Booker was last survivor of Mesa’s first black family - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

Booker was last survivor of Mesa’s first black family

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Posted: Sunday, November 11, 2007 11:47 pm | Updated: 7:14 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Not just anyone can claim to be a gifted cook, a captivating storyteller, a true friend, and one of the first black residents of Mesa. But Angie McPherson Booker, who died this summer at 98, did it all. Booker was the last living member of the McPherson family, the first black family to establish its permanent home in Mesa.

Booker’s forebears first came to Mesa in 1905 and then again permanently in 1910, after a temporary move, according to Mesa’s historic landmarks Web site. However, the exact dates differ slightly between family accounts and historical accounts.

What’s not disputed is that Booker’s family helped establish Mount Calvary Baptist Church, the first predominantly black church in Mesa and now a Mesa historic landmark.

The first meeting took place under a tree in the front yard of Clara McPherson-Lewis, Booker’s mother. Booker attended the church faithfully, where she sang in the choir until age and distance prevented her from going more frequently.

Her niece, Diane Bordenave, remembered her aunt as a very talented singer who loved to “sing for the Lord.”

Booker, also called Aunt Angie, was born May 23, 1909. She lived her life in Mesa and observed the city’s many changes. She married three times and was widowed in her last marriage.

“She liked to slap her knee when she laughed,” remembered her friend, Linda Petty, activities director of the

Citadel Care Center where Booker spent her last years. Booker’s life, love, and great stories left her family and friends with recollections of a strong, happy, friendly, and spiritual woman.

“She had a phenomenal memory ... she was a very good storyteller,” said friend Sarah Moorhead, who conducted an oral-history interview with Booker in 2002, when she was 93.

In the oral history, Moorhead had Booker describe an experience as a young girl when she decided to help her mother, who took in laundry to earn money for the family.

“My mother worked so hard and all she made was 35 cents an hour. That’s all she got for her work and that was $2.80 a day,” Booker told Moorhead. Booker also talked about how her mother worked at a hotel and did laundry in the “rub-a-dub-dub days.”

Later in life, Booker lost her only child, a daughter named June, who died in 1927 when she was a few months old.

But Booker had a lot to offer the younger generation. Bordenave recalled that Booker was a motherlike figure who taught her how to cook.

“She took to me because of her daughter,” Bordenave said in a phone interview with the Tribune.

Booker spent the last years of her life at the Citadel center. Linda Petty and her assistant, Charlene Roland, remembered Booker as “very outspoken, with a strong faith in God.”

Moorhead recalled one such instance of strength and described an incident in which Booker defended a fellow resident.

“Another place where she lived, one of the caregivers kept stuffing food into a patient’s mouth and the woman couldn’t chew or talk,” Moorhead said. Booker saw the woman and defended her, even though the caretaker got angry.

“The patient was very grateful that Angie spoke for her,” Moorhead recalled.

Petty and Roland both said Booker loved bingo and Bible study and often sang the hymn “Amazing Grace.” Petty said she bonded with Booker because of their shared Christianity.

“We loved to talk about the Bible together,” Petty said.

Booker was very well-liked by the residents and staff at the center, staff members said.

The center held a separate service for those who were unable to attend the church service. Booker was buried at the Mesa City Cemetery.

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