Just as she lived her life, Jean Farris Cotton Pendarvis moved quietly and serenely into the next phase of the Divine Plan on Sunday, September 13, 2015.
Jean’s life journey began in Montgomery, Alabama, when she became one of ten children born to Queen Victoria Lee Cotton and Ammon Earl Cotton. Growing up, her world revolved around the streets and community that Montgomery now calls Centennial Hill. Jean, her siblings and friends were nurtured by the watchful and caring residents of South Jackson Street (where her family lived), Grove Street, High Street, and South Bainbridge Street(where her grandparents and aunt Sadie C. Lee lived). These days produced lifelong friends that were fondly remembered and shared through stories she told about everyday life, holidays and special events on and around “So” Jackson Street –as it was called.
Throughout her life, the church always played a prominent role in her growth and development. Like her grandparents, her mother, and her aunt, Jean was baptized as a child into the First Congregational Christian Church (her father having chosen Dexter Avenue Baptist Church). Over the years she remained a loyal member of the church in which her mother’s family had worshiped since its inception. She was an involved member of the Church Women’s Fellowship, the Church Choir, and participated in the countless programs, activities and fellowships held over the years.
Education, like her faith, was a cornerstone of her life. Jean began her educational training at Booker T. Washington Elementary and High School. Following graduation from high school, she enrolled in Alabama State College where she received her Bachelors degree in Elementary Education. She would later continue her education by earning a Masters degree in Elementary Education from Alabama State University; and beyond that by taking career enhancing courses in Early Childhood Development from the University.
Enriched and fortified with the knowledge gained through her studies, she embarked upon a career that spanned over fifty years of teaching children from kindergarten to the fourth grade in the Montgomery County School System. She taught in schools that have faded from Montgomery’s educational landscape – Hale Elementary, Happy Hollow Elementary, Abraham’s Vineyard Elementary. And there were others – Fews Elementary, Peterson Elementary, Southlawn Elementary (from where she retired).
Jean Pendarvis was passionate about the education of children; and, because of this she faced many challenges and did whatever was necessary to help young minds receive a quality education. For instance, early in her career and against the advice of others, she went to the superintendent of schools to request more coal to heat the school when the monthly allotment had run out – stating that young minds could not learn when the rooms were freezing. Coal was delivered the next day. She was one of the first black teachers sent to teach in Montgomery’s newly integrated schools. Leaving students, colleagues and a familiar routine for unchartered waters in a new and potentially hostile environment was clearly not easy. But, Jean’s overarching commitment to educating youth, her open and pleasant personality, and her inner strength – her grace under fire – carried her through early challenges; and, won her the same admiration and respect she had enjoyed in previous assignments.
Little could keep her out of the classroom – not even a broken ankle or a broken hip. For after the minimal recovery time she returned to her young students; crediting them with keeping her going because they met her car every morning to walk her into the school. Perhaps it was these and other actions throughout her career that resulted in her being approached wherever she went by one of her students, a parent, or a former co-worker who shared their joy, appreciation and fond memories of her days in the classroom.
It was as a teacher that she met the late Jesse G. Pendarvis “Pen”, who himself was an educator. They were married in the First Congregational Christian Church; and, when Pen later joined the church they both remained active and involved members. Jean and Pen became the proud parents of two children, Jessalyn and Marco. They were devoted parents to their children; providing support and encouragement in all their endeavors. Jean always made certain that she was involved in all their activities and that if both she and Pen could not attend functions, she was certain to be there. And, when their two grandchildren (Kyla and Kimberly) and their great grandchild (Alexys) were born, they were like parents once again.
Over the years, Jean has been active in local civic organizations, both as a member and as an officer to include: the Cosmopolite Civic Club as standing committee chairperson and as Recording Secretary; the Crusaders Federated Club as President; and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. as a Golden Soror. Jean Cotton Pendarvis has been a steadfast member of her community, her church and a rock to her family. She was known for her greetings with a smile, her words of encouragement and her sincerely given compliments to all she encountered. She never failed to offer a helping hand, never expecting anything in return – just happy to know she had done whatever she could. Words of anger and negative comments never passed her lips. These admirable and constant traits were as much a part of her being as was the red lipstick she would not be seen without. This was Jean Farris Cotton Pendarvis. The ones she will watch over until they meet again are her sister, Bondyne Cotton Robinson of Tuskegee Institute, Alabama; her children, Jessalyn L. Pendarvis of Washington, D.C. and Marco D. Pendarvis of Montgomery, Alabama; her grandchildren, Kyla N. Pendarvis and Kimberly L. Pendarvis of Montgomery, Alabama; her great grandchild, Alexys Ayers of Auburn, Alabama; her godchild, Patrice McClammy of Montgomery, Alabama; and her many nieces and nephews. 

E. G. Cummings Memorial Funeral Home, Inc.
 1120 Bragg Street
Montgomery, AL 36108
 (334) 265-9221
 egcfuneralhome@hotmail.com