Ernest Lewis Strother Sr. was a lifelong leader of the Presbyterian Church, avid traveler and accomplished chef.
He died April 10, 2012, at the Broomall Presbyterian Home, where he had resided since August 2005. He was 96.
Strother’s family said he will be remembered for his sense of humor, kindliness and sense of social justice. He always wanted to be known for taking the high road, and late in life he still inspired others with optimism and grace. His motto was “Every day is a bonus.”
Strother was born Sept. 20, 1915, in Royston, Ga., to the late Lucy Perrin and Lemuel Strother. He was the oldest of four children. He attended public school in Abbeville. S.C., through the 10th grade, and graduated from Washington High in Atlanta, Ga., in 1933.
Strother moved to Philadelphia in 1936 seeking greater opportunities. He attended Temple University and the University of Pennsylvania pursuing liberal arts studies, but did not graduate due to family responsibilities.
In 1939, he married the late Catherine D. Bentley and they had three children: Joyce Ann, who died in 1979, and twins Ernest Jr. and Robert George.
During World War II, Strother was employed at the Philadelphia Naval Yard. He later went to work for Provident Mutual Insurance, and retired from the company after 35 years in food service. He was a certified executive chef.
Ernest led an active life. He was a member of the Prince Hall Masons, and served as past master of James W. Grant Lodge 131, 33rd Demolay Consistory No. 1 Philadelphia.
He was a member of the Delaware Valley Professional Chefs Association, Explorer Post 650 of the Boy Scouts of America, a committeeman in Ward 60 division No. 6, a member of the NAACP, a civilian policeman, and a member of the Association of Parliamentarians. He was also a recipient of the Citation of the Four Chaplains.
Besides cooking, he enjoyed reading, Bible studies and traveling. He visited 49 states and traveled to Mexico, South America, the Caribbean and Canada.
He was a longtime member of the Presbyterian Church. He was a member of Reeve Memorial Presbyterian Church from 1947 until it was dissolved in June 2005. He then transferred his membership to Overbrook Presbyterian Church. Ernest was the first African-American male lay moderator of the Philadelphia Presbytery. He was also the first African-American moderator of the Presbyterian Men of the Synod or the Trinity. He was the oldest continuous member of the board of Presbytery Homes & Services. He attended eight General Assemblies and was commissioner once. He was a member of the National Black Presbyterian Caucus. He served on numerous standing and ad hoc committees, and many in the Presbytery got to experience his culinary gift.
His family said while Strother was soft-spoken, he was a strong advocate for social justice. This probably stems from an incident when he was in the 10th grade and expelled for requesting that the segregated African-American school he attended be given equal facilities with nearby white schools. The law at that time held that the requirements of the 14th amendment of the Constitution were satisfied as long as separate but equal facilities were maintained for both races. Strother, however, believed that was unfair. Although he was labeled a troublemaker by the school superintendent and expelled by the principal, the Board of Education ruled that Strother was right in his assertions. The principal told the board that Ernest was an excellent student, not a discipline problem and had done nothing wrong to merit expulsion. He was reinstated.
He survived by his sons, Ernest Jr. and Robert George; daughter-in-law, Joyce Glenn Strother; grandchildren Natasha, Tashawn and Robert Armand; great-grandson, Walter; sister, Essie Patterson; brother, Robert H. Strother Sr.; four nephews; one niece; and other relatives and friends.
A fraternal service will be held April 23 at 10 a.m. at Overbrook Presbyterian Church, 6376 City Avenue. A memorial service will follow at 11.
James L. Morse Funeral Home handled the arrangements.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to the Presbyterian Children Village, 452 South Roberts Road, Rosemont, Pa. 19010.