April 16, 1976 was an incredibly Good Friday in Louisville, Kentucky. It was a holy day and it was also the day George and Seretha Tinsley’s baby girl was born! Penni Danielle was the apple of her father’s eye and her mother’s pride and joy. Little did they know then that their child would make an indelible mark in the lives of many others.
Exhibiting the influence of her grandfathers who were both ministers, Penni served diligently as a leader in youth programs at First Missionary Baptist Church where her love of the Lord became apparent.
Even as a young child, Penni had a gifted way of keeping her priorities in the right order – putting first things first. She accepted Christ at an early age under the pastorship of Rev. Bobby Jones. She maintained active membership at First Missionary Baptist Church and cherished the spiritual guidance of Pastor Clifton E. Dollison. She looked forward to the visits of Deacons Bradley and Jeffers, who served her communion and uplifted her in prayer. Regular Bible study was a special delight of her, and equally so for her teacher, Rev. Derrick Woodard. It was through the regular visits of all of these ‘spiritual angels’ that one of Penni’s regular care givers also accepted Christ.
A student at Denison Middle School, Penni became a trailblazer by breaking the color barrier as the first African American member of the dance team there. She was also a competitive synchronized swimmer for the Scarlet Knight Swim Team. She played on the basketball team and ran cross country at Winter Haven High School before transferring to Lakeland’s Harrison School of Performing Arts.
From a young age, Penni showed both passion and talent for the creative arts and excelled at acting, dance, poetry, modeling and art. She participated in Kwanzaa Celebrations, performed in church plays and coached young people in performing monologues.
After graduating from Harrison, Penni attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, graduating with the Bachelor of Arts Degree in Performing Arts. Following graduation, she moved to New York City to pursue her higher ambition – a career in modeling and acting. She joined the Screen Actors Guild and, in the age-old tradition of struggling actors everywhere, waited tables between auditions. She sustained herself through various positions in the hospitality industry, where her impeccable work ethic, brilliant smile, engaging personality and innate leadership expertise gained her radiant attention and many admirers.
In 2005 she had the privilege of attending a performance of Harrison High School friend, Broadway actress Karen Oliva, as guests of President and Lady Obama at the White House.
While in her early 30s, Penni was stricken with a Parkinsonian disease known as Multiple Systems Atrophy. Despite her physically debilitating condition, Penni remained mentally sharp and alert. She also maintained her sense of style and fashion and her infectious sense of humor. Even as she became bedridden and struggled to articulate, Penni never complained about her condition and maintained a positive attitude. She even counseled, consoled, and encouraged a wide range of family members and friends.
Penni’s faith was the cornerstone of her life. Even while fighting to recover her health, she founded two companies that represented her faithfulness: P2P (Parkinson’s to Praise) and P4:13 (Philippians 4:13). As she lived out her faith, Penni cut a lithe, graceful figure on stage and in life. She bore the terrible tribulations that her illness imposed upon her with uncommon strength, perseverance and dignity.
Penni never lost hope nor permitted anyone who did not share her optimism to stay in her presence. Her Dad, George, Sr. says, “Penni’s life was a lesson to never give up, keep a smile on your face and look to God for deliverance.”