Ethridge had impact on Madison
Miriam Uel Blakeney Ethridge left a significant impact on Madison, and there is a “void in the city without her,” said Mayor Mary Hawkins-Butler.
“Miriam was one of the most talented individuals I’ve met in my life and one of the best friends I’ve ever had,” Hawkins-Butler said. “She was level-headed, knew how to deal with people, loved animals and this city.”
Ethridge, who served since 2018 as Madison’s Code Enforcement Officer, was born to Uel and Louis Blakeney on Feb. 6, 1950, in Raleigh. She died at 71 on Dec. 23, 2021, in her home due to a brief, unexpected illness.
Madison officials and community members remember Ethridge’s dedication to the city’s code enforcement officer position and her passion for golf, tennis, painting and gardening.
Ethridge’s love for flowers and civics led her to work for Madison as the Code Enforcement Officer and the start of the Madison Station Botanic Garden on the historic Montgomery House grounds off Main Street.
Ethridge also was involved with other landscaping and gardening projects in the city, including a Children’s Memorial Garden in Strawberry Patch Park for the group “Too Soon,” an organization for parents who have lost children.
Ethridge’s sister Meg Williams who lives in Madison, said nothing stopped Ethridge from working, even when she got sick.
“When Miriam was sick, I would drive her around to the Montgomery House and many other places,” Williams said. “Even though she was sick to the point where she couldn’t walk, she was still working and never stopped. I think her biggest fear was not dying. It was being disabled and not being able to work. She loved it that much.”
Williams said she was close to Ethridge and admired her love for the city and community.
“Miriam was a stay-at-home wife for 40 years, and when her husband died, the mayor talked her into working for the city,” Williams said. “It was like she had been reborn. She put everything she had into that job. She was perfect and will be hard to replace. She loved her family, friends and the city and had a personality larger than life.”
Hawkins-Butler echoed that sentiment.
“Miriam worked tirelessly with projects like the Children’s Memorial Garden and the Madison Station Botanic Garden,” Hawkins-Butler said. “The botanic garden was her dream. She’s the one who fostered the idea and pursued grants to make it a reality. I give her all the gratitude for what you will see on those grounds one day. She worked in the garden, planted things and created the design with Alan Hoops. She put everything in place to make it a reality.”
Hawkins-Butler said she first met Ethridge before being elected as mayor.
“She was interested in seeing this city grow and was always someone who strove for excellence,” Hawkins-Butler said. “She gave her heart to so many projects and events, and I’ve said many times to friends and coworkers that Madison is a better place because of her. She studied the law, wrote citations and brought new life to our environmental court. People who maintained their properties were always glad to see her come.”
Ethridge was also a member of Madison United Methodist Church, Madison Garden Club, Jackson Garden Club, Keep Madison the City Beautiful, Madison Organization of Neighborhoods and Old Rose Society.
Hoops, landscape architect and director of environment and design for the City of Madison, said Ethridge made a significant impact with her work and everyone she met.
“The people who knew her greatly respected her,” Hoops said. “She was very intelligent and treated people well. She handled her position with the city expertly and was instrumental in keeping property maintained properly. She is missed very much by me and the rest of the city.”
Hoops said he first learned about Ethridge through his wife when she wrote an article about Ethridge’s cooking for The Clarion-Ledger.
“Along with her passion for gardening, she was a great cook,” Hoops said. “I started working closely with her around three years ago and was right alongside her with the Madison Station Botanic Garden. When the Montgomery House became available, she had the idea to do a garden there and applied for the grant from America in Bloom. She loved everything we put together, and we want to continue the vision she had into the future in honor of her. The garden was her baby, and we’re going to make it the best botanic garden in the state of Mississippi like she wanted.
Ethridge is survived by her four beloved sisters, Marilyn Blakeney Bray, Lucy Blakeney Tullos, Harriet Blakeney Lamkin, and Meg Blakeney Williams as well as numerous nieces and nephews, her stepchildren, Dr. Clark Ethridge, Dr. Chris Ethridge, Carol McKinnon and Dr. Jesse “Rusty” Ethridge, and grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Preceding her in death were her husband, Dr. H. C. Ethridge, and her parents, Uel and Louise Maddox Blakeney. A memorial service was held on Saturday, Jan. 8, 2022, at Parkway Memorial Cemetery.