Fannie P.M. Parsons, 98, Turners Station store owner

February 24, 2003|By Jonathan Bor | Jonathan Bor,SUN STAFF

Fannie Posey Major Parsons, a businesswoman and community leader known as "Momma" by the legions of Turners Station residents who looked to her for guidance, died Thursday at St. Agnes HealthCare. She was 98 and died of apparent heart failure.

Mrs. Parsons was considered a pioneer of the once-bustling Dundalk enclave that was home to hundreds of African-American steelworkers and their families.

Family members said that besides owning the community's first coin-operated laundry and High's dairy store, she was the first woman in Turners Station to get a driver's license and own a car. She was said to have the first telephone, and opened her doors to others who wanted to use it.

It seemed she knew everybody, and everyone knew her.

"All the little kids on the street -- she knew who their parents were and their parents' parents," said her granddaughter, Angela Faidley of Essex. "She knew your entire family tree, and could tell you everything you wanted to know."

She was born in Lexington County, S.C., and later moved to Youngstown, Ohio, after marrying Samuel Major. After her husband learned of work at the Bethlehem Steel plant in Baltimore, the couple moved to Dundalk in the 1920s. They first settled in the old Stansbury Farm, where her parents had moved, but later bought their own home in Belnew, the community that later became Turners Station.

After her husband secured a job, she went to work as manager of the black-owned Belnew Supermarket. She opened a High's in the 1950s, operating it for a few years until she sold the business and opened the laundry.

After her home on Avon Beach Road burned down in the 1950s, she purchased a new home on Sollers Point Road and earned a health care certificate from the American Red Cross. She worked as an assistant to a family physician, and later went into business for herself, delivering home health care and cleaning houses. She continued working until 1989.

She dispensed home remedies and assisted in births.

Her grandson, Alfred Parker of Baltimore, said she helped the doctor who delivered him at his family home in Turners Station, then ran to the pharmacy for medicine after he was born.

She was a founding member of the New Shiloh Baptist Church on East Avenue, and took care of the Rev. James A. Everett's three children while the pastor and his wife traveled. One of the children was chronically ill and died young.

"The church was her foundation," said Ms. Faidley. "She encouraged the young to educate themselves and help the elderly. She liked being behind the scenes and not in the forefront."

"She was a strong leader, caring and understanding," said her daughter-in-law, Barbara Major. "She instilled in me values that I will treasure and share with family and friends. She was a good counselor for young people in the neighborhood and also for her family."

She and her first husband had eight children, three of whom -- Samuel Major Jr., Colay Major Sr. and Naomi Parker -- predeceased her. Mr. Major died in 1956.

Her second husband, Garnett Parsons, whom she married in 1963, died in the 1980s.

As a child, Ms. Faidley would often pack her belongings to live with her grandmother. "I was her baby," she said. "She nurtured me and took care of me ... and my friends. She made sure you went to bed, you ate, went to church. She always listened to the children's side."

Family members would sometimes fight over who would get to stay with her, and sometimes invited her to live with them. "It was an honor to have her in your household," Ms. Faidley said.

Services will be held at 11 a.m. Thursday at New Shiloh Baptist Church, 105 East Ave., Turners Station.

In addition to her two grandchildren, Mrs. Parsons is survived by sons Woodrow Major of Dundalk and Harold Major of Woodlawn; daughters Roseabel Rux of Glen Burnie, Bernice Richardson of Massillon, Ohio, and Arvilla Faidley of Dundalk; stepson Garnett Parsons Jr. of Turners Station; stepdaughter Maieves Addison of Turners Station; 21 other grandchildren; and about 30 great-grandchildren.

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