Willene Mitchell Huddleston, 85, died Saturday, June 15, 2019, in Birmingham, Ala. She was born in Randolph County, Ala., on Aug. 24, 1933, the third child of James Enver Mitchell and Claudie Edmondson Mitchell. A lifelong Alabamian, she met her future husband, Kermit Lee Huddleston, while attending Woodland High School. They were married in 1951 and celebrated 62 loving anniversaries until his death in 2014.
She earned the honor of being the first woman in her family to graduate from college, obtaining bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Early Childhood Education from West Georgia College. Post-graduate studies yielded an Educational Specialist degree and Principal Professional Certificate from Jacksonville State University. She completed additional graduate courses in aerospace education at the University of Alabama in Huntsville and Oklahoma State University.
Along with her husband, Willene was a passionate educator for her entire career, teaching second grade and kindergarten at Ranburne Elementary from 1971-1987. She went on to teach second grade at Cleburne County Elementary School from 1987 until her retirement. During her tenure, she organized the Miss Christmas Pageant, the Miss Spring Pageant, and she was involved in numerous fundraising activities for band and athletic booster projects. She was also a member of the Cleburne County Education Association.
A longtime supporter of aerospace initiatives, she was a member of the Civil Air Patrol, the Alabama Aerospace Teacher Association, and the NEWEST-NASA Educational Workshop for Elementary School Teachers. She traveled extensively both at home and abroad as an advocate for aerospace advancement, even visiting Russia in her support of space programs. She passed this love on not only through the generations of her family, but to her students as well. Through her work, a moon rock was brought to Ranburne for residents to view, and one class of students even polished a panel that was later attached to and launched on a satellite.
Willene was an avid shopper who loved to keep up with the latest fashion trends. She was accomplished with a needle, spending her spare time designing custom window treatments. Later in life, she found a love of antiquities, which she spent her golden years collecting. She also spent that time indulging in her love of travel, including visits to Greece and Ireland, as well as keeping up with her grandchildren.
Willene was preceded in death by her husband Kermit; her parents James Enver Mitchell and Claudie Edmondson Mitchell; her brothers, James Enver Mitchell, Jr. and Curtis Mitchell; and her sister, Ruth Mitchell Brown. She is survived by her sister, Loette Crenshaw of Lineville, Ala., Margaret White (Richard) of Bremen, Ga., and her children: Darryl Huddleston (Dee) of Shalimar, Fla.; Tamra Huddleston Stephens (Ferris) of Birmingham, Ala.; and Steven Huddleston (Mary) of Huntsville, Ala. She is also survived by eight grandchildren: Kim Huddleston, Rachel Huddleston, Claire Stephens, William Stephens, Amara Stephens, Damien Stephens, Laura Huddleston Haynes (Will) and Anna Huddleston.
Services will be held at Dryden Funeral Home Chapel on Wednesday, June 19, 2019, At 11:00 AM. Burial will follow at Cleburne Memorial Garden in Ranburne, AL. Visitation will be Tuesday, June 18, 2019 from 5 until 7 PM at Dryden Funeral Home.
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