Mrs. Sylvia B. Palmer, 85 of Habersham County, died June 3rd 2020. She was the wife of Gerald K. Palmer. They were happily married for 58 years until his death in 2015. Their sons and daughters-in-law are Steve G. Palmer (Stacey) and Keith E. Palmer (Tammy) of Gainesville, GA. Grandchildren from Steve are: Heather P. Jordan (Scott), Sarah P. Almand (Matt), Lana P. Green (Chris) and Jacob S. Palmer (Renee). Grandchildren from Keith are Hannah A. Palmer, Emma K. Palmer,. Great grandchildren: Ashlyn Jordan, Maggie Almand, Lily Jane Green, and one on the way, yet to be named (Jacob & Renee).
Sylvia was a classic Southern lady that generously and honestly loved people, and brightened any room she was in. Her unique laugh was infectious, and made others want to join in with her. She said that long ago she figured out that she could laugh or cry about things, so she laughed. Through nearly 50 years of students, and countless people she counseled, and all the people she met (never met a stranger), she shared her optimism, genuine love and care. She had the gift of being a “cheerleader” to those who need it, and let’s face it, we all need a cheerleader. Most of all, she loved her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Not in a way where she forced her beliefs on anyone, or made anyone feel uncomfortable, but she lived a life letting God’s love and light shine through her.
Sylvia was born in Kissimmee Florida to Mildred and Woody Tindal. Thirteen months after Sylvia, her sister Carole Sue was born. Woody was in law enforcement, handsome, and the life of the party, but not one to settle down for long. Mildred and Woody divorced not long after Carole Sue was born. Mildred was 4’ 11”, and about 95 pounds, but full of spunk. She eventually met and married Hampton Bowen, who adopted the girls. Sylvia and her sister Carole Sue (Wood) grew up in Haines City Florida, in a simpler time, when girls could walk everywhere, without much fear. They loved to walk the shores of their local Florida lakes. Only 13 months apart, the girls were very close, but also very different. They have been called “Tigger and Eyore” after the Winnie The Pooh characters. Carole Sue was slower, careful, and talked a bit monotone. She was pretty sure bad stuff was around the corner, and you should be ready. Sylvia always had on her “rose colored glasses,” was always upbeat, excited, and optimistic. She never saw danger, and believed in the good around her. The girls embraced their differences, and found humor in most things.
Sylvia started college at Stetson College, in Florida, but transferred to Truett McConnell College (TMC) so she and Carole Sue could go to school together. While at TMC in the 1950’s Sylvia met the love of her life, Gerald Palmer. They won several trophies playing ping pong there. It was a game they played for the rest of their lives. Sylvia and Gerald graduated from TMC in 1955. Then they attended Mercer University, Sylvia earned a degree in education, and Gerald in business. Gerald & Sylvia Palmer were married in 1957, and lived in Macon GA. They had their son, Steven Gerald Palmer in 1959, and their other son, Keith EugenePalmer in 1960.
In 1962 they moved to Toccoa GA, where she taught 9th Grade at Stephens County High School. In 1965 they moved to Gainesville, GA where Sylvia taught 6th Grade at Enota Elementary School. In 1967 – 1969 she taught 5th Grade at Riverbend Elementary. Many of these kids still say she was the best teacher they ever had. In 1969 she started teaching at The Christian Education Center located adjacent to Gainesville High School (its first year), and eventually became director there. She was one of the pioneers in having Christian Ed classes on school campuses, giving school credits. The program is now known as Center Point. There she also started counseling, and was a certified family counselor.
In 1980 Gerald’s office (Fieldale Farms) moved to Habersham County, and Sylvia started the Habersham Christian Learning Center at Habersham Central High School. She taught, mentored, and was director there for 18 years. She also continued as a family counselor. She attended Riverbend Baptist Church in Gainesville in the 1960’s, Lakewood Baptist in Gainesville in the 1970’s. Then joined First Presbyterian in Cornelia in the 1980’s and was an elder there.
Some awards given to her were: Hall County Civitan "Citizen of the Year", Gainesville S.T.A.R. Teacher; Habersham Rotary "Will Watt Award" for outstanding educator; Woodmen of the World "Outstanding Citizen", Kiwanis "Key of Light"; Who's Who Among .American Educators, and Habersham Pacesetter. She was a member of member of Alpha Delta Kappa; 3 Arts Club, and TMC Alumni Association. She gave many talks and conducted seminars throughout her life. She served on the Habersham County Board of Education from 1999-2006. Then, at age 72, she decided to teach Interpersonal Relations at North GA Technical College in Clarkesville. She was there for 9 years, and was dubbed “The Ping Pong Queen” because she could still beat most of the college boys!
In 2015, only 2 days after their 58th wedding anniversary Gerald passed away after a long and valiant battle with Parkinson’s disease. They had a marriage that most people want. It didn’t just happen; they did the things that made a happy marriage. He treated her like the special sweet classy Southern lady she was. Although she worked too, when Gerald would come home from work each day, she would run to him, excited, kiss, and act like seeing him was the best thing that had happened all day. Although he was more stoic, she always made him grin. They lifted each other up, never withheld good from each other, and refused to say anything negative about each other. As Sylvia used to say, “Your name is safe on my lips.” They spent a lifetime finding the humor in life. Even as Gerald dealt with the cruelty of Parkinson’s, he saw humor, and said things that kept her laughing. Their favorite song was “You’re my best friend,” by Don Williams. They built a home where love lived brightly.
Always learning and loving school, in 2016 Sylvia decided to go back to Truett McConnell to work on a Master’s Degree in theology. Even in her 80’s, she could still beat most of the college guys in ping pong! She was still upbeat, happy, positive, and loved people. In her eyes, everything was a party, and reason to eat, talk, laugh, and have a good time! In 2017 she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She went through chemo (still bringing the party to the chemo room – would get food and drinks for everyone there), then surgery, then more chemo. The treatments were working, and she kept going to school!
In 2019, one morning as she was on the way to Truett McConnell, a “distracted” driver on 365 hit her in her car at 70 mph. She had 11 broken ribs, 2 cracked ankles, a concussion, and had bruising from head to toe. Even after this, as soon as possible, she once again returned to TMC. Unfortunately, the wreck meant she had to stop chemo treatments to heal from her many injuries. Sadly, this allowed the cancer to come back again, and this time in her liver, colon, and other places. As soon as they could, they tried more chemo, but it was too far advanced. Hospice was called in to assist. Typical Sylvia Palmer, upon receiving the news that her time was limited, she didn’t crawl into a corner. She got excited about writing a book about living life that she’d wanted to write (soon to be published)! Her attitude stayed positive all her life. She said that she’s thankful for every moment on this Earth, and intends to enjoy every moment that was allowed here, but she was also looking forward to seeing Jesus and Gerald in Heaven. With the COVID virus, everything was cancelled, so Sylvia finally had to quit going to classes. On TMC’s awards day 2020, President Dr. Emir Caner presented Sylvia with an honorary Doctorate of Theology degree! She was surprised and delighted!
Gerald loved planting and growing things. He set out an Abraham Lincoln rose bush by their back steps. Since Gerald died, the bush hasn’t really produced much. This year, not too long after hospice was called in, the rose bush started producing the prettiest roses it’s ever had. She said it was God letting Gerald send a message, saying that he’s got them a spot picked out in Heaven, and he’s ready for her to come see him.
This lady has been a special one of a kind bright shining spot for all her many students, counselees, friends and family. It is the sunset of a life well lived, and an inspiration to us all. No doubt God has said, “Well done my good and faithful servant.” For those of us that are left here, our hearts are heavy with the loss of hearing her laughter, her words of comfort and support, and seeing that sweet smile she shared so freely, but we have plans to meet again. In case you didn’t know, this is what love looks like. It is a love radiated from her Christ.
Special thanks to Jacob and Renee who put their lives on hold and moved in with Mom to care for her in these last times, and to Erica, our hospice nurse that became like family, and the many friends and family that showed their love in so many ways. Due to virus concerns, regular funeral services will be postponed until a later date. Later, we plan to have a party of which she would approve. Burial will be at Yonah Memorial Gardens cemetery with immediate family only.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to the Habersham Christian Learning Center, P. O. Box 427, Cornelia, GA 30531; or Truett-McConnell College, 100 Alumni Drive, Cleveland, GA, 30528, or Cornelia Presbyterian Church, P. O. Box 165, Cornelia, GA 30531.
An online guest register is available and may be viewed at www.mcgaheegriffinandstewart.com.
MCGAHEE-GRIFFIN & STEWART FUNERAL HOME OF CORNELIA, GEORGIA (706/778-8668) IS IN CHARGE OF ARRANGEMENTS.