Melinda (Linda) Ann Parris Benton peacefully passed away Monday, June 15, 2020.
She was the first of five daughters born to the late Henry Bee Parris Jr. and Eva Wofford Shouse Parris, of Cartersville. Linda is survived by her husband, Jerry Dean Benton, to whom she was married for fifty-nine years; son, Dean Benton and his wife Teri, and granddaughter Holly Benton of Woodstock, GA; son, Darrin Benton and his wife, Wendy, of Cartersville, GA; daughter, Amy Benton Simmer and her husband Sean, and grandsons, Brennan and Casey, of Cartersville, GA. Her sisters, Jane Parris Sanderson of Brentwood, TN; Cherry Parris Gladden, Martha Parris Wellsandt, Mona Parris Lewis and her husband, Button, all of Cartersville, GA.
Also surviving are her brother-in-law, John Benton, and his wife, Ouida, of Chattanooga, TN; nieces and nephews, Matson Sanderson and his wife, Kim and their daughters, Eva-Elizabeth and Mattison of Nashville, TN; Lauren Sanderson Barrows and her husband, Matthew of Alexandria, LA; Kelly Parris Hopkins, and her children, Stephen Hopkins of Truckee, CA, and Hadley Hopkins of Boston, MA, and Cartersville, GA; Rebecca Lewis Ylvisaker and her husband, Tyler of Cartersville; Ashley Wellsandt Braswell and her husband, Jason and their daughters, Addison and Bentley, of Hahira, GA.
Linda graduated from Cartersville High School in 1961. She and Jerry moved to Columbia, SC, for several years, then they moved to Louisville, KY, for 11 years, before moving back home to Cartersville in 1983. Her reason for moving back was for her children to grow up around family and to be a part of a small town — the town she loved so dearly.
In 1994, Linda was appointed as a member-at-large of the Cartersville School Board, and in 2000, she was elected president of the Board. After 23 years of "above and beyond" dedication and leadership to the Cartersville School System, she retired in 2017. At her retirement, then Superintendent Dr. Howard Hinesley described Linda as "a champion for all students, particularly those who are at-risk." And he stated, "she often personally paid for students' clothing, tuition, materials and supplies." Furthermore, he stated, "he had never worked with a school board member more conscientious or more committed to assure that every child has an opportunity to be successful." She was passionate about the establishment of the GateKey Scholarship in the school system. A program of this magnitude, which changes the lives of students who qualify for the GateKey Scholarship, was unprecedented in the Cartersville School System. The GateKey Scholarship now ensures that the future of further education for these students becomes a reality rather than a dream. "Exceeding Expectations" was Linda's belief and desire for Cartersville schools.
Linda also served on the staff of Sam Jones Memorial United Methodist Church as Director of Church Growth and Evangelism. She was always the first person most guests met at Sam Jones. Her warm welcome made everyone feel at home. Her love of Sam Jones UMC changed people's lives.
She was deeply involved in many of Cartersville’s service organizations, always serving where the need was greatest. She was a founding member of the Cartersville-Bartow County Community Foundation. She was also a founding member of the Luke and Margaret Pettit Preserve, now the Pettit Environmental Preserve. Also, she served on the board of The Salvation Army and was the "Christmas Bell Ringing Recruiter and Organizer" for Sam Jones UMC. History and genealogy were also some of her many interests, and she belonged to the Etowah Valley Historical Society.
She loved sports, especially her "Canes," be it athletic or academic. Yes, she "bled Purple." Linda also enjoyed watching NCAA football and basketball, as well as professional tennis. She liked watching the Summer and Winter Olympics. Growing up, she was an accomplished swimmer and diver. She played ALTA Tennis, Level AA1, for several years in Cartersville and was part of numerous City Championships. Music was another area of enjoyment. Spending time on the back porch of their beautiful home listening to and watching the birds always brought her serenity. She had an innate ability for being organized that could only be envied by her family, friends and co-workers.
Even with all of her community involvement, the heart of Linda's life was her family. Her characteristics of faithfulness, love, passion, respect, devotion, caring, leadership and dedication were instilled in each and every family member. Linda’s grandson, Brennan, affectionately called her "Danny." Any time spent with family was "the best day ever!” She was so proud of her children. They enjoyed family trips to West Yellowstone, or as Linda referred to it, "Big Sky Country." It was a time for snowmobiling, hiking, skiing, dining and toasting life.
In 2004, something she and her sisters always wanted to begin as a tradition came to fruition. "AGAS"/All Girls And Stephen, which included the sisters, their daughters, granddaughters, nieces and nephew, Stephen Hopkins, began. It was their yearly, week long, vacation in Orange Beach, AL. It was a week of laughter — the kind where you laugh so hard you couldn’t speak. “AGAS” always meant good food and drink, complete relaxation, nothing planned (except meals), gathering at the beach on the beautiful Gulf of Mexico, and being thankful for the blessings that God had bestowed on each of them as a family. And, "AGAS" will continue.
Every, single day of her life was a gift in Linda's eyes. In the eyes of her family and many people, however, Linda Benton was the gift.
She was brave and strong and true.
At her request, Linda's directions regarding her services are to have a private, family service. Later, there will be a joyful celebration of her life in the place she loved so dearly — the beautiful sanctuary of Sam Jones Memorial United Methodist Church. In lieu of flowers, Linda requested that those desiring make contributions to Sam Jones UMC, 100 W. Church Street, Cartersville, GA 30120 or to The GateKey Scholarship, c/o Cartersville School Board, P.O. Box 3310, Cartersville, GA 30120.
Owen Funeral Home, 12 Collins Drive, has charge of the arrangements.