Gretchen Povall Passons

by Lynn McMillen
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Martha Gretchen  Povall Passons


May 5, 1940 – March 29, 2023

Gretchen Povall Passons, the quintessence of joy, died on March 29, 2023, at home after a 23-year battle with cancer, a battle that she waged with the courage and grace that characterized her entire life.

Gretchen was a native of Lexington and the daughter of Ruth Elmore and George Oltenburg Povall, both of old Holmes County families and both of whom predeceased her, as did her brother, Roy Elmore Povall. She grew up in Lexington where she was the most popular girl in high school, gaining honors as homecoming queen, Miss Lexington High School, and head cheerleader. She was an editor of the school paper and the absolute joy of all who knew her, and everybody did. Even then she demonstrated the ability to make a person to whom she was talking feel like he or she was the only person in the world. She gave her love unconditionally, and everyone she encountered then and throughout her life felt it. Gretchen was probably the only person you ever knew who said “y’all” and “precious” with three syllables and took about five seconds to do it.

Gretchen attended MSCW for three years. There, she was a member of Hottentots, President’s Council, Social Committee, Junior Usher, the BlackList Honorary Social Club and the Rogue Social Club, where she served as an officer. While at the W, Gretchen met and married Peyton Passons of Jackson in 1961, on a stormy night at the First Methodist Church in Lexington. After that rainy night, the marriage was suffused with sunlight for 62 wonderful years.

Gretchen and Peyton lived in Birmingham while Peyton was in pharmacy school, and she completed her degree at Birmingham Southern. Subsequently, they lived in Fort Sam Houston, Texas, Gulfport, Jackson, Pascagoula, and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, all while Peyton pursued his career in pharmacy. While in Saudi Arabia, they traveled all over Europe and to parts of Asia, and she loved every adventurous minute of it. They then came to Starkville, where Gretchen taught English, Latin, and Spanish at Starkville Academy and Starkville High School, the latter from which she retired.

Her creativity was legendary, and she manifested it in her home which was a reflection of her personality – bright, light, and filled with warmth – as well as in her garden, which was filled with flowers, butterflies, birds, and the occasional bunny. She loved working in her yard, her dogs – all of whom she rescued, and her church, the Episcopal Church of the Resurrection (ECR). While at ECR, Gretchen served on the Altar Guild, and started Daughters of the King, an Anglican lay religious order for women founded in 1885.

People who knew Gretchen will remember her as a vibrant, positive person, who loved meeting new people and making new friends. She was easy to love, and she loved easily – a warm, gracious southern lady who was loved and cherished by her family and friends to the end. She greeted each day with pleasure and gratitude, and her joyful nature infused each day and each person she was around with her warmth. Hers was a life filled with love and laughter, and she lived it to the fullest, and she lived it well.

Besides Peyton, Gretchen is survived by her three children, Paige Passons Simmons, Robin Passons Bryan (Lynn), and Peyton Elmore Passons (Beth). In addition, she is survived by eight grandchildren, Catherine Simmons, Peyton Simmons, Ruth Hardin Bryan, Rosemary Bryan, George Bryan, Sally Marie Passons, Sydney Passons, and Mary Peyton Passons.

A celebration of her life will be held at the Episcopal Church of the Resurrection on Wednesday, April 5. Visitation will begin at noon, with the service following at 2:00.

To honor Gretchen, help someone in need, rescue a dog, and love your pets. Those who wish to make a donation in Gretchen’s memory may do so to the Oktibbeha County Humane Society at 510 Industrial Park Road, Starkville, MS, 39759, or the Episcopal Church of the Resurrection at 105 North Montgomery Street, Starkville, MS 39759.

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