Spring 2011

Jessie Nell ColemanJessie Coleman

Jessie Nell Coleman is a caring, compassionate, community organizer and activist.   As a founder of the West End / Clingman Ave. Neighborhood Association (WECAN), she has been a continuing force in bonding and uniting neighbors of every race, age, income, and walk of life.  WECAN became an effective and influential community organization involved in many diverse projects.  Some of these include community clean ups such as, Adopt a Highway and garden club projects.  Recent activities include being engaged in the construction of the Clingman Streetscape Project; promoting public input and voicing ideas for the I-26 connector project and the re-opening of the pedestrian bridge to Hillcrest; participation in the Aston Gateway Community Board; and bringing new playground equipment to Aston Park. 

Jessie is a leader by shining example, using her talents as a “green thumb” gardener, wise teacher, insightful community builder, and voice of courage and reason.  She is also a trumpeting voice for the elderly and frail who are in need of housing assistance, for the unemployed who are in need of jobs, and for children who are in need of firm love and an enriched learning environment.  She has been a champion supervisor and guardian in the economic, physical, and social revitalization of her neighborhood.  Her professional life includes her work with the Head Start Program (Community Action Opportunities).  She has faithfully served, and continues to serve, as a board member for WECAN and Mountain Housing Opportunities.  She is an active church member at River of Life church in West Asheville. 

More WECAN plans are underway for 2011, and Jessie will be there with her insight, vision, wisdom and guiding hand.  Her presence will continue to have a positive impact on projects that come her way and she will simply “make things happen”.  Jessie is a woman of spirit with a generous heart, who many refer to as their beloved Grandma Nell.

Hyman Dave

Hyman Dave

Perhaps the most amazing fact about Hyman Dave is that this Asheville Business Icon, Community Servant and Service Organizer, reached the age of 100 on October 27, 2010 and is still an active Ashevillian.  Hyman first came to Asheville in the summer of 1929, moving to the city in 1934 after graduating from North Carolina State College of the Greater University of North Caroli

na with a degree in civil engineering.  Partnering with his brother in the family bus

iness, Dave Steel, which was started during the Depression, he worked for the company for 76 years.  The business was a major contributor to the local war effort in WWII, growing to a nationwide business putting up buildings and prefabricating steel for many large industries.
Hyman’s community service and citizen activities are notable and wide in scope.  Highlights of some of his philanthropic work include: Kiwanis Club member since 1939 - President in 1953 and perfect attendance for 67 years; Preventorium for Children’s Tuberculosis project during the 1930’s and 1940’s; WWII Scrap Metal Collections; 4H Club-“Calf Chain Project”- Chairperson;  Fundraiser projects, such as Pancake Breakfasts and Miniature Trains; Bell Ringing for the Salvation Army; Asheville Downtown City Club – served as Chairman of the Board; and served on the Industrial Commission of the Chamber of Commerce.  He has been a loyal member of Asheville’s Beth Ha Tephila Temple where he served on the Board of Governors and the House Committee of his Temple and was twice president of his congregation.

Hyman has enjoyed a family of three children, five grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren.
In 1991, Hyman joined his grandson in National Wiper Alliance, and as of his 100th birthday was still driving himself to work each day joining some fifty other employees.  He was recently quoted as saying, “I’ve had a wonderful life in 100 years, I don’t regret a day of it.”

Mary ParkerMary Parker

Mary Parker, age 96, is a tradition bearer and civic contributor to Asheville.  A fifth generation of the Patton/Parker families, Mary has been an eyewitness to Asheville’s heritage, chronicling her encyclopedic knowledge of the buildings, businesses, civic institutions, neighborhoods, culture, families, and people.  Mary was a full-time working woman for Bon Marche Department store as a sales promotion director.  Owner Louis Lipinsky was also civic minded and allowed her to take time off to work with organizations.  This coupled with her “inherited commitment”, allowed her to diligently begin her lifetime of service to the Asheville community.
Mary began her civic involvement in the 1940’s working with relief programs such as the Red Cross and the United Way for war-demolished European countries.  In 1947, the Asheville chapter of the League of Women Voters was established, with Mary as a founding member.  She remained an active member for 40 years, serving as a board member, poll watcher, and study group host.  She demonstrated Asheville’s first voting machine in the George Vanderbilt Hotel lobby.  In the 1950’s, Mary made a donation to the Friends of the Library organization, which launched a very energetic commitment.  She remained an active member, and she has twice served as the Friend’s president.  She has supervised book sales, led fundraisers, and in 1990, the NC Public Library Directors Association, awarded her as the Library Friend of the Year Award.  Also in the 1950’s, Mary served on the board of the YWCA. Her work with the Phyllis Wheatley branch helped foster friendships with women in the African American community.  Mary has also given generously of her time and enthusiasm to the Colburn Mineral Museum, the Board of Memorial Mission Hospital Auxiliary, Mountain Housing Opportunities, Buncombe Co. Nursery School Board, Common Cause, Helpmate, and Habitat for Humanity (working on the first women’s team that built a house in east Asheville).  More recently, Mary has been involved with Pisgah Legal Services and celebrated her 95th birthday with a fundraiser for the group, held in the backyard of her historic home on Charlotte Street. Mary continues to open her dining room for meetings and her home and grounds for fundraising events.  She is best compared to the Treasure Tree standing in her front yard:  her ancestral roots run deep, her trunk is sturdy, filled with knowledge and wisdom, and her love of community has branched out to many people and organizations.

Lucille Flack Ray

Lucille Flack Ray

Lucille Flack Ray may best be described as a Cultural Activist – Asheville’s Troubadour.  She is endowed with artistic talent that disseminates cultural themes by mesmerizing audiences with her soprano singing voice, her lyricism when reciting poetry from her published book Looking Back and Moving Forward, her enthusiastic collaboration with various media outlets and organizations on topical historic preservation, or her engaging public speaking on Asheville black historical heritage or cancer survivorship.

Lucille is a woman of courage, overcoming life’s obstacles, tribulations and challenges.  She has a deep reservoir of knowledge of life in segregated Asheville.  She can give her unique perspective and collective experience of school days at the African-American Stephens Lee High School, descriptions of life in The Block, and accounts of social life during this time period before the urban revitalization that occurred during the late fifties and sixties.  Through her participation in projects such as, “Listening for a Change”: North Carolina Communities”-the Southern Oral History Program at UNC-Chapel Hill; and “I Remember Jim Crow”, a roundtable of personal narratives of area African-American seniors, which was an award winning program coordinated by West Asheville librarian, Karen Loughmiller, she conveys an important piece of black cultural inheritance for the people of Asheville.  A two-time cancer survivor, Lucille is an active volunteer for the Cancer Society.  She is often a featured speaker at Walk for Life, Relay for Life and other related events.  Proceeds from her poetry book are contributed to the Cancer Society.

Lucille has been a victim of an abusive, alcoholic marriage, a mother of six children, and a caregiver to many more family members; and, approaches life with determination, zest, and a sense of humor.  In her book of poetry, Looking Back, and Moving Forward, she narrates a journey on a reflective road from the heart. It is hopeful and heartwarming, just as the author may be described.  Lucille has had a successful career as a certified medical technician with the Department of Human Resources in Washington, DC and enjoyed a second career as an early childhood education teacher for Buncombe County.  Now 86, Lucille is tenacious and stays active with family, friends, church, and community activities.  In her words, “I am living life hard, one day at a time, trying to get everything I can out of life before I go”.