Bishop Keydessie Stanback, 88, founder of Arundel church

March 17, 2002|By Jim Haner | Jim Haner,SUN STAFF

Bishop Keydessie Stanback, who founded the former Tabernacle Church of God in Anne Arundel County and cared for foster children in her West Baltimore home between shifts as a nurse at Mercy Hospital, died Tuesday of complications from a stroke at Genesis Eldercare Brightwood, a week after celebrating her 88th birthday.

Born and educated in Eastman, Ga., Keydessie Nicely rose from the poverty of a childhood in the segregated Deep South to arrive in Baltimore in 1942 a few years after her marriage to the Rev. Earl Samuel Stanback. With their four children, the young couple integrated the 1800 block of W. Lafayette Ave.

"The neighbors didn't like it, but we were there," recalled a daughter, Edna Harris-Kenner of Baltimore. "She always told us, `You're as good as anybody, and don't let anybody tell you that you're not. You are loved.' She was strict, very strict. She always taught us to be respectful of others, and to expect that in return."

Bishop Stanback soon took a position as a nurse at Mercy Hospital, where she worked from about 1950 to the early 1970s as her young family grew to 10 children. At the same time, she accepted a friend's invitation to open a small Holiness Apostolic church in an unused building on a wooded tract along Queenstown Road in Anne Arundel County.

For the next 30 years, Bishop Stanback presided at baptisms, weddings and funerals for her congregation before she was finally compelled by failing health to step down in 1983.

"It had been such blessing to us all over the years," her daughter said. "That church was the center of our lives, and she was the center of the church. ... There's a lot of people out there who still talk about it, and what a wonderful and wild place it was."

Bishop Stanback's husband died of heart failure in 1968. She never remarried.

She occupied herself with church and raising children. Living by then in a three-story house on Edmondson Ave., she began taking in foster children for the Baltimore Department of Social Services, eventually raising more than 10 youngsters -- some from toddlers to young adulthood.

"These kids, most of them, hadn't had any love in their lives," said Ms. Harris-Kenner. "By the time they wound up on her doorstep, they were a mess. Today, a lot of them are doing very well themselves, thank you. And they all call her `Mother.' "

Services will be held at 10:30 a.m. tomorrow at New Shiloh Baptist Church, 2100 N. Monroe St.

In addition to her daughter, she is survived by five other children: Charles H. Stanback of Richmond, Va.; Saundra V. Barrett of Columbia ; and Virginia M. Mooney, Marvin E. Stanback and James A. Stanback, all of Baltimore. She is also survived by a sister, Minnie Lyons of Newburgh, N.Y.; and 51 grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

She was predeceased by four other children: Marcus J. Stanback, Alonzo L. Stanback, Howard L. Stanback and Mary E. Jackson.

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