JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Shortly after midnight on Feb. 21, 2014, in Jacksonville, Fla., Dr. Julia Bray Fiorentino went home to be with the Lord after a lifetime of service as a mother, grandmother, teacher, minister, missionary, evangelist and Bible college president.
The funeral will be 11 a.m. Saturday at New Life Christian Fellowship at 2701 Hodges Blvd. A graveside service to follow in Arlington Park Cemetery, 6920 Lone Star Road, Jacksonville, Fla., 32211.
She was 86 years old, born June 15, 1927, in Longwood, N.C., the daughter of Arthur Tilden Bray and Martha Jane "Mattie" Bray.
She was predeceased by her loving husband, Thomas Martin Fiorentino Sr., and four brothers, Forrest Rudolph Bray, Lucius Barnwell Bray, the Rev. Arthur Lawrence Bray and Jack Bray.
She is survived by her two children, Thomas Martin Fiorentino Jr. (Mary Baer) and Kathy Fiorentino-Patten (David); four grandchildren, Sara Elizabeth Fiorentino, Caroline McKay Fiorentino, Thomas Martin Fiorentino III, and Elizabeth Kathryn Baer; a great-grandson, Sebastian Maddox Baer; and a sister-in-law, Nell Grantham Bray. She is survived by her nieces, Martha Lennon (Dennis), Linda Reehl (Tommy), Carol Arnette (Ed), Becky Sloan, Beverly Carroll (David), Jeannie Marlow and Ellie Dale (Jeff); and a nephew, Art Bray; and was predeceased by her nephew, Morris Bray.
She attended local public schools where she matriculated from Fairmont High School. After graduation she attended East Carolina University, where she received a bachelor of science degree. She began her teaching career in Fayetteville, N.C. at Massey Hill High School. On Aug. 28, 1952, she married Tommy Fiorentino of Brooklyn, N.Y., after meeting at a military extension class she was teaching and he was attending in Fort Bragg, N.C.. They began their family in Wilmington, N.C., where she taught at New Hanover High School and he was employed by the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad. Shortly thereafter they moved to Jacksonville, Fla., where she was a teacher at Terry Parker High School and Fort Caroline Junior High School, where she later became assistant principal. It was there she touched hundreds of young lives pioneering team teaching in algebra with Rose Board and sponsoring the Terry and Andrew after school prayer group. In the early 1970s, she founded Christian Joy Fellowship, a world evangelical ministry and she will forever be remembered for her motto "You are the Apple of God's Eye." She went on to get her master of education degree from the University of North Florida and a doctor of education degree from Nova University and a doctor of ministry of education from Luther Rice Seminary. Armed with a master's degree and two doctorates she began in the full-time ministry traveling to over 50 countries in 40 years. She was particularly active in India, Indonesia and the Philippines, where she helped start churches and support orphanages. Even after a stroke and being confined to a wheelchair, she traveled to Mexico and across the United States preaching the gospel. In 1981, she founded Zoe College, a Christian college in Jacksonville, Fla. In 1996, Zoe College became Zoe University where she served as president and chancellor emeritus until her death. At Zoe University she was instrumental in preparing thousands of students for work as Christian teachers, counselors, missionaries and ministers. She started educational clusters affiliated with Zoe University in India, the Philippines, the Netherlands, the Bahamas and in several U.S. prisons. She was a member of the Delta Gamma Society, served on the board of directors for Teen Challenge of North Florida and received the Counselor of the Year Award from Christian Counseling Today. In 1982-83 she was chair of the Duval County School System Teacher Education Center and also served as president of the Florida Association of Secondary School Principals Assistant Principal Advisory Board. She was the author of six books, including "God's Done It Again!" and "One Step at a Time With God."
The family will receive friends from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday at Corey-Kerlin Funeral Home, 940 Cesery Blvd., Jacksonville, Fla., 32211.