By C. Ron Allen
Theodosia West, the longtime Delray Beach resident, who once cared for homebound neighbors who were younger, collected and distributed food and clothing to needy families, volunteered at her church, and held numerous jobs during her lifetime died at Boulevard Manor on Wednesday, July 18. She was 103.
“She helped a lot of people around here,” said Alfred “Zack” Straghn, local businessman and fellow church member of Mrs. West. “She also taught me a little music. They don’t come like her anymore.”
Since her childhood, Mrs. West would always put the needs of others before her own.
Born in Georgia in 1908, Mrs. West moved to Vero Beach with her family when she turned 11. She dropped out of the sixth grade soon after that to help support her mother and five siblings.
“I worked picking beans and tomatoes,” she once said.
She tried to keep up with her studies during the summer, but it was too difficult.
Still, Mrs. West had ambitions: She wanted to learn how to play the piano. She wanted to be a nurse.
After marrying at age 20, she finally had enough money to fulfill her first dream. She began taking music lessons.
Upon moving to Delray Beach in 1947, she sought for a church home and found Mount Olive Missionary Baptist Church. She joined the church and soon set out to find a niche for herself. When the piano player was absent one Sunday, some parishioners learned she could play and asked her to fill in. It wasn’t long before the church found out she could sing, too.
She played every Sunday for 31 years until she was forced to stop when she was 69 years old, because of an injury to her arm. She however sang “I Need Thee” during the offering each Sunday to the delight of the congregation.
Mrs. West’s dedication to the Greater Mount Olive Missionary Baptist Church did not stop with her singing. She found time to fulfill her second dream and joined the Visiting Nurses Association. She learned how to take vital signs and dispense medications; and she learned how to comfort the sick.
She was also a member of the Home Mission Society, a group of about 20 church members who helped sick people and their families. She was a “sitter,” someone who stayed with ill people.
The training prepared her for when her mother and sister became ill.
“I consider it my Christian duty to help people,” Mrs. West once told a reporter. “I make it easier for people to run to the grocery store, or even just take a short nap once in a while, which is very hard to do when a loved one is sick.”
But her occupation as a nurse-sitter, however, did not pay her enough to cover the medical bills.
So she learned how to write insurance and work as an agent.
“I did nursing and insurance work at the same time,” she recalled. “I had to work to support them.”
For Mrs. West’s 100 birthday, the staff at Boulevard Manors gave a party, where she danced to several songs. The centurion also accepted a proclamation from the Delray Beach City Commission.
She often walked around the nursing home and ministered to the residents, her grandniece Tracy Williams and employees said.
Along with Williams, survivors include Theodoshia Williams, her niece who was also like a daughter, and many other family and friends.
Services will be 1 p.m. on July 28 at Mt. Olive Missionary Baptist, 40 NW 4th Ave., Delray Beach.