Suburban and Wayne Times
By Ryan Richards
Mazie B. Hall - educator, mentor, civil-rights activist, community leader and friend to many - passed away Sunday evening at age 103.
She was affectionately known simply as "Miss Mazie," and until only recently she called the Mt. Pleasant section of Tredyffrin her home since her birth in 1902. According to those who knew her, Miss Hall left a legacy of caring and compassion.
"She lived her life and she lived it greatly," remarked Kevin Stroman, a native of Mt. Pleasant and close friend of Miss Hall. "She was just a living legend; her legacy was how many lives that she touched, not just through education but personally."
"She was an inspiration and beacon to us all through educational, civic, horticultural contributions to the Main Line community, and especially her beloved Wayne," said Mrs. Arnelia Hollinger, a Wayne resident of nearly 35 years and former chair of Radnor Township's Community Awareness Committee.
Justine Rector, a Philadelphia resident and retired university professor, described her friend as an inspiration whose achievements should be documented for future generations to know.
"She was a woman of the ages," she proclaimed. "She was so correct and so stately, impeccable in her speech, and she had an air about her that you knew that she was greatness."
Yet, according to Rector, she was humble, not "stuffy," and modestly talked about her life. She fondly recalled her luncheon visits to her Mt. Pleasant home, where Miss Hall was a genteel host. She baked a special dessert, Sally Lunn cake, a slightly sweetened teacake, reminisced Rector, serving it with the proper silverware and glasses. The gracious host also took her guest on a tour of the grounds.
"She showed me trees that her father had planted," she remembered.
Miss Hall graduated from the former Tredyffrin-Easttown High School and then graduated from West Chester Normal School (West Chester University). Until her death, she was the university's oldest graduate. The school maintains a scholarship fund in her honor.
She taught school for many years in New Jersey's Camden School District. Her career as an educator also included serving one year as principal at the former Mt. Pleasant School in Tredyffrin in the 1930s. When schools in the Tredyffrin/Easttown School District became segregated, she was involved in the movement for desegregation.
She teamed up with long-time friend Margaret Collins to crusade for fair-housing practices on the Main Line during the 1950s. Their efforts influenced the formation of the Pennsylvania Fair Housing Act, the basis for federal fair-housing laws.
"I would not be living in Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania, had she not been in the forefront of the civil-rights movement and had she not been instrumental in getting the fair-housing laws implemented in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania," stated Pam Deans, a Mt. Pleasant native now living in Plymouth Meeting and a lifelong friend of Miss Hall.
Her other civic accomplishments include organizing the Mt. Pleasant Civic Association and she was a charter member of the Main Line branch of the Black Business and Professional Women Association.
Her interests in gardening led to her involvement as a charter member of the Community Garden Club of Wayne.
She was also a longtime contributor to the pages of The Suburban, writing about history, her travels abroad (she traveled through Africa, Europe, Asia and South America), poetry and personal reflections.
As a child-advocate, she created innovative mentoring and tutoring programs for youngsters in the Mt. Pleasant community during the 1960s. The program started in her home before moving to a community center.
"Children started coming here to my home for help. I had the kitchen and dining room filled. Then we moved to the community center," she told The Suburban in a 2002 interview.
"Her desire was that young people should get an education and make a contribution to society," said Berwyn resident Toni Johnson, a friend and retired Valley Forge Middle School teacher.
She talked about the time Miss Hall was invited to speak at a multi-cultural event at Conestoga High. She was already in her late 90s.
"She had them spellbound," she recalled.
Miss Hall was deeply religious, and was the oldest living member of the Second Baptist Church of Wayne. As a church representative, she came into contact with such prominent Americans as Marian Anderson, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King and the Rev. Dr. Leon Sullivan. She also organized fellowship weekends at the Friends Meeting House in Haverford and at Bryn Mawr College.
"I've known her exactly for 32 years," related the Rev. Dr. Raymond Thomas, pastor of the Second Baptist Church. Referring to passages in the Bible, he praised his faithful congregant: "she was strong and graceful as well as cheerful, her words were sensible and her advice thoughtful. She took care of her family, friends and others, and was never lazy. There are many good women but Miss Hall is one of the best."
Aside from the West Chester University scholarship fund, the community honored her over the years by dedicating a park in her name in Mt. Pleasant on her 98th birthday and commissioning a mural of her life inside the Mt. Pleasant/Carr School community center.
In 1993, during a dedication ceremony, Miss Hall pledged her extensive collection of African-American materials to Eastern University's Warner Library. The collection will include about 550 books and periodicals, (including biographies and histories), plaques, personal letters and African-American historical memorabilia.
"It will have a special place in our library," commented Linda Olson, the university's executive director of communications. "It will be a historical reference collection."
The collection will be available for students for study and housed in a special room, according to James Sauer, library director.
"It adds a solid ethnic and African-American studies collection to the library," he pointed out.
Miss Hall most recently resided in the Plymouth Meeting home of Pam Deans, who recalled her houseguest's impact on her childhood.
"On a personal level, she taught to me read when I was 3 years old, which allowed me to become a successful executive with Merck Research labs and with Sanofi-Aventis Pharmaceuticals."
In fact, her maternal influence was far reaching.
"She had no biological children," said Deans, "but she sent hundreds of children into the world."
A funeral service is scheduled for Friday, Jan. 6 at the Church of the Saviour, 651 N. Wayne Ave., Wayne, at 11 a.m. A viewing will take place at the church from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.