Philanthropist, Publix Super Markets heiress Carol Jenkins Barnett dies at 65

Carol Jenkins Barnett (Courtesy: Publix)

Carol Jenkins Barnett, the daughter of Publix Super Markets founder George W. Jenkins, died Tuesday at the age of 65, the company confirmed. She had been diagnosed with younger-onset Alzheimer's disease back in 2016.

"The Publix family is deeply saddened by the loss of a great humanitarian and community advocate," said Publix CEO Todd Jones. "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 born and raised in Lakeland, and began working as a cashier at a Publix store in 1972 when she was a teenager. She earned a bachelor's degree in business and marketing from Florida Southern College in 1979, and later received a Doctor of Public Service honorary degree from her alma mater in 1998.

According to Publix, Barnett was elected to the company's board of directors in 1983, and served for 33 years. She also joined the board of directors for Publix's foundation, which would later become Publix Super Markets Charities. After her father suffered a stroke in 1989, the board appointed her chair. In 1991, she was named chair and president.

Barnett and her husband and her husband are philanthropists known for giving to local nonprofits, including United Way, Florida Partnership for School Readiness, and Family Fundamentals, the company said. They have also funded a number of community projects including Barnett Park and the Carol Jenkins Barnett Pavilion for Women and Children at Lakeland Regional Health. Her final philanthropic gift was the founding of Bonnet Springs Park.

Barnett is survived by her husband, Barney Barnett, her two sons, Wesley and Nicholas, and three grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held at First United Methodist Church in Lakeland on Saturday, Dec. 11 at 11 a.m.