Charles Merida Gilreath and Emily Wilda (Thompson) Gilreath both passed away peacefully in Cartersville on December 5, 2020, surrounded by the love of their family and faithful friends. Their 69-year marriage was a model of mutual respect and partnership, both in parenting and in their respective work and avocations. Charles was a successful business owner, operating Gilreath Oil Company for 37 years. Emily taught high school and middle school English in the Cartersville City School District for 24 years. Former students often introduced themselves when they saw her years later, even quoting poems they memorized in her class.
Charles grew up Baptist, but joined the Presbyterian Church as a wedding gift to Emily. They were faithful and active members of First Presbyterian Church, Cartersville, for 65 years, where they both served as Elder and Deacon, as well as in numerous other leadership and committee positions. They generously supported missionaries and ministries of the church and kept up with former pastors via cards and calls.
Charles and Emily shared a passion for golf, traveling with the Southern Seniors and other groups on trips and for tournaments all over the country, making lifelong friends and lasting memories. They both were fixtures at the Cartersville Country Club golf course, where Charles was a scratch golfer and Emily was a leader in the Ladies Golf Association. A highlight for Emily was making her first and only hole-in- one in Pinehurst, NC, on her 80th birthday.
Charles was born in Adairsville, Georgia on August 10, 1929, the oldest son of Paul (Boyge) and Mary Frances Gilreath. Charles grew up in Cartersville, attending the Market Street (Cherokee Avenue) School from elementary through high school. He attended Emory at Oxford and was a member of Chi Phi Fraternity. He graduated with his bachelor’s and law degrees from Emory University in 1950 and 1953 respectively. He worked at Citizens and Southern National Bank while in law school. After graduating, he served in the U.S. Army from 1953 to 1955 during the Korean War, as a clerk for the Headquarters Commandant at Fort MacPherson. He joined his father at Gilreath Oil in 1956, growing the business and applying his legal training to negotiate contracts with oil companies and state government. Charles served as a Director of the Georgia Oilmen’s Association, as President of the Cartersville Rotary Club, and President of the Southern Seniors Golf Association.
Emily was born in Johnson City, Tennessee, on May 24, 1928, and was the oldest child of Harold and Wilda Thompson. She graduated Salutatorian of Science Hill High School and traveled to Georgia to attend Shorter College in Rome. After two years there, Emily returned to Johnson City to attend East Tennessee State College (now University) where she graduated with a BS in English in 1950. A lifelong learner, Emily earned a master’s degree in English from West Georgia College (now University) in 1977. A teaching job brought her to Cartersville in 1950, where she and Charles met. During their early years of marriage, Emily taught school in Atlanta, but spent the rest of her career in Cartersville City Schools, where she taught for 24 years before retiring in 1984. She was a dedicated member of The Etowah Chapter of the DAR for 51 years, serving as Regent from 1980-1984 and again from 1992-1994, as well as holding many other officer roles. She lived her entire life in accordance with DAR’s motto of “God, Home, Country.”
Charles and Emily are survived by their children Chuck (Mitzi) Gilreath of Isle of Palms, SC, Mary Wilda Gilreath of Cartersville, Laura (Tom) Freese of Johns Creek, GA, and Julie (Freeman) Henry of Cary, NC.
“Emi and Granddaddy” also are survived by grandchildren Courtney (Charles) Liscum of Atlanta, Philip Gilreath of Athens, Stuart Gilreath of Richmond, VA, Sarah and Mary Claire Freese of Atlanta, Sam Henry of Charlotte, NC, Evan Henry of Winston Salem, NC, Jack Henry of Cary, NC, and new great-grandchild, Evelyn Victoria Liscum. Charles is survived by his brother, Paul (Dottie) Gilreath III, of Marietta. The family would like to express their deep appreciation to caregivers Sarah Barnes, Ora Banks, Dianna Bradley, Glenda Cooley, Cheryl Lynch, Stephanie Miller, Sherry Rogers, Susan West, Carla Woods, and the caring staff of Pruitt Hospice. We are so grateful for their dedication and loving care for our parents these last two years.
A graveside Celebration of Life will be held at Oak Hill Cemetery on Saturday, December 12, 2020. In light of community health restrictions, the celebration will be limited to family. In lieu of flowers, please consider memorial contributions to First Presbyterian Church, 183 West Main Street, Cartersville GA 30120, in honor of Charles and Emily’s lives and faithful service.