The American Mentor Wire Service

Human and Civil Rights Activist Remembered

Posted in SOCIAL, SPIRITUAL, Uncategorized by YouthUSA on July 5, 2010

Contact: Eric Stradford



July 5, 2010 — Mary Ann Walker Ralls of Philadelphia, PA is being remembered by family and friends as a “behind the scenes” enabler for some of the city’s memorable moments.  She died at her home in Kennesaw, GA today after a battle with pancreatic cancer.  She was 85.  Ms. Ralls was a 42-year breast cancer survivor, having been diagnosed in 1968.

A key community organizer of the Opportunities Industrialization Centers, Ms. Ralls worked with the OIC leadership of Reverend Dr. Leon H. Sullivan and Reverend Thomas J. Ritter.

She was also an initial investor in the Philadelphia Progress Plaza economic initiative. As an activist, Ms. Ralls was instrumental in local and national fundraisers in support of the American Civil Rights Movement.

Her numerous public achievements included coordination of a presentation for “Lillies of the Field”, starring actor Sidney Poitier and featuring keynote speaker, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The event rallied support for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), and the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). For many years, she was a member of the NAACP.

During her career, she found employment at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, United Steelworkers of America, KYW Television, and Temple University. While at Temple, she worked closely with the university’s late president, Dr. Marvin Wachman, and his wife, Addie, to improve community relations. Her notable administrative career culminated in her retirement from MERCK in 1992.

Although she enjoyed family, church, coin collecting, music and travel, Mary Ann’s greatest satisfaction was being near a body of water with her fishing pole.

Born January 9, 1925 in Griffin, GA to the late Deacon J. D. Walker (1899-1968) and Laurena Puriefoy Walker (1897-2000), she was the second of four children. She grew up in the Elmwood community (Eastwick) of Philadelphia, where she graduated from Bartram High School. Later, she completed Strayer Business School. Mary Ann served on the Usher Board of Beulah Baptist Church, where she, her parents and maternal grandparents had been affiliated since 1927.

Ms. Ralls is survived by her only child, Stephanie A. Walker Stradford of Marietta, GA, her sister, Evelyn Walker Armstrong, of Rydal, PA, family, friends and church families at Turner Chapel AME Church, Marietta, GA and Beulah.  In lieu of flowers, tax-deductible contributions may be made payable to Youth Achievers USA Institute,  For additional information, please visit

A Celebration of Life will be held  at Beulah Baptist Church, 5001 Spruce Street, Philadelphia, PA.  Arrangements by Yarborough and Rocke Funeral Home, Inc.  For updated information, please visit , email or call 215-877-0260.


26 Responses

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  1. Celestine Gary said, on July 5, 2010 at 6:10 pm


    Just wanted to pass on my prayers to you and your family with the passing of your mother. In reading her bio, I see where you get all of your energy from. God bless!

    Celeste, Wes & Jacquelyn

  2. Cal, Jacque, and Wendy said, on July 5, 2010 at 7:49 pm

    Dear Stephanie and Evelyn

    Every summer after the Carson Puriefoy Memorial Golf Tournament, Cal with his wife Barbara brings the family together for our summer vacation: Jacquie, Dale (when he was alive), Cal, Jr. & his wife Vanessa and their two sons, Kia & her family and twin daughters, and various other close friends we have adopted as “Puriefoys” over the years. Sadly, we were all together last year when learned about Aunt Elizabeth’s death. And, now, it’s Mary Ann.

    Stephanie and Evelyn we want you to know that we are thinking of you and sending you so much love.

    There are several memories that come to mind when we all think about Mary Ann. She was a big-hearted, fun loving, elegant (loved great clothes), and very clever, humorous cousin. She was a presence in her family’s life—her sister, Ev’s, nieces and nephews and her cousins. She was a great mother, sister, and daughter. None of us can think about Mary Ann without marveling about the bond between her and Stephanie. Most conversations with her began with … “let me tell you about what “Steph” is doing. Yes, her Steph was the delight of her life. It was marvelous to watch them as they sustained and supported each other.

    Now, of course, the other memory was about food. We all know that the Puriefoys love, love, love to eat. So when anyone in the family leaves us it is so fitting that we talk about the fabulous food they cooked and the dishes they were famous for in the family. We all have memories of those Puriefoy Family picnics when all the brothers and sisters and their families got together either in Fairmount Park or some other suitable park. It only takes a nano second to make our mouths water as we think about the family picnics. Of course, none of us could wait to eat Aunt Laurena’s fried chicken, Aunt Elizabeth’s cakes, Aunt Cecil’s pies and cornbread, Uncle Otis’s peach ice cream, Uncle Wes’s fish, Daddy’s corn-okra-and tomatoes, and all kinds of vegetables fresh from Aunt Willie’s garden. But one of the biggest highlights of those picnics was Mary Ann’s barbequed spare ribs –tasty, succulent with a killer sauce … as we recall she spent a great deal of time perfecting her recipe … always delicious.

    It is at these moments when one of us leaves the clan that we are reminded of the strength of our family and our faithfulness to each other … that was Mary Ann and that faithfulness is part of all of us. We will always be grateful for the kindness and love Mary Ann and Evelyn gave to our parents during their respective illnesses – visiting and calling them weekly. It was just beautiful and so like them. And, they really looked after our father after our mother died – taking our beloved father and brother on vacations and playing golf together in the spring and summer.

    Well, she has come to the end of her journey and we, her cousins, send Mary Ann off with good wishes as she travels on high. We know for sure that Mary Ann was received today because we could hear the beautiful singing, feel the love and hear the shouts of joy from her mother and father, her brothers, and all of her aunts, uncles and cousins who preceded her. We know that she is well and that the great picnic in the sky is about to begin. The table has been set with faith, family, and love and, of course, delicious food. Thank you, Mary Ann, for being our wonderful cousin.

    Evelyn and Stephanie, we wrap our arms around you and suffer together with you for our family’s great loss.

    So much love,

    Your cousins – Cal, Jacque, and Wendy

  3. Jacqueline Stradford said, on July 5, 2010 at 7:51 pm

    Stephanie and Eric, please know that I am thinking of you and praying for your strength during this time. Keep in mind that when God sends rest, it’s comprehensive — everybody gets a “peace”. Be blessed!

  4. Marques and Linda Harvey said, on July 5, 2010 at 7:57 pm

    Dear Eric & Stephanie,

    We are very sorry to hear about the loss of your mother/ mother-in-law. Please know that you all are in the our thoughts and prayers as well as your Turner Chapel family at this time and always. We will be making a donation to the Youth Achievers Institute. May the peace of God that surpasses all understanding be with you both.

    With Love,
    Marques & Linda Harvey

  5. Mary Ross said, on July 6, 2010 at 2:51 pm

    Our deepest sympathy to you and the family. Our prayers are with you all.

    May the sweet memories of your Mom bring you comfort now and always.

    Be Blessed,
    Mary Ross and The Greeters Ministry

  6. The Wolfe Family said, on July 6, 2010 at 5:38 pm

    To everything there is a time and a season. We pray that the strength of the Holy Spirit which you reside in and the comfort that He gives not only keeps you but glides you gently through this life changing experience. May the favor of God rest well with you both and the Walker family and may God grant you His peace wherever and whenever you need it! We love you and will continue to pray on your behalf.

    The Wolfe Family

  7. Charlie and Bernice Simpson said, on July 8, 2010 at 8:17 pm

    To Stephanie and Eric

    In your time of sorrow may it ease your pain to know that others are thinking of you. With deepest sympathy, our prayers are with you.


  8. Lorraine Reynolds said, on July 8, 2010 at 8:25 pm

    God Bless you Maryann Ralls, you did carry your torch of Love, Pain, through this
    Maryann Ralls needed the quiet so God drew her aside into the shadows where she could confide. Away from the hustle where all the day long She hurried and worried when active and strong. She needed the quiet though at first she rebelled, But gently her cross God upheld. And whispered so sweetly of spiritual things; Weakened in body her spirit took wings . To heights never dreamed of when actived she pray. God loved her so greatly, God drew her away, She needed the quiet, no prison her bed, But a beautiful valley of blesings instead. A place to grow richer in Jesus to hide, She needed the quiet, so God drew her aside. I Lorraine Bolden Reynolds wish to share this message along with my brother Kenneth (Bobby) Bolden, Jim Bolden and my twin sister Shirley Bolden Hunt.

    Our mother Marguerite Bolden and our father Eugene W Bolden always felt like a family of great Love to J.D. Walker and Laurena Waker their daughter Evelyn and also Mary Ann loving daughter Stephanie and her loving husband Eric who was always at her side.

    With Love and Blessing,
    The Bolden Family

  9. Sandra Traylor said, on July 8, 2010 at 8:28 pm

    My deepest condolence to you and your family from me and my family. My prayers are with you.

    Saundra Traylor- Turner Chapel AME Church.

  10. Tempest H. Hatten said, on July 8, 2010 at 8:29 pm

    My heartfelt sympathies go out to Ms Mary Ann’s family. She was a Greeter, with me, at The Cathedral of Turner Chapel AME Church Marietta, GA. I met Ms Mary Ann and her daughter Stephanie at one of our potlucks. She was such a joy! We talked for at least an hour! That one hour meant so much to me and I know it did to her too. She will be truly missed.

    Peace and Blessings,
    Tempest H. Hatten

  11. Zion Baptist Church, Philadelphia said, on July 8, 2010 at 8:36 pm

    To: Sister Evelyn Walker Armstrong & Family:

    With grateful hearts, the Officers and members of Zion Baptist Church, Philadelphia, PA thanks God for the life of your beloved sister Mary Ann Walker Ralls.

    We undergird you with the power of prayer, as you remain a part of our communion with the Lord. Though difficult the task of our moment, awesome is the ever-present help of our God.

    It is our prayer that the love of God’s people will give you comfort, and the enduring power of God’s sustenance be your strength.

    The Zion Baptist Church family will continue to uphold in our prayers our member Sister Evelyn Walker Armstrong and the entire family and loved ones of Sister Mary Ann Walker Ralls to experience that peace which surpasses all understanding, from the God who is able to comfort us in every crisis and sustain us through every situation.

    Prayerfully submitted,

    Julia A. Senior, Church Clerk
    Deacon Melvin Jackson, M.D., Chairman Board of Deacons
    Reverend Gus Roman, Interim Pastor

  12. Dwight Graves said, on July 9, 2010 at 11:09 pm

    Condolences to you and your family from me and my family, the Cobb SCLC and the Emmanuel Tabernacle Church family. Our strength comes from God who is more than able.

    Dwight Graves,
    Sr. Pastor Emmanuel Tabernacle CCa

  13. Amy Billingsley said, on July 11, 2010 at 12:10 pm

    May you be comforted by your memories and the many warm thoughts of those who care.


  14. Sheila Nutt said, on July 11, 2010 at 12:22 pm

    Greetings Stephanie,

    I just received word from Linda about the loss of your dear mother. I do know how you feel. I lost my mother to colon cancer in 1995. Thank God for fond memories of her. Although she’s no longer in the human world, I do know she is still with me and mothering me from the spirit world. I pray that you and your family will find the courage and faith to accept God’s will. Please feel free to call me at my home.

    God bless.


  15. Barbara Blount Armstrong said, on July 11, 2010 at 12:24 pm

    Stephanie, just learned of your mother’s passing from Linda. My condolences go out to you and your family. A 7-day celebration sounds wonderful. You and your mother were truly blessed to have each other.

    Barbara Blount Armstrong

  16. Peggy Beecham said, on July 11, 2010 at 12:26 pm

    Dear Stephanie ~

    I pay tribute to your mother’s life and offer you words of prayer, support, and sympathy. May you be comforted by loving memories and awareness of how proud she was to have you as her daughter. Continue to honor her memory with all that you do. Peace and blessings to your family!

    Peggy Beecham

  17. James Whitehead said, on July 11, 2010 at 12:28 pm

    May God Bless your special Mother.

  18. Min Kristen C. Simpson said, on July 11, 2010 at 12:30 pm

    love and prayers are with you and the family. What a mighty woman of God. Is there anything we can do?

  19. Mr. & Mrs. Ernest Dandridge said, on July 11, 2010 at 1:33 pm


    You and your family are in our thoughts and prayer.

    Ernest & Dorothy Dandridge

  20. Celeste said, on July 12, 2010 at 8:12 am

    What a wonderful gift you gave the world. Although I did not know Mary Ann Walker Ralls personally, I do know one of the most wonderful things she contributed to this world–her daughter Stephanie. Without her there would be no Stephanie and for that alone I am grateful to her. I trust and pray that she will now rest in the peace of God’s amazing love–for just a while. Then she will likely have some praising to do up there with the other angels. God bless her family and friends with an unimaginable peace, comfort and favor during this challenging time. God is certainly able to do that and more. Blessings.

  21. To My Dearest Sister Stephanie & Brother Eric, To Aunt Evelyn and to all your be-loved family members; I travel many miles in spirit to be with you today to Celebrate and share the Greatest Memories of the great life of One of the sweetest Mothers I came to know and love, Mother Mary Ann.

    I believe that “Mother Mary Ann” is A beautiful star placed in the sky of God…a Star that shines so bright that all the heavenly angelic host began to alert all in the King-dom to prepare for her Grand Entrance into Heaven.

    The Seraphim’s are clapping and filled with joy because for many years they watched from heavens gates of her sweet-ness and kindness to others she was always kind to my husband and me and refusing our good ole’ home training in the kitchen. Her home was our home, a home filled with her beauty. I love her so because she loved me back and adopted us into the Walker family. I shall smile in my heart now because of the beautiful memories of her life stories shared with us. I would always greet her with a kiss, but now I will send that kiss straight to heaven.

    As Our Father in heaven has received the Spirit of “Mother Mary Ann”, He would proclaim as I, a priest of God, Unto you that mourn in Zion; That the Lord gives unto you in exchange, Beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for your mourning, The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness That you might be called the trees of righteousness That God may be glorified in you Please rejoice in knowing that Jesus Christ Himself Remembered you in Matthew 5:4 When he taught that Blessed are they that mourn For they shall be comforted Be comforted my Sister Stephanie, Brother Eric my Prayers are with you all…

    And I say to you all Today that are here, As I know that Mother Mary Ann would say to you…

    A Tribute of Love

    Dr. Linda Holliday /Pastor /Evangelist
    I’ve Been Chosen Ministries International
    Dallas, Texas
    In Memory of Mother Mary Ann Walker Ralls

  22. Apostle Marilyn Thornton said, on July 13, 2010 at 9:59 am

    When just a tree falls in a forest it is barely heard. Only those that are close by are impacted by the fall. When a tree that is planted by the Lord falls, there is reverberation and the whole of the Kingdom of God is impacted.

    Mary Ann was planted by the Lord a long time ago. God has chosen to relocated this precious gift of Mary Ann Walker Ralls from our earthly realm into the heavenly realm. She has earned her reward to be present with the Lord praising and worshiping Him in a glorious place.

    On behalf of Heritage International Ministries, I thank God for the life of Mary Ann and the blessing she was to me and the ministry. Her encouraging words, her special smile, her laughter, her wisdom, and her love of Christ; I am most grateful to have experienced. I thank God that she shared her life with so many.

    To Stephanie and Eric, my sister and brother in Christ, thank you for sharing mom Mary Ann with me. To Evelyn, your sister will be dearly missed but her love and our love for you is still with you. Psalms 30:5 “weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning. Be encourage in the Lord, for this is a time to celebrate the home-going of a precious child of God that is now present with our Heavenly Father.

    With the Love of Christ,

    Apostle Marilyn
    Heritage International Ministries
    Baton Rouge, LA 70816

  23. Easter Winters said, on July 16, 2010 at 9:18 am

    Stephanie and Eric,

    The time I shared with you and Mary Ann earlier this year was priceless. Steph, after 30+ years of knowing each other, your lost has become my lost. I love you guys.



  24. Robert Moses said, on July 17, 2010 at 8:00 am

    My former neighbor and friend to my entire family, Mary Ann Walker Ralls, was a fixture
    on Ellet Street for many, many years. Her grace and kindness to all enhanced the lives of everyone who lived in the area. She was most kind to me when my own father passed and she composed and read a tribute to him when he passed. Many thanks to her and best wishes to Stephanie and Eric.

  25. The Benton Family said, on July 21, 2010 at 10:22 am

    We send prayers of comfort to you as we share your loss.

  26. The Valentines said, on July 22, 2010 at 10:48 am

    The Valentine Family (Sandra, Madeline, and James) of Sprague Street in Philadelphia were saddened to learn of the passing of Stephanie’s Mother. Our families share years of acquaintance as neighbors and friends and know what a major loss her passing is to your family. Please know that our prayers and blessings are with you at this difficult time.

    Sincerely, The Valentines

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