Farmville community gathers to say goodbye to Gearl Reid

Published 2:04 pm Friday, March 10, 2023

FARMVILLE – The town will gather Monday to say goodbye to Gearl D Reid. A titan of the Farmville community for decades, she passed away on Saturday, March 4 at the age of 91. 

She leaves behind her daughters Jacquelyn Reid and Laureen Seaborne, along with three grandchildren. They include Jessica Myers, Warren Reid and Dr. Leslie Davis.

Warren Reid says, if he had to describe his grandmother in one word, it would be perseverance. 

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“She took great pride in being Gearl D. Reid,” he said. ““The loss of my grandmother has been an adjustment for everyone, including her four great grandchildren, family, community, staff, clients and friends.” 

Born October 13, 1931 on a Buckingham County farm, Gearl Reid was the sixth of 15 children born to John Franklin and Helen Dorsey Dean. She attended Buckingham Training School in 1950, going on to pursue a career in Cosmetology. Following her graduation from Bernetta’s Beauty School, she worked with her aunt at Martha Brown’s Beauty Parlor in Farmville for several years, until she opened Gearl’s Beauty Parlor which she ran for over 50 years. Warren says his grandfather fueled her passion for business.

“She met her husband at the start of his career as a mortician and funeral director,” Warren added. “Their partnership in entrepreneurial endeavors allowed their businesses to flourish throughout the years.”

During the Civil Rights movement, Gearl and her husband were active in supporting the movement in various ways. They opened their home to travelers, prepared meals, provided community transportation and even bailed out protestors. During the 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education school closures, she opened the second floor of her salon to create a learning environment for those who were displaced.

The legacy of Gearl Reid

Along with the salon, Gearl was co-owner of Bland-Reid Funeral Home alongside her late husband, who started working as an apprentice under James Bland. In 1952, after Bland passed away, the Reids became owners of the funeral home.

“After my grandfather passed away in 2006, my grandmother became owner of the funeral home and rental agency,” Warren said.

At times, her two businesses crossed over. She often styled the hair of the deceased. In 1976, Gearl took the necessary steps to become a licensed funeral director and assisted with funerals as needed.

The story of Gearl’s Beauty Salon

But it was Gearl’s Beauty Salon that cemented her legacy. Many up and coming cosmetologists and barbers worked as apprentices and established themselves within the profession under her supervision and mentorship. Warren says many local beauticians credit Gearl for their start in the beauty industry.

“She valued education and wanted her mentees to become licensed business owners in the industry,” Warren said.

He also spoke of her love for giving back to the community she treasured, adding that his grandmother showed generosity by assisting community members in various ways throughout the years. She would often visit local nursing homes, the elderly, provide housing accommodations, transportation, funded higher education endeavors and assisted families in homeownership.

Community pays tribute

“Gearl Reid set an example of a life lived with integrity, a community-minded spirit, hard work and generosity,” said Farmville Area Chamber of Commerce Director Anne Tyler Paulek. “Gearl was the matriarch of the Reid family and co-founder of the Bland-Reid Funeral Home, which stands as an institution in our community today. Our sincere sympathies and prayers go out to the Reid family during this time of grief.” 

Paulek’s comments were echoed by Farmville Mayor Brian Vincent. 

“The Reid family legacy is a proud history in Farmville,” Vincent said. “The Bland-Reid Funeral Home is an institution, and Gearl Reid as the oldest business owner in Farmville exemplified excellence and dedication. She is an icon, and as a serial entrepreneur, embodied the spirit of hard work and commitment to community. My heart goes out to her family and friends, as I lift them up in prayer.” 

Warren says although the family is in mourning, they are dedicated to keep Gearl’s legacy alive and thriving in Farmville and surrounding counties.

“She took great pride in her businesses, and being at the forefront of the community,” Warren said. “ She loved helping people and I expect on Monday for us to really sit back and celebrate the fruits of her labor.”

The family will be holding a viewing on Sunday at the Bland-Reid Funeral Home, followed by an 11 a.m. service Monday at New Life Church, 9 Mahan Road in Farmville.