Sunrise: As God ushered in a beautiful new sunrise on Saturday, January 18, 1947, Cecil and Carnell Purnell welcomed their brand new baby girl, Gayle Naomi Purnell. At home was her big brother Cecil Jr., "Mike," who was anxiously awaiting her arrival. Her baby brother, Paul, came later to complete the trio.
Gayle grew up in the close-knit Morgan Park Community. She graduated from Shoop Elementary School and Morgan Park High School. Gayle attended Vacation Bible School at Arnett A.M.E. Church, and participated in the Brownies at Beth Eden Baptist Church. She enjoyed being a member of a neighborhood social club, Sigma Beta Tama, which she joined as a teenager. Gayle truly valued and cherished the lifelong friendships and relationships she gained while growing up in Morgan Park.
Gayle attended Holy Name of Mary Catholic Church and accepted Jesus Christ as her Lord and savior at a young age. In 1975 Gayle found her church home at Trinity United Church of Christ, under the leadership of the Rev. Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. She was proud of her church, which she loved dearly, and was blessed with a lifelong friendship with Rev. Wright.
Gayle left home to attend Southern Illinois University (SIU) in Carbondale, Illinois in the fall of 1964, where she earned her Bachelor's of Science Degree in English. In 1966 she became a member Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated. Her years as an active AKA were some of the greatest years and highlights of her life. While at SIU, Gayle was also crowned Kappa Carnival Queen.
Gayle was blessed with an amazing talent, poetry; it was her greatest form of self-expression. She was a poet, a poet extraordinaire ... a poet Phenomenal. Her poetry was looked upon for comfort, inspiration, love, and laughter. She published three books in her lifetime; "The Blooming of a Brown Rose," "Awakening at Sunrise," and "A Dare to Dream Again." She graciously shared her gift with the world through the hundreds of poems she authored for a host of people and for special occasions.
Gayle's poetry provided her with a platform to speak and minister to the world about HER God, the God who saw her through life's ups, and downs, the God that gave her a vision that someday in this world, HE would bring peace. Her words had a way of transcending just a story; they carried a message of Love, Hope, Peace, and the promise of a better place in the life beyond. There was never a person who called upon her to write for them that she ever disappointed.
Gayle began her teaching career at Bond Elementary and later spent over 20 years as an elementary school teacher at Myra Bradwell Elementary. The love of her profession and her poetry enabled her to reach out to many children. When rap first came upon the scene, unlike many other skeptical adults, she encouraged her students to use the new rap music as a form of expression to learn to read and write. She continued to teach until her health declined in the early 90's.
While teaching at Bradwell she joined "Les Charmantes Mesdemoiselles" (The Charming Ladies), a social and charitable teaching organization. The Mesdames were Hattie McSwain, Gayle Purnell Taylor, Doris Zollinger Norton, Mary D. Sherman, Mattie Ree Eiland, and Yvonne Best.
Gayle's greatest gift arrived on a warm summer evening in the early moments of September 3, 1981, with the birth of her beautiful daughter, China Dawne. Gayle gazed into China's sweet smiling eyes and knew that China was her dream come true. She cherished watching China grow and learn, laugh and smile because she knew that her little girl would be grown after awhile. A precious dream weaved and another trio was completed with the birth of her granddaughter, Zaria Naomi. Gayle was a devoted, loving, and proud mother and grandmother.
In 1985, Gayle decided to take up a piano class at Kennedy King College. She instantly took a liking to the piano instructor, Mr. Alton Newell. Alton and Gayle dated and became inseparable. She never mastered the piano though, only because he told her to cut her fingernails ... which she refused to do. The two became instant soul mates. Their love for the Arts tied their bond. His love and instant connection to her daughter sealed the deal! The two wed at Trinity United Church of Christ on August 7, 1987.
Sunset: On April 14, 2012, Gayle's heavenly father whispered to her and gently called her home. She is now home with her Savior, poetically entertaining the Angels. Gayle was preceded in death by her mother Carnell in 1996 and her father Cecil in 2008.
Celebrating and cherishing fond memories of Gayle are Alton, her husband of 24+ years; daughter, China Dawne (Glenn); stepson, Nachum Taylor; brothers, Cecil Jr.(Mary) and Paul; grandchildren, Zaria Naomi Yeargin (her namesake), Nachum Taylor Jr., Deonte, Brian, and Destiny Robinson; nephews, Marc Campbell and Noel Purnell; nieces, Nyree Tucker, Nicole Campbell, and Lavette Roberts; Her "sisters", Karen "Penny" Kerr, Jamille “Jimi" Hall, Hortense "Tensy" Roberson, Valee Salone, Elaine Wilson, Rosalyn Tillman, Helen King, Koret Johnson, Jerrie Clore Matlock, Challis Lowe-Bowers, Audrey Cooper--Stanton, Valerie Epps; and her "Soul Brother for Life, "her childhood friend, Hugh "Chucky" Brandon, a host of nieces, nephews, cousins, and friends.