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.