POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Philanthropist Carol Jenkins Barnett, daughter of the founder of Publix Super Markets and a longtime board member, died at the age of 65 this week.
“With a heavy heart, we share the news of the passing of Carol Jenkins Barnett,” the company said in a statement. “It is a difficult day for her family, our Publix family and the community.”
According to the statement, she died late Tuesday evening in her home, surrounded by family.
Her daughter-in-law, Ashley Gibson Barnett, mourned her on Facebook, calling her one of the most remarkable women she knew.
“Her kindness, tenacity, wisdom, and legacy is something that will always be with us. God blessed me immeasurably when he chose her to be my mother-in-law,” Gibson Barnett said. “My marriage gave me more than a husband; it gave me a second mom. I cannot even begin to thank her for all the unconditional love and support she continually shared with us. Life has given me plenty of reasons to be happy, and she is definitely one of them.”
Publix Super Markets Inc. announced the departure of Barnett from the board in 2016 after a diagnosis of younger-onset Alzheimer’s disease. She had served as president of Publix Super Market Charities since 1991.
“The Publix family is deeply saddened by the loss of a great humanitarian and community advocate,” Publix CEO Todd Jones said in a statement. “In addition to her service at Publix, Carol Jenkins Barnett made significant contributions to many nonprofit organizations and for the betterment of all children with investments in early childhood education programs. She will be sorely missed by her family, our associates and the community. Carol had a generous heart and compassionate soul. Her efforts will continue to improve the lives of others for generations.”
Barnett had strong ties to Florida Southern College, where she attended. In the decades since, Barnett – along with her husband Barney Barnett – reportedly donated millions of dollars to the campus.
The college created the Carol Jenkins Barnett Center for Early Childhood Learning and Health in 2020. It offers a “unique interdisciplinary program to positively impact the academic experience of young children,” according to the Florida Southern College website.
In recent years, Lakeland Regional Health established the Carol Jenkins Barnett Pavilion for Women and Children.
She and her husband also were involved in the development of the 160+ acre Bonnet Springs Park being built in Lakeland. Her family is requesting donations be made to the park in lieu of flowers.
Barnett is survived by her husband Barney Barnett and her two sons, Nicholas and Wesley Barnett.
A memorial service is scheduled for 11 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 11 at the First United Methodist Church in Lakeland. The service will be livestreamed online for those who cannot attend in person.