Our universe was diminished on October 3, 2019, when Gloria Jolley Robinson Waller departed this life. She began her journey on April 1, 1930 in Vienna, Maryland, as the 3rd daughter and 7th child in a family of ten children born to Daniel Richard and Ollie Jolley Robinson. From her very first breathe, Gloria was impressionable and intuitive, gifting her with a love of poetry, music and the arts. In her early life, she was surrounded by the love of a big family with whom she shared the work, tears and fun in the world of farm life.
Gloria received her formal education at the Vienna elementary school. Following the norm of that time, she traveled by bus from Vienna to Cambridge to further her education, graduating in 1947 from St. Clair High School. She went from St. Clair High School to continue her education at Bowie State Teacher’s College. At Bowie State Teacher’s College (now Bowie State University), she took challenging classes and played on the women’s basketball team, where she was known for her strong defensive skills. It was also at Bowie State Teacher’s College that she played on the bowling team and spent many fun-filled nights playing pinochle. She often related the story of the “house mother” scolding them for “slapping cards across the table”.
After graduating from Bowie State Teacher’s College, she taught two years in Cambridge, MD schools. She then relocated to Baltimore, MD and taught for 15 years. After a move to New York City, she continued teaching in the New York City elementary schools until she retired in 1993.
The culture in that era limited her choice of professions and she settled for a career in education, which in many ways was providential. She discovered an abiding love for teaching and children that shined through her work as a teacher for 2nd and 3rd grades. She used her creativity to teach her students all the essentials (e.g., reading, writing and math), as well as other important topics such as self-esteem and pride in one’s culture. She created annual Kwanzaa shows with her students every year to share with the student body what her students had learned about their culture. When she retired, she was one of the most loved and respected teachers at her school by administrators, faculty, staff, parents and most importantly students.
In addition to Bowie State Teacher’s College, she attended many schools for higher education including Morgan State University, City College in New York, Julliard School of Music, and Columbia University in New York.
It was at these schools that Gloria explored her own creative interests in music and creative writing. Gloria was a poet, who wrote many poems, one of which was copywritten. This poem was entitled, “They Did Not Know Us” which eloquently described the African history that was lost in the Trans-Atlantic Slave trade. Her students often read and acted out the characters in this poem in the Kwanzaa program at school each year, as a testament to the pride African Americans should have in their rich African ancestry and history.
Aside from creative writing, Gloria is probably best known as a classically trained, lyrical soprano who sang in many musical groups and church choirs. She traveled to Europe and around the country with her beautiful, powerful soprano voice. Also, for many years Gloria purchased season tickets for her and two of her family members to attend and enjoy performances at the Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center in New York City. She was a proud member of several regional and national musical associations, one of them being the National Association of Negro Musicians (NANM) and is being honored this year for her singing and commitment to the arts. Wherever her home was, be it in MD or NY, it was filled with music and her beautiful voice.
Gloria’s kindheartedness and love and care for others is based on her strong and steadfast belief in the Christian faith, which started at home when she was a little girl. And no matter where she lived, she always found a home in a Methodist church where she could join in fellowship with others and continue to learn and practice the Lord’s teachings. Gloria not only sang in the choir of every church at which she was a member, but she was very active in the church community and affairs. In New York City, her last church home was Christ Church and prior to that she was a member of the Riverside Church.
While in Maryland, Gloria married and was blessed with two beautiful girls, namely Sharon Denise McKinzie and Ella Louise Waller. As a result, she now has two beautiful grandchildren, Charla Aisha Bishop and Kurtis Joshua Rodriques. She passed on her love of music and the arts to her daughters and grandchildren.
Gloria is survived by her sisters, Lena, Ruth and Emily; daughters, Sharon and Ella; granddaughter Charla and her husband Christopher, grandson Kurtis, nieces, nephews and a host of family members and friends.