Sunday service at Antioch Baptist Church won’t be the same, the familiar “truly, truly” from Ruby Brawner’s voice no longer lilting in the air from the congregation.
But her legacy lives on as what Phillippa Lewis Moss called the “epitome of what it means to be in service of others.”
“She’s the kind of person that always left you feeling better than how she found you,” said Moss, the Gainesville-Hall Community Service Center director.
Brawner died Saturday, April 10, at the age of 88, according to Wimberly Funeral Home.
Brawner was honored for her 30 years of volunteer service to Northeast Georgia Medical Center in 2012 and also volunteered at Meals on Wheels for roughly 20 years.
She was named the 2018 Gainesville Woman of Distinction by the Girl Scouts of Historic Georgia.
“Even when she wasn’t required to come into the building to get the Meals on Wheels food … she always made it a point to come into the building, to thank the staff there who are actually packing out the meals and ask about their days and ask about their families,” Moss said.
Brawner was the longtime president of the Gainesville Prayer Band, going to different churches at 6 a.m. on the first Sunday of every month.
The Rev. Rose Johnson, the executive director of the Newtown Florist Club, said Brawner “was the most amazing example of what it means to not just pray but to believe in its power.”
“She has been a shining light for the entire community; always filled with love, care, compassion, and concern,” Johnson said in a statement. “The beauty in her life's story is that we have been able to experience firsthand what a faithful witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ should live like. She has left behind an incredible legacy that will be forever cherished.”
The Rev. Rodney Lackey, Antioch’s pastor, said Brawner was well respected and revered throughout the faith community that extended well past the church on Mill Street.
“She was a major part of bridging gaps between our African-American congregations and our Caucasian congregations,” he said. “She just had a way of bringing us together. She was that type of person that it was just hard to say no to.”
Lackey said he first met Brawner roughly 20 years ago but really didn’t get to know her until he became pastor.
“She would always call just to check on me and my family to make sure we were OK and that everything was alright with us,” he said. “She was always respectful. She always had a word of encouragement to me, even in times when I felt like I wasn’t going to make it. She always seemed to have the right thing to say to me to kind of give me a boost to just keep on track and keep on doing what I know the Lord called me and sent me here to do.”
When Bible study would turn dry, Lackey said Brawner knew how to lighten the room with her sense of humor.
“That’s one of the things that I’m going to miss probably most of all is just her input, the wisdom that she shared with us in our Bible study lessons, because Ms. Brawner was definitely a lady that was full of wisdom,” he said.
Like Lackey, Moss said she also recalled how Brawner was generous with her compliments.
“She just gave them freely. And it was always authentic, very genuine, not just saying things just to say it,” Moss said. “I really felt like when Ruby acknowledged you, it was because she really saw the light in you.”