Longtime Bay Shore resident passes away at 104
BAY SHORE—Mamie Holmes, one of the community’s oldest residents, passed away on Feb. 22 at the age of 104. Many have mourned her passing.
Holmes was born on Aug. 18, 1914, in Clifton, N.C. It was where she spent the first 32 years of her life. Daphine Somerville, Holmes’s daughter, said her mother moved to New York for better opportunities, not just for herself, but for her four children as well. Holmes’s mother and grandfather strongly encouraged the move, said Somerville. “They thought it would be good for her to ‘spread her wings,’” she added.
She said New York seemed like a good choice. Holmes’s uncle had previously made the move. Plus, the notion that “money grew on trees” here sounded very appealing.
Holmes initially set out for Bay Shore alone. She got a job, found a place to live, and a couple months later, sent for her children: Mary, Daphine, Sheila and George.
Somerville said there was already an established African-American community in Bay Shore at the time, particularly on Harrison Avenue. But the Holmeses were one of the first African-American families to move north of Sunrise Highway. It was on what is now N. 3rd Avenue where Holmes built the house where she lived for the rest of her life.
After settling in Bay Shore, Holmes quickly became a congregation member at First Baptist Church in Bay Shore, where she served as deaconess and a number of other roles over the decades. Somerville said her mother’s faith, which was a hallmark of her character, went back to her days in North Carolina.
She was instrumental in establishing the church’s E.L. Haywood scholarship, which was named after the congregation’s late pastor, as well as the Seventy-Year Jewels program, which honors congregation members who are age 70 or older.
Holmes worked as a therapist assistant at Pilgrim Psychiatric Center in Brentwood for 28 years. She retired in 1975, right around the time she started going blind. It took over 10 years for Holmes to lose her sight completely due to glaucoma. However, this didn’t stop her from living an independent life. She sought mobility training and lived on her own for many years before needing additional help around the house.
In her younger years, Holmes was very involved in the community. She was a member of the Mother’s Club at Bay Shore High School, which eventually became the PTA. She was also one of two African-American women to work with the local Head Start group. In addition, she served on the Islip Town branch of the National Council of Negro Women. “Her main motive was to attain equal education for children,” said Somerville, a retired East Islip schoolteacher.
Mary Reid, Holmes’s oldest daughter, described her mother as a “role model,” not just to her, but everyone she met. “If you listened to her, you would be alright,” Reid said.
Holmes’s wake was held at the First Baptist Church. She was buried at the Oakwood Cemetery on Brentwood Road in Bay Shore and is survived by her three daughters, nine grandchildren, 15 great-grandchildren, and seven great-great-grandchildren.
“She loved her family and she loved people,” said Somerville.
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