Celeste Lee Jones Borden taught for 25 years in the public school system of Philadelphia.
She died March 30, 2012. She was 94.
Born July 27, 1917, in Durham, North Carolina, “Sister” as she was called, was the third child of John Allen and Mary Ellen Jones. She was the only girl and had three brothers, Jesse, Charles Allen and baby brother John Easter, who died in his infancy. Borden’s mother died when she was only four years old and her father raised his four children instilling in them a reverence for God, a love of education and a dedication to family.
As a gifted student, Borden finished school at the age of 15. She entered first grade at five years old, skipped the seventh grade and entered the eighth grade at age 11. As a 12th-grade student at Hillside High School in Durham, N.C. she won a citywide Latin competition and served as the class yearbook editor-in-chief. The greater significance of this is that the Black community in Durham had demanded that Latin be offered in the Black schools, reversing the white school board’s decision that Black children couldn’t master Latin.
After graduating from Hillside High, she matriculated at North Carolina Central University (NCCU) at age 16. She finished her undergraduate studies with honors, receiving a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and science. Borden has been honored as a “Golden Eagle” (alumna for over fifty years) by the National Alumni Association (2002) and a “Soaring Eagle” by the Philadelphia Chapter of NCCU Alumni Association (2004).
During her tenure at NCCU she met and later married William “Bill” Sutton Borden Sr. They were equally yoked and enjoyed many of the same activities including education, dancing, travel, sports, cards, entertaining and youth activities. But most of all they cherished their family and extended family. Together they raised three children: William Jr. “Billy”; Susan Marie; and John Allen.
Having received her teacher’s and principal’s certificate on July 1, 1937, Borden began her teaching career at Haithe School in Cedar Grove, Orange County, N.C., where she served as a teacher and principal for three years before relocating to Philadelphia. She formed life-long relationships with many of her students.
Once in Philadelphia, Borden took and passed the National Teacher’s Exam. Her first teaching position in Philadelphia was at Sayre Junior High School as a math and science teacher.
She pursued a graduate degree to enhance her educational status. She completed her graduate studies at Temple University majoring in elementary education and extended her secondary teaching certificate to include elementary education. Hannah School was her final teaching assignment where she was often honored as an exceptional teacher who motivated many of her students to attain their full potential.
Borden retired from Philadelphia’s public school system after 25 years of dedicated service at both the elementary and secondary levels. While in the school system, she served as a faculty representative for the Home and School Association and a union representative.
She was a member, deacon and ruling elder of the Lombard Central Presbyterian Church, USA where she taught Sunday school and was active with several youth programs. She worked with the women of Lombard serving for four years as Women’s Day chairperson and also served as banquet chair for the 150th Anniversary and actively participated in the 125th, 135th and 160th Anniversaries.
She served on several committees of the Philadelphia Presbytery including the Preparation for the Ministry and Candidates committees and represented the Philadelphia Presbytery as a Commissioner at the Synod of the Trinity. Her attention, however, was not only focused on her own church but extended to other religious and community-based organizations where she supported scholarship committees and other fundraising efforts.
She was rewarded many times with accolades, commendations and awards. In her children’s formative years Borden served as den mother and diligently worked with the cub scouts, receiving several certificates and awards.
She was an active member of the West Philadelphia Branch YMCA and worked with the sustaining membership drive in fundraising each year. As a captain of a team in a fundraising drive for a new building in West Philadelphia, she worked until a new YMCA was built.
Borden chose bridge as her avocation. She was a member of the Women’s Duplicate Bridge Club, the Philadelphia Bridge Unit (where she served as secretary), the IMPs and the American Bridge Association. Celeste commenced teaching bridge as a volunteer at the West Branch YMCA.
In September 1975, John Borden organized the New Player’s Bridge Club at the YMCA, and Celeste Borden served as its sponsor. She secured its charter from the American Bridge Association in 1976 and continued as sponsor and beginners instructor until her retirement in 1997. Borden has received numerous awards for her service to the bridge community, including her unanimous election as the Philadelphia Bridge Unit’s “Lady of the Year.” Celeste was certified as a bridge teaching professional by the National Bridge Association.
The major driving force of her life for the past 42 years was watching her grandchildren thrive.
She is survived by: son, William, his wife, Carol (Lastrape) and their children; William (III) and Linton Charles, all of Sacramento, Calif.; daughter, Susan Marie and her child Tonya Marie; son, John and his children, John Jr. (Peepers) and Brittany Lecetta; sister-in-law, Cottie Elvira Borden of New York; brother-in-law, Joshua Edward Borden of New York; niece, Elizabeth Borden Anderson; nephews, Joshua Jr., Joseph, Jeffrey, Elliott and Warren Borden; caregivers, Claudette Byrd, Aminata Waritay and Tiffany; and other relatives and friends.
Services were held April 7 at Lombard Central Presbyterian Church, 4201 Powelton Avenue. Yarborough and Rocke Funeral Home handled the arrangements.