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Publix Super Markets heiress Carol Jenkins Barnett dies at 65

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Posted at 12:27 PM, Dec 08, 2021

LAKELAND, Fla. — Carol Jenkins Barnett, a Lakeland native and daughter of Publix Super Markets founder George W. Jenkins, passed away late Tuesday evening, the company announced Wednesday.

In a press release, Publix said Jenkins Barnett, who was 65, died surrounded by her loving family. Her death comes after her 2016 diagnosis of younger-onset Alzheimer’s disease.

A memorial for Jenkins Barnett will be held on Saturday, December 11 at 11 a.m. at the First United Methodist Church in Lakeland. It will also be live-streamed here.

Jenkins Barnett leaves behind her husband, Barney Barnett; their two sons, Wesley Barnett and Nicholas Barnett; three grandchildren, Raleigh, Birdie, and Zoey, and many other loved ones.

“The Publix family is deeply saddened by the loss of a great humanitarian and community advocate,” said Publix CEO Todd Jones. “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.”

George W. Jenkins opened the first Publix store, called Publix Food Store, in Winter Haven in 1930. Today, Publix Super Markets has 1,294 store locations, nine distribution centers, and 11 manufacturing facilities.

Jenkins Barnett start working at Publix as a cashier in 1972 at the Grove Park Shopping Center and later worked in the company's corporate marketing and research development. She was elected to the Publix board of directors in 1983 where she served for 33 years.

In 1989, following her father's stoke, Jenkins Barnett was appointed as the chair of the board, which later became Publix Super Markets Charities. In 1991, she was named chair and president.

Jenkins Barnett earned a bachelor's degree in business and marketing from Florida Southern College, located in Lakeland, in 1979. While a student at FSC, she joined the Junior League of Lakeland and remained actively involved in the community throughout her life.

In 1998, Jenkins Barnett received the Doctor of Public Service honoris causa from FSC.

Jenkins Barnett and her husband are "admired philanthropists known for generously giving back to nonprofit organizations including United Way, Florida Partnership for School Readiness, and Family Fundamentals, as well as countless others," according to a press release.

The couple funded numerous community projects over the years, including Barnett Park and the Carol Jenkins Barnett Pavilion for Women and Children at Lakeland Regional Health.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to Bonnet Springs Park,, which was Jenkins Barnett's last philanthropic gift to the community in Lakeland.

"Polk County Public Schools is mourning the loss of Carol Jenkins Barnett, a devoted education advocate and staunch supporter of our students.

As president of Publix Super Markets Charities, her generous assistance has touched the lives of countless children over the years.

She was also a founding board member of the Polk Education Foundation, a nonprofit organization managing private and corporate donations benefiting PCPS students. She spent more than 20 years serving on this board, providing her wise guidance and loyal backing.

She recognized the importance of literacy and early learning — establishing the United Way’s ReadingPals program, whose army of volunteers continue to make an invaluable contribution to our students and schools.

Mrs. Barnett has always been a caring and compassionate force for good. Our prayers remain with her family and loved ones." — Polk County Public Schools