Josephine Black, true “Mamma Bear,” yard-saler extraordinaire, connoisseur of good food, and successful businesswoman passed in peace Wednesday, July 25, 2018 at the age of 89. She was preceded in death by her loving husband George just prior to their 50th wedding anniversary and her half-brother, Ellsworth DeShields. She is survived by her 8 children, 35 grand-children, and 28 great grand-children.
Josephine’s life story began on July 24, 1929 in Sacramento and was followed by a series of losses (father and step-father’s deaths, rejection by mother) and hardships (need to support herself and aid her grandmother in lieu of attaining a high school education) that set the stage for the priority she would place on family, frugality, and compassionate acceptance of others.
Josephine deeply desired a family to love and serve. When she met her true love, George Black, in 1949, they married and pooled their desires and entrepreneurial skills, investing in properties and businesses of various kinds (laundry cleaning, rental property, child care, etc.). It was 7 years before God blessed their marriage with their first child, Ted, and then Gary, Anthony, and Ricky…4 dark-haired, dark-eyed, rambunctious rough riders…and then finally, “girl baby,” Debbie, the spunkiest of the bunch and well able to hold her own with 4 older brothers. But there were more to come…Kelly, Marty, and Russell, all blonde-haired and blue-eyed, showing vestiges of Josephine’s Swiss Italian ancestry. Together, Josephine and George, were living out their belief in “family first.”
Being thrifty and business smart, Josephine found ways to use her skills to benefit her feisty bunch. This often involved clothing her family with finds from yard sales and feeding her large brood with discounted breads and chips and bulk-buys. Despite the busyness of their lives, Josephine and George always found time to play with their family…camping, skiing, fishing, and riding…not to mention a fair amount of fussing and fighting. Josephine’s frugality served her family well!
Josephine loved people, especially those with histories of rejection. Before she became “Mamma Bear”, she was known as “Heartsey” because of her big heart toward others. She seemed to have a 6th sense related to those who were hurting and needed some nurture. Many can attest that Josephine never met a person that didn’t qualify for inclusion in the family and no one ever left her house hungry!
While Josephine’s life story began with early sorrow and loneliness, it ended with the love and acceptance of her friends and family gathered around her. This remarkable lady used her difficulties as a springboard for love and service, which God allowed to bless so many. As you consider Josephine’s life and prioritization of family, frugality, and compassionate acceptance, may I remind you not to cry because it is over…rather, smile because it happened.
Franklin & Downs is honored to serve Josephine’s family. There will be a visitation Monday evening of July 30th from 5 – 7 at Franklin & Downs Funeral Home 1050 McHenry Avenue, Modesto; with a graveside service the following morning at 9, Patterson Cemetery District 10800 HWY 33 Patterson.