Mattie Mae Richardson, affectionately known as “Sister,” enjoyed many things including dancing, listening to her favorite music, which was blues and gospel, partying with her friends, having fun with her children and grandchildren or just relaxing in her room watching her old TV shows and old movies. She died on Jan. 22. She was 65.
Richardson was born on Nov. 30, 1946 to Jerlean and Isaac “Buddy” Smith in Sardis, Ga. She accepted Jesus Christ at an early age and was baptized at John Beach Baptist Church in Savannah.
In 1956, her parents moved to Philadelphia. She was educated in the Philadelphia public schools and graduated from Simon Gratz High School in 1965. After graduating, she became a court stenographer in the Philadelphia courts.
In 1965, she married William J. Richardson. They had three sons, Rodney, Stacey and Andre. In 1971, she moved to the 2500 block of Marston where she remained until her death.
Her family said she believed Marston Street was family-oriented and loved her family and their children. She would babysit, pick kids up from school and put them in their place when they needed “old-school” style.
In 1989, she participated in the OIC program founded by the late Rev. Leon H. Sullivan. In six months, she completed the program, graduated and earned a certificate in clerical studies.
Richardson is survived by her sons, Rodney (Mary), Stacey and Andre Sr. (Regina); sister, Barbara Holden; uncle, James Cooper; two aunts, Bessie Williams and Joanne Griffin; 12 grandchildren, Demetrius, Charniece, Maurice, Raniece, Cornelius, Shelique, Stacey Jr., Madelina, Ambria, Andre Jr., Adonai and Ache; a great-grandchild, Dyzaire; two nieces, Sharon and NaTasha; and a host of cousins and friends.
Services were held Jan. 31 at Powell Mortuary Services.
Sharon Baptist Church is one of the most identifiable churches in Philadelphia, falling under the category of the mega denominations that is seemingly larger than life.
However, Bishop Keith W. Reed Sr. said congregation is just like any other church in its mission. Their purpose is to engage, equip, empower, embrace and evangelize. These are tasks they do not take for granted and the more hands they have to accomplish these means, the better; there is no being just another face in the crowd.
“In the midst of being mega, you have to be micro,” he said. “You have to be small. So, we have small care groups in the church and they meet once a week.”
“You will only be lost in the sauce if you choose to be. You’ll fall in the cracks if you choose but overall, we’re pretty much a welcoming church and a friendly church and our motto is the more the merrier.”
Reed has been the senior past for the past 30 years and has overseen the church grow to 7,000 members.
“It used to make me feel, ‘Wait a minute, this is a too much for a guy from the projects,’” he said.
To his flock, Reed is the symbol of a man who has an unwavering commitment to the proclamation and the people who look to him for spiritual guidance.
“He’s a father to the church and he’s a friend to the community,” Ed Kargbo said. “He’s very down to earth and he relates to people. He understands and he’s easy to talk to.”
Kargbo has been a member of Sharon for the past eight years and is an armor-bearer to Reed.
“Bishop Reed is accessible. If I have a personal problem, I can bring it up to him and he can help me with my personal problem,” he said. “He’s a personable pastor. He listens and he understands.”
Thomas Hopper also shared the belief that Reed was a true follower of Christ. He first came to Sharon a decade ago on the urging of his fiancée. He has since married in the church, taken on the title of multi media director and has grown spiritually in the church.
“Bishop Reed has allowed me to grow in character because there are some things now that I wouldn’t do, maybe I would’ve done back in the day prior going to the church,” Hopper said. “When you come to Sharon, now that we are not a perfect church, but we are a church that is striving towards perfection and we are a family oriented church despite the size of the church you will still feel that family feel.”
Barbara Ash has been a part of the Sharon family for 11 years. She was long ago impressed with how all the members came together as one body.
“My experience at the church has been something I never experienced before,” she said. “The biggest thing that impressed me about the church is that first of all, Bishop Reed was able to get young Black men to join the church.”
She continued about the influence that Reed has demonstrated.
“He makes sure that everyone is part of the church,” Ash said. “I think that’s his draw. He makes everyone feel like they’re most important person in the church.”
The strength in numbers has allowed Sharon to become an integral part of their community. There are various ministries focused on being a help to those in need. Reed said he was the first to ask for assistance.
“I think it’s putting the right people with the right skill sets in the right position and they help you do the work of the ministry. It’s a tragedy when I see churches that are growing and pastors still think they can maintain it by themselves,” he said.
“I think that used to be a mindset back in the day when the pastor was everything.”
Reed continued about the practicalities of recognizing the talents of others rather to reel from intimidation.
“I think that in our day if you’re going to survive and survive well, you have to understand that there are people who have different gifts,” he said.
“I think that keeps it from becoming overwhelming. I think that if we think that we are a one man band then I think it can become very consuming and short lived too; don’t cut your days short on this side.”
Reed said Sharon, with all hands joined together, would continue to uphold the church’s mantra. It was the secret behind his long tenure at the pulpit.
“I think it’s the mandate to just evangelize the lost, edify those that are found and exalt our savior,” he said.
“I think it’s always something that we’re reaching for.”
Lighthouse Covenant International’s joint partnership with ESPWAM, a volunteer non-profit, charitable organization, brought together a medical team and volunteers to provide medical assistance to the people of Port-au-Prince, Haiti. “Choose Hope Medical Care Mission: One Week, A Changed Life” took place from Jan. 18 to 23.
Maurine McFarlane, Chairperson of Lighthouse Covenant International, was one of the driving forces behind the humanitarian effort.
She wanted to focus a laser beam attention on the Caribbean island even though it has faded from the forefront of the public consciousness.
McFarlane traveled to Haiti days prior to the team arriving to help prepare the clinic with their host, Church of the Rock. The health professionals offered primary care and specialized in dentistry, psychiatry and office gynecology.
There was also management of acute and chronic conditions such as dehydration, malnutrition, respiratory ailments, hypertension and diabetes. Education on preventative medicine including STDs such as HIV as well as nutrition counseling was also given.
McFarlane was taken aback by the conditions she witnessed.
“There’s still a lot of debris,” she said. “It’s very dusty still and the roads are still in a lot of bad shape but we expected that. So, that was not a shock.
“One of the things we realized that if we’re going to treat some of these patients, there needs to be follow-up care and I was surprised that some of the hospitals where Doctors Without Borders seem to be taking the lead in, there were a lack of doctors in those facilities and also supplies,” McFarlane added.
She noted many were still living in tents and that there was no clean water, which made hygiene a critical issue. However, those affected did not have easy access to resources.
“What was so shocking for us and our doctors, who have seen many, many cases of diseases in women, have never witnessed so many, if not 100 percent, of the women who came in the facility were infected or had some kind of diseases,” she said. “We know it has to do with the fact that if there’s an OBGYN in Haiti, it’s for the upper class, and the lower class people cannot afford those services.”
Dr. Gregg Alleyne, director of general OB GYN and director of HIV Services at Drexel College of Medicine, was one of the doctors who went on the trip.
His wife, Dr. Kathleen Christophe, who is Haitian-American and a fellow OB GYN physician, accompanied him.
“We saw almost 1400 patients or something like that in a three day period with most of them being women and children,” Alleyne said. “It was very rewarding from that standpoint but there’s still a lot that needs to be done.
“We didn’t just want to be medical tourists, go and spend a couple of days and then go home and resume our normal lives,” he added. “We wanted it to be something to have an ongoing presence there and work a lot closer with these people.”
Teresa Lucas was a volunteer on the trip. She said that she was startled by the remnants of the 7.0 earthquake, which struck Haiti in 2008.
“I did not know that the need was that great, especially after two years since this earthquake that they’re having the type of challenges that they’re having,” she said.
Lucas said it was a blessing for her to help and encouraged others not to take what they have for granted.
“Just our personal products that we need when our monthly comes on,” she said. “These are things these ladies don’t have access to and the diseases, just taking care of yourself as a woman.
“We are blessed beyond anything we can think of,” Lucas added. “We go to the dentist anytime we want to. We cancel appointments and my biggest thing is that there’s a world out there beyond America and all the luxuries we have.”
Carol Blacken, vice chair of Lighthouse Covenant International, also shared what stood out to her.
“I must say I was quite impressed with the level of hope and faith I saw and experienced by the people we met and touched! Their faith I'm certain has been what has sustained them through this very difficult time,” she said.
“I saw hope in the eyes of the children which was quite inspiring, given all that they have gone through. It has given me renewed faith that we can make a difference in the lives of people if we have compassion and are as passionate as we are about helping humanity.”
For more information, go to http://lciintl.com/.
Ray Barnes, often known as “Mr. Indeed” was gregarious, full of life, fun spirited and controversial and he worked until his retirement from the State of Pennsylvania Human Relations. Barnes died on Jan. 20. He was 83.
Barnes was born on November 8, 1928 in Sunbury, N.C. He was one of five children born to George and Icer Barnes. He moved to Philadelphia at the age of 13 and completed his education at West Philadelphia High School.
He entered the United States Armed Forces after high school, and from there attended Lincoln University. While in attendance at Lincoln, he joined Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. in 1948. He graduated from Lincoln in 1950. He then went to work for the State of Pennsylvania Human Relations department.
In 1954, he married Marty Powell. They had twin boys, Ivan and Irvin.
“He was just a remarkable guy. He really gave my brother and I a sense of integrity and strength,” said Irvin Barnes.
Over the past several years, he had been involved in numerous civic and community activities. He was steadfast in his commitment to his faith, family, friends, Lincoln University and Kappa Alpha Psi. When seen in the community wearing Lincoln University and Kappa paraphernalia, he would respond with “Indeed!”
His family said that Barnes loved to barbecue ribs and burgers on the grill. He was a devoted husband and father and spoke proudly of his children.
Barnes leaves to mourn: wife, Mary Barnes; two sons, Ivan and Irvin Barnes; granddaughter, Attiyya; daughter-in-law, Marlene Barnes; as well as a host of nephews, nieces and friends.
Services were held on January 28. Wood Funeral Home handled the arrangements.
Charles Cecil Hightower Sr. was a warehouseman for local companies. He was also a coach who liked to impart his knowledge of sports to the young and a talented, prize-winning artist. Hightower died on Dec. 24. He was 69.
In his youth, he could jump phenomenally high — a talent that let him hold his own on the local basketball courts with the likes of Wilt Chamberlain and other Philly stars.
In fact, while at West Philadelphia High School, Cecil set a school record in the high jump in 1960, clearing the bar at 6 feet 4 inches.
Hightower was born in Philadelphia to Lovie Lee Beatrice Thomas and Charles Claude Hightower. He excelled in track and field at West Philadelphia High School and played junior varsity basketball before dropping out. He later received his diploma from the Standard Evening School.
At the old Haddington Playground, now Shepard Recreation Center, in West Philly, he got to test his skills and his jump shot against Chamberlain, Sonny Hill, Walt Hazzard, Earl “the Pearl” Monroe, Wali Jones and other players.
He was employed by the Wynne Bolt and Screw Co. as a warehouseman and driver for more than 20 years. He was a member of Teamsters Local 115. He later worked as an inventory clerk for the Logistics Co.
Hightower was also an active member of Simpson Fletcher United Methodist Church. He was vice president of the young adult choir.
“He was a joyful, loving person, and was a man of his own who had to be himself whether you liked it or not,” his family said.
Hightower is survived by: daughter, Donna Lynn; two sons, Charles Cecil Hightower Jr. and Dereck Claude Backus; sister, Barbara Clark; and two grandchildren.
He was predeceased in death by his wife, Judith and brother, Ernest Hightower.
Services were held on Jan. 7.
—The Philadelphia Daily News contributed to this report.