Sarah Lee Reeves

Posted at 4:56 PM on Aug 31, 2018

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Sarah Lee Reeves was the fourth of five children born to the late Robert Lee and Suddie James Reeves. She was born on March 15, 1919 in Statesville, N.C., and entered into eternal rest on Tuesday, August 28, 2018, at the age of 99. Two brothers, Charles F. Reeves Sr. and Franklin Otto Reeves; two sisters, Ruth Reeves Reid and Genevieve Reeves McCrea; and brother-friend, James Lincoln Heaggans Sr. preceded her in death.

Miss Reeves was raised in Statesville and graduated from Morningside Negro High School in 1936. Sarah continued her education at Livingstone College in Salisbury, where she earned an Arts and Sciences degree in 1945. Upon graduating, she was accepted into the Eckels College of Mortuary Science. She graduated in 1947 and became a trailblazer by being not only the first female embalmer, but the first black female embalmer in North Carolina. In 1954, she was the first center supervisor at the Garfield Recreation Center after it opened. Sarah worked at the Rutledge and Bigham Funeral Home in Statesville as a mortician and the supervisor of the Garfield Recreation Center until she moved to Baltimore, Md., to reside with two of her best friends, James and Karee Heaggans, whose kids she raised as if they were her own. Sarah spent most of her adult years in Baltimore working for the City of Baltimore Department of Recreation and Parks. She served as a director of various recreation centers where she went above and beyond, at times using her own money, to create safe, educational, fun- and sport-filled environments for many inner-city youth. Aunt Sarah, as she was affectionately called, inspired many to turn their lives around and to follow in her footsteps. In 1982, she broke the hearts of the community by announcing her decision to retire and move back to Statesville, N.C.

She then took classes to perfect new hobbies: ceramics, sculpturing, painting and music. Aunt Sarah wanted to teach her love of ceramics to the masses and received approval from Statesville city officials to start an arts and crafts program at the Garfield Recreation Center. Aunt Sarah was also an avid gardener. Her awe-inspiring rose bushes beautified the neighborhood and were featured in The Statesville Records & Landmark newspaper. She loved swimming and continued to do so as a form of exercise. Wanting to challenge herself, Sarah entered senior citizen swimming competitions, and she was unbeatable. She also received many awards in Baltimore and Statesville for her outstanding and dedicated services to the people.

Until her death, Miss Reeves was the oldest known living graduate from Morningside High School. When they tore down the school, she made a replica of the school using one of its bricks. It was one of her prized possessions. Miss Reeves started the Morningside Reunion, which included a scholarship program for young people who are relatives of former Morningside students planning to go to college. Both programs are going strong today.

Miss Reeves leaves to cherish her memory: a sister-in-law, Helen Louise Reeves of Silver Spring, Md.; three nieces, Jacqueline Tillman of Forestville, Md., Almasi Wilcots of Landover, Md., and LaTonya Reeves of Teaneck, N.J.; one nephew. Charles Reeves Jr. of Teaneck, N.J.; sister-friend Karee Mills Heaggans of Statesville, N.C.; two goddaughters, her namesake Sarah Yvonne Heaggans (Victor) of Pikesville, Md., and Lisa Adele Heaggans of Mooresville, N.C.; her loving caregiver Laverne Wilkes of Mooresville, N.C., countless other godchildren; and a host of family and friends.

Funeral services are scheduled for Saturday, September 1, 2018, at 11:30 a.m. Burial will follow at Belmont Cemetery in Statesville.

Rutledge & Bigham Mortuary is serving the family.

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