Philanthropist, gala co-founder Wilma Barnstable passes away at 94

Barnstable is famous for the Barnstable Derby Gala and her contributions to diabetes research.
Published: Oct. 24, 2022 at 7:23 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Kentucky philanthropist, Wilma Lee “Willie” Haverly Barnstable, passed away on Friday, Oct. 21. She was 94.

Barnstable was born on Aug. 9. 1928 in Corbin, Kentucky.

When she was 16-year-old, Barnstable left Corbin for Lexington, where she enrolled at the University of Kentucky.

After she graduated, she married Dale Barnstable and started their family. After teaching for many years, she retired and began a new venture with her daughters.

In 1988, the retired mother of four co-founded the Barnstable Derby Gala. For decades, the Gala became known as a warming, inviting event. Partially, because of its location being at the Barnstable home.

“The family greets you like you are one of their friends,” Barnstable spokesperson Brent Rogers said. “I think Willie will best be known for not only her achievements, going to college at 16 but being a philanthropist.”

The Barnstable Brown Gala is a fundraising event for diabetic research. The Barnstable family has donated over $17 million dollars to the University of Kentucky UK HealthCare’s Barnstable Brown Diabetes Center.

In Barnstable’s obituary, it said this week she was working on plans for the Gala and center.

UK Health released a statement about her passing, saying in part:

“Thanks to Ms. Barnstable and her family, patients with diabetes in Kentucky are receiving the highest level of care and benefiting from innovative research that impacts treatment and understanding of the disease.” Dr. Newman said. “Having a center where clinical care, research and education come together for the benefit of patients now and in the future is a tremendous asset and resource for everyone in Kentucky and beyond. Thanks to the family’s support of our work here at UK HealthCare, Ms. Barnstable’s legacy will live on for many years to come.”

The Barnstable family is thankful for the supportive calls, texts, and messages from the community as they are grieving.

“Not only was Willie a mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother, but she was also a beauty contest winner,” Rogers said. “She held several master’s degrees. She got on a train in Corbin, Kentucky at 16 and went to UK. This is a lady who knew what she wanted and knew how she was going to get it. That is a testament to the party her family and her legacy she will be remembered by.”

Visitation at Maxwell Street Presbyterian Church on Sunday Nov. 6th at 1 p.m. and brief service will follow at 2 p.m.

Donations in her honor are to be sent to Barnstable Brown Diabetes Center UK Healthcare P.O. Box 34184 Lexington, KY 40588.