Mrs. Tena Gilchrist was born December 25,1923 to the late Charlie and Mattie Gerald Reaves in Mullins, South Carolina. She peacefully departed this life on Monday, September 23, 2019, in Somerset, New Jersey. Her husband, Bethel Gilchrist, as well as her siblings, preceded her in death. She is also predeceased by her children, Ricky, Ronald, Michael and Bonnie Gilchrist; a granddaughter, Sheronda Williams; and a great grandson, Christopher Williams.
She matriculated through the Mullins School System where she obtained her high school diploma. Thereafter she pursued a career in cosmetology and attended school in Sumter, South Carolina where she successfully completed her training and became a licensed hair stylist and beautician. In 1946, Tena relocated to New Jersey where she flourished as an entrepreneur. She owned and operated a salon out of home for more than 50 years. As an entrepreneur and hair stylist, Tena often taught others the craft and provided training and opportunities for growth and development under her tutelage. Her home and business served as a platform to assist others in their own pursuit of future endeavors.
Having accepted Christ at an early age, Tena joined Nazarene Baptist Church in Mullins, SC. She also became a member of Macedonia Church in Christ in Somerset, NJ. Tena was a strong woman of God and was committed to her faith. Her home and door was always open to family and friends.
Tena met and married Bethel Gilchrist to which her four sons, Bonnie, Ricky, Ronald, and Michael were born. Tena’s strength as a mother could be seen through her nurturing spirit as she cared for her children until their transition. She was a diligent care giver, having provided a lifetime of care and support to her oldest son, Bonnie. Tena had the “memory of an elephant” and could not only recall his medical appointments and his extensive list of medications, but she could be called at any given time to inquire about natural remedies and holistic approaches to health and wellness.
Much like her mother, Tena had a passion and love for gardening. She took pride in maintaining her yard and could be seen pulling weeds or with a rake in hand up until her transition. She also enjoyed missionary fellowships, garage sales, and traveling, and would often travel “home” to South Carolina from New Jersey at any given time.
Tena Gilchrist was a compact, yet powerful and strong Queen who will forever be honored. She leaves to cherish her memory: her grandchildren, Raheen Gilchrist, whom she raised as her son; Shavonne (Gabe) Rodriguez; Ricky and Michelle Gilchrist; Jabari Hill; Calvin and Crissandra Wade; 16 great grandchildren; 11 great great grandchildren; a special niece, Diane Thompson; two sisters-in-law, Ruby Gilchrist and Kathrine “Unda” Reaves; a goddaughter, Vera Perry, and an extensive host of nieces, nephews, family, and friends.