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Helen Juanita Strange Gregory

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June 24, 1919 - Feb. 15, 2021

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One of Putnam County’s oldest citizens, Juanita Strange Gregory, passed away on February 15, 2021, at the age of 101 years, 8 months.

Juanita will be buried in Eatonton Memorial Park, in Eatonton, alongside her husband, Ed, and daughter, Carole, in a graveside service at 1pm on Friday, February 19, 2021.

Juanita Strange, daughter of the late Naomi and Mitchell Strange, was born in Oak Park, GA, on June 24, 1919. She graduated from Georgia Southern University and taught at Oak Park School. Ed Gregory also came to Oak Park to teach around 1940. Juanita and Ed were married on March 27, 1942. During World War II, Ed was inducted as an Ensign in the U.S. Navy and was stationed at Norfork, Virginia. After the war, the couple moved to Eatonton where Ed began a long career at the Imperial Cotton Mill and Juanita opened a clothing store in downtown Eatonton. Ed passed away in December of 1975 at the age of 55. She then decided to return to her first love, teaching children. Juanita continued her education at Georgia College in Milledgeville as she taught 4th grade at Putnam Grammar School. Juanita retired from teaching in 1982. Throughout her life, but especially in her latter years, she enjoyed seeing her “old” students who would always speak to her. She remained active in the Retired Teachers Association long after she retired. More than a decade ago, Juanita reflected on her long life, “This June 24th (2009), I will be 90. My life has been filled with joy, happiness, and sadness, but life is what one puts in it, and mine has been full.” Little did she know that less than a year later, her precious daughter, Carole Elizabeth Gregory, would die on May 30, 2010. Juanita was active in her bridge club until 2019. And she enjoyed playing the piano. As recently as January of 2021, Juanita told her son that she wanted to take piano lessons. Always full of surprises, in 1978, Juanita performed professionally as Mrs. Paddy in The Putnam Alliance production, The Curious Savage. She loved collecting antiques, and she enjoyed telling each antique’s story. The older she became, the more interesting her stories became. Juanita’s neighbor, Howard Harrison (deceased), told her son that one day he was concerned about his “elderly neighbor,” Juanita. He was about to walk over to check on her when he looked across the street and saw Juanita mowing her own lawn. He said, “That was the last time I worried about Mrs. Gregory.” One time her son was driving through Eatonton on his way to a meeting at Georgia College in Milledgeville. As he passed the home of his Aunt Ivelyn Gregory, he noticed two women in Ivelyn’s backyard wearing yellow rubber gloves. He circled around and pulled into Aunt Ivelyn’s driveway to see what was going on. There in the backyard he found Juanita and Ivelyn stripping the paint off a big table. Alex told his friends at Georgia College about the scene, and someone asked, “I wonder how they got the furniture out of the house?” Alex replied, “I’m sure mother just said, ‘Ivelyn, you hold the door and I’ll take the table outside.” She was proud of her two hometowns: Eatonton and Oak Park. She lived in Eatonton, but she enjoyed visiting her family in Oak Park several times a year. Her “younger” brother, Shot Strange (who passed away in December of 2018 at the age of 97), held a large family reunion each July, and Juanita and her family never missed those occasions to see her numerous relatives. And every year in November, she and her family attended a “cane grinding” (good food, fellowship, and music) held by Juanita’s nephew, David Beecher, and his son, Jim Beecher. Juanita attended her last cane grinding in November of 2019 and, as the guest of honor, was serenaded by the band. Juanita and Jim Beecher were especially close. Each spring for many years, Jim would invite Juanita and her sisters (now all deceased) to Oak Park for a few weeks to shuck corn, shell peas, and tell tall tales. Juanita would return to Eatonton with lots of corn, peas, and hard-to-believe stories. She a member of the First United Methodist Church of Eatonton. A special note of appreciation goes to Juanita’s two incredible caregivers, Sally Humphries and Connie Kemp, who took extraordinary care of her, along with Hazel Jefferson who worked for Juanita for many years until her own retirement in 2019. The family is indebted to them for their gentle and compassionate care.

Juanita is survived by Carole’s two children: Laura Carithers (daughter, Blake Beeker and son, Jay Beeker) who resides in Eatonton, and Greg Carithers (son, Chase) who resides in Villa Rica, and by her son, Edward Alexander Gregory, Jr. and his wife, Glenda Dekle Gregory, who reside in Duluth, GA, their children Kristen who resides in Palm Coast, FL, and Alex III (Amelie), and their children, Juanita’s great-grandchildren, Emma, Mya, Alex IV, and Lucy, who reside in Watkinsville.

Vining Ivy Hill Chapel is in charge of the arrangements.