Publix heiress Carol Jenkins Barnett dead at 65

LAKELAND, Fla. — Carol Jenkins Barnett, a Florida philanthropist and daughter of Publix Super Markets founder George W. Jenkins, died Tuesday. She was 65.

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Barnett was diagnosed with younger-onset Alzheimer’s disease in 2016, Publix said in a news release.

“The Publix family is deeply saddened by the loss of a great humanitarian and community advocate,” Publix CEO Todd Jones said in a statement. “In addition to her service at Publix, Carol Jenkins Barnett made significant contributions to many nonprofit organizations and for the betterment of all children with investments in early childhood education programs. She will be sorely missed by her family, our associates and the community. Carol had a generous heart and compassionate soul. Her efforts will continue to improve the lives of others for generations.”

Barnett was one of seven children of Jenkins, who died in 1996. She was born and raised in Lakeland, Florida, and began working for Publix in 1972 at Grove Park Shopping Center, where she worked as a cashier, Publix said in its news release.

Barnett and her husband, Barney Barnett, have donated millions of dollars for decades to Florida Southern College -- where Carol Barnett graduated in 1979 with a bachelor’s degree in business and marketing -- and to Lakeland Regional Health, The Ledger of Lakeland reported.

“We are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Carol Jenkins Barnett,” Danielle Drummond, president and CEO of Lakeland Regional Health, said in an emailed statement to the newspaper. “Her compassionate heart and generous spirit helped thousands in our area over the years and her devotion to community service inspired even more people to become involved in helping others.”

Lakeland Regional Health Medical Center opened the eight-floor Carol Jenkins Barnett Pavilion for Women and Children, in 2019, according to The Ledger.

Her final philanthropic gift was the founding of Bonnet Springs Park, Publix said in a statement.

“My mother had a passion for helping others, especially children,” Barnett’s son, Wesley Barnett, said in a text message to The Ledger. “She felt privileged to be able to support many causes locally and beyond. Her father and mother instilled in her a sense of responsibility to her community and she has in turn taught that to my brother and me and our families by her shining example.

“But most importantly, she was the anchor of our family. A mother, a grandmother. Her infectious smile, inimitable personality, and abounding love will never be forgotten.”

Carol Barnett was elected to the Publix board of directors in 1983 and served until she resigned in 2016 after announcing her Alzheimer’s diagnosis, WFLA reported. After her father suffered a stroke in 1989, Publix Super Markets Charities appointed her chair, WTVT reported. She became president two years later.