Happy Garner Kirkpatrick was aptly named.
That’s how friends and family are remembering the former director of North Georgia Children Center, which evolved into Challenged Child and Friends. She died Monday at the age of 82.
“She could light up a room when she walked in,” said Rosemary Dodd, Kirkpatrick’s best friend.
Kirkpatrick was named the Civitans’ Citizen of the Year in 1970 and Rotary Club of Gainesville’s Woman of the Year in 1971 for her work with children with disabilities.
While she was director of the school, some of her fellow Gainesville Junior Service League members helped, as well. Lucile Carter recalled Kirkpatrick making a large impact with the kids.
“She loved them,” Carter said. “And they loved her.”
According to Kirkpatrick’s obituary, she attended Wesleyan College in 1952 in Macon before postponing her education when she married her husband of 40 years, Gene, and later raised their children.
She graduated from Brenau College in 1975 and earned a master’s degree in counseling from the University of Georgia in 1984.
Kirkpatrick was a ballerina as she grew up on Green Street and lived across from Dodd, who called her “smart as a whip.”
“She could work her way through most any difficult situation,” Dodd said.
Jim Butts, who was in Kirkpatrick’s Sunday school class at Gainesville First United Methodist Church, said she “wanted to give back to the community.”
Carter said Happy and Gene Kirkpatrick were well-matched, as both loved the outdoors and enjoyed working on things together. Donkeys were some of Happy Kirkpatrick’s favorite pets.
Carter especially emphasized Happy Kirkpatrick’s impact on children with disabilities.
“She had great empathy for them, but she also had great hopes for what they could become,” Carter said. “She felt it was her responsibility to help them the most she could.”
Dodd said Kirkpatrick was also a dedicated volunteer at the Northeast Georgia History Center.
Kirkpatrick was preceded in death by her husband, Gene. She is survived by her daughter, Kathy Kirkpatrick Oates; her son, Carl Kirkpatrick; two grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
The funeral service is at 2 p.m. Friday at Gainesville First United Methodist Church with Dr. Terry Walton officiating. The family will receive friends at the church after the service.