Today, we gather to honor the life of a remarkable woman, Ursula Eleanor Isaac. She was born in Harlem, New York on April 20, 1932. The only child of Maude Lewis Russell and the eldest daughter of Charles Alonzo. She passed away in her sleep at age 91 on May 2, 2023 at home with her daughter Donna, warm and comfortable in her own bed. She leaves behind a legacy that will inspire generations to come.
Ursala was a single mother to daughters, Laurie (deceased), Regina, Donna and Cindy. At the age of 32, Ursala suffered a major stroke from a brain aneurysm. Strange that Donna was with her then too. She was told that her life expectancy was short. But she determined that her life was for her daughters and she set out to make sure they had everything they needed. She wasn’t perfect, none of us are, but she was always an example of what a capable adult should be.
Ursala worked tirelessly at many different jobs, and still managed to provide her daughters with an education that would allow them to help provide for their families. Early on she trained for and became a licensed beautician working alongside her mother in her mother’s Brooklyn beauty salon. Ursala was a force of nature. Not content to rest on her laurels, she went back to school to get her insurance carrier's license and sell insurance policies in East New York Brooklyn so that she could be in the same vicinity as her children while they attended neighborhood schools. While working full-time, and raising her girls, she founded a medical transcription school for single mothers, showing them the same love and support she had given to her own daughters. One of her transcription students was Margaret Munnerlyn, who was also a single mother, and who later became an award winning author and herbalist.
Her commitment to serving veterans as a Loan Specialist for the Veterans Administration for over 15 years was a reflection of her deep compassion and love for others. And her work as one of the most skilled Word Processing Operators at top NYC law firms was a testament to her intelligence and dedication, and even after retiring from the VA, she didn't slow down. Instead, she went back to school and earned a BA at the age of 65, becoming a substitute teacher for the Hillsborough County Public Schools in Tampa, FL.
In addition to her many accomplishments and acts of service, it has to be noted that this incredible woman had a great sense of humor and she recognized a good joke when she heard it. She had a quick wit with a little side of sarcasm. She wasn’t all work and no play. Listen, she loved to eat, dance and laugh! Her family can attest to that!
But the thing that struck me most was that she was helpful. It extended beyond her immediate family. Several times during her lifetime she invited family members to stay with her family when they needed it. Ursala helped her friend Maria to become a US Customs Border Control Officer, she helped her daughter Regina with her children while she worked towards her college degree, she trained Donna helping her to earn a living in NYC law firms and was present for the birth of each of Donna’s children, helped her grandson Manny pay for college and law school, and when she stopped driving gave her car to her grandson Rashid. Those are just a few of the acts that demonstrated her selflessness and commitment to helping others. There are many other instances.
Her many acts of kindness were a reflection of her deep love for her family and friends. She maintained an unwavering dedication to making the lives of those she cared for better. She will be remembered not only for her remarkable achievements but also for the strength and logic that she brought into the lives of those around her.
Ursala is survived by her daughters Regina, Donna, and Cindy. Her grandchildren Cheyenne, Charisma, Brooklynn, Kelley, Ryan, Jillian, Answorth, Rashid, Elijah, Manny, Corey, and Amber, who were blessed to have a loving Grandma who didn’t meddle and was willing to help when she could. Her legacy lives on through her great-grandchildren, Brandon, Heaven, Chayim, Koen, Joan, Josiah, Ariyahu, Kate, Hadassah, Gabriel, Mario III, Makai, Maximus, Madison, Leonardo, and great, great-granddaughter Leah. She has three surviving first cousins, Jean Akins who is now our family’s matriarch, Vivian Bailey, and Cathy Akins, many second cousins Timothy, Sharon, Lisa, James, Vincent, Theresa (who we also called Dawn), Andre, Miriam, Maggie, Aubrey, Anthony, Vivian, Bernadette, Demetria, Martin and Rose, and there are many 4th cousins we couldn’t list here and last but not least Ursala’s paternal sisters, Sheila Ward and Verna Walker, along with all of their children and grandchildren.
And now, as we say goodbye to this amazing woman, we are comforted by the knowledge that her legacy lives on in the lives of all those she touched. She will be remembered for her kindness, her strength, her ability to laugh at a good joke, her love of dancing, and her unwavering determination to make the world a better place. Rest in peace, dear mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, great-great-grandmother, sister, cousin and friend. You will be deeply missed, but your memory will always be a source of inspiration to us all.