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Alice S. Mathis, evangelist, honored civic leader
March 1, 1911 -- Dec. 27, 2006

Alice Staley Mathis, whose many years of community service earned her numerous awards, including three keys to the City of Buffalo, died Dec. 27 in ElderWood Senior Care at Wedgewood, Amherst, after a brief illness. She was 95.

An evangelist, apostolic minister and the oldest active member of Greater Emmanuel Temple Church, she served as president of the missionary department, taught Sunday school and was a senior cook in the kitchen. She also was a prayer room worker and a member of the Officers and Ministers Wives.

For her efforts, Mrs. Mathis received many honors, including the Faithful Service Award from the New York State and Ontario Missionary Auxiliary of the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World in 1998.

In 1991, she received the Appreciation of Service Award on Women's Day from Greater Emmanuel Temple Church. And she received an award for dedicated service as president of her church's missionary department from 1982 to 1983.

In the community, she was active in the Moot Senior Center and was the recipient of three resolutions from the Common Council, as well as three keys to the city. March 9, 1991, was declared Alice Staley Mathis Day in honor of her 80th birthday. She received a key to the city in 2002 when she turned 91, and she was given a key in recognition of being her family's oldest living member, her daughter Crystal Kirkland said.

Mrs. Mathis also served as president of the Roosevelt Towers Tenant Association at Carlton and Main streets, where she lived before moving into ElderWood Senior Care.

Born Alice Staley in Gantt, Ala., the daughter of a Baptist minister and the oldest of 14 children, she moved from Florida to Niagara Falls in 1942 with her husband and children. While living in Niagara Falls, she held Bible study classes in her home every Tuesday evening. The classes evolved into Greater Emmanuel Temple Church.

In 1951, she moved to Buffalo with her family and, at age 56, earned her equivalency diploma through the Adult Learning Center.

She battled the effects of polio most of her adult life after awaking one day in 1932 and finding her right arm immobile. Right-handed, she had to teach herself how to write, dress, sew, cook, clean, drive a car and raise a family with the use of only her left hand.

One-handed, she became a proficient seamstress, sewing all her own clothes and sewing for relatives, friends and acquaintances all over the country. She lived independently until last August.

Her husband of 53 years, Lelan, died in 1981.

Surviving are a son, Ozzie; two daughters, Eunice A. Mitchell and Maple L. Lowe; five sisters, Ruby Holley, Lucy Gardner, Iola Bryant, Lillie Bowman and Bessie White; and two brothers, Dempsey Staley and Douglas Staley.

Services will be at 11 a.m. Saturday in Greater Emmanuel Temple Church, 151 Richmond Ave.

-- Deidre Williams

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