Bernice Virginia Coleman was the second child born to the union of Grant Everett and Mae Opal (Nee Elmore) Johnson. Her parents; her sister, Flora Brady; her brother, Grant, Jr.; her son, Jeffery Coleman; and daughter, Emma Coleman Sinclair, all preceded her in death.
After Bernice graduated 8th grade at James Milton Turner School in Meacham Park, she decided to attend Sumner High School in St. Louis City. Even though the family resided in St. Louis County, the only schools accepting black students from the county were Douglass High School in Webster Groves and Sumner High School in St. Louis City. Whenever one of her children complained about the long walk to school, she’d tell the story of having to take three buses to Sumner from Kirkwood, in the dark, for her four years of high school. After graduating high school in 1946, she briefly attend Stowe Teachers College, leaving to get married. To her marriage to Emmett Love Coleman, seven children were born.
In 1966, Bernice resumed her university studies. She graduated in 1969 with a Bachelor Degree in Elementary Education from UMSL. She began her career with St. Louis public schools that same year, where she taught for 27 years until her retirement in 1996.
Retirement allowed her time do what she loved most: fish. When she wasn’t at a lake with one of her grandchildren, she was making one of her famous decorated cakes. A gifted sketch artist, she became known for her cakes, notably the Pink Panther, the Baby Carriage, the Ballerina, and the Ninja Turtle cakes. There was nothing she couldn’t do in the kitchen! She could BURN! She was also a talented seamstress. Many were the times she worked through the night making holiday dresses for her daughters. Her skills didn’t end there, she could do typical “man’s work” like electrical wiring, plumbing, car repair, and wood working. As a young girl, she’d go hunting with her father, a hobby she gave up when she married. She was proudly a self-proclaimed “tomboy.”
Bernice professed her faith in God at an early age. She was an active member of First Baptist Church of Meacham Park, until she married and joined Olive Chapel AME Church in Kirkwood, where she remained until 2012. She joined her daughter, Leah, and granddaughter, Shanae Jenkins, at Trinity Mt. Carmel Baptist Church that year.
Loved by many, she leaves to cherish her memory: her daughters, Sharon, Susan Jones, Reverlea (Leah), and Avis (Late Calvin) Favron; her son, Emmett, Jr.(Toni); 13 grandchildren; 13 great-grandchildren; one great-great-grandchild; and a host of nieces, nephews, cousins, and friends, including her play daughter, Lela Benson.
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