Tupelo, Mississippi; two very special aunts who were raised as sisters, Betty Kemp of Sherwood, Arkansas, and Jo Ann Smith of Arkadelphia, Arkansas; as well as, numerous cousins, nieces, and nephews. She also leaves behind special friends, Betty Lawson, Judith Begue, Mrs. Beth Duckett, Judith Begue, and Dorothy Reynolds; and special neighbors who were like grandchildren, Jessica and Georgia.
The family would like to thank Tiffany, Lisa, and Amanda, her aide and nurses at Covenant Care Hospice, as well as, Joy and Keith, her Physical Therapists from Covenant Care, for their care during this time.
A Memorial Service will be held at 3:00 p.m., Saturday, November 10, 2018, at Navarre Presbyterian Church (1870 Lowe Rd, Navarre, Florida 32566.)
Lewis Funeral Home, Navarre Chapel, has been entrusted with arrangements.
The family requests memorial donations may be made, in her name, to the Navarre Garden Club Scholarship Fund.
Navarre Garden Club Scholarship Fund
P.O. Box 5606
Navarre, FL 32566
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