Gertrude Stephens remembered as community caregiver

Published 11:00 pm Friday, September 6, 2013

Funeral services were held on Tuesday for Gertrude Pinckard Stephens and she will be remembered by many during the Downtown Troy Tailgate beginning at 10 a.m. today.

The Stephens Gazebo on the square in downtown Troy was donated to the city in October 2001, by Stephens in memory of her husband, Otis Stephens.

Martha Ellis, a longtime friend of Stephens, said Stephens had a desire to do something special for Troy for a long time before she decided on a gazebo.

Gertrude Stephens

Gertrude Stephens

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“Gertrude had a gazebo in her yard and really enjoyed it,” Ellis said. “When she found out that the Downtown Revitalization Committee wanted to build a gazebo on the square, she decided that’s what she wanted do to.”

Stephens also wanted to do something to honor the memory of her husband.

Otis Stephens was a building contractor and a part of the original Henderson Black & Green Company. He was one of the primary contractors that first built Fort Rucker. He also built many schools and private and public buildings in Alabama.

Ellis said Stephens thought a gazebo would be a fitting tribute to her husband.

“And, it has been,” she said. “The Stephens Gazebo is the centerpiece of Troy’s downtown square and is the staging area for the events on the square.”

Ellis said that Stephens was pleased with the Gazebo and enjoyed seeing it used so often by so many.

Stephens died at her home Aug. 29, 2013 at the age of 93.

She was born in Pike County but lived away for years. Ellis said Stephens said that if she ever came back to Troy, she would never leave. And, she didn’t.

Stephens came back home and immersed herself in the community she loved.

Many people will remember her from the V.J. Elmore dime store where she worked for many years in the office.

Stephens had varied interests and was involved in the community in many ways.

She was very supportive of the arts and the projects of the Downtown Revitalization Committee, especially the Brown Bag events on the downtown square.

“We have lost a dedicated contributor to the arts in Pike County with the loss of Gertrude Stephens,” said Mack Gibson, board chair of the Troy-Pike Cultural Arts Center. “Early on, she made gifts to the Troy-Pike Cultural Arts Center. Back in 2007 and continually after she made gifts to Center for the remainder of life. She was a director’s circle member of our organization. I called her my cheerleader because she was always out trying to get contributions for the Center. We have lost a great person in Gertrude Stephens.”

There were two sides of Gertrude Stephens. One side of her liked to dress up in a hat, gloves and high-heeled shoes and go shopping in Montgomery. The other side of Stephens liked to dress down, grab a fishing pole and head to the pond for an afternoon of fishing.

“She absolutely loved to fish,” Ellis said of Stephens. “She had a pond on her property and a cabin and she loved to spend time down there, mainly fishing.”

But Stephens was always “the lady.”

She was a dedicated member of the Troy Women’s Club and First Presbyterian Church and the WIC organization.

“Gertrude always dressed up to go to church,” Ellis said.

“When she went to church, she put on her Sunday best. She was a lady in every way.”

Stephens was known all around town for her landscaping and gardening skills.

“Gertrude said that the key to living a long life was staying active and she did,” Ellis said. “When she was 90 years old she was still working with her flowers and doing exercises when she got up in the morning.”

A snapshot of Stephens’ isn’t complete without noting that she was a kind and loving person, as well a caretaker of her community.

“And she was a very, sweet friend and she will be missed by all who knew her,” Ellis said.