Edith Bella Harrell, 76, the 'Roadrunner'

Posted: September 21, 2012

SOME PEOPLE book cruises to the Caribbean, or take flights to the capitals of Europe or other romantic places.

Edith Bella Thomas Harrell hopped on a SEPTA bus.

That was her favorite thing to do. She had every SEPTA bus schedule for Philadelphia and the suburbs, and also rode NJ Transit.

"Being a homebody, Edith loved to travel on public transportation," her family said.

Edith Harrell, a 25-year employee of Rite Aid, a union official, active churchwoman and dedicated family matriarch, died Sept. 7 at age 76.

At Rite Aid, Edith became a member of Local 1357 of the old Retail Clerks and Managers Union. When the union became the United Food and Commercial Workers, she was elected to the office of nonfood vice president of Local 1776.

She received a number of certificates of achievement from the union.

Edith was born in Philadelphia to Edith Adelaide Wright Thomas and Albert Stanley Thomas Sr. She grew up in Southwest Philadelphia and attended Patterson Elementary School, Tilden Junior High and John Bartram High, from which she graduated in 1954.

She had a beautiful singing voice and sang with the John Bartram a cappella choir for President Dwight Eisenhower's 63rd birthday in 1953.

Edith studied at the Apex College of Beauty and Cosmetology, graduating in June 1959. She practiced beauty culture part time for most of the rest of her life, maintaining her license well into the 1990s.

She went to work for Gould, Inc., a circuit-breaker company, as an office administrator. After Gould closed in 1974, she joined Rite Aid as a customer sales representative. She retired in 2000.

She married the late David Harrell on Feb. 14, 1964.

In her youth, Edith belonged to Friendship United African Methodist Episcopal Church. In 1982, she joined Vine Memorial Baptist Church, where she served as a member of the Senior Ushers Ministry. She also was a faithful student of the Sunday school adult class and the weekly Bible-study class.

Edith received a number of awards from the church, including a Certificate of Appreciation in 2004, an Appreciation Award in 2006 and the Servant Award in 2011.

She enjoyed going out for breakfast, after which she would head for the malls. Her family called her "the Roadrunner."

Edith's favorite quotation, which she took from "60 Minutes" personality Andy Rooney, was, "Always keep your words soft and sweet, just in case you have to eat them."

She was a "beautiful person, inside and out, classy and feisty," her family said.

She is survived by a daughter, Paula Graves, and a brother, Albert Stanley Thomas Jr.

Services: Were Sept. 14. Burial was in Chelten Hills Cemetery.

Contact John F. Morrison at morrisj@phillynews.com or 215-854-5573.

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