Jessie Lee Coleman was born January 17, 1923 on a farm in Columbus, Mississippi. She was the third of four children born to the late Charlie and Hannah Bryant. Her siblings preceded her in death.
Jessie graduated from Union Academy High School in 1942. Long before her graduation, she caught the eye of the youngest son of an itinerant preacher from a town eighteen miles up the road. He kept his eyes fixed on her until his last breath on December 31, 2000. That man, Joseph Edward Coleman (“Joe”), married Jessie on June 2, 1946 in her farm home. From that moment, until death they did part, they truly became one, and began their amazing, storybook journey through life together.
Always destined for a metropolitan life, Joe and Jessie left Columbus for the North, where they joined Jessie’s older sister Patti in Reading, Pennsylvania. Jessie, along with Patti and her husband, opened a barber shop and beauty salon, and Jessie became a Pennsylvania licensed beautician in 1946.
Joe and Jessie celebrated the birth of their first child, Gregory Augustus, in 1947. A few years later, the family moved to the historic community of La Mott, PA in Montgomery county. Jessie worked in a drug store malt shop and often brought home the most delicious milkshakes for her husband and son to enjoy. In 1951 the family welcomed a second child, Jennifer Agnes.
Philadelphia was always the ultimate destination for the young family, and Jessie found the home of her dreams on a quiet, stand-alone block of Upsal street, between Greene Street and Lincoln Drive. The financially struggling couple did not qualify for a mortgage large enough to purchase their dream home. Jessie – always determined – urged her humble husband to ask his boss for a raise. To his surprise (not hers), he was granted the raise, and in 1954 they moved into their dream home at 427 West Upsal Street. In 1956 a second daughter was born, Stephanie Ann, who preceded her parents in death in 1997.
Jessie’s home was always warm and welcoming. She was the consummate host, who loved entertaining and made the best apple pie in Philadelphia. She was a loving and dutiful mother and wife and an exceptional homemaker. After her children reached adulthood, Jessie pursued her professional aspirations in the field of education. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Education from St. Joseph’s University, and a Master of Arts degree in Education from Arcadia University. Jessie was employed by the Philadelphia School District as an elementary school teacher and Reading Specialist until her retirement.
Alongside her daughters, entrepreneurial-minded Jessie established the JSJ (Jessie Stephanie Jennifer) Learning Center following retirement. The center provided outreach to poor, underserved children of the community, as well as providing the children with remedial reading and tutorial services, and emotional coping skills.
As she pursued her own aspirations, Jessie was always a full partner in her husband’s political ambitions. When Joe was elevated to the Presidency of Philadelphia City Council from 1980 to 1992, Jessie was affectionately dubbed “the First Lady of City Council”.
Jessie was a philanthropist, and was cited by numerous organizations, both nationally and internationally, for her generosity. In 1992 she and Joe founded the Joseph E. Coleman Esquire and Jessie L. Coleman Scholarship Fund. The fund awards grants for Philadelphia high school graduates who are pursuing higher education and in need of college tuition, student housing and books. Her generosity extended to the numerous organizations she served, including her beloved Delta Sigma Theta sorority, of which she was a member for forty years.
Jessie was a woman of great faith and was baptized as a child. After moving to Philadelphia, she joined the Faith Presbyterian Church, which merged to form the Community Presbyterian Church, and later joined the First Presbyterian Church of Germantown. As a deaconess for several years, Jessie served the poor and sent cards and handwritten messages of encouragement to the sick and shut-in.
On Saturday morning, May 8, 2021 Jessie peacefully transitioned into the arms of her loving Savior. She will be forever remembered for her love of people; which transcended the generational divide. She leaves a legacy of love and cherished memories to: her son, Gregory A. Coleman, and his wife, Richardean; daughter, Jennifer Coleman-Miner and her husband, Lloyd; grandchildren, Colandra Coleman Webster, Kimberly Coleman McKie; Julian J. Pugh; Tiffany Coleman Prince, Cole A. Pugh, Philip Epps and Desiree Epps; nine great-grandchildren; one great-great-grandchild; and a host of nieces, nephews, cousins, neighbors and friends.
Submitted With Love,
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