Brenda Sexton Cawley

  • Born: November 19, 1944
  • Died: May 27, 2012
  • Location: North Charleston, South Carolina

J. Henry Stuhr Northwoods Chapel

2180 Greenridge Road
North Charleston, SC 29406

Tel. (843) 572.2339

Tribute & Message From The Family


Brenda Sexton Cawley, of Historic North Charleston, wife of Col. John H. Cawley, died on Sunday, May 27, 2012.

Born November 19, 1944, to William Wilson Sexton and the late Pansy P. White, Brenda grew up in North Charleston, graduating from Chicora High School in 1962. She entered The College of Charleston, but decided to join the workforce. Brenda worked as a Stewardess for Delta Air Lines when choices for employment for women were mother, teacher or nurse. After giving birth to Matthew Washburn in July 1968, her only son, she transferred to Louisiana State University. There, she completed her degree and returned to work as a sales representative for Xerox and a nurse recruiter for a hospital.

Believing that she controlled her destiny, Brenda owned her own clothing shop called "Madness" in 1978. When she moved back to Charleston, she opened a Real Estate company, later selling it to Hamrick, Carter and Associates. She continued to serve others in the government sector as the Clerk of Council for the City of North Charleston and later as the Deputy Clerk of Council for the City of Charleston.

When diagnosed with cancer in 2006, Brenda, in typical form, turned her cancer into "mission possible." She inspired many a survivors to live a full, active life. Though her experiences and treatments were extensive and harsh, Brenda helped others navigate their own destiny by promoting self-advocacy during cancer treatments.

She was a catalyst for strength and advocacy in the cancer community. Brenda, a woman once afraid of riding in a boat, became active with Dragon Boat, leading her team to cross the finish line on the Ashley River. In October 2011, the City of North Charleston, inspired by Brenda's vision of finding a cure for breast cancer, dedicated its new pink fire truck to her. The City uses the pink fire truck to raise breast cancer awareness in the community.

Brenda adored her long time friends "The Magnolias" and wanted their goodwill to never be forgotten.

Brenda was an active and cherished member of Cokesbury United Methodist Church. Surviving in addition to her husband and father are: son, Matthew Dennis Washburn (Elizabeth) of Atlanta, GA, three step-sons Michael Cawley, Hugh Cawley, and Dr. John Cawley (Gina), all of Atlanta, GA, adopted daughter, Julie Elmore (Curtis) of Hanahan, seven grandchildren, Madeline Rose, Luke Fraser, Charlotte Anne, Patrick, Sean, Emily and Amber, brother, William Wilson Sexton, Jr. of North Charleston, niece Julie Sexton Crawford (Chris) of Houston, TX, great niece Campbell Crawford, step-mother Norma Sexton, and many wonderful friends. She is predeceased by: her mother and niece, Amanda Sexton. The family is truly grateful for the love and support provided by everyone.

The family will receive friends Wednesday, May 30, 2012 from 5-8:00PM at J. HENRY STUHR NORTHWOODS CHAPEL, 2180 Greenridge Road. The funeral service will be held on Thursday, May 31, 2012 at 10 AM at Cokesbury United Methodist Church, 4990 Dorchester Road, North Chas., SC 29418, immediately followed by a burial service at Live Oak Cemetery, Walterboro, SC. The family will receive friends and guests after the burial service at the home of Jackson and Laura Lynn Hughes, 109 Silverhill Rd., Walterboro, SC 29488.

In lieu of flowers, Brenda asked that donations be made to the Pink Fire Truck Foundation c/o North Charleston Fire Department, P.O. Box 190016, North Charleston, SC 29419 and Dragon Boat Charleston, 1643 Savannah Hwy # 261, Charleston, SC 29407.