Coping with Grief
We would like to offer our sincere support to anyone coping with grief. Enter your email below for our complimentary daily grief messages. Messages run for up to one year and you can stop at any time. Your email will not be used for any other purpose.
Her Good Trouble Journey
Dr. Gena Sue Gunn McClendon, a passionate and faith-filled pillar of her community, was born on February 12, 1958, in Hannibal, MO, to the blessed union of Charles and Wilma Gunn. She had an indelible impact on countless lives through her meaningful professional work and her deep personal connections. Gena was preceded in death by her father, Charles William Gunn, maternal grandmother, Ruth Edna Gantt Williams, and paternal grandparents, Willie and Malinda Gunn.
Gena was a vibrant soul who embraced life with a joyous spirit. Her childhood was filled with the rhythm of dance, the harmony of music, and the camaraderie of friends. Her life was a testament to the power of family bonds, from her cherished relationships with her brothers, Gaylan and Mosi, to the profound influence of her parents, her aunt Janice, who was her first babysitter, and her maternal grandmother, whom she affectionately called Granny and at 100 years young was considered her wisest advisor.
Gena was a dedicated woman of faith. From her childhood introduction to Christianity at Neighborhood United Methodist Church, her faith remained a cornerstone of her life. She found a spiritual home at Christ Pilgrim Rest Missionary Baptist Church in St. Louis, where she served as a devoted member and director of their Mitchell Resource Center of Social Services until her health declined.
Gena's spiritual journey included her beautiful daughter, Erika who reflected, "My mother was such a humble, resilient, God-fearing woman who was a true warrior, always believing that giving up was not an option." As she journeyed through life, she held a fervent desire in her heart for companionship. The Lord, in His divine wisdom, answered her prayers, gifting her with the love of Gary McClendon. United in holy on April 7, 2010, their love and support for each other was the hallmark for her accomplishments. Gary and Gena, the dynamic duo, formed an unbreakable bond which Gena cherished and Gary fiercely protected. Their union blended her mother, daughter Erika, and Gary’s children Natasha, Nicole, Alicia, and Chris, and her in-laws. Together they built a blended family full of love, mutual respect, and shared dreams. Being a wife and a mother was Gena’s finest accomplishment.
Fueled by an insatiable thirst for knowledge and the wind beneath her wings support from her husband Gary, Gena pursued her education with unrelenting dedication. She was a proud graduate of Proviso East High School, Class of 1976. She completed her Bachelor of Science degree from Southern Illinois University Carbondale and was initiated into the Delta Beta Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Incorporated on April 17, 1977, and remained an active member of the Gamma Omega Chapter in St Louis, Missouri. She obtained a Master of Management and Leadership from Fontbonne University, and in 2016, she earned a Ph.D. in Urban Higher Education from Jackson State University. Her dissertation research, "Perceptions of Faculty on Curriculum Innovation and Individual Innovativeness Through the Lens of Diffusion of Innovation," was a testament to her intellectual prowess. Gena was ambitious, conscientious, and scholarly, always striving for excellence.
Gena's professional life was as rich and diverse as her personal one. Her intentional commitment to service was evident in her active participation in the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority. Her leadership and dedication to voter engagement and social action earned her the Regional Connection Award at the 87th Central Regional Conference of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. Gena proudly celebrated 46 years of sisterhood in her beloved Alpha Kappa Alpha.
Gena retired as the Director of Community Engagement at the Center for Social Development at Washington University's Brown School of Social Work. Her work primarily involved policy research analysis and consultation with community-based programs, academic institutions, state and federal policymakers, and advocacy groups. She was a staunch advocate for the voting rights of marginalized populations, tirelessly working to ensure their voices were heard.
Gena's vibrant life was characterized by her dedication to service. Whether working to improve voter engagement, helping individuals reconstruct their lives, or pouring love and care into her family, she worked tirelessly to uplift others.
In the words of Dr. Gena Sue Gunn McClendon, "Talk ain't cheap! It's expensive and the people pay!" Gena's life was a living testament to these words. She dedicated her life to uplifting families, serving her community, empowering vulnerable populations, honoring God, and making her ancestors proud. Dr. Gena Sue Gunn McClendon, your legacy of love, faith, and service will continue to inspire those who knew her, those touched by her significant contributions and will continue to motivate us to help our fellow man. We celebrate a life well-lived, a life that touched so many, a life that made a difference. Rest in power. Amen.
On October 21, 2023, Dr. Gena Sue Gunn McClendon was called from labor to reward, leaving her memory to be cherished by her devoted and loving husband, Gary McClendon; her mother, Wilma Gunn; her daughter, Erika Gunn; her bonus children, Natasha, Nicole, Alicia, and Chris; five grandchildren; her aunt, Janice Sue Burton; her brothers, Mosi Kamau and Gaylan (Debra) Gunn; her in-laws, Dorothy (Walter) Garrett, Johnny (Sandra) McClendon, Betty Robinson, Ray Griffin, Larry Jackson, Learhteen Stewart, Marilyn Stewart, and James Stewart; her many nieces, nephews, and cousins; her sponsor, Bobbie Brown; her life-long sister-friends, Melodye Moore, Sandra Berryhill, Cheryl Toles, and Debra Wilson-Balfour; the StLNA Fellowship; Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.; Christ Pilgrim Rest Missionary Baptist Church; Washington University Family; “Good Trouble" Partners; and a host of friends and colleagues.