Oct. 22, 1913 - Sept. 25, 2008
SOUTH BEND - Leola Smith Carter was born October 22, 1913, in Buford, Georgia, the first of four children born to the marriage of Will and Ollie Smith. Leola's complaint about her childhood was that she didn't have one. After taking piano lessons at an early age, she found herself playing for the Poplar Hill Baptist Church, State Baptist Convention gatherings, and even with a small group called "Leola's Jazzy Rhythm Boys," which played for dances and parties. Playing for dances could have been fun for the adults; she, however, was always placed in a corner during these times and chaperoned, because she was only 16 years old. She married Floyd Carter on October 1, 1936, in Buford, Georgia. Her sister, Inez, married Fred Carter, Floyd Carter's brother. They came to South Bend in 1941, looking for better working conditions. Leola and Floyd had three sons, Floyd, Calvin and Dennis. She devoted her life to her family, not having even taken employment outside the home. And, she devoted over 40 years of service to Pilgrim Baptist Church under Pastor Charles W. Rowlett, and subsequent to his retirement, Rev. H. Gregory Haygood. She was the youth choir director, the co-musician for the Sunday Service with Elizabeth Hesiben, the co-founder and chairperson of the Scholarship Committee, one of the chief cooks for the Annual Dinners at Pilgrim, as well as a faithful member for over 50 years. And what did she do with her life? A gardener, more precisely, the neighborhood produce give away program, placing bushels of green beans, lima beans, corn, greens, picked and left for friends and neighbors who would take their fill when passing by, even if no one was home. PTA mother, (before soccer Moms), helping to teach a sewing class to the mothers in the neighborhood, (along with her sister), showing movies to the kids on Saturdays, putting on talent shows, challenging the Administration on books lists, decorum, funding; and helping new Black teachers adapt to community life. And most important to her was being a wife and mother. She believed that all children should be treated equally. That meant that on Christmas and birthdays, all grandchildren received the same amount of money. No one was left out, and no one was pointed out as either good or bad. But she was also willing to help any child with a special need. That required, however, that your special need was about something. She might not help you buy a car, but she would go out of her way to help you get into college. She may not buy you a motorbike, (my brother Calvin threatened to leave home at 15 because they wouldn't buy him a motorbike). While I was upstairs watching him threaten to pack a bag, they were downstairs ready to open the door for him to go. But she loaned him money many times for his family, not ever wanting repayment. There are many here who have experienced her generosity, and those close to her have experienced her chastisement, both done with love. She leaves behind a wealth of loved ones. First, her two surviving sons: Floyd Carter IV and Dennis L. Carter, D.D.S., (Carolyn), both of South Bend; grandchildren, Floyd Errol Carter of Philadelphia and Joseph D. Carter of Cincinnati, Monique Paskell and Melanie Gordon, both of South Bend; great-grandchildren, Vicki and Cheri of Philadelphia, Lena of Cincinnati, Maylin, Diamond Edmond, and Star, all of South Bend. The family of her deceased son, Myra Carter (Calvin) of South Bend, grandchildren, Calvin Jr., Kevin Allen and Renee, all of South Bend; great-grandchildren, Calvin, Sasha, Courtney, Tevin, Myra, Kevin, Randy, Anthony, Corrine, Janelle, Mylea, Cory and James. She was also preceded in death by her parents; her husband, Floyd; her son, Calvin; her three siblings and their spouses, Louvenia and Robert Bell, Inez and Fred Carter, Willie and Walter Maynard; and a daughter-in-law, Emma Doris Carter (Dennis). In addition, a host of relatives survive from the Bell and Maynard families of her hometown, Buford, and Paris, France, as well as throughout the country, the Welch, Clark, Carter and Ross families, the Forrest, Braboy, and Allison families. She also shared her life with a host of friends and neighbors all of whom have fond memories of her. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Scholarship Fund, Pilgrim Baptist Church, 116 N. Birdsell St., South Bend, IN 46628. Services for Mrs. Leola Carter: visitation will be held today, Oct. 1, from 6 to 8 p.m. in the Clark-O'Neal Funeral Home, 2702 Lincoln Way West; funeral services will be Thursday, Oct. 2, at 11 a.m. in the Pilgrim Baptist Church. Burial will follow at Chapel Hill Memorial Gardens. The Clark-O'Neal Funeral Home has been entrusted with the arrangements.