Bernice (Stradford) Simpson was the first black child born in the Moses Coal Mining Community of Howard, Alabama, and the first baby girl of 15 children born to James and Alma Stradford. She spent several of her early years in West Virginia before settling in Cleveland, Ohio. As a young adult, Bernice graduated from John Hay High School, worked in retail, met and married her husband Charlie, and nurtured a family, including setting the stage for all of her children to have a relationship with Jesus Christ, a legacy in itself. She did all of this while partnering in the business of several self-service gas stations, including Gulf, Sohio, and BP for over 33 years with her husband.
Then there was the church she loved! Bernice surrendered her life to Christ at an early age. As a charter member of Holy Trinity Baptist Church, she served in several capacities including life-long choir member (soprano), mission board, and was honored as Woman of the Year. She also performed many behind-the-scenes roles like baking cookies for VBS, pound cakes for her favorite Pastor, and keeping up with church activities for her children. For her kids, attending church was not an option but a mandate, creating a foundation that has served them well. Bernice always loved to dress, especially in her sassy suits and large church hats. What a beauty!
Bernice and Charlie's love story began with a bus chase. Charlie ran after that bus until she finally said yes. That yes lasted 68 years, 2 months, and 16 days, as they affectionately loved to share with others. Their union established a family of five blessed children including Beverly (Bobby), Jerome (Dorothy), Leon (Doris), Celestine (Wesley), and James (Maria), along with 11 grandchildren and 18 great-grandchildren. Bernice also experienced the fruits of her blended family with Mary, Willie (Shirley), Otis, and Lula (Willie). Bernice was 91 years blessed and a blessing to many. We thank God that He allowed her to slip peacefully into His loving arms! Along with the family mentioned above, Bernice leaves to this legacy siblings Mattie (Roy), Jacqueline, Alice (Lawrence), Doris, Eric (Stephanie), Arlene, and sister/friend Mary, as well as a host of family and beloved friends.
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