|Richaleen Ray Atterbeary|| |
| Richaleen Ray Atterbeary was born in Denmark, S.C., on March 12, 1903, the third daughter of Richmond and Hattie Ray. Sadly, her father died before she was born. Richaleen was delivered three months prematurely, and the midwife said the baby was too tiny to survive. She advised Richaleen’s mother to keep the baby close and warm. Consequently, Richaleen was a sickly child, so Hattie moved her daughters to the country to nurse her ill child back to health with fresh air and homegrown vegetables.|
During Richaleen’s teen years, Hattie moved her and her sisters, Portia and Ernell, back to the city. Richaleen met and later married the late Whaley John Atterbeary in 1919. They had one child, a son, the late Knowlton Richefield Atterbeary Sr., born March 7, 1921. When her son was 4, the family moved to Philadelphia. They were employed by a prominent family, the Weavers of West Mount Airy.
Richaleen was a pioneer in desegregating the C. W. Henry School, near where she and her family lived and worked. When their son was of school age, Richaleen attempted to register him, but received negative responses from the school. At that time there were no blacks in the C. W. Henry School. Yet, she persisted until she was successful. Knowlton became the first black child to be admitted to the C. W. Henry School.
For many years, the family summered in Ocean County, N.J., where they remained employed by the Weavers and enjoyed the country lifestyle. They eventually homesteaded in Toms River, Manitou Park, along with Hattie.
Under Richaleen’s guidance, her son went on to become the first recognized African-American orthodontist in the state of Pennsylvania. Her family’s successes are a source of continuing pride for Richaleen, and she has been known to sometimes rise in church and proclaim their accomplishments.
Later, her family lived in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, when her husband, a Baptist minister, was called to a church there. Although Richaleen and her husband were in their 70s, shortly after arriving there, they adopted an infant boy, John. After the demise of her husband, her sister urged her to return to Philadelphia with John. She reinstated membership with Canaan Baptist Church, and a few years ago, her vision of Canaan’s Children’s Church came to fruition.
Richaleen was always a very active person. She loved swimming, bicycling, fishing, traveling, and driving a “fast” car. In fact, she had to be urged by the family to give up driving at the age of 85! This lovely, great lady refused to live in the assisted-living building at Germantown Home and retained her apartment until after her 100th birthday. Until that time, she continued to help others, from preschoolers to the elderly, most of whom were younger than her. It was difficult to catch her because she was constantly on the go, by car, train, or airplane.
On Tuesday, November 4, 2008, at 105 years of age, Richaleen proudly cast her vote for the first black president of the United States of America. On Sunday, November 9, 2008, she departed this life.
Richaleen was very proud of her descendants, who all strive to emulate her. They include her grandchildren, Knowlton Richefield Atterbeary Jr. (wife Rosalynne), and Marlyn Atterbeary Oatts; her great grandchildren, Knowlton Richefield Atterbeary III, Vanessa Elaine Atterbeary Esq. (husband Paul), Cian Atterbeary Oatts, Curan Xavier Oatts and Courtnay Richaleen Oatts (husband Raynell); her great-great granddaughter, Ciana Renee Oatts; her nieces, Ernell Jones, Hattie Rice and Richaleen Draine; her nephew, James Hall; her son, John Whaley Atterbeary; and her many grand, great-grand and great-great-grand nieces, nephews; and friends.
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