Juanita Mae Gilbert
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Juanita Mae Gilbert
  • September 1, 1929 - February 17, 2017
  • Little Rock, Arkansas

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"If I can help somebody along the way...then my living shall not be in vain." These lyrics could well describe how Juanita Gilbert lived her life. Offering a helpful hand was a legacy she leaves for all to follow. She was the first born child of Elisha and Idella Thomas in North Little Rock, Arkansas. Life's journey took her to the halls of Dunbar High School, where she graduated in 1948 and into her professional calling as a seamstress. She retired from Ottenheimer/Kellwood Manufacturing where she broke ground as one of the first three black supervisors. After retirement, Juanita was a well-known vendor who sold her handmade crafts and wares around Little Rock for years. She was most comfortable with some pretty fabric, needles and thread and a wide assortment of sewing machines. Some things that made Juanita happiest: Travel - especially to Hawaii where she lived for several years, McDonald's Hamburgers, Coca-Cola and time with friends and family.



Juanita married Dan Steele in 1953. She had four children: Reba, Julius, Marilyn and Kelvin. She fully embraced the concept of a blended family, providing steadfast love and support to three stepchildren in addition to her own. She later married Jack Gilbert and both were active in the Dunbar Alumni Association.



Juanita found Christ at an early age and was a faithful and dedicated servant at Hunter United Methodist. She also served in United Methodist Women for many years. Her church family was a big part of her life until her transition on February 17, 2017.



Juanita is preceded in death by two children: Marilyn Steele Davis and Kelvin Steele; her father - Elisha Thomas, mother - Idella Thomas, stepmother Mary Thomas; four brothers and a sister.



Left to cherish her memory are her children, Reba Lewis (Phil) - Little Rock and Julius Steele (Matilda) - Bakersfield, CA; three stepdaughters, Marvis Edgerston (Gary) - Sherwood, Madelon Waters (Lawrence) - Tulsa, Oklahoma and Jackie Gammon (Carey) - Marion, AR; brothers and sister, Adell Randolph (Wilbunette) - Little Rock, Elizabeth Weitherspoon (Betty) - Alamogordo, NM, Idella Parker (David), Eloise Thomas and John Thomas - all of Atlanta, GA and Levi Thomas (Margie) - Groton, CT; five grandchildren, and 13 great grandchildren.



She will also be missed by two "chosen" daughters; Ms. Neva Johnson and Ms. Evelyn Franklin; and two special lifelong friends, Dr. Beverly Lyn-Cook and Maybelline Strong.



Special thanks to Hunter United Methodist Church, Denise Sparks and Mr. and Mrs. Will Carter; United Methodist Women; UAMS Reynolds Center on Aging; Chenal Rehabilitation and Healthcare; Paul Amponsah and JoAnn Thomas; and Caregivers, Rev. Linda Woods and Barbara Redden.



Family hour will be at 10:00am on Saturday, February 25, 2017 at Griffin Leggett Healey & Roth Funeral Home, 5800 W. 12th St. Little Rock, 72204. Funeral service will begin at 11:00am with Rev. Rashim Merriwether officiating.



An online guestbook is available at www.griffinleggetthealeyroth.com