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By MARTY FINLEY
ELIZABETHTOWN — Vivian Cox Brizendine George filled the long years of her life with the laughter of children and the love of church and family.
To those who knew her, she was a friendly light, a loving mother and unwavering in her loyalty.
“She was really an unusually genuine person,” said Betty J. Snyder, George’s daughter.
The Vine Grove resident died Monday in Elizabethtown. She was 97.
She was born in Peoria, Ill., and spent a portion of her childhood there before moving with her family to Kentucky so her father, Charles, could work in the oil fields, Snyder said.
During her life, George was a trailblazer in many ways, playing basketball in its infancy in the ’20s and adopting a passion for organic gardening as early as the ’40s, years before it became popular.
She was a devoted churchgoer, teaching Sunday school at Stithon Baptist Church in Radcliff for well over four decades.
Charles Kerr, who teaches Sunday school at Stithton, said he remembers her loyalty to the church fondly and her love for the children vividly.
“She’s been a role model to me,” Kerr said.
She taught Sunday school and helped out long after most people would retire, Kerr said. Her actions inspire him to do the same thing, he said, adding that he hoped he could continue to teach as long as he is mentally and physically capable.
In recent years, George was unable to attend church so Kerr took the children to visit her, which she enjoyed, he said.
The Rev. Gene Waggoner was pastor of Stithon from 1961 to 1996 and said he can still envision her teaching the children — including his three daughters.
“She loved the Lord, and loved her church,” Waggoner said.
Waggoner said she was a great help to the church and was the type person whose kindness and compassion attracted people to the church and always made them feel welcome.
“She’s just the kinda church member you need,” he said.
In addition to her dedication to her church, she never shied away from working, owning and operating Brizendine Auto Parts on Wilson Road in Radcliff for 30 years. Snyder said she ran the store alone while her first husband, Richard Brizendine, worked in law enforcement.
Hubert Cockriel was one of the people who worked for George, both at the auto parts store as well as a grocery store she owned with her husband previously.
Cockriel said George and her husband were great people who gave him a break, and also helped customers who could not afford to pay. Cockriel worked for General Electric, but he said the company would often face layoffs and every time it occurred, George would provide him with a job.
“She was a fine person,” Cockriel said. “I believe that she would help anyone.”
While George was a great-great-grandmother at the end of her life, she had only one daughter. Snyder said their bond was very strong.
Mother and daughter worked to complete the John Witt property, a farm about nine miles outside Rineyville on Ky. 220. The renovation was completed around 1990 and deemed a historic site worthy of preservation. Snyder’s father bought the farm in the ’50s and went back and forth between the farm and Vine Grove with George.
The farm house, which is about 114 years old, is where Snyder lives, and she said George helped her manage the renovations and provided any assistance that was needed.
George was also supportive of her daughter’s endeavors, whether it was attending college at Western Kentucky University or pursuing nursing training in Louisville. She said she would show up randomly and dispense with food for Snyder and her friends while she was in school.
“She was always there for me, irregardless of what’s going on,” Snyder said.
Waggoner said he had nothing but high praise for George and her Christian character. He added that she still lives on today.
“She’s just changed addresses on us,” he said.
Marty Finley can be reached at (270) 505-1762.