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105-year-old Cayce resident passes in her sleep

Cayce, SC (Paul Kirby) - Ms. Willie Dean “Mamma Dean” Anderson of Cayce passed away on July 8, 2017 peacefully while she slept. She was 105 years old.

The day she passed, I had called her granddaughter, Stephanie Kelly, regarding some restoration work on a grandfather clock Mamma Dean owned. It had been damaged in the fire that gutted her longtime home in Cayce in April of this year. Although the Cayce Department of Public Safety had worked to arrange for Habitat for Humanity to rebuild Mamma Dean’s home, I thought it might be nice to see if we could get the clock restored as well.

When Stephanie told me that Mamma Dean had passed, it was strange. I wasn’t sad as I thought I would be. I didn’t know Mamma Dean well, I only met her after the fire; but I felt as if I had known her my whole life. Yet, instead of sadness or misery, I felt an immediate peace at the word of her death; it was as if I knew that a great victory had been won.

Mamma Dean was known as a Godly woman. Through stories I had heard after I met her, and ones that were told during her 105th birthday celebration, I knew that she was always ready to lend a helping hand up, not a hand out, to everyone. She was quick to offer a kind word, a filling meal, or a warm bed, and comfort to those in need.

Mamma Dean was an amazing woman. In her lifetime, she raised one biological daughter, but fostered and cared for more than 70 children . She actually adopted four children as well. Later in her life, she cared for sick friends as they grew tired and infirm. She was never able to turn away someone in need, instead she welcomed them with warm, loving arms.

To live to be 105 is an amazing feat in this day and time. I think about what she had seen and it just amazes me. Think about it. In the last 105 years, she saw the development, and later the proliferation of cars. She lived through two World Wars, the advent of the atomic bomb, the development of reliable electric service and the spread of the first telephones. Later she probably saw these phones become a nuisance. There’s one now that everyone can carry in their pockets at work, in the car, at all times of the day or night, even at the table, if she allowed that. Some even carry them into church, where folks can say they're looking at their bible on the phone while shamelessly texting a friend or playing a game.

In her lifetime, she’s seen the growth of the modern kitchen; refrigerators, electric ranges, the microwave oven, and even blenders and gadgets that slice, dice, and will cut your fingers off if you don’t read the directions carefully. Through all that she remained Mamma Dean, ready to feed you, even if you’d come in too late or had been up to things you thought she didn’t know, even when she did know all too well.

Mamma Dean lived through the development of reliable radios and later television. No, they didn’t have cable in the early 1900’s, but she and her family learned of the world through books. magazines, and newspapers, not iPads. She probably heard famous people like Franklin Roosevelt on the radio as he talked of a day that would live in infamy after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor.

The TV certainly must have been a wonder to her. Remember, she was able to watch the news when Dr. King led marches in Birmingham, Washington, and other places to give Mamma Dean and her family the same rights that all human beings should enjoy. She saw the news of little girls killed by bombs while they attended Sunday school, not in some far away land, but right here in America. She saw the desegregation of public schools and the day that she and her family could sit at the same lunch counter, drink out of the same water fountain, and sit in any bus seat that was open and available.

She must have also watched when John F. Kennedy was shot, when we put a man on the moon, and the first black man was elected as President of the United States of America. Oh, the wonders, the changes she saw as she lived in North, SC, Baltimore, and later Cayce for those 105 years. The world is certainly a different place.

Mamma Dean knew pain, she’d seen many friends and family go on to glory before her, but always knew too that there is joy in death. She knew that those who had already gone, those believers, would be with her again someday. July the 8th, 2017 was that day of reunion!

You see, Mamma Dean was a church going lady. She knew well the Old Testament when God flooded the earth, decimated whole cities, and grew ashamed of the way his children behaved.

But, she also knew the New Testament. A time where God gave his only son to save us from our sins. When Jesus walked amongst the poor, the sick, the downtrodden, and the original posers; the ones who played church, but had become drunk with power and greed. Jesus loved them all, and Mamma Dean displayed that type of love, that testimony throughout her life. She lived and displayed the love, forgiveness, giving, and grace that Jesus taught while he was here on earth. Mamma Dean didn’t just talk the talk, she walked the walk! In her, you could see Jesus. She displayed him through her kindness, her words, her deeds. No one who came into contact with her for any length of time wasn’t affected by Jesus through her. He truly lived in her heart and he was shared with whoever needed a dose of his love.

I have been told that Mamma Dean was a lady who liked to dress well, especially for church. She was from a time when jeans, t-shirts, or tennis-shoes just wouldn’t do. She wore beautiful flowing dresses that modestly covered her legs, and hats, oh the hats! Plumage, flowers, ribbons and bows adorned them, and lace veils covered the prize that waited for just the right moment to be lifted; to reveal the face underneath to just the right man. If you were that man, and the veil was lifted, you would get a glimpse of the lovely face that was hidden there; a treat reserved for just a few. Lipstick just so; beautiful eyes, a few lines to show the history of hardship, the living and learning from life. Those lines she earned many times over.

In her day, men were classier as well. There were no sagging pants, no booming bass, and the men also wore hats that they took off inside, as a sign of respect for the ladies in their presence. They tipped those hats to say hello to those they passed on the street. Handkerchiefs were carried in their pockets, and they were offered to a lady who cried, sneezed, or just need a little excuse to say hello to the fellow.

You see, Mamma Dean was from a different era, living in today, waiting to go home. Although her home of many years on Lee Street that was gutted by the April fire is almost completely renovated now, that’s not the home I’m referring to. I’m talking about a home where there is no pain, no age or infirmity. Where all those who’ve already left earth, greeted her at the gate. They all looked their best; no sickness, no anger, no age, only the perfect place that is heaven.

Today, Mamma Dean is walking the streets of gold. She’s living in that mansion that was provided not by all the great and wonderful works that she did here on earth, she’s enjoying it simply because she believed. She knew that God had sacrificed his son Jesus so that one day we might all have the chance to join her too. Her mansion was bought by the blood of the lamb; a home that you can have too!

This week is not a time for tears, although we will miss her. As people, we cry when were sad, but I suspect Mamma Dean is saying, “No tears now baby, I’m home and happy where I am.” Today, is a time to rejoice in the fact that one of the most deserving women who ever walked this earth has earned her heavenly reward.

Rest well Mamma Dean; rest easy knowing that you taught so many well. You passed on the word, the truth, and the light. Now, leave it to us, we’ll take it from here.

Her homegoing celebration will be held on Saturday, July 15th, 2017 at the St. Peter’s AME Church located in North, SC beginning at 1:00 p.m. She will be buried in the church’s cemetery. After the service, a celebration of her life will be held in the street of her former home located at 2314 Lee Street in Cayce, SC.

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