Odessa Jefferies Ford received her ultimate reward by waking up in the arms of Our Lord on March 21, 2019, after a brief illness. She was born on August 18, 1935, in Detroit, Michigan, as the second child to James and Beulah (Bowie) Jefferies. She and her sister, Thelma, also became big sisters to one brother, Edsel, and three sisters, Barbara, Doris, and Beulah. Odessa was the leader among her siblings telling them what they should or should not do. She proudly admitted to being the “bossy” one.
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As a Kindergartener, she begged her teacher to come home with her to see her new baby sister. The teacher gave in and used her lunch time to drive Odessa home much to her mother’s surprise. In her own words, Odessa wrote, “From what Mother said from the time I could start moving around for myself, I was a real busy-body. I always said I should have been the oldest. When I was in the second grade and Thelma in the fourth, I saw some girls making her cry. I took care of the threat.” Odessa also confronted a street gang who was after her brother. They left him alone. She liked to climb trees, shoot marbles, play baseball but was stopped by her mother when she wanted to box. She could tell hilariously funny stories and was called Lucy like the character on the “I Love Lucy” show.
Her parents were devoted Christians and the children were raised at St.Stephen A.M.E. church where she joined in her early teens. In the home, Odessa and Thelma would play hymnals on the piano as the family sang.
Throughout her life she loved learning. She attended the Detroit Public Schools graduating from Northern High School where she was very popular and was involved with the Y-Teens, Latin Club, tennis team, and the Honor Roll Society. She loved roller skating at the Arcadia and could skate backwards and dip and dive to her beloved “doo wop” music. She continued to skate into her fifties.
After high school, Odessa worked at Michigan Bell-Yellow Pages and was introduced by a friend to her cousin, Herbert Ford. They married on June 11, 1960 at St. Stephen A.M.E. Her sisters were her bridesmaids and his brothers were the groomsmen. After Alison was born and ready for school, she and Herbert decided it was time for her to quit her job and follow her lifelong dream of becoming a teacher. She chose Marygrove College that also had a Kindergarten so she and Alison could go to school together. Between her B.A. and M.A. degrees in Special Education, Jefferey was born making their family complete. The family joined the Catholic Church and became faithful volunteers at Gesu. They took many road trips and train trips. She was terrified of airplanes and boats.
She had a passion for teaching. She would often go on weekends with her husband and children to her classroom just to have motivational learning surprises for her students on Mondays. She purchased clothes for needy students and any supplies that the school system did not provide. She was a quiet determined social activist not needing or wanting recognition. She marched with Dr. Martin Luther King in Dearborn, Michigan through hostile chants, was a school union representative, a Bagley Neighborhood block captain, made sandwiches and passed them out to the homeless on the streets, and wrote letters to local and national leaders (both complimentary and chastisement about what needs to be done).
She loved working difficult jigsaw puzzles, home decorating, collecting memorabilia from “Gone With the Wind” and any images that reminded her of summer train trips to grandparents in Mississippi.
Christmas was her favorite time of the year. She turned their home into a Winter Wonderland with animated dolls, trains, several Christmas trees, snow globes, and of course, the Nativity.
In her declining years, Alison was the only one who could firmly say , “Mom, get used to it. There’s a new sheriff in town! I’ll handle it.” And Jeff was there beside her, spoiling her and calling her “my best girl.” The gift of love and caring that Odessa poured into her family came back to her blessed and multiplied.
Thelma imagines that Odessa is probably trying to tell St. Peter what he should do to make the Pearly Gates better. He probably just smiles at her audacity as he says, “Welcome home.”
Odessa is preceded in death by her parents and her brother, Edsel, as well as many other loved ones.
She loved and was loved and will be missed by her husband, Herbert; children, Alison (Michael) Day, Sr. and Jefferey Herbert Ford; sisters, Thelma Dave, Barbara Jefferies, Doris (Charles) Ford, Beulah (Frank) Owens; her Ford brothers-in-laws, Charles, Sam, Henry and Roy; sisters-in-law Mildred, Thomasine, Fredel, Gerain, Barbara, and Gilda; grandchildren, Michael (Lindsey) Day II, Brian (Kimberly)Day and Aaron Day; six great grandchildren; and a host of beloved nieces, nephews, cousins, and dear friends.