Letha Alston, 65, secretary, deaconess in Baptist church

September 19, 2006|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,Sun Reporter

Letha W. Alston, a retired secretary and longtime deaconess at New Psalmist Baptist Church, died of breast cancer Thursday at Mercy Medical Center. The Edmondson Village resident was 65.

The Baltimore native was born Letha Willen Meggett and raised in the McCulloh Homes public housing neighborhood. She was a 1958 graduate of Frederick Douglass High School and Cortez Peters Business School.

Mrs. Alston began her career in the typing pool at the Social Security Administration's old headquarters in the Candler Building in Baltimore and later moved to its Woodlawn facility. She became administrative secretary for the agency's deputy commissioner, a position she held until retiring in 1997.

As a young woman, Mrs. Alston joined Pentecost Baptist Church, and sang alto in its choir, which was under the direction of her father. She also was ordained a deaconess and served as church secretary.

"The church loved to hear her sing the great church hymns, especially `How Great Thou Art,' and on occasion she and her father sang duets," said a son, James "J.D." Alston of Gwynn Oak.

In 1975, Mrs. Alston joined New Psalmist, where she also was ordained a deaconess. Immersing herself in church activities, she established a Rhema ministry that prepares the sanctuary before services with readings from the Bible. She trained altar workers and co-chaired women's days and anniversary celebrations held at the church.

She played an active role in the Deacons Conference of Baltimore and Vicinity, the Full Gospel Baptist Church Conference and the National Deacons Conference, where she facilitated seminars and workshops for churches.

Mrs. Alston regularly attended Thursday evening Bible class at her church and enjoyed watching TV evangelists. She also maintained a regular correspondence with those from the neighborhood who were incarcerated.

"At New Psalmist, she was Bishop Walter Scott Thomas' arms, hands and mouth. She was the backbone of the church and every time the doors opened, she was there," said the Rev. Valerie S. Pearson, assistant pastor at the church.

"Whatever you needed her to do, she was willing to do, and if you needed a prayer, you went to Letha," she said. "I went through a difficult time and she prayed for me. You could always depend on her, and that's why we called her `Our Prayer Warrior.'"

Mrs. Alston was known for her distinctive and colorful millinery and striking style of dress.

"She always wore a hat and was coordinated. When you saw her dressed like that, you knew she was on her way to church," said Mrs. Pearson. "From a distance, she looked very quiet, but once you got to know her, she was very talkative."

Mrs. Alston's concern for the well-being of others carried into her Mount Holly Street community, where she was known as the "neighborhood mother and social worker," family members said.

She cared for neighborhood children, and those who needed some advice, comfort or a home-cooked meal were gladly welcomed into her home.

Mrs. Alston enjoyed preparing holiday dinners as well as a large Sunday repast where family, friends, and neighbors had a place at her table.

"She was known for her pork chops, roast beef, steaks and greens. I loved her pound cake, pies and cakes," her son said.

Mrs. Alston enjoyed collecting antiques and decorating her home, which she named "The Palace," family members said.

Services will be held at 10:45 a.m. tomorrow at her church, 4501 1/2 Old Frederick Road.

Also surviving are her husband of 48 years, James Alston Jr., a retired Mass Transit Administration bus driver; three other sons, Michael E. Alston of Philadelphia, Timothy M. Alston of Baltimore and William P. Alston of Joppa; two daughters, Carrie D. Alston and Lena J. Cromwell, both of Baltimore; two brothers, Kevin Holland and Nathaniel Holland, both of Baltimore; 11 grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

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