Born Essie Mae Stevens on July 20, 1936 to Coleman White and Lottie Mae Stephens in Halsell, Alabama. She was the youngest of her siblings. Dave Stevens, Robert Curtis Stevens, Luella Rowe, Mary Francis Bailey, Ora Jones, Georgia White, Louise White and Joe White all preceded her in death.
Essie attended West End High School in York, Alabama and graduated valedictorian at age 16. Her path brought her to Cleveland after spending time in Charlestown, West Virginia. After arriving in Cleveland, Essie started working at St. Vincent Charity Hospital. From that experience, she decided to go to nursing school and graduated from Jane Adams. This is where she started her career as a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN). She worked at St. Vincent’s throughout her career until she retired in 1999.
In Cleveland, Essie found more than her career love. At a dinner gathering hosted by Artilla Ligon, she met the love her life Willie Harrison Jr. They married on August 4th, 1962 at Greater Avery African Methodist Episcopal Church. To this union two children were born Elise and Steve P. Harrison.
For those who knew Essie, she was known for her million-dollar smile that melted hearts. She was a confidant to both the old and young and provided guidance through her wisdom. She touched people’s lives and made everyone feel as though they were important. Essie had a way of giving you a comforting hug that had the perfect amount of continual squeeze. Those hugs, with the right amount of rock and sway, let you know that everything was going to be alright and that you were truly loved. She loved family and enjoyed gatherings. This included traveling for family reunions or hosting at her home. She could be counted on to be on the dance floor and kept up with all the latest line dancing. Essie was known for her cakes especially those given to her loved ones on their birthdays.
During her youth she played softball which led to her love of baseball. She enjoyed watching sports especially the Cleveland teams – the Indians and the Cavaliers but her special team was the Yankees. Essie also enjoyed travel whether it was near or far. Her travels spanned the globe whether it was in nearby places visiting family or abroad in London, United Kingdom visiting Big Ben as an example. Essie was also known for fashion and style. No matter the event, she had an eye for details that included both statement jewelry and her Sunday morning church hats.
Essie knew the Lord and her faith guided her life. She was an active member of Greater Avery AME Church where she centered her Christian life and nourished her walk with the Lord. She was an active member of the Janie Lomax Missionary Society and the Senior Usher Board. She received the honor of the North Ohio Conference AME Church Womens Missionary Society Torch Lighter for 25 years of faithful service. One of her treasured roles was Class Leader. She kept up with members of her class by sending cards and making calls that provided guidance and support through their Christian journey.
In addition to her leadership at Greater Avery, Essie was an active member of the Interdenominational Church Ushers Association of America (ICUAA). Over more than 40 years, she traveled to numerous usher conventions throughout the country. In the ICUAA of Cleveland, she held the following positions: Financial Secretary, Parliamentarian, Benevolent Chairperson, and Health Unit Chairperson. In addition, to these positions she was also a member of Ohio Nurses Department and the Cleveland Alumni Department. She embodied the scripture I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.
Essie leaves to mourn her transition, her husband Willie Harrison Jr of 58 years. Two children Elise Harrison and Steve P. Harrison (Denice). Her sisters Mattie Patrick (Emmett), and Cheryl Grisby (Richard), Mary Alice Turner, Yvonne Harris, Dorothy Carpenter, Helen Samuel, Marion Wilson (Michael), and one brother Claude White. Grandchild Randy Lemons and Great grandchildren: Daylana Lemons and Ravi Lemons. Her godchildren: Tamara Horne, Desiree Jones, Lorsonja Moore, Sha’ron Stallworth, Ava Buckner, Jackie Hicks and Tommy Sanders. She also has a host of nieces, nephews, neighbors, and friends who will cherish her memory.
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