Clara Anthony Alston, 89, private nurse for 15 years

April 02, 1997|By Tanya Jones | Tanya Jones,SUN STAFF

Clara Anthony Alston raised two daughters and helped her husband run a tailor shop on Baltimore's Gay Street for more than 30 years. But in the 1950s, with one daughter in college and the other in high school, Mrs. Anthony decided to pursue a long-deferred dream and become a nurse.

She earned her high school diploma at night at Dunbar High School, then completed the Red Cross licensed practical nursing program. She worked as a private duty nurse for 15 years before retiring in the 1970s.

Mrs. Alston died of heart failure Thursday at Maryland General Hospital. She was 89 and lived in Ashburton.

A native of Wadesboro, N.C., the former Clara Bennett, who was the youngest of six brothers and five sisters, followed a familiar pattern of migration from the country to the city. As a teen-ager in the 1920s, she moved to West Virginia to live with her brother's family, then to Baltimore, where she attended Douglass High School but dropped out.

She met Alfonso Anthony in his tailor shop and married him in ZTC 1929. He taught her to sew, and she helped him run Anthony's Tailor Shop at 1006 N. Gay St., one of several serving the black community in East Baltimore when downtown stores were segregated.

"If you lived on the east side and you wanted a suit made or you wanted pants tailored, the place to go was Anthony's," recalled Jewell Chambers, a longtime friend of the family.

The Anthonys and their daughters, Anna and Clara, lived on the two floors above the shop, making it convenient for Mrs. Anthony to help in the business and be a homemaker.

"My dad was insistent that she be home and raise the children, and that's what she did," said Anna Anthony Curry, former executive director of Enoch Pratt Free Library.

But in a family that emphasized the importance of education, Mrs. Alston decided to finish high school and earned her diploma from Dunbar in 1954 at age 46. She then completed the nursing program.

"That was always what she had wanted to be," Mrs. Curry said.

Mr. Anthony died in 1965 and Mrs. Anthony married Jesse Alston, a retired municipal employee, in 1972. Mr. Alston died in 1977.

In retirement, Mrs. Alston sewed, knitted and crocheted gifts for family and friends, and took art classes at the Waxter Center for senior citizens.

She was a member of Faith Baptist Church, where services were held yesterday.

Besides Mrs. Curry, she is survived by another daughter, Clara Anthony of Baltimore; a stepdaughter, Freda Council of Fort Washington; a granddaughter; and two great-granddaughters.

Pub Date: 4/02/97

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