The term “neighborhood school” is sometimes used to suggest it is inferior. However, Anna H. Shaw Middle School personnel refuse to be defined that way.
Under the leadership of principal Kwand Lang, Shaw has done its best to heal its reputation. The school and Lang were even highlighted by MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program. Lang was denoted a classroom innovator. He felt he brought a renewed sense of energy.
“Energy. I can tell you that, a lot of energy and a focus back to the basics [and] a focus on structure. I spend a lot of time on modeling and mentoring around how to reach the whole kid,” Lang said. “Our new motto over the last couple of years has been ‘The new Shaw where every kid counts.’”
Lang has bolstered this motto by keeping track of the students’ academic progress.
“We run data on every single kid in our building. Every kid, we identify according to PSSA (Pennsylvania System of School Assessment) performance, academic performance, report cards and things like that,” he said. “You’re going to find this in a lot of neighborhood schools, but most of our kids were below grade level when I got here. You find in a lot of good schools, what they do is … try to find that bottom 10, 15 percent of students and they’re trying to find something to move them up. They spend a great deal and energy trying to boost up that 10 or 15 percent,” he said.
“My thought was, ‘Why can’t we do it for every kid below grade level?’”
This led to the concept of the Achievement Team, which is an individualized learning plan for each student.
“My expectation is, my teachers know they need to know their kids better than I do,” he said. “If there’s anything that makes us different, I think it’s our achievement team initiative. Everything about that is just teaching and learning, and that’s changing people’s mindset of Shaw.”
The staff members at Shaw are more than happy to do their parts in helping the school excel beyond expectations.
“As the assistant principal of Shaw Middle School, it’s been an exhilarating experience. Most of my career was in suburban schools. When I came over to the urban school, it was totally different from what I was used to,” said Bruce Benton, assistant principal.
“But it’s great. It’s something that I enjoy. I love coming to work every day because it’s always a different kind of challenge.”
Benton also spoke of what an honor it was when MSNBC decided to put Lang and Shaw in the national spotlight.
“That was a great honor, because it lets the world know what we’re actually doing in Philadelphia. There’s always horror stories coming out of the urban area, but this is sure example of success that can come out of a urban setting with limited resources,” he said.
“We are the best-kept secret in Southwest.”
Ashley McGrath, who teaches science at Shaw, is in her fourth year at the school.
“It’s been really good since we have so few kids in the building. We can really develop a really good relationship with all of them because we only have seventh and eighth grades. I really know all the kids. I know their history, I know what’s going on and I can really connect with them,” she said.
“Our kids have a lot of difficulty. They come in with a lot of achievement issues in the past, but they end up doing well. We really do a good job of using our data and seeing where they’re weak and where we need to make improvements and push them forward.”
David McFadden instructs seventh-grade math and shared his experiences from the past three years.
“Every year is different. I’m growing as a teacher. I’m learning from the kids as they learn from me,” he said. “I try to keep it more about the kids and less about them listening to me.”
Catherine Brownlee has taught at Shaw for 17 years and credited Lang with helping to turn the school’s morale around.
“He’s made a lot of differences,” Brownlee said. “He’s very proactive in making sure our children get what they need regardless of the situation.”
Brownlee was also delighted to see Shaw recognized by MSNBC.
“I’m glad to see that our children are being noticed on a national level,” she said. “The old Shaw is not what we subscribe to. Our kids are good kids. Our kids are learners. We can compete.”
Jere Tobias, the school counselor, encourages the students on a daily basis to think of their futures.
“I tell my students that you can get into any school that you’re interested in if you meet the requirements. It’s really that simple,” Tobias said. “Our students know that when they come here, their needs are going to be met. Academically, emotionally, socially and physically.”
The Russell H. Conwell Magnet Middle School, named after the founder of Temple University, has started off the school year with even loftier expectations and the desire to go above and beyond its legacy.
Tamara Thomas-Smith, who has a doctorate in educational leadership from St. Joseph’s University, just completed her first full week as principal at Conwell. She was on maternity leave from August until the latter part of October. Even though she was not physically in the office, Smith made her presence felt through e-mail and other means of correspondence with her staff. “I think one of the biggest jobs that I have is trying to implement different programs and implement new things, but keep the heart of Conwell what it is historically,” Smith said. “It’s been a magnet school for years. It’s been performing well for years. (I hope) to keep that, but add a little different flavor to it as well.”
Smith took over her position as principal from Edward Hoffman, who was with the school for more than 30 years. “It’s difficult to follow a legend, but I’m keeping the best of what he had in place here,” she said. “There’s no need to reinvent the wheel if things are working, but I’m also trying to bring some of my style of leadership to the school.”
Smith outlined what she and her administration have prioritized at Conwell. “We have 86, 87 percent roughly of our students who are proficient and advanced, but what I always tell my staff is that until we get to 100 percent, there’s always work to do,” she said. “I feel just as much pressure as those other principals. Not just to make AYP (adequate yearly progress), … if one kid in this school isn’t at the highest level of achievement, then there’s still work to be done.”
Smith has been given assistance by Conwell’s new assistant principal, Erica M. Green, who started her tenure at the magnet school this year also. “Conwell has lots of traditions. What makes us a unique school is it is a magnet middle school. So that means young people have to apply to come here, and that means your grades have to be good. You have to be a stellar student,” Green said. “You have to have good attendance and in some cases, you have to be willing to travel. We are located in this neighborhood, but it’s not a neighborhood school; our young people come from all over the city.”
Conwell is at 1849 E. Clearfield St. in Northeast Philadelphia.
Green takes pride in how well rounded the students at Conwell are. “They’re interested in academics. They have a zest for learning, and it’s a school where the students really want to do their best. They also have a sense of giving. Recently, we did a pink and denim day for breast cancer awareness and raised a good amount of funds for the cause,” she said. “It just shows you that the kids want to do well academically, but yet they want to have a pulse on the people. They want to have a pulse on doing something good in the community and really making a difference.”
Nicole Leone teaches social studies at Conwell and shared her perspective. “It’s been a good experience. It’s a lot different from what I’m used to, because I was at an empowerment school, and since this is a non-empowerment school, there’s a lot of difference in allowing the students to do more with the curriculum,” she said.
Peter Koller, who primarily teaches art, just started at Conwell and has been finding his footing.
“The students work at a very high level. A lot of them, their scores are high, and so their capacity for learning is that much higher,” he said. “The students are really easy to engage and they’re really interested in the lessons.”
Michael Rocco is a seventh-grade teacher who has taught at Conwell for five years.
He commutes from his Quakertown home to be a part of the school’s continuing achievements.
“Our kids, we can do so much more with them,” Rocco said. “This being a magnet school, they have much more ability than your neighborhood school.”
He spoke about how their high grades vouched for him as a teacher.
“As a teacher, how they do on different tests is a reflection of you. So, when I give a quiz and the kids do poorly, that’s a reflection on me,” he said. “So, here it’s almost a validation for what I do as a teacher. They’re doing well, which means that I’m doing something well, and from there, can do different things and explore.”
Cassidy Fantuzzo, an eighth-grade science teacher, is in her fifth year of teaching. She shared some details of how she keeps her classroom interesting for the students.
“I teach a variety of kids. This school is very, very diverse and so we get a chance to teach kids from all over the city, which is pretty unique — a lot of different backgrounds — a lot of different abilities and skills,” she said. “We do a lot of labs and projects. We do a lot of demonstrations, and because it’s so interactive, it makes the kids more engaged. We do a lot of group projects. They learn a lot off each other.”
Smith says she wants all of the students to continue learning from all that is around them and use it as a valuable lesson beyond school hours.
“It’s nice to have the academics, to have that piece, but also in middle school, this is a big year for transitions; in terms of social transition and emotional transition; being a mom, I have a set of twins that are 16. I’ve been through it with the males,” she said. “I’ve been through it with the female and I know that this is a very tough time being in this age group — and I think it’s more than just test scores.”
Smith reinforced the school’s declaration that the students and staff abide by.
“The motto for our staff here is ‘Every child, every chance, every day.’”
Although the test scores at Joseph Pennell Elementary School are low and the school is working toward making Adequate Yearly Progress, the students are held to a higher standard.
“We don’t refer to our kids as students. We really refer to them as scholars,” Principal Jason Harris said. “It’s an exciting place to be because everybody here is new. All of the faculty here, for the most part, is new and so it gives us an opportunity to really shape this school the way we really want to.”
Harris initially agreed to become the principal of Pennell when he thought it would be turned into a Promise Academy. Those plans fell through because of budget constraints. However, Harris chose to stay and help turn around the low performing school.
“As a turnaround administrator, you work with what you have and you still make a difference,” Harris said. “So we’re still implementing a lot of the initiatives that were associated with the Promise Academy because they’re just best practice initiatives anyway such as professional development, positive behavior support and all those things that a school should have in the first place.”
Another key component was to change how the students viewed themselves and the perceptions others had of them.
“I’m charged with being accountable for scores, but that’s part of my job. My main goal is to really make sure that we are advancing students so that they are successful period,” Harris said. “It requires changing systems and that doesn’t happen overnight. It requires changing belief systems and that can take a long time to do. There’s a lot more work to do but I see a lot of progress.”
Thus far, the scholar mindset is one that has been embraced across the board at Pennell.
“I love it. Whatever you keep saying to them and keep in front of the students’ eyes, that’s what they’ll cling to,” said Trina Pemberton, a sixth-grade teacher. “It’s changing their mindset. I’m not a clown. I’m not hanging around. No, I’m a scholar. I’m an educated young man. I’m an educated young woman. I strongly believe in the power of words and the power in how you think affects how you act. And so, if they think like scholars, they’ll act like scholars.”
Pemberton has reinforced that they are scholars even though the test scores reflect differently.
“It’s a little frustrating because I see the potential in them. I look at their scores from previous years. I know that they make great gains when they come to me so it’s disappointing when it comes back and yeah, that wasn’t good enough,” she said. “But I don’t give up. I keep pushing. I know we’ll get there and I think that this is the year that we can definitely do it because there’s a change in the atmosphere. So, it’ll be good.”
Andrew Walker, another sixth-grade teacher at Pennell, spoke about how his students reacted to being identified as scholars.
“The first day of school, I actually wrote scholars and just what it means. None of them knew what it was at first but I gave them the definition. I told them that’s what I’m going to call you. We all are. Everyone in this school is a scholar,” he said. “It changed their demeanor and just how did they view themselves in the classroom setting. So, they feel they want to uphold that name because it sounds so prestigious. They really like that.”
Harris acknowledged that much rested on his shoulders but he was more than up to the challenge of laying the groundwork in order for Pennell to regain its footing.
“I think it’s all about being confident, being reflective, being able to have that ability to receive criticism and feedback and act accordingly,” Harris said. “If you have a vision for student’s success, then everything else falls into place and you have to be willing to act on that vision too and communicate it well enough so that people will be willing to follow you exactly where it is where you’re going.”
He was prepared to give it his all even during the difficult and trying times.
“This is a school that is making significant changes. We’re on our way. Things will be different and change might be difficult but that’s OK,” he said.
Shirley Turpin-Parham was employed by the Philadelphia Public School District for 30 years during which she was a museum teacher and researcher at the African-American History Museum. She later worked as a professor at Cheyney University as a teacher of Black History. Turpin-Parham died on Feb. 8. She was 73.
“My sister was a kind and loving and caring person,” said Naomi Turpin-Crumley. “She believed that African-American people should know of their rich heritage and their spiritual strength because those things have brought us this far.
“She also believed that no matter what the circumstance of birth the challenges of the present, we as an African people must get involved and move forward to make a better future,” she added.
Turpin-Parham was born on September 26, 1938 in Brooklyn, N.Y to Samuel Louis Turpin and Shirley Handy Turpin. She graduated from Chester High School in Chester in 1956.
She then attended Morgan State University and Cheyney University. She received her Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education from Cheyney in 1962. She went on to earn her Master’s degree in Education and Urban Studies from Temple University where she also received her doctorate of education.
She met and married Joseph W. Parham, Sr. and they became the proud parents of Rolison W. Turpin and Joseph W. Parham, II.
Turpin-Parham was a dedicated member of Tindley Temple United Methodist Church. She served in various capacities, including Sunday school teacher and Christ serving minister and Vice President of the Central District, Eastern Pennsylvania Conference.
Her past membership and affiliations included African Sisterhood, Social Studies Council, Rho Theta Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. and the Association for the Study of African-American Life and History – to name a few.
Her family said Turpin-Parham took great pride in her work with the committees at the Clivedon House and Johnson House, which were associated with the Underground Railroad.
She was a historian who was greatly appreciated in Philadelphia and the State of Pennsylvania. She worked tirelessly in publishing numerous articles, critiques and lectures of African-American history, life and culture.
“My sister is one that once she grabbed hold to something, she continued,” Turpin-Crumley said.
“I will never be the person that she was and I’m just so proud that she was my sister.”
Among the awards she received were as Founding President and Appreciation for Dedicated Services as President for several years with the PhilaMontco Brand of the Association for the Study of African-American Life and History, Hall of Fame induction for Dedication and Contributions to Cheyney University and recognition by Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc, North Atlantic Region for Accomplishments as Educator/African-American History Specialist.
Turpin-Parham’s family said her yearning to experience the culture of her people and to see the lands from which they came took her to Africa and the Caribbean.
Turpin-Parham leaves to mourn: sons, Rolison and Joseph; mother, Shirley H. Turpin; sisters, Naomi Turpin-Crumley and Cora M. Turpin; grandsons, Rolison W. Turpin, II and Ryan W. Turpin; four great grandsons and a host of relatives and friends.
Turpin-Parham was preceded in death by her husband, Joseph W. Parham Sr.
A viewing will be held Feb. 15 at Powell Mortuary Services, 2432 N. 27th Street from 3 to 5 p.m. A second viewing will be held on Feb. 16 at Tindley Temple United Methodist Church, 750 South Broad St. from 9 to 11 a.m. The service will begin at 11.
Oran Vernell Brown transformed the lives of many young men and in doing so his life was enriched. He was the quintessential husband, father, friend and mentor. He died on Oct. 14. He was 66.
Brown was born to James A. Brown Sr. and Dorothy Bailey Brown on November 27, 1944 in Philadelphia. At an early age, he accepted Jesus Christ at Zion Baptist Church where he later sang in the choir and served as an usher.
Brown was educated within the Philadelphia Public School District and later graduated from Cheyney University in 1967 where he received a B.S. degree in Education. He pursued a career in education with the local school district as an educator and administrator for over 32 years.
He positively touched the lives of the young people with whom he interfaced. Because of his commitment to education, he was later a founding member of the Bensalem Equality Council whose mission was to increase the number of people of color in the Bensalem School District.
In 1970, Brown married the love of his life, Veronica (Ronni) Robinson. From this union, two daughters, Ayanna Brown Lewis and Kai Brown, were born. His family was his pride and joy and a source of his love.
In regards to serving the Lord, Brown was a member of Salem Baptist Church for over 20 years. In 2008, he joined Second Baptist Church of Doylestown where he deepened his faith and commitment to God. He served as a member of the Feeding Ministry, the Scholarship Committee and a member of the trustee board.
Brown was also very passionate about life and his family. He was gregarious and enjoyed traveling, entertaining and reading.
He possessed a “green thumb” which was evident by the beautiful plants around and in his home. He was a great storyteller and enjoyed critiquing the latest movies. In his family he was known as the “Movie Critic,” but above all he had a welcoming smile that lit up the room and made everyone in his presence feel comfortable and special.
Brown was transparent in expressing his truth in word and deeds. His vibrant storytelling and unique sense of humor were reflected in many of the stories, according to friends and family.
He was also affectionately known as “Daddi-o” and embodied the qualities of his fraternity in Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc.
Brown was initiated into the Gamma Omega Chapter at Cheyney University in 1965 where he served as Vice Polemarch and Keeper of Records.
In 1967, he joined the Philadelphia Alumni Chapter and actively served on many committees. He later transferred his service to the Norristown Alumni Chapter in 1991 where he served as Polemarch from 1996 to 1998. He continued to work on a Province level and was elected Senior Vice Polemarch in 2007.
In addition to this, he served on a national level as a fraternity member of various committees and commissions. He was a leader among men and dedicated to the principle of excellence. He received the James M. Kidd Award for distinguished and dedicated service in 2009.
Brown’s commitment to public service led him to seek membership in the Masonic organization. He was a member of Prince Hall Masonry; Ambler Lodge #19; De Molay Consistory; Susqi-Centennial and Pyramid Temple #1. He served as Worshipful Master from 2008 to 2009 and was currently a District Lecturer.
Brown leaves to mourn: wife, Veronica; daughters, Ayanna Lewis (Clifton) and Kai; brothers, James and Harold; brother-in-law, Marvin Robinson; sisters-in-law, Hazel Souder and Betty Robinson; grandson, Davon; nephews, Keith, Ebon, Edward, Andrew, James III and Jerald; nieces, Kelli, D’Ana, Janine, Lynn, Adrienne, Jennifer, Liani and Alexandra; goddaughter, Brittni; and a hosts of aunts, uncles, cousins and mentees.
Services will be held Oct. 21 at Grace Baptist Church of Germantown, 25 W. Johnson St. The viewing will be from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. The service will start at 11. Bruce R. Hawkins Funeral Home handled the arrangements.
Joanne Barbara Hawkins was well respected by her colleagues and was a member of the Pennsylvania Keystone Funeral Directors Association.
She was president of the Quaker City Funeral Directors Association for three consecutive terms even though the bylaws only allowed two terms.
For 35 years, she helped untold families as she guided them through the process of “letting go” of loved ones. She always provided service with style, grace, smile and a hug. Even though it may have been one of several funerals she was handling, she knew that for each family, it was their only funeral service, and there was only one opportunity to do it right.
Hawkins had a commanding style, a sense of humor, a flair for dress and a love of people.
Hawkins died on January 20. She was 60.
“She was more like my sister than my cousin,” said relative Bruce Hawkins. “We were very close all throughout our lives.”
Hawkins was born on May 16, 1951, in Philadelphia. She was the second of two children born to James L. and Sara Wilson Hawkins. She was a graduate of Philadelphia High School For Girls, class of 1968, and went onto George Washington University where she graduated magna cum laude in 1972.
She then attended American Academy, McAllister Institute of Mortuary Science and after completion, affiliated with her father’s business, the James L. Hawkins Funeral Home in South Philadelphia.
Hawkins was a dedicated member and officer of Frontiers International, Philadelphia Frontiers and founder of the Carteret County Frontiers in North Carolina. Following in her mother’s footsteps, she was a board member of Lincoln Day Nursery. Hawkins believed in service to family, community, business and the arts. She participated fully in what went on around her wherever she was.
In 2005, Hawkins retired to Morehead City, North Carolina, and enjoyed living in a beach town. She would often call friends and family in the middle of the winter to report how warm it was in her town.
Hawkins was also a loving and dedicated caregiver to her husband. She was also a well-loved Walmart associate for five years. On the day of her viewing in Morehead City, the Walmart store closed so that all of the employees could pay their respects and say their good-byes to their friend and colleague.
Hawkins leaves to mourn: husband, Rev. Larry Harris; children, Ernest and Sharilyn Harris; grandchildren, Quadel, Ezekiel, Lydia and Alexis Harris, and Robert McGrier II and Bryce; mother-in-law, Barbara Jane Harris; sister, Sara H. Bachman; sisters-in-law, Leslie Fletcher and Stacie Turks; two nieces, Jennifer Puda and Suzette Rose; four nephews, Robin and Ibrahim Fletcher, and James and Daniel Bachman.
She was preceded in death by her son Kevin Harris.
Services will be held January 30, at Gospel Temple Baptist Church, 1327 South 19th Street. The viewing will be from noon to 7 p.m. The service will start at 7 p.m. Bruce R. Hawkins Funeral Home handled the arrangements.
Cheryl Vernae Grant Shepherd, also known as “Cookie,” was a proud member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. In her early days in Philadelphia, Cheryl taught at Warren G. Harding Middle School and later at William M. Meredith Elementary School. She started a disciplined dance program for the students at Meredith. She was a mentor to both mothers and students.
Shepherd died on January 17. She was 61.
Shepherd was born on February 7, 1950, to Helen Grant and Daniel Martin Sr. in Harlem, N.Y. She moved to St. Helena Island, S.C., in the early 1950’s and was primarily raised by her maternal grandparents, the late William Boles Chaplin and the late Louise Capers Chaplin.
She was raised in the Christian faith. She was baptized at Ebenezer Baptist Church on St. Helena Island at an early age and became a congregation member. She lived across the road from a small prayer house where she could hear the charismatic praises going forth in songs like ‘Come On InThis House (It’s gonna rain)’ from the swing on her porch.
Shepherd graduated from St. Helena High School where she was also a drum major in the high school band. Her family said she was “fierce struttin’” as she led the band down the St. Helena roads.
She spent summers in New York City with her mother, step-father, the late Joseph Porter, and two sisters Donna and Kimberly. In her teen years, she worked at the great Macy’s on 34th Street in Manhattan as a summer job.
Shepherd later attended Spelman College, Allen University and Montclair State University where she earned her degrees and credentials in health/physical education and dance.
While at Allen University, she met Ronald Shepherd with whom she traveled and sang in the University choir.
She later moved to Newark, N.J., where she taught physical education and coached the girl’s track team at Malcolm X Shabazz High School. While there, she and Ronald married in 1974. Soon after, she moved to Philadelphia. In 1977, she and her husband welcomed their only child, Chaz Lamar Shepherd. Chaz became the joy of her life.
Shepherd also taught for a time at Freedom Theater. She started Philadelphia’s first young people’s dance company, “Lessons In Dance Studio.” There she trained Chaz but kicked him out due to “his funky attitude.” She used her son as an example to the other students, showing that no one was exempt from the expectation of excellent behavior. She was also on the board of the Annenberg Theater.
In her last days, she found joy in seeing some of the vision God gave her of her son manifest. Chaz’s life was her joy and inspiration though she had her own individual ministry beyond him. Her later joy was her “Snug-a-bug,” Harlem Sorah Shepherd, her only grandchild.
Harlem called her “Grammy” as Shepherd wished and she enjoyed her granddaughter sleeping with her and running around the house. Through her health challenges, Chaz and Harlem gave her hopeful days.
Shepherd leaves to mourn: son, Chaz Shepherd; granddaughter, Harlem Sorah; mother, Helen Porter-Spahn (William); father, Daniel Martin Sr. (Ruby); two sisters, Donna Cunningham (Stan) and Kimberly Porter’s three brothers, Daniel Martin Jr.(Reba), Max Martin (Kim) and George Robert Chaplin; one niece, three nephews and a host of loving relatives and friends.
Services will be held Jan. 26, at Mt. Enon Baptist Church, 500 Snyder Ave. The viewing will be at 9 a.m. The service will start at 11. Waller Robinson Gray Funeral Home handled the arrangements.
Betty Rosa Spivey was a gospel pianist, vocalist, directress and arranger. In addition to her involvement in the local church community, her many talents were exposed to gospel music lovers everywhere as she accompanied various groups and singers to all parts of the world, such as Kitty Parham and the Stars of Faith European Tour, the Victory Choral Ensemble, Gloria Neal and the Ladies of Song, guest artist with the David Winslow Singers and many others. She died Aug. 25. She was 60.
Spivey was born on Sept. 26, 1950, in Philadelphia to the late Ward D. Spivey, Jr. and Helen E. Thomas Spivey. She was educated in the Philadelphia Public School District and a graduate of John Bartram High School. An avid reader of religious and socio-political issues, she attended Community College of Philadelphia and Temple University, graduating magna cum laude with a degree in Library Media Sciences. She was employed by the School District of Philadelphia and retired in April 2011 after 30 years of service. During those years, she often coordinated the music for graduation ceremonies and school plays for Alcorn and Vaux Public Schools.
Reared in a Christian home, she received her religious training from her parents and the Sunday School of Emmanuel AME Church. From an early age, she knew her Bible, taught by her late great uncle, Eugene Spivey, Superintendent of the Sunday School, Reverends John C. Spivey and Rosa Belle Spivey. She received her formal piano instruction and training from Ms. Rydonia Leecan, Mr. Howard Spivey and the late Lois W. Norris. Upon her death, she was a faithful and devoted member of Trinity AME Church in Philadelphia.
Her outstanding gift and anointing of music emerged at the age of 10 when, upon hearing her “toy with the keys,” the late Presiding Elder Arnold D. Nearn, assigned her to play at the South District Sunday School Convention. Nervous and uncertain of her talent, she majestically played her first song, “Where He May Lead Me,” which set the course for her service as a pianist and organist in God’s Church. Many were often amazed at “the little piano playing girl from Elmwood who could find anyone’s key”! Throughout her music career, others described her as “humble in spirit and generous of her gift.”
The Savior indeed led Betty to faithfully serve as musician to many beloved Church congregations, educational institutions and the entertainment field. She did not share but gave her all in celebration and love of the music ministry. Being deeply steeped in the traditions of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, she loved it dearly and served God well throughout her season. The following reflects 50 years of her gift to churches and choirs for Kingdom building: Emmanuel AMEC, St. Matthew AMEC, Waters Memorial AMEC, Jones Tabernacle AMEC, Morris Brown AMEC, New Bethel AMEC of Germantown, Zion AMEC, the AME Mass Choir, Campbell AMEC, St. Phillips Methodist Church, Christian Hope Baptist Church, First District Choir of Holy Temple C.O.G.I.C., Simpson Fletcher United Methodist Church and others too numerous to name. Additionally, she rendered service to the Women’s Days of Mt. Zion AMEC, Darby, Zion AMEC, Philadelphia, Trinity AMEC, St. James AMEC, Newark, NJ and the Queen’s Contest of Women’s Missionary Society during the tenure of the late Bertha Guyton She continued to serve as AME Mass Choir Director and member of the music staff to the Philadelphia Conference and First Episcopal District AME Church until she was called to the Heavenly Chorus.
Part of her ministry to her beloved African Methodist Episcopal Church involved assisting overseas districts in social, religious and political issues. She developed a sweet fellowship with the clergy and laity of the Cape Town, South Africa (15th Episcopal District of the African Methodist Episcopal Church); often holding prayer and song ministry while providing rich dialogue and guidance.
Among, one of Spivey’s greatest achievements was her organization and development of Triumph, a talented group of Philadelphia gospel singers who performed across the United States. An acclaimed tour was their accompaniment of Patti LaBelle in her Look to the Rainbow Tour. She played at such places as the famous Gershwin Theater on Broadway, the Westbury Music Fair in New York, Valley Forge Music Fair and the Shubert Theater in Philadelphia.
She wrote the plays “Glass Houses,” “Where You Gonna Run?,” “Rejoicing in Hope” (with Minister Walter Stewart), and “At the Cross” one of which she planned to present after retirement. She choreographed and provided keyboard accompaniment for Don B. Welch Productions in the national plays Hallelujah Mahalia and Heavenbound. Serving as pianist and organist, she appeared in the gospel musical productions of “The Gospelers” and “Master, I Want to Live.” Traveling and performing throughout Europe, the Caribbean and the United States, she composed, recorded and arranged songs for gospel groups and vocalists everywhere.
Spivey is survived by: mother, Helen E. Spivey; sister, Marian Spivey Sudler; brother, Ward D. Spivey III; sister-in-law, Elaine Spivey; nephew, Robert L. Sudler Jr.; two adopted nephews, Maurice Showell and Reginald Graves; aunt, Geraldine McMillan; and a large host of relatives, friends, god-nieces and nephews from her years of fellowship.
A memorial service musical celebration will be held on September 10, at St. Matthew AME Church, 215 North 57th Street. It will start at noon. Congleton Funeral Home handled the arrangements.
George E. “Butch” Ballard, was a drummer with big bands.
As a kid growing up in Frankford, Ballard followed the American Legion parades through his neighborhood, and would march along with the drummers. His father gave him a set of drums he bought from a pawnbroker when Ballard was only 10.
Ballard took drumming lessons for 75 cents a session, and by the time he was 16, was allowed to sit in on the Herb Thornton Band, which he heard playing at the Philadelphia Boys Club. From there, he went on to perform with some of the biggest jazz artists of his era, and was still swinging at 90.
Ballard died on Oct. 1 at the age of 92.
Ballard was born in Camden and grew up in Frankford. He attended Northeast High. He married his wife, Jessie, in 1940.
After performing with a band in Philadelphia, Ballard, at the age of 19, began playing with Louis Armstrong’s band, the Dukes.
Three years later, he moved to Harlem — taking the A Train, of course — and joined the band of Cootie Williams, Duke Ellington’s former trumpeter. Singers with the band included Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Dinah Washington and Pearl Bailey.
During World War II, Ballard joined the Navy and served in the South Pacific with the 29th Special Construction Battalion (Seabees). He also played in a military band.
After the war, he got gigs in New York with Armstrong, Illinois Jacquet and Ellington’s son Mercer.
In the late ‘40s, Ballard joined Count Basie’s Orchestra when Basie’s drummer, Shadow Wilson, left to play with Woody Herman.
In 1950, he turned down Duke Ellington. Ellington had contacted him to back up drummer Sonny Greer, who was not always reliable.
Ballard became Greer’s backup, but when Ellington asked him to permanently replace Greer, he refused. He said he didn’t want to change his drumming style to suit Ellington, who favored double bass drums.
Although Ellington hired Louie Bellson as his permanent drummer, Ballard continued to play occasional sets with the Duke in 1952 and 1953. He was the drummer on the classic “Satin Doll.”
Ballard also found time to be involved with politics in Frankford, where he was Democratic leader of the 23rd Ward. He also was a sought-after percussion teacher.
Over the years, he played with jazz legends John Coltrane, Fats Waller, Bootsie Barnes, Cat Anderson, Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis, Eddie Vinson, Arnett Cobb and Clark Terry.
Ballard is survived by: son, Brenton Randolph; a brother and sister; and three grandchildren.
He was preceded in death by his wife.
Services were held October 10 at Second Street Baptist Church of Frankford.
–The Philadelphia Daily News contributed to this report.
Dolores Marie Williams was always the “go-to” person. She experienced every inch of life in the time she was here and had the opportunity to travel to Jamaica and Brazil during the later part of her life. Williams died on December 2. She was 54.
Williams was born in on June 28, 1957, in Portland, Ore., to Charles and Loretta Williams. She was described as always a happy, outgoing child. She loved to perform as she always had big dreams.
Williams was raised in North Philadelphia with her older sister Claudia and her little brother Anthony. She spent her childhood on Napa Street, creating bonds with dear friends who remained in her life forever. She was a faithful member of the Jackson 5 Fan Club.
Williams had an ability to understand how to navigate through various areas of life. She began Women Organized to Motivate, Empower and Nurture (W.O.M.E.N.) Inc. in 2004 and inspired a collective effort with her sister Claudia and sister-friends to develop and empower themselves and others.
Her family said she was a fascinating person. She had an extraordinary ability to connect instantly with people she met. She was open and honest. Family was very important to her. She believed in festive environments and celebration. She loved exquisite things and believed life should be lived to the fullest. She loved to sing, loved to laugh and was a devoted line-dancer.
She was also a part of the Phyllis Wheatley Lodge’s Top Cats Drill Team. In addition to modeling, she performed in a local production of “Hello Dolly.” Dolores played Irene Malloy and the whole cast was invited to New York by Pearl Bailey.
Williams went on to graduate from J.W. Hallahan Catholic Girls High School in 1974. When Williams was young, she wanted to be a lawyer and attend a Historically Black College or University (HBCU). However, she began working and married in 1977, giving birth to Jacquelyn Marie Tisdale in 1979 and Stephanie Joy Tisdale in 1983.
Williams was a devoted mother. She experienced the joys of motherhood early on and spent her entire life dedicating her energy to the ones she called “My Girls.”
Her family said she would sew them pretty dresses, make them fresh foods, and devote her time and energy to nurturing their spirits.
Their education was most important to her and she always supported their academic and extracurricular activities as well as their spiritual and emotional development. She had a natural ability to guide and support her children and the life they now lead is a reflection of her extraordinary character.
In the early 80s, she joined Christian Stronghold Baptist Church and began to use her gifts through evangelism and prison ministry.
Williams always wanted to live outside of the box and was determined to achieve her professional and life goals.
She went from working at Temple Hospital to working in housing and property management, helping to sustain housing opportunities for low-income families. She worked throughout the city with Tenant Action Group, Haddington Townhomes and later Montgomery and Abbotsford Homes.
While her girls were still young she began taking classes at Temple University and was determined to pursue her dreams of a college education.
She was admitted to Southern New Hampshire University’s Masters of Science Program and graduated with an M.S. in Community Economic Development in 2002. She also made Triumph Baptist Church her new spiritual home during this time and continued to study and deepen her relationship with God.
Williams organized the first holiday gift fundraiser at the Overington House, a transitional living facility for homeless women and children, and commissioned the creation of a mural of empowerment within the facility.
During this time, she also began nurturing another dream: New Beginnings Financial Services. Growing from the idea of self-transformation, New Beginnings included a framework for life-coaching, parenting-development, financial wellness, and community empowerment workshops.
New Beginnings was established in 2009, as a Credit Education and Sustainability Coaching Consultant Group, specializing in providing educational services and supporting the personal financial literacy needs of the people who are facing bankruptcy; countless clients would later testify to her intelligence and solution strategies.
Williams also began to explore her interest in real estate. She decided to move to Charlotte, N.C. and attended real estate school while living away from home for the first time.
In Charlotte, she was fearless in her new surroundings and continued to expand her network of friends and associates.
She also began to experience deeper moments of reflection and transformation. She began to study the “science of the mind” and started to learn more about herself, her past and what she wanted her future to be.
She returned to Philadelphia and began to continue on her journey of spiritual awakening and understanding. Upon her return from Charlotte, she joined Enon Baptist Church and received the Right Hand of Fellowship on her birthday in 2011.
Williams leaves to mourn: children, Stephanie Joy Tisdale and Jacquelyn “Zahrah Aya” Tisdale; parents, Charles and Loretta Williams; siblings, Claudia Gordon and Anthony Williams; sister-in-law, Pamela Williams and a host of nieces, nephews, cousins, and cousins.
Services were held on December 10 at Triumph Baptist Church. Lenwood Funeral Home handled the arrangements.