Virginia Inell Gavin Rentz McGee

Published 11:52 pm Saturday, March 24, 2012

Virginia Inell Gavin Rentz McGee, age 70, of Selma, Alabama, died at her residence on March 24, 2012, after a courageous battle with colon cancer. She was surrounded by her family in death as she was in life.

Inell was born on July 10, 1941, in Butler, Alabama, to Wittie (Carlisle) and Charlie Rex Gavin. Charlie Gavin died when Inell was three years old, and Wittie married Charles Edward Rentz of Myrtlewood, Alabama, who raised Inell as his own daughter. Charles Rentz died in 1986, and Wittie Rentz died in 2006.

On June 1, 1963, Inell married William Herbert McGee of Selmer, Tennessee, her college sweetheart and a celebrated athlete at Huntingdon College. They were married until his death on November 27, 2006.

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Inell is survived by three children: Stan McGee (John Finley IV), Boston, MA; Dr. Monica McGee Decker (Dr. Bill Decker), Marion, OH; Gavin McGee (Rebecca Huizinga), Phoenix, AZ; and two grandchildren, Benjamin Decker and Rachel Decker of Marion, OH. Inell is also survived by her two sisters, Charlene Meadows (Don), Wetumpka, AL, and Sherry Hill (Steve), Alabaster, AL, plus many nieces and nephews. Inell was also blessed to have many friends throughout her life, many with whom she still visited until very recently.

In 1959, Inell graduated from Linden High School, where she was both the homecoming queen and class valedictorian. She attended Judson College from 1959-1960 and then transferred to Huntingdon College where she participated in many activities – among others, she was a member of Sigma Sigma Sigma, Treasurer of the SGA, member of the Huntingdon Choir, and was voted Miss Charming. She graduated from Huntingdon in 1963 with a degree in Home Economics. Juggling work and family commitments, Inell later attended Livingston University where she received her Masters of Education in 1980.

Inell began her teaching career in 1963 in Tuskegee, during the first year of desegregation of the public schools there, and then moved to Selma and taught 6th grade at Byrd School from 1964-1968. She taught at Potter Station (7th-9th grade) from 1970-1971 and then moved to Southside High School where she taught English for two decades. She retired from teaching in 1993 but was called out of retirement in 1997 and taught one year at Morgan Academy.

Inell was very proud to be a school teacher because she knew she was making a difference in the lives of her students. She taught them how to speak well, read well, and write well. In many students, she instilled a life-long interest in learning and introduced them to the literary classics. She knew these skills would help her students throughout their lives. She loved her students as if they were her own children and took great pride in their many accomplishments and successes.

Inell was also an accomplished musician throughout her life. She was a pianist for her country church before her feet could even reach the pedals. Inell continued to play for enjoyment throughout her life. One of the many highlights in Inell’s life was in 1992 when she was awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities scholarship to study Mozart in Vienna. She was one of 15 participants selected from the United States to receive this honor. Inell treasured the lessons and the life-long friendships she made on this trip, the first of several trips she would make to Europe.

Inell was extremely creative, not only in writing, but also with sewing, interior decorating, and with craft projects. She designed the house that she and Herb built in 1971 and re-designed and renovated it in later years even after her cancer diagnosis. She considered yard work and gardening to be therapeutic and loved to be outside and in her greenhouse tending to her many flower beds and citrus trees. From early on, Inell adored and was surrounded by many loving pets. Inell also loved to read and usually had a few books she was reading at any time. She was intellectually curious and used books as a means to travel to places outside Alabama well before she actually did. As anyone who ever sat next to her on a plane during one of her many trips could attest, she took tremendous pride in the accomplishments of her children and those included, among many others, a son who was a Rhodes Scholar, a daughter who was Girl of the Year, and a son who is a mechanical engineer and test driver for Ford Motor Company.

Inell was a member at Church Street United Methodist Church, where she was also a member of the choir. Inell was also a member and former President of Delta Kappa Gamma (International Honorary for Women Educators) and was active with Selma’s Ossian Club and the Reading Group at the Selma Public Library.

Visitation will be at the Lawrence Brown-Service Funeral Home in Selma, Alabama, from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM on Tuesday, March 27, 2012. On Wednesday, March 28, 2012, there will be a brief graveside burial service at the New Live Oak Cemetery followed by an 11 AM memorial and celebration of life service at Church Street United Methodist Church led by The Reverend Fred Zeigler. All attendees are asked to stay, enjoy refreshments and visit with Inell’s family following the service.

Pallbearers will be Andy Meadows, Rev. Tim Meadows, Brian Hill, Michael Naro, Charlie Lucas, Bill Tate and Edwin Wilson. Honorary Pallbearers will be Steve Hill, Ralph Hobbs, Don Meadows, Billy Rentz, Dean Wilcox and the Linden High School Class of 1959.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Delta Kappa Gamma “Girl of the Year” Scholarship Fund (c/o Donna Wiltsie, 2110 Delanie Drive, Selma, AL 36701), Church Street UMC or Huntingdon College, Montgomery, AL.

Inell requested that all of her former students wear a small white ribbon so that her family can see all those she taught throughout her career. These ribbons will be available at the visitation and at the memorial and celebration of life service.

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