Parilee P. Gilreath was good at just about everything — except quitting.
She didn’t retire until age 80, after 44 years as a school dietician and lunchroom manager in Clayton County.
When she got too old to drive to Atlanta Braves baseball games at night, she would dial up a friend and with their TVs tuned to the game, they’d get our their Steno pads to keep stats. They would chat the entire nine innings.
When it became too difficult for her to get to her backyard to tend her tomato plants, she moved them to the front yard and kept right on gardening.
“She was an independent spirit who saw the humor in life and never gave up,” said her youngest daughter, Sherrie Morris. “Her children always came first, and she was not afraid to do anything. She was a woman who could cook and sew, but she also could repair a washing machine.”
Mrs. Gilreath was known for her seven-layer caramel cakes, which were sometimes auctioned for charity fund-raisers, and her ability to grow just about anything from cuttings she took from friends’ plants. She was also renowned for her unyielding devotion to a certain, Atlanta-based soft drink company.
“She loved Coca-Cola,” said daughter Lynn Hayes. “She did not allow Pepsi in her house.”
Wilt Marchman, a retired principal, worked with Mrs. Gilreath at Tara and Kemp elementary schools for 18 years. He watched as she planned and help prepare the meals for generations of Clayton County school-children.
“I never heard a complaint out of her,” said Marchman, who remembered Mrs. Gilreath sneaking plates of fresh-baked school cinnamon rolls into his office. “When she was busy, she was happy. She was a gracious, thoughtful lady.”
Mrs. Gilreath, 82, of Jonesboro died Friday after a brief illness. Funeral services will be held at 2 p.m. Tuesday at The Rock Baptist Church in Rex, which she attended for 50 years. She will lie in repose at the church one hour prior to the service. Interment will follow the service in the church cemetery. The family will receive friends from 6 to 8 p.m. Monday at the Ford-Stewart Funeral Home in Jonesboro.
Mrs. Gilreath’s friends and family remember her as a “spunky, hard-working woman” who was able to overcome setbacks and get on with life. Three of her seven children died before their second birthdays — all of spina bifida. Her husband, Charley Will Gilreath, a veteran of World War II, died two decades ago when he was just 62.
“She handled things very well,” Mrs. Morris said. “She was a positive person.”
She was already past what most people consider retirement age when school dieticians began using computers to plan meals.
Mrs. Gilreath quickly adapted, mastering the new machine with the same zeal she approached gardening and cooking.
“When she retired, she was the oldest lunchroom manager in Clayton County,” Mrs. Morris said. “They gave her 44 red roses for her 44 years in the system. She was very touched by that.”
Mrs. Gilreath collected Coca-Cola memorabilia and even put Coca-Cola-red curtains in her den. She also collected “Gone With the Wind” memorabilia and counted author Margaret Mitchell as a distant relative. Mrs. Mitchell and Mrs. Gilreath’s mother were first cousins. Mrs. Gilreath was the mother-in-law of Cox Enterprises Inc. CEO Jimmy Hayes. Cox owns The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
She is survived by her children and their spouses, Charles W. and Drue Gilreath of Fayetteville, John W. and Pam Gilreath of Suwanee, Lynn G. and Jimmy Hayes of Atlanta, Sherrie G. and William “Butch” Morris of Hamilton; sisters and brothers-in-law Elizabeth and William Brown of Stockbridge and Inez and Gene Treadwell of Stockbridge; and seven grandchildren.
A Lawrenceville pastor wants his congregation to know the good news about the Gospel of Mark. Dean Sweetman, senior pastor of the C3 Church, has challenged his members and anyone else interested to read the New Testament book in its entirety over the next year and post Instagram photos of their notes.