Mary Lee Chappelle of Buffalo, a retired special-education teacher who was active in the African-American community, died Monday in Erie County Medical Center after a brief illness. She was 101.
Born Mary Lee Crosby in Milton, Fla., she graduated magna cum laude in 1926 from Clark College in Atlanta, where she earned a degree in liberal arts. She then attended Gammon Theological Seminary for four years.
After moving to Buffalo in 1935, Mrs. Chappelle studied special education at Buffalo State Teachers College before going to work for the Buffalo Public Schools. She was a special-education teacher in many schools, retiring from School 75 in 1975.
In 1989, Mrs. Chappelle was among the recipients of a Quality Integrated Education Award, given by the school district to individuals who promote intercultural relations in Western New York.
The former editor-in-chief and president of Clark College's newspaper, the Mentor, Mrs. Chappelle was a longtime columnist for the Buffalo Star and Buffalo Criterion.
She was the creator of the Mary Crosby Chappelle Education and Black History Foundation, was a member of the Uncrowned Queens Institute for Research and Education on Women and was involved in several community organizations.
Mrs. Chappelle was a "Federated" woman, having belonged simultaneously to the three Federated clubs in Buffalo: Phyllis Wheatley Club of Colored Women, Lit-Mus Study Club and the Mary B. Talbert Civic and Cultural Club, of which she was a founding member.
She was a member of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, which recognized her 50 years of service. She was appointed a missionary worker by the Annual Conference of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in 1955 and, in 1990, was celebrated as a "Sage" at St. Philip's Episcopal Church's "Celebration of the Sages."
Her husband, Clarence, died in 1959. Survivors include her caregiver, Queen Esther Woods, and longtime friend and fellow centenarian, Electa Courton, both of Buffalo.
Services will be at noon Saturday in Bethel Church, 1525 Michigan Ave. Burial will be in Forest Lawn.