Brown-Wynne Funeral Home & Crematory

300 Saint Mary's Street, Raleigh, NC


Debra Jean Smith Jenkins

April 10, 1958January 28, 2020
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Debra Jean Smith Jenkins passed joyfully into the arms of her Lord and Savior on January 28, 2020 surrounded by her loving family.

Debra was born in Forest City, North Carolina on April 10, 1958 to the late Oliver Alexander Smith and Leona Hill Smith. After the passing of her mother at age 2, Debra was primarily raised by her maternal grandparents, Bertie and Wilson Hill. Debra attended East Rutherford High School and was known for her bubbly, vivacious personality. She was a cheerleader and homecoming queen and she met the love of her life, Allen Dale Jenkins, a football and baseball player. Following high school she attended Gardner-Webb University where she earned a degree in nursing. Dale’s parents, Donald and Carolyn Jenkins, developed a special relationship with her and adopted her as one of their own.

Dale and Debra married in 1979 and shortly thereafter moved to Raleigh, NC where Debra worked as a nurse in family medicine. She was active in Bible Study Fellowship, and she and Dale attended Trinity Church where they taught children’s Sunday school and were involved in the high school youth program.

Dale and Debra had 3 children and became very active at Bay Leaf Baptist Church in Sunday school and with the youth programs. They ministered to hundreds of youth over the course of their discipleship years that still count them as mentors. For over twenty years, Debra had leadership roles in Bay Leaf’s Bible study, JOY, in which she ministered to the hearts and minds of countless women. Her legacy within the Bay Leaf church body and beyond will long be remembered for her commitment to the teaching and obeying of God’s word.

Debra was active in her children’s schools. At St. Timothy’s, Debra was president of the FRIENDS organization and tirelessly supported the needs of students, faculty, and administrators. She dedicated much of her time to reinvigorating a chapter of Fellowship of Christian Athletes at Millbrook High School where she provided hundreds of students the opportunity to hear the good news of Jesus on a weekly basis. Every child was important to her and knew her by name. The FCA chapter continues to meet today and has a strong spiritual impact on the school community.

Debra had countless special friends with whom she loved to spend time. She so enjoyed entertaining and planning parties and dinners. People immediately gravitated to Debra and her warm, inviting smile. Often she would meet someone completely new and within 5 minutes, she would know their entire life’s story. She was a true beacon of love and hope to everyone she met. Her love for Jesus and her joy for living have provided a legacy that will carry on through her family and all she encountered.

For the last 5 years of her life, Debra suffered from Multiple Systems Atrophy, a rare neurodegenerative disorder in the Parkinson’s spectrum that resulted in the loss of mobility, swallowing, and fluent speech. Her passions for Bible study, reading, cooking, and traveling with Dale continued even in the midst of her challenging condition, and her bravery and hopefulness were indefatigable. She was cared for with compassion and grace by her family, precious caregivers Beth Jarvah and Kia Gary, and friends even until her last day.

Debra will be missed by her husband Dale, their children Mary Kathryn Jenkins Bumgarner and son-in-law Joseph McNeill Bumgarner, MD, James Griffin Hall Jenkins and daughter-in-law Ashley Bell Jenkins, Elizabeth Claire Jenkins Petrilli and son-in-law Andrew Robert Petrilli, MD, grandchildren Winifred Bumgarner, Hayes Jenkins, Leona Petrilli, Daisy Bumgarner, Lachlan Jenkins, Frances Bumgarner, and Catherine Petrilli. She will also be missed by her brother and sister, Dennis Smith and Shirley Bailey, half-brother Charles Smith, step-sister Deborah Foster, brother-in-law Scott Jenkins and his wife Susan Jenkins.

A celebration service will be held at 1:00 p.m. on Monday, February 3, 2020 at Bay Leaf Baptist Church at 12200 Bayleaf Church Rd, Raleigh, NC 27614. A reception will be held following the service in the church fellowship hall. Those who attend are asked to wear something red, Debra’s favorite color, to honor her effervescence.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Rex Healthcare Foundation, 2500 Blue Ridge Rd. Suite 325, Raleigh, NC 27607, www.rexhealthcarefoundation.com

Arrangements by Brown-Wynne Funeral Home, 300 Saint Mary's St. Raleigh, NC.


  • Memorial service with reception to follow Monday, February 3, 2020


Debra Jean Smith Jenkins

have a memory or condolence to add?

Karen Smith Glover

February 8, 2020

Debra Jean’s dad and my dad James were brothers. Growing up, she was a hero of mine! I was several years younger than Debra Jean, and I remember she was always so kind and had the most inviting, sincere smile. She always took time to talk with us “younger cousins” and made me feel special, loved, and just plain happy when I saw her. After she moved to Raleigh, I saw her very little. Reading now all the wonderful things she did with her life and the way she showed others Jesus’s love, I’m humbled at her example over the years but not at all surprised. She did for me as kid what she obviously did for countless others-made us feel like we mattered and were loved. What a wonderful testimony to a life well lived. My heart goes out to Dale and all her precious family. I can only imagine the legacy she has left in you all; in my brief times with her she surely impacted mine, and I will forever be grateful. Love and prayers.


Gail Brown

February 7, 2020

Debra was one of my most favorite people in the whole wide world. She was like a ray of sunshine with a beautiful fragrance of the Lord. You always felt better when you saw her. Her love for everyone, her kindness, and most of all her love for God's Word will be sorely missed. She was one of the funniest people I have ever known. When I think of some of her stories (true), I laugh out loud just thinking about them-she could bring you to tears. Soon after we got to Bay Leaf, my husband Eddie was asked to be a wise man in the Christmas play that Debra was directing. He is shy by nature, but Debra made him feel so comfortable. We are praying for the entire Jenkins Family at this very sad and difficult time. Our comfort is that we will see her again (2 Cor. 5:6-8).

David Rockefeller

February 5, 2020

Dear Dale and the Jenkins family,
I just learned of Debra’s death and I am so very sad. She was a bright and shining star in the Millbrook High School family during my years working there. I have many fond memories of her involvement in PTA and FCA — particularly a number of “5th Quarters” after football and basketball games. She was unfailingly supportive of me, a gift for which I will always be grateful. I am deeply saddened by her passing, and I wish all of you comfort in your grief.
Most sincerely,
David Rockefeller

Scott Williams

February 4, 2020

Dear Jenkins family, I am now just finding out about sweet Debra. I am so sorry for your loss and am so sad to hear of her passing. Even though I haven’t seen y’all in well over 15 years at least, I wanted to say how much your family meant to me as I started my tenure with FCA. Your family was such an encouragement to me; and I could go on and on and on about how special Debra made me feel. She was truly someone who lifted your spirits and brightened your day. Please know I am praying for you in your loss that God’s perfect peace and presence will keep you through this time. I sure did love her - as I did all the Jenkins’ family. ❤️

Mary Holly Bland

February 4, 2020

I became friends with Debra in middle school and remained friends through high school. She was such a sweet person! She had a vivacious and fun personality. May God comfort you in the loss of this precious one.

Joy McKnight

February 3, 2020

Debra was an amazing lady! She had the most beautiful heart for Jesus and touched so many young people! We are so very sorry for your loss.

Violet Rhinehart

February 3, 2020

Of the many memories I have of Debra, the most special is her delivering the invocation and special words of wisdom at our son’s , Matthew Rhinehart, Eagle Scout Ceremony.
Her words of pride, encouragement and faith inspired many Scouts and others that day. Thank you , Blessings to your beautiful family.

Tina and Steve Burriss

February 2, 2020

Debra was such a kind, generous and loving person. We will miss laughing and talking with her about our families. She was truly a beautiful person inside and out.

Caroline Culbertson

January 31, 2020

This obituary so accurately describes Debra. She was a beacon of light to everyone who had the pleasure to know her - a gift to her community. The number of ways she touched lives is innumerable. She was a second mom for me during all the years of blissful childhood friendship with Lizzie. When I think of my childhood, Debra is one of the first faces I think of. She will be so deeply missed, but her legacy lives beyond her.

Diane Barbour

January 30, 2020

When I read Debra’s obituary, I immediately thought how it so accurately described her as I saw her the times I was blessed to be in her presence. She truly radiated love when she smiled and the look in her eyes was an extension of that smile. My heartfelt sympathy goes out to her family. I know you were blessed by her in immeasurable ways and I know she was blessed by each of you, as well.
I pray that the precious, happy memories you have of her will help sustain you now and in the future.
With loving sympathy,
Diane Barbour