Owner of historic mill who was pillar of Ga. community dies of COVID-19

CLAYTON COUNTY, Ga. — A Clayton County woman who was the pillar of her small community has died of COVID-19.

Channel 2′s Tom Jones was in the small village of Rex on Friday, where Gayle Beddingfield and her husband Jerry own the historic Rex Mill, a popular tourist destination that hosts local annual events like visits with Santa Claus.

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Friends said Gayle Beddingfield, 68, was the glue that held the small community together. She died of COVID-19 on Sept. 21. Her husband told Jones that she was not vaccinated, but had planned to be.

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Before they could get around to it, the husband and wife both contracted the virus, but Jerry Beddingfield is recovering. Now, he has a message for the community.

“I tell people, ‘Get your shot,’” Jerry Beddingfield said. “Get tested. Do whatever you ca to protect yourself and your family.”

Dan Daniel played Santa Claus at Christmas events at the mill. He’s known Gayle Beddingfield for 40 years and choked up talking about her.

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“She was just a great, great person,” Daniel said. “A caring person.”

Daniel hopes that other people will learn from the tragedy.

“If you think about getting the vaccine, make sure you go ahead and get it,” Daniel said. “Don’t put it off. It’s just a horrible, horrible death.”

There are currently no funeral plans for Gayle Beddingfield because too many of the couple’s family and friends are sick.