Troy University mourns the passing of its oldest alumna

Posted: Friday, 09 October 2009

TROY—Troy University lost its oldest alumna on record this week with the passing of Mary Griffin Gentry, 112, in Aliceville. Mrs. Gentry, a native of Henry County, attended then-Troy Normal School in 1918-1920.

Chancellor Jack Hawkins, Jr., has known Mrs. Gentry since 1979 when he assumed the presidency of the Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind in Talladega. Mrs. Gentry lived in Talladega for 50 years, where her husband, E.H. Gentry, served as an administrator, and later president, at AIDB.

“Mary Gentry was a gracious Southern lady who embodied the best values of her generation,” Dr. Hawkins said. “She loved her family, her church and her community. Mrs. Gentry lived a life of service to others. She was proud of her association with this University and we’re proud that Mrs. Gentry was a member of the TROY family.”

In a 2001 interview for TROY’s alumni magazine, Mrs. Gentry recalled her two years on campus, which then was located in downtown Troy. She received a two-year certificate, which qualified her to teach in Alabama. Mrs. Griffin recalled the original downtown campus as “not too elegant,” but said she enjoyed her years in Troy.

Mrs. Gentry spent most of her career as a homemaker, loving mother and supportive wife. She spent four years in the classroom at Pike Road School, where she met E.H. Gentry.

“The children (at Pike Road) loved me,” Mrs. Gentry said in that 2001 interview. “Dr. Harmon (a school administrator) said it was because we were the same size.” Mrs. Gentry was barely five feet tall.

She put her classroom skills to good use by teaching Sunday school to pre-school-age children for almost 50 years, an avocation she said she enjoyed “as much as anything I’ve ever done. I never had a problem with the students—they always behaved well for me.”

Mrs. Gentry remained active in the Talladega community well into her 90s, giving up the keys to her Chevrolet—which had no power steering—when she was almost 95, according to her daughter, Anne Johnson Cody. Mrs. Gentry lived in her home in Talladega past the age of 105 and spent her last years in assisted living in Anniston and at the home of her son, Dr. James H. Gentry, in Aliceville.

In addition to her two children, Mrs. Gentry is survived by 10 grandchildren, 31 great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild. Services are scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 10, at the First Baptist Church of Aliceville.