Gwendolyn Virginia (Boulden) French, 97, passed peacefully in her sleep at her home Monday, August 16, 2021. Born August 10th, 1924 on the Shanklin farm in Mason County, she was the daughter of the late Robert & Leona (Turner) Boulden. Mrs. French was preceded in death by her husband, John M. French, Sr. in December 2014 after 65 years of marriage. Besides her parents and husband she was also preceded in death by three sisters; Ethel Marie (Boulden) Foley, Alma (Boulden) Smith, and Roberta (Boulden) Breckenridge.
She and her sisters were alumni of the May’s Lick Negro School and the John Fee High School. As the valedictorian of the graduating classes, Mrs. French continued her education and followed her sisters to Kentucky State College (KSC), Frankfort, Ky. While attending KSC, she pledged the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Home Economics. After teaching home economics in Owensboro, Kentucky she returned to Mason County where she married her late husband (John M. French Sr.) and taught eight grades at the Rosenwald one room schoolhouse in Washington, Kentucky. She later transferred to the Rosenwald May’s Lick Negro School where she taught 4th and 5th grades until Mason County Schools were fully integrated in 1961. While instructing at the May’s Lick Negro School, she was the first African American from Mason County to attend the University of Kentucky in order to complete her teacher’s certification.
After integration, she wished to continue teaching in her major (Home Economics) at the integrated Mason County High School, but since Home Economics was an elective course the school board believed the white students would not take the course if instructed by an African American Teacher. Instead of instructing Home Economics, Mrs. French became Director/Administrator of the Mason County School Lunch Program. The School Board was already familiar with her capabilities due to her persistent lobbying of the Board to place a cafeteria in the Mays Lick Negro School, which was the only school in the county system that did not have cafeteria service for the students. While engaged as Director, she completed her Master’s Degree in Supervision/HR at Morehead University.
During her 47 year career of teaching and as Director of the Mason County School Lunch Program she was an exemplary professional who paved the way for many. When Mrs. French retired as Director of the Mason County School Lunch Program, her duties/responsibilities (financial management, contracting officer, controlling bidding processes, hiring & managing employees, as well as developing the school menus) were redistributed to three different positions. Mrs. French was a powerhouse.
During her retirement she was actively engaged in farming with her husband, worked as a volunteer with RSVP and enjoyed touring the United States, Central America and Africa with her husband. She was also an active member of the Second Baptist Church in May’s Lick.
She is survived by her children, Dr. Robert H. (Mafalda) French, John M. French Jr., and Dr. Cheryl M.R. French; grandchildren, Shameca (Luke) Freeman and Paul Harrison French; great-grandchild, Olivia Grace Freeman; special friends, Mavis Horde and Toni Strum and numerous loving nieces, nephews, and cousins.
Graveside rites will be conducted at 2 P.M. Sunday, August 22. 2021 in the May’s Lick Cemetery with Rev. L. Rodney Bennett officiating. Burial to follow. A walk thru visitation with COVID protocol will be held from 1 P.M. until 1:45 P.M. Sunday at Palmer Funeral Home and Crematory in May’s Lick.
Memorial contributions can be made to either the May’s Lick Negro School Restoration, Mays’ Lick Community Development, 6152 Helena Road, Mays’ Lick, Ky 41055 or to the May’s Lick Second Baptist Church, PO Box 171, May’s Lick Ky 41055. Condolences may be left at www.palmerfuneralhome.net
To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Gwendolyn Virginia (Boulden) French, please visit our floral store.