Bessie Dunaway • June 17, 2021

Bessie Goff Dunaway, 102, passed peacefully from this life and entered her heavenly home on June 17, 2021. A native third generation Floridian, she was born in Suwannee County on March 21, 1919, to Arthur Lawrence Goff and Bertie Isabelle (Hillhouse) Goff. She attended McAlpin Grammar School through the eighth grade and graduated from Suwannee High School in 1937. She worked part-time for several years and landed her first full-time job in January, 1941. Bessie was employed as secretary to Mr. Perry A. Holmes, Superintendent of Suwannee County Schools, at a beginning salary of $60 a month. When she left this employment in 1945, her monthly salary was $125.
In the fall of 1945, she entered Stetson University in Deland, FL and graduated in the summer of 1948 with a degree in Business Education. She began teaching that Fall at Suwannee High School where she met the Agricultural/Shop Teacher, James Maxwell Dunaway, who became the love of her life.
Bessie and James were married on July 10, 1949 at the First Baptist Church in Live Oak, FL. Their first child, James Arthur, was born in Live Oak on May 24, 1951. In September of 1951, they moved to Cantonment, FL where James had a job teaching Agriculture. Shortly thereafter, they joined Gonzalez Baptist Church where they were active members. Bessie’s membership extended more than 50 years. She spent her last years with family at First Baptist Church of Cantonment.
For the next ten years, Bessie enjoyed being a homemaker and mother while also obtaining her certification in Elementary Education. During this time, their two daughters were born: Jane Ellen on June 4, 1953 and Ann Gwenette on March 26, 1956. When her youngest child entered school, she resumed teaching with several years at the elementary level before, once again, returning to Business Education where she taught in the Vocational Division of Pensacola Junior College until her retirement in 1984.
A lifelong learner and never one to be idle, she spent her retirement reading, working puzzles, studying the Bible, teaching Sunday School, and working in her flower beds, which she called her “therapy.” For several years, she volunteered in the nursing home and enjoyed visiting homebound friends. She later became the ultimate caregiver for her husband who was bedridden in his latter years.
As part of the Greatest Generation, she exhibited a strong work ethic and lived a frugal life marked by humility, grace, and integrity. In the words of her first grandchild, “Nannie allowed the struggles of her youth to teach her big life lessons that we all should live by and love by.”
Bessie was the quintessential Proverbs 31 woman to her family and those who knew her. Family times were cherished and her love was unconditional. In every conversation, she said, “I love, love, love my family—children, grands, and greats.” When you walked into the room, her face lit up. The smile she radiated always let you know that you were the center of her focus and love. She lived with gratitude and often reminded us that she had “too much to be thankful for to start complaining.” A woman of faith, she believed things would work out if you put your trust in God. The example she set before us was a reflection of her inner life which was bathed in prayer. Her ultimate desire was for her family and loved ones to know and love Jesus.
Bessie was preceded in death by her husband of 49 years, her parents, and siblings: Sunny Goff, Annie Belle Johnson, Curtis Burton Goff, Darrell Vernon Goff, Clarence Darrow Goff, Earnest Eugene Goff and Mary Allyne Stephens.

Left to cherish her memory are her three children: James A. Dunaway (Linda) of Pensacola, FL, Jane Mitchell (Darel) of Chiefland, FL, Ann Butts (Ronnie) of Cantonment, FL; nine grandchildren: Heather Mitchell Nash (Kalen) of Comer, GA, Jeremy Ryan Mitchell (Jamie) of Woodstock, GA, Joshua Bradley Mitchell (Pamela) of Micanopy, FL, Jonathan Mark Mitchell (Christine) of Panama City Beach, FL, Michael Aaron Butts (Amber) of Pace, FL, Jordan Scott Mitchell (Anna) of Fayetteville, GA, Mark Stephen Butts (Nichole) of Pace, FL, Andrew James Dunaway of Pensacola, FL, and Savannah Rose Dunaway of Pensacola, FL; and fourteen great grands: Bailey Marie Scott, Bryson Jay Scott, Nora Jane Mitchell, Isabella Grace Howell, Joshua Blake Mitchell, Baylor Rush Mitchell, Charlee Grace Mitchell, Macy Ryan Mitchell, Ally Love Mitchell, Fisher Rylan Butts, Nixon Reese Mitchell, Rosalyn Marie Mitchell, Benjamin Mark Mitchell, and Vienna Rose Mitchell.
The family would like to extend appreciation to friends and loved ones for every act of kindness during this time. A special thanks to her loving caretakers: Vickie Shiver, Angela Buck, and Ava Myrick. Also, we are grateful to Covenant Hospice who helped make her peaceful transition.
Her Celebration of Life will be held on Tuesday, June 22, 2021 at Pensacola Memorial Gardens, 7433 Pine Forest Rd, Pensacola, FL. The family will receive visitors at 1 pm, with the service to follow at 2 pm.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to First Baptist Church of Cantonment, 118 Morris Ave, Cantonment, FL 32533 or Gonzalez Baptist Church, 1590 Pauline St, Gonzalez, FL 32533.

  1. Karen and Wayne Myers says:

    When I met Bessie a few years ago I knew from the light in her eyes that she was a beautiful soul. I’m blessed to have known her for even a short time. I know she is greatly missed. We are praying for her family.

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