Elsie Wright Loved Kids, Fussed At Their Noisy Play

Posted: June 05, 2000

The kids on 29th Street in North Philly had to tone down their roughhouse play when Elsie Wright was around.

"She would sit outside in her wheelchair and fuss at the kids all day," chuckled Sheila Wright, a daughter who was Wright's caretaker for the last dozen years. "They used to hate to see her come outside.

"But she also gave them love. If she cooked something, she would always share it with them."

The rambunctious youngsters hardly ever turned down Wright's treats, especially when she had whipped up some of her tantalizing rice pudding.

"I don't know what her secret was," her daughter said. "But it tasted better than any rice pudding you could taste."

Elsie L. Wright, a housewife and former school crossing guard and restaurant worker who laughed at TV comedies and cried at sentimental songs, died of complications from diabetes on May 27. She was 83 and formerly lived in Germantown.

Wright suffered from diabetes for many years and was on dialysis for the past three years. Complications led to the amputation of one foot and two toes on her other foot.

"But she always held her head up," her daughter marveled. "I never heard her complain."

In her younger years, Wright was a crossing guard for Blaine Elementary School at 30th and Berks streets. She also worked for a while at a restaurant near 52nd and Market until her health began to fail.

Born in Henderson, N.C., Wright was 4 when her father moved the family to South Philadelphia following the death of her mother. She attended Girls' High School, but left during her senior year to help her family during the Depression.

She married the late Horace Wright during the 1930s and attended Cornerstone Baptist Church while occasionally visiting a Kingdom Hall to which several of her Jehovah's Witness relatives belonged. When she became homebound, Witnesses often visited for Bible study sessions.

Wright was into TV comedies and was wowed by the precision and grace of ice skaters. She read romance novels and listened to ballads by Frank Sinatra and Louis Armstrong.

Wright also is survived by four other daughters, Phyllis Willis, Shirley Smith, Trudy Sanders and Brenda Reed; five sons, Horace, John, Robert, James and George; 42 grandchildren; 58 great-grandchildren; and 12 great-great-grandchildren.

A viewing is from 10 to 11 a.m. today at Alfonso Cannon Funeral Chapel, Broad Street near Dauphin. Funeral service is at 11, followed by burial in Chelten Hills Cemetery on Washington Lane.

The Rev. Paul F. Maurer

Weekend services were held for the Rev. Paul F. Maurer, pastor emeritus of Epiphany of Our Lord Church who enjoyed playing the organ and fishing in the Poconos. He was 87 when he died of heart failure on May 30.

Father Maurer, who was appointed pastor of Epiphany in 1974 and pastor emeritus in 1988, died one day after his 57th year in the priesthood.

Born in Tremont, Pa., he graduated from Tremont High School and Pottsville Business College. He worked briefly as an accountant for a Tremont car dealership before entering St. Charles Borromeo Seminary.

Maurer was ordained on May 29, 1943, and his first assignment was as parochial vicar at Epiphany for a few months. He taught at Roman Catholic High School from 1943-72, and served as Notary, Office of the Metropolitan Tribunal, for more than 20 years.

He was pastor of St. Aloysius Church for two years before returning to Epiphany.

"He was a good organist. He played at the seminary," said Robert Maurer, a brother. "He enjoyed classical music and he led the choir at Epiphany," when he was a resident priest.

Robert Maurer said his brother was a "quiet man who loved nature."

Maurer is survived by one other brother, C.W. Maurer.

He was buried in Immaculate Conception Cemetery in Tremont.

Robert Habershaw

Services were held during the weekend for Robert Habershaw, a retired postal worker and longtime piano and voice teacher and church organist who died less than a week after his wife of 48 years.

Habershaw, 88, died Wednesday after a long illness.

A South Philadelphia native who recently lived in Mt. Airy, Habershaw was organist for at least six Philadelphia churches and several funeral homes during his lifetime. He most recently was organist at an Episcopal Church in Norristown before leaving in 1994 when his health began to fail.

Many of his piano students went on to teach music in Philadelphia and New York public schools. Two of his students - his nephew, the late Bobby Timmons, and McCoy Tyner - became noted jazz pianists.

And one of his voice students, Venetta Bogle, became his wife in 1952. She preceded him in death by a mere six days following a brief illness.

"He died the day we had her funeral," said Vanessa Habershaw, a daughter.

Robert Habershaw graduated from Central High School, attended Hampton Institute and graduated from the former Philadelphia Music Academy in the early 1930s. He was an Army sergeant stationed in Japan during World War II, and retired from the Post Office in 1973 after a 30-year career.

He watched TV sports, solved crossword puzzles and enjoyed helping his wife tend their azaleas and rhododendrons in the backyard.

Habershaw also is survived by one son, Robert; two other daughters, Barbara Habershaw and Gloria Herbert; his stepmother, Maugarite Habershaw; one stepsister, Violet Baker; and three grandchildren. He was preceded in death by one sister, Ella Timmons.

The Habershaws were buried in Chelten Hills Cemetery.

Laura Ruby Barnes

Weekend services were held for Laura Ruby Barnes, a former insurance manager who chucked it all to join a nunnery. She was 48 when she died of leukemia May 28.

Born in South Philly, Barnes graduated from St. Maria Goretti High School and the University of Pennsylvania. She managed special risks at the Firemen's Fund Insurance Co. for many years before settling in Fairfax, Va., with the company.

In 1996, after years of soul-searching, she retired from her job, gave up all of her worldly possessions and entered the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, Chesapeake Province, in Baltimore. She separated from the sisterhood in 1998 due to her health.

She returned to Reston, Va., and worshipped at St. Thomas a Becket Catholic Church where she worked as a secretary and founded a canned food drive for the homeless and a church choir. Her devotion was returned by church members who organized a round-the-clock bedside vigil in between visits from Philadelphia relatives.

Barnes is survived by three sisters, Lillian Stewart, Anita Murray and Leona Lawrence, and one brother, Albert Barnes.

She was buried at Fernwood Cemetery.

Send e-mail to taylorl@phillynews.com

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