Electrician Horace Reese Sr., shared his power willingly

Posted: March 08, 2012

HORACE REESE SR. was the kind of guy who was always available to help his community, his church, his friends and family.

And he did it quietly, selflessly, with no ostentation. The satisfaction for him came in the doing of the deed.

Horace Reese, a master electrician who worked on ships at three shipyards, an active member of the NAACP, a devoted churchman and a family patriarch, died Friday. He was 99 and was living in Rio Vista, Calif., but had lived for 70 years in Philadelphia.

Horace was born in Warm Springs, Ga., the 10th of the 14 children of George and Mattie Reese. He came to Philadelphia in 1934.

He learned his trade at Murrell Dobbins Vocational Technical High School in North Philadelphia. He worked as an apprentice electrician at the University of Pennsylvania and at the Sun Shipyard & Dry Dock Co. in Delaware County.

He went to the New York Shipyard in Camden as a journeyman electrician. There he worked on the Kitty Hawk, the last conventionally fueled aircraft carrier in the Navy fleet.

The ship was so huge (more than 1,000 feet long, with a 282-foot beam) that its launching in 1960 posed a problem. If it had been launched down the ways, the conventional method, it would have flooded Philadelphia across the river. So it was launched by flooding the dry dock and floating it there.

After New York Ship, Horace moved on to the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, where he earned the status of master electrician. He also operated his own electrical business during his career.

While growing up in Warm Springs, Horace met Maude Ballard. They were married on June 6, 1933. She died in 1998 after 65 years of marriage.

As an active member of the NAACP in Philadelphia, Horace became involved in civil-rights activities. He attended meetings, helped produce fliers, and pitched in wherever he was needed.

"If you needed him, he would be right there," said his niece Gloria Blount. "He did things in his own quiet way. He never sought any recognition."

Horace started driving at age 12 in Georgia, and was still driving into his early 90s.

He was a longtime member of Holy Tabernacle Church, joining when it was in Tinicum Township, Delaware County, and staying with it when it moved to 425 S. 60th St. in West Philadelphia.

It later was renamed Taylor Tabernacle Church, under the pastorate of the late Dr. C.B. Taylor. Horace was a deacon and an usher and was always available for whatever the church needed.

"His legacy of love will be remembered and appreciated by those who loved him dearly," his niece said.

Horace was living in Mount Airy when he moved to California to live with his son, Horace Jr.

Besides his son, he is survived by a daughter, Betty Johnson; another son, Gregory; 10 grandchildren; 19 great-grandchildren, and four great-great-grandchildren.

Services: 11 a.m. Tuesday at Oxford Presbyterian Church, 8501 Stenton Ave. Friends may call at 9 a.m.

Contact John F. Morrison at 215-854-5573 or morrisj@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @johnfmorrison

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