Juanita Catherine Cripe Armayor

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WASHINGTON, D.C. Juanita Armayor died in The Residences at Thomas Circle in Washington, D.C. Feb. 8, 2011, at the age of 95 and 364 days.

Mrs. Armayor was born in 1915 into a Pennsylvania-Dutch Indiana farm family south of Peru, which she never knew as the hometown of Cole Porter well into adulthood, though surrounded by the piano music of her sister Phyllis and the cornet music of her father. As a small girl she was often spared the routine chores of the farm in honor of her dreamy sweetness and reading, her poetry, her art, and her excellent schoolwork. (She was made to skip the eighth grade.)

She was a true child of the Great Depression. Her father was never a good businessman and when crop prices fell in the late 1920's he was forced to sell the family farm in 1928 and move the family to Detroit, where he unhappily worked in maintenance at Henry Ford Hospital while she became an art student at Northwestern High School, Wayne State University, and the Detroit Institute of Fine Arts. She had joined and supported the Epworth League as a girl and met Oliver Armayor from Key West in 1930 at Strathmoor Methodist Church Epworth League meetings in Detroit. They often went dancing together at the Grande Ballroom, sometimes to the music of legendary bandleaders such as Henry Busse and Ben Bernie. After two years of courtship, Oliver proposed, though he had lost his job several months earlier and had to return to Key West in 1932 to work with his contractor father. They wrote to one another for years on end before they were formally engaged in 1936, when Oliver joined the Civil Service at the Pensacola Naval Air Station. They were married in the pastor's study of First Methodist Church of Pensacola in February 1937 and listened to a restaurant band play “Stardust” that evening. Her son Kimball was christened in the same Methodist church soon after his birth in mid-December 1939.

Especially after moving to Miami in 1940 and even at the expense of her art, she gave everything to her home, husband, and three children. Judith Rose was born in November 1941 and Beverly Joyce in September 1943, and even though she later came to be well-known as a local artist and art-teacher in Jacksonville, Fla. and frequently exhibited her portraits, still-lifes, and landscapes locally, there was never a question of priorities. She was first and foremost a wife, mother, and homemaker.

In 1965 Mr. Armayor was struck down in his prime by retinal detachments which rendered him legally blind, but a loving Nita learned to drive in her 50's and nursed him back to active life and service in Jacksonville. She was a loyal Methodist from girlhood, and the Armayors became founders of Wesconnett Methodist Church, holding almost every lay position there over some 50 years till they were overcome by age and ill health. After 71 years of marriage, Oliver died in December 2008.

She loved music, art, dogs, and all children. She showed selfless love and true religion to all who knew her. She was utterly without malice and completely unselfish.

Her parents, Jesse and Rosetta Cripe; an elder brother, Russel Cripe; and sister, Phyllis Cripe Meyer predeceased her. A beloved younger daughter, Beverly Joyce Armayor Moller, died in 2004. She is survived by her son, Oliver Kimball Armayor of Eutaw, Ala. and his wife Mary Ann; her daughter, Judith Rose Armayor Smith of Washington, D.C. and her husband Dane; her daughter Beverly's husband Herb; seven grandchildren, and 12 great-grandchildren.

Funeral services will be 2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 19, 2011, at Wesconnett United Methodist Church, 5630 Wesconnett Blvd., Jacksonville, FL 32244, with a reception at the church immediately following interment beside her husband at Riverside Memorial Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks for memorial contributions to Wesconnett United Methodist Church or the American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults, 1800 Johnson St., Baltimore, MD, 21230.
Published in Tuscaloosa News from Feb. 17 to Feb. 18, 2011