Monday, May 12, 2014

Blog 181: An Ode to Mrs. Alene Kate Stewart McCorkle – Ninety-Nine Years Young and Holding!

When Alene Kate was born to Mr. & Mrs. Brown and Roxie Stewart, ninety-nine years ago on July 27, 1915, earth received a gift of brain, brawn and beauty. Alene Kate was born with no “silver spoon in her mouth” but with brain; i.e. a strong mental capacity with a constant high IQ. She never suffered from dementia or Alzheimer’s. She went to Myers Street Elementary School at five years of age, graduated from Second Ward High School at 15 years of age after completing the limited eleventh grade. She graduated from North Carolina College for Negroes, now NC Central University where she was an honor student. All of her life, Alene has been brilliant and bright.

Alene is a gift of brawn, i.e. strength of character and is a credit to her race. She had five brothers whom she helped to educate; helped to liquidate a mortgage on the family’s farm; was married to the late Paris P. McCorkle and is the mother of her caregiver daughter, Elizabeth Rose Kitterman.

For 99 years, Alene Kate Stewart McCorkle has been a beauty, both physically and internally. (See pictures attached)

She taught Mathematics at Second Ward High School in Charlotte, North Carolina for many years and was the faculty advisor for the 79 members of the class of ’47 for two years.

It is for these reasons that we call upon all of you, to help pour “showers of blessings” upon one who is approaching the 100 mark!

Whether or not you have met Mrs. McCorkle, you are asked to send her a birthday card today or before July 27, 2014, with $9.00 enclosed. (Remember your 99th birthday is coming)

Send to:

Mrs. Alene S. McCorkle
1139 Mulberry Street
Charlotte, NC 28216

And a copy to me for publication.

You will be glad that you did!


Sunday, May 4, 2014

Blog 180: Meet Mama J

By Juanita Newsom
Guest Writer
Mama J was my mother’s nickname the last year of her life by the staff at Fresenius Medical Center in Cleveland, Ohio, where she went 3 times a week for dialysis.  In January 2013, mom was diagnosed with kidney failure and given 3 to 6 months to live.

The definition of mother per Webster’s dictionary states:  to care for or protect, a nurturer, maternal tenderness of affection.  Helen Sandra Johnson portrayed mother with a capital M.

God blessed this world with a special gift on June 15, 1924  in the person of Helen.  She was the second youngest of 15 children and the smallest, but boy, was she a dynamo!  She exhibited such spirit in her life and especially in her final year.  She decided to use the year to see as many of her family, friends and loved ones as possible.  Her family is large, and as the end was nearing many of her over 80 nieces, nephews, cousins, and other close friends made sure to come and see her or call her on the phone.

In her 89 years, Helen had accomplished so much.  She was married for over 50 years, she was the first African-American inspector at the clothing manufacturer, Joseph and Feiss, which became Hugo Boss, and served on the joint board as a union representative for 20 years.  She was the founder of the social club “Les Renards” with lifelong friends and served as their business manager for more than 30 years.

Helen loved people and was an excellent storyteller and comedian.  Her joy came in making people laugh, spreading love and humor.  I remember as a small child sitting on the floor listening to the wonderful family stories.

Mom was a fixture in her neighborhood, living there for over 60 years.  She was affectionately known as mom, grandma, Aunt Helen, or Miss Johnson.  My friends loved coming to our house because she was so much fun. 

Our house was the “gathering place” after Sunday church and especially New Year’s Eve.  There was lots of warmth and ALWAYS good food.  Mom was famous for her roast and peach cobbler.  I’m  reminded of Jesus feeding the masses with fish and loaves of bread;  mom always had enough roast for whoever stopped by.

I marveled at her mental strength and stamina as she buried her mother, father, all her siblings and her beloved husband, Ralph.  She lived by the 23rd Psalm (The Lord is my shepherd…..).  I think that was the theme of her life.

Being so tiny, 4’11”, 98 lbs., everyone always treated her as a little doll, especially this last year with the many trips to the hospital.  All the nurses, doctors, and personnel loved to come and see her, because of her positive attitude.  One nurse remarked that she wished all her patients were as sweet as Miss Johnson.  She always had a kind word, a compliment, or a smile for her caregivers.

Dialysis was becoming more and more difficult with many complications, and finally my sister Shelly and I decided it was time to bring mom home with hospice.  We had exactly 8 days with mom before her passing.  She wanted to come home and we were able to honor that request.

Bringing her home was the very best decision we could have made.  Hospice was wonderful and met our every need.  Also, the week before her death, many, many people came to see her and she was lucid and knew they were there.  I was by her side the entire time and was able to help hospice with her care.  Hospice told us that she might not be talking or eating, but she was in no pain and could hear us.  I remember the night before she died, I told her “Mom, it’s OK, you can go, we’ll be alright.”

The very next morning, as the nurse from hospice arrived and we were cleaning her; I called it “anointing her”, her breathing slowed and she started cooling down.  My sister Shelly, husband Lonnie, nephew Ricky, close cousin Terri, myself and nurse Tim gathered around her bed and said a prayer, and she took her last breath.  How beautiful is that?  We should all be so blessed and able to die knowing you are loved, cherished and not alone.

I will always be thankful for that end-of-life experience I had with my mother.  It taught me so much about dying.  She lived a year and 3 months after the diagnosis.  Helen Sandra Johnson was a beautiful woman and her homegoing was such a celebration.  At her funeral, I learned even more about her wonderful life from people I didn’t even know and heard stories about her encouraging nature.

Mama J’s legacy will live on through all the lives she impacted.  One of Lonnie’s and my favorite remembrances is how she loved coming to Charlotte to visit and enjoying our friends.  She liked seeing the birds that came to our birdfeeder, especially the red cardinals which she called “her red birds”, and our beautiful red crepe myrtle tree, not a northern tree.  We always had to take pictures, so she could take them back to Cleveland with her.

Until we meet again,