Cover photo for Gay  Crawford Penn Denham's Obituary
Gay  Crawford Penn Denham Profile Photo
1930 Gay 2022

Gay Crawford Penn Denham

June 29, 1930 — April 17, 2022

Denham, Gay Crawford Penn

Gay Denham died at home on Sunday, April 17, 2022, after a long, committed life. She leaves behind countless individuals in her family, friends, church, and community. She was able to find meaningful relationships with all by taking a true interest in the people around her.

Mrs. Denham, or “Miss” Gay as she was called by generations of friends and relations, was born on June 29, 1930, in Alabama. Gay's parents Richard Leldon Penn and Elsie Elizabeth Crawford Penn raised her along with her sister Mary Edna Penn and brother Richard Leldon Penn, Jr., in Decatur, Alabama. She graduated from Decatur High School, then obtained a degree from Alabama College for Women in Montevallo. Back in Decatur, she was married to Robert Moore Denham from 1954 until his death in 1981, and, together, they raised their four children. In 2014, Mrs. Denham married Luciano L'Abate who died in 2016. She spent the first half of her life in Alabama and moved to Decatur, Georgia, in 1973 where she lived until her death. Throughout her life, she established many friendships through which she became stronger and influenced those around her to grow in knowledge, grace, and purpose.

Other than devoting herself to her family and friends, she was very involved in her church and civic organizations. While living in Decatur, Alabama, she was a member of Central United Methodist Church. Upon moving to Georgia, she joined Oak Grove United Methodist Church where she was a member until her death. There she was a member of the Mariners Sunday School Class and the United Methodist Women (Women's Society of Christian Service). Much of her civic involvement was centered in the League of Women Voters and the American Association of University Women. Her church and civic interests often intersected as reflected in her work making sandwiches for the hungry, teaching children to read, registering voters, staffing soup kitchens, and extending hospitality to all. In addition to her organized activities, her natural curiosity and devotion to learning followed her throughout her life. In Alabama, she was a member of a Great Books Discussion Group and The Discussion Class at church. She believed that in order to derive meaning from these groups, she needed to be committed to involvement through action and discussion with others. She also was devoted to reading the newspaper daily and sharing stories with others to compare different viewpoints and to increase her well-rounded knowledge.

One of Miss Gay's favorite songs was “Morning Has Broken,” which reminded her of her faith in God's daily re-creation and that this renewal offered opportunities to serve and to grow. Mrs. Denham gained strength and meaning by being involved with others. In addition to organized groups, she had a large extended family who supported each other for generations. She never missed a family reunion or taking the opportunity to visit family and friends in person or through cards, letters, and phone calls. Relationships with others helped make her a strong, independent, and welcoming woman. In the last years of her life, she made new friends at Clairmont Place and Montclair Personal Care Home and through the support of Capstone Hospice. The kindness and care that she found with these groups helped her develop new friendships and support.

Mrs. Denham was preceded in death by her husband, Robert Moore Denham; her parents, R. L. and Elizabeth Penn; her brother, Richard Penn; and her in-laws, Walter H. and Clara Srite Denham. She is survived by her sister, Mary Edna Penn; her four children, Robert Penn Denham (Leeann), Samuel Alexander Denham, Penelope Gay Denham Ratliff (Dean), and Sarah Elizabeth Denham Wiley (Ed); seven grandchildren, Kirk Elijah Denham (Julia), Elizabeth Gay Ratliff, Laurel Arminda Gauthe' (Andrew), Barbara Grace Ratliff Pennell (Sam), Margaret Gay Denham, Robert Edward Wiley, and Samuel Charles Wiley; and three great-grandchildren.

Mrs. Denham's life will be honored at a memorial service on Friday, April 29, at 11 AM, at Oak Grove United Methodist Church in Decatur, Georgia, Rev. Dr. Beth LaRocca-Pitts, officiating. Rev. Meg Witmer-Faile will preside over a graveside service on Saturday, April 30, at 11 AM, at Roselawn Cemetery in Decatur, Alabama, where Mrs. Denham's ashes will be interred beside her husband.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to Oak Grove United Methodist Church's Traditional Music Fund ( or the League of Women Voters of Georgia (

Arrangements made in Decatur, Georgia, by A. S. Turner & Sons and in Decatur, Alabama, by Ridout's Brown Service Funeral Home

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Gay Crawford Penn Denham, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

Past Services

Memorial Service

Friday, April 29, 2022

Starts at 11:00 am (Eastern time)

Oak Grove United Methodist Church

1722 Oak Grove Road, Decatur, GA 30033

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