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One Alexandria's Pillar of the Community & Former Bolton Teacher Mrs. Joanne Lyles White passes away at 81

Photo Courtesy of From The Town Talk
Former Bolton Speech & Drama Teacher / Coach Joanne White dies at 81

From The Town Talk -

Alexandria philanthropist and social justice advocate Joanne White died Wednesday. She was 81.  White helped found the Shepherd Center, Hope House, Central Louisiana Food Bank and Rapides Habitat for Humanity.

"It is difficult to say goodbye to a person who created our existence. We feel as though a large piece of who we are is gone," said Connie Cooper, Rapides Habitat for Humanity executive director. "While we will mourn and certainly miss her presence, we will draw our strength from her example and work harder than ever before to honor her hard work and sacrifices."

Rapides Habitat for Humanity was started in 1989 by Norman Martin and urged on by White.

Lillian Purdy, Rapides Habitat for Humanity Board of Trustees president, said, "Joanne White's vision to provide safe affordable housing for families in need will impact our community for decades."

Many non-Christians and other religious groups work with Habitat. Families partner with volunteers to build houses.

Each partner family must work a minimum of 350 "sweat equity" hours on houses to be eligible to purchase a home. Houses are sold to families at no profit and mortgage payments have no interest.

Cooper said she was able to meet White one time at a prayer breakfast held to commemorate Rapides Habitat's 20th anniversary.

"We presented a living legend award to Mrs. White. The living legend award is for people who make significant contributions to the organization and continue to support it for 10 years or more," Cooper said. "She was very friendly, spunky and gracious when I met her.

"She was delighted to see new things happening with the organization. I learned from Mrs. White that you can't watch circumstances and crises from the sideline and not be involved in the solution."

White helped establish Hope House in 1989 as a transition home for homeless women and children. Hope House was selected by former President George H.W. Bush for his 1,000 Points of Light award.

Sandy Ray, Hope House executive director, said Hope House has helped more than 5,000 women since opening.

White's heart was always in the right place, Ray said.

"Joanne was instrumental in our community in helping those less fortunate and those who needed a new beginning," Ray said. "She was very involved and community oriented.

"Her life-long goal was to make Central Louisiana a better place to live. We called on Joanne sometimes, and she had creative and innovate ideas. We will miss her tremendously."

A memorial service for White will be held at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at First United Methodist Church of Alexandria. Inurnment will be at Highland Park Memorial Gardens in Dallas.

Visitation will be held before the service at the church beginning at 1:30 p.m.

Joanne Lyles White (1929 - 2011)

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Memorial services for Joanne Lyles White will be held at 2:30 p.m., Saturday, March 12, 2011, at First United Methodist

Memorial services for Joanne Lyles White will be held at 2:30 p.m., Saturday, March 12, 2011, at First United Methodist Church of Alexandria with her son, the Reverend Dr. P. Donald White, Jr., the Reverend Barry Hoekstra, Senior Pastor of First United Methodist Church of Alexandria, the Reverend Dr. Henry C. Blount and the Reverend Dr. Robert L. Potter, friends of Mrs. White, officiating. Inurnment will be at Highland Park United Methodist Church, Dallas, Texas.

Visitation will be Saturday, March 12, 2011, at First United Methodist Church of Alexandria from 1:30 p.m. until service time.

Louisiana humanitarian, philanthropist, educator, and social justice advocate, Joanne Lyles White of Alexandria died peacefully in her home, surrounded by her family, on March 9, 2011.

Mrs. White was a dedicated and loving, wife, mother and grandmother; a tenacious and passionate advocate for the poor, the dispossessed, single mothers, orphaned children, and the disabled; and an active leader in the United Methodist Church on the local, district, and conference levels.

Mrs. White was first inspired to service and charity as a young girl, after reading Pearl Buck's accounts of peasant life in rural China. She gave her time, talent, and energy unselfishly and exhaustively because she felt compelled by her deep faith in Christ.

Mrs. White was a founding member of the Shepherd Center, a founder and first President of the Louisiana High School Speech League and Tournament of Champions, a founding member of Hope House, Christmas Cheer for Children, the Care for Share Tutoring Program, Angel Care, the Wally White Lecture Series, Rapides Parish Chapter of the Habitat for Humanity, past President of the Louisiana Speech Association, an Executive Committeewoman of the Job Training Partnership Act State Council, the Chair of the State Committee on Illiteracy and Education, the Chair of the Rapides Parish Workforce Investment Board, and a founding member of the Central Louisiana Food Bank.

Mrs. White's was pleased when the Hope House was selected by President George H.W. Bush for the 1,000 Points of Light award. Among her many honors and awards, Mrs. White was the recipient of the National Association of Social Worker's Public Citizen of the Year Award, the Lions Club's Outstanding Citizen Award, the Louisiana Methodist Church's Children and Families Service Award, the Young Women's Christian Association's Outstanding Community Leader Award, the Zeta Phi Beta's Outstanding Community Leadership Award, the Sojourner Truth Award, the Central Louisiana Professional Women's Network's Visionary Award, and Cenla Focus's Cenla-ian of the Year.

Mrs. White's work was also commended by the Louisiana Department of Safety and Corrections, the Louisiana Department of Education and the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, the Rapides Parish Police Jury, and the Alexandria Human Relations Commission.

Mrs. White worked with the Governor's Office and the Department of Corrections, spearheading and chairing a task force that investigated disparities in the treatment of incarcerated women and juveniles.

Mrs. White also championed the creation of Aiken Optional School in Rapides Parish, and she helped create the Kuumba Center, an inner-city educational and recreational institution.

Throughout her life, Mrs. White was a leader of the United Methodist Church. At her beloved First United Methodist Church of Alexandria, Mrs. White taught Bible Study and sang in the church choir for nearly sixty years. She was the District Lay Leader and the District Chairperson for the Committee on Missions and Church Expansion, the Committee on Special Events, and the Committee on Lay Speaking. She was also the Conference Chairperson for the Hunger Task Force and the Bishop's Task Force for Children and Poverty. Mrs. White served as a Louisiana delegate to numerous Global United Methodist General Conferences, and she traveled throughout the world to support and contribute to Methodist charities and missionary programs.

Mrs. White graduated from Lecompte High School, and at the age of sixteen, she enrolled in Louisiana State University, earning a Bachelors of Science degree in Speech and Social Studies in 1950.

While in college, Mrs. White was a founding member and President of the LSU chapter of the Delta Gamma Sorority.

In 1999, Mrs. White earned a certification from the Summer Leadership Institute at Harvard University's School of Divinity.

Lillian Joanne Lyles White was born on September 12, 1929 in Lecompte, Louisiana to Samuel Pickles Lyles and Marie Myrtle Guy Lyles. She was the eighth of twelve children. She and her siblings were raised on Compromise Plantation in Lloyd's Bridge, Louisiana. Her parents were sharecroppers for many years, but eventually, they leased and operated a farm of over 800 acres.

On April 30, 1951, she married the love of her life, Paul Donald White, Sr. Together, they had six children: Paul Donald Jr., Charles Nathan II, Frederick Lamar, Paula Elizabeth, Martha Anne, and Wallace Mark.

After graduating college, Mrs. White became a teacher at Bolton High School, a position she held from 1950 to 1963. She taught World History, American History, Government and Economics, and Speech, and she was particularly honored and proud to serve as the coach of Bolton High School's Speech and Debate team. Mrs. White was instrumental in creating a statewide forensics circuit. She cherished every one of her students, and she always considered them to be an extension of her own family.

Mrs. White is predeceased by two of her children, Frederick Lamar and Wallace Mark, and her parents, Samuel Pickles Lyles and Marie Myrtle Guy Lyles.

She is survived by her husband of fifty-nine years, Paul Donald White, Sr., and her children and their spouses: Paul Donald White, Jr. and his wife Kathy of Alexandria; Charles Nathan White II and his wife K.K. of Alexandria, Carol Rhodes White (widow of her son Frederick Lamar) of Dallas, Texas; Paula Elizabeth White Hayes and her husband Jeffrey of Dallas, Texas; and Martha Anne White Johnston and her husband Mark of Dallas, Texas. She is survived by five of her sisters.

She is also survived by her thirteen grandchildren: Paul Donald White, III of New Orleans and his girlfriend Jennifer Erwin; Frederick Lamar White, Jr. of Alexandria; Martha Elizabeth White Vasquez, and her husband Jeremy Vasquez of Baton Rouge; Mark Edward White and his fianc? Michelle Cuevas of Alexandria; David Lawrence White and his wife Gina McClure White, of Winston-Salem, North Carolina; Emily Marie White Corbin and her husband Scott Corbin of Dallas, Texas; Leigh Anne White of Winston-Salem, North Carolina; Allison Anne Hayes of Durham, North Carolina; Kirk Joseph Hayes of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Natalie Elizabeth Johnston, Jennifer Joanne Hayes, Samuel Mark Johnston, and Joseph Paul Johnston, all of Dallas, Texas; and a great-grandson Nathan Lawrence White.

The family asks that all memorials in honor of Joanne Lyles White be sent to the First United Methodist Church of Alexandria, 2727 Jackson Street, Alexandria, Louisiana 71301.

To extend online condolences to the White family, please visit us at www.hixsonbrothers.com.