In Loving Memory of

Isabelle Mary Charbonnet

10/12/1921 - 12/29/2013

Isabelle Mary Charbonnet, 92, died Sunday, December 29, 2013 in Gainesville, FL.    Isabelle was born on October 12, 1921—Columbus Day—in Ponchatoula, LA. She was the middle child of seven born to Francis and Caroline McMurray.  Isabelle grew up in Ponchatoula, the Strawberry Capital of the South, where she played on the high school basketball team, competed in interpretive reading, and clerked at the Casa de Fresa hotel. She married Leslie Leonce Charbonnet in 1942 and began her life as a military wife.  During the 1940s and ‘50s, Isabelle traveled with her husband and children, setting up her home in over 25 different states and countries. In 1947, she and her daughters were among the first American military dependents to move to occupied Korea, where they remained until bugging out just before the outbreak of the Korean War.  A woman exceptionally open to new ideas, Isabelle enthusiastically embraced these opportunities to plunge herself and her family into various cultures, setting in motion a habit of life-long learning in each of her four children, who all earned advanced degrees. Isabelle entertained family and friends with wonderful stories of her years in Korea, postwar Germany, and the many adventures moving with the family Jeep.  A voracious reader, books were always at the center of the Charbonnet home, and formed a large part of every move to new quarters.  Her Catholic faith was also central to her life and she was active in every parish to which she belonged, volunteering as a Eucharistic minister and a church librarian.


In 1963, the family moved to Eau Gallie, Florida, where Isabelle resided until relocating to Gainesville in 1995.  Following the death of her husband in 1976, Isabelle enrolled in college and earned her associate’s degree in library science.  She then began a 20-year career as librarian at Ascension Catholic School, during which she introduced a generation of children to the pleasures of literature.  She was a founding member of the North Eau Gallie Civic Association.  As a member of the Lilliput Players puppet troupe for many years, she wrote and performed interpretations of new and classic tales that entertained thousands of children.  Isabelle was a much-decorated volunteer with both the Boy and Girl Scouts.  She was known for her creativity and boundless enthusiasm in introducing young people to the joys of camping, history, and citizenship.  Isabelle was always singing, laughing, telling stories, and organizing crafts and games, and her home was a magnet for the neighborhood children.  She was at once kind, generous, curious, resourceful, and fearless, and will be missed by all who knew her.


She was preceded in death by her husband, Les, and her daughter Kathryn Coburn of Houston, TX, along with her siblings Bernard McMurray, Frances Stilley, Blanche Stasswender, and Fred McMurray.  Her surviving children are Mary Charbonnet of Damariscotta, ME, John Charbonnet (Claire) of Columbia, SC, Jeffry Charbonnet (Sara) of Gainesville, FL., and grandchildren Colleen Lingle (Gary), Rachel Coburn, Marcel (Brandi) and Emile (Christina) Charbonnet, Veronica and Joseph Charbonnet, two great granddaughters Claire and Emma Lingle, her brother Francis McMurray and sister Carolyn Nelson.


The family will receive visitors from 6-8 p.m. with a rosary prayer service at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, January 1, 2014, at Forest Meadows Funeral Home in Gainesville.  A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated Thursday, January 2, at Holy Faith Catholic Church at 9:30 a.m.  Burial will be at a later date at Florida Memorial Gardens in Rockledge, FL. In lieu of flowers donations may be made to St. Francis House, 413 N Main St., Gainesville, FL 32601.

Online Condolences

7 Responses

  1. Krisanne Burge at · Reply

    Dear Mary and family,
    I have to say that you have honored your beautiful mother with the most amazing obituary I have ever read! I truly feel like I know Isabelle now. Perhaps that’s partly because I too was a military dependent, moving every 3 years or less over much of the world.

    You have shared her spirit with those of us that were not lucky enough to know her. Mary, there is so much of your mom in you my friend! Sending you hugs and much love as you go through this very hard time.
    Krisanne Burge, Auburn CA

  2. Mary Anne McMurray at · Reply

    I’ve always admired your mom and my Aunt Isabelle, but your words posted here help me to fill in the details behind that great respect. I’ve had so little opportunity to know her better, especially in the last decades. Thanks for filling in the blanks.

    I’d love to help celebrate her life with you on January 2nd, but I’ll be with you all in spirit.

    Mary Anne

  3. Pat & Cindy McMurray at · Reply

    I am very grateful to know, love, and appreciate Aunt Isabelle through the years. She has always been an encourager in her faith in God as well as to her family and myself. From the somewhat recklessness as children to inspiring our education and our love for the outdoors. Thank you also to you Mary, John, and Jeff for being great friends and cousins through the years. I am praying that we can carry the love and respect that your mom has instilled in us.
    We love you all,
    Pat & Cindy McMurray

  4. Arlene McMurray Elston at · Reply

    My prayers and sympathy to Mary, John and Jeff and your families …. your mother was a really wonderful lady and though I have not spoken to her for some time, I will always recall her and the love and laughter and knowledge that she shared with all of her extended family and friends. Always had a beautiful smile for everyone. With much love, Arlene.

  5. Mary Beth McMurray at · Reply

    I am so sorry for the loss of Aunt Isabelle. Although I didn’t have the privilege of knowing her as well as I would have liked, I remember her well. The obituary read like a wonderful story and I appreciated reading it and as Mary Ann said, filling in the blanks.

    She lived a wonderful life, and I am so happy to have been one of her nieces. I remember her smile and easy laughter as Arlene said. My sympathies to cousins Mary, John, and Jeff and all of her families.

    Mary Beth McMurray (oldest daughter of her brother Fred McMurray)

  6. Lamonica Malone at · Reply

    Jeff snd Sara,
    I am writing to offer you my condolence for your loss. It was a beautifully written obituary. Please know that my prayers are with you and your family. Please let me know if you need anything.

  7. Patsy Stilley Reed at · Reply

    Mary, John and Jeff, I am very saddened to hear of the passing of your mother, my Aunt Isabelle. She was a very dear lady and one I loved dearly. I am very greatful for several opportunities in my life to have spent time with her and being able to visit and get to know her. I am very sorry that I was not able to visit her for the last few years. Your obituary was a testament to her life and graciousness. My prayers are with you. Love, Patsy Stilley Reed

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