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An Extraordinary Life: Joliet woman was a 'walking Jesus'

Anna King
Anna King

JOLIET – Eddie B. Edwards of Joliet met Anna King 27 years ago, when they lived in the same Preston Heights neighborhood and belonged to the same church.

Eddie, a working mother, said Anna, who was not employed at the time, made sure all the area children attending Laraway School safely boarded the bus in the morning and safely returned to their homes in the afternoon.

Anna always met them at the bus stop with apples, oranges or cookies. In return, the kids respected Anna, Eddie said.

“She was a good person to work with at church. She was a woman of God and concerned about her neighborhood,” Eddie said. “You didn’t have to worry if you were working. Anna was going to be there.”

At Mount Zion Baptist Church, both women worked in the nurse’s ministry. Eddie helped Anna get involved when she joined the church. And when Anna joined a Bible study, she drew Eddie into the program, too.

“We became good friends, and she was a good member of the church,” Eddie said. “If she had something to say, she’d say it. She’d say, ‘Now wait a minute ...’ Those were the words she said.”

Bob King of Joliet, Anna’s younger brother, recalled that part of his sister.

“If she had a teaching moment, she was going to instruct you,” Bob said. “Young or old, it didn’t make any difference. If she had something to say, she was going to make sure you got her point.”

And to ensure the recipient heard and understood, Bob said Anna would finish up with, “Well, give me your interpretation of it.”

Looking back, Bob appreciates Anna’s character-building wisdom and said it gave him a greater understanding of life.

“If my sister told me, ‘That knife will cut you,’ I didn’t have to get cut to find out that knife was sharp. Or, ‘If you put your hand on that stuff, it will burn you,’ ” Bob said. “If you go to somebody that’s already experienced, what it will do is persuade you not to go that route. There’s going be some kids that will have to get burned and have to get cut by the knife, but it’s the one who can take the word and receive the word and do what needs to be done that doesn’t have to experience that.”

One of Anna’s “pet peeves” was being on time, Bob said.

“If you had to pick her up, and you were six, eight minutes late, she’d already made adjustments and gone about her business,” Bob said. “Being prompt is a very important key to understanding anyone’s time. And she made it a point by saying, ‘People who don’t wear watches don’t value their time.’ ”

But Anna also was the sister who asked Bob to stop at her house to pick up his 60th birthday card only to find out she’d orchestrated an entire surprise party for him. She was the sister who loved gospel music and cooking.

“Her biscuits were the fluffiest, most tasteful biscuits,” Bob said. “They were just delicious.”

Anna also was the sister who, during the civil rights movement, opened a store in downtown Joliet. Anna named the store Shabazz after civil rights advocate Betty Shabazz.

Bob, who worked for Anna in that store, recalled that Anna sold everything from hand-packed ice cream to wigs, along with “various artifacts” pertaining to black culture.

“I would say it was one of the icons located on South Chicago Street at that time,” Bob said.

Anna was 72 when she died Aug, 4. In her obituary, her nephew, Joe Nathan Baines Jr. wrote this about his aunt for the church service: “As a beauty expert and political activist in the Black Power movement, Anna was influential in shaping new standards of black beauty, moving black hair from the press and combs to the Angela Davis afros.”

Joe also wrote that several family members nicknamed Anna as a “walking Jesus,” because Anna didn’t own a car and walked most places, and because of her faithful service to the people living in nursing homes, the elderly, the sick and the shut-in, service that also earned her several awards, Joe wrote.

“Having personally triumphed over grief and loss, crisis and suffering, the challenges of Anna’s life spiritually equipped her to address the unique needs in the body of Christ, which ranged from giving big warm hugs to strangers to providing home health care to the elderly, we  all too often forget,” Joe wrote.

Margaret Baines of Joliet, who is two years younger than Anna, said Anna, one of 18 siblings, loved the elderly from an early age and was sympathetic to animals, too. As a young girl, Anna often visited her older neighbors, and they enjoyed her company, too.

That devotion continued her entire life. Margaret recalled that Anna would sit on holidays with one paralyzed woman living in a nursing home. When Anna did have a car, she often drove people to their medical appointments.

“Even when other people offered,” Margaret said, “they preferred Anna.”

• To feature someone in “An Extraordinary Life,” contact Denise M. Baran-Unland at 815-280-4122 or dunland@shawmedia.com.

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