Lelia Savannah Smith Holman, 98, a founder of a Baptist church

Posted: July 29, 2014

LELIA Savannah Smith Holman had a fond memory of the apple tree that grew and flowered on the lot in Germantown where her church was to be built.

The tree may be a cherished memory, but when Providence Baptist Church was built on that lot on Haines Street near Germantown Avenue in 1942, Savannah Holman was a founding member.

In fact, her name and those of her mother and sisters were placed in the cornerstone when the church was dedicated in 1942.

At her death July 19 at age 98, Savannah was the oldest founding member. She was devoted to her church and served on a number of ministries. She lived in Germantown where she and her husband, Gollie "Duke" Holman, were popular residents of Duval Street.

They were known to be neighbors who were always available to help out when needed, and charmed everyone with their cheery personalities.

Savannah, as she was known to family and friends, and her husband were possessed of fine singing voices and sang on the church choir.

One of their favorite hymns was the traditional "Blessed Assurance":

This is my story, this is my song,

Praising my Savior all the day long.

They were married on Oct. 24, 1941. He died in 1986.

She and her husband enjoyed taking road trips to visit family members, attend family events and visit Atlantic City, to which they often took their nieces to frolic on the beach.

Savannah was born in Philadelphia to John Smith and the former Lelia Pugh. She was the last of her four siblings. She graduated from Germantown High School.

She began her spiritual journey at Mount Zion Baptist Church. When she joined Providence Baptist, in 1938, it had no building. Services were held in the home of a member, Esther Smith, with the Rev. R.C. Lamb Sr. presiding, until the building went up.

She served as church clerk, Missionary Society member and a member of the choir. Savannah was always available for whatever the church needed done.

Savannah was an excellent cook. She was faithful in preparing the traditional New Year's Day dinner, and always cooked her Sunday dinner on Saturday.

Her homemade rolls and coleslaw were family legends - "the best in Germantown," her family wrote in a tribute.

She also applied her skill with needle and thread to craft gifts for family and friends.

Savannah was an active participant in the Germantown Center in the Park, which offers classes in crafts and other skills, and provides a busy senior center.

She also sang with the Songsters Unlimited Choir, a 41-member singing group that was notable for songs so inspirational, they could bring crowds to their feet.

She is survived by nieces and nephews.

Services: Were Thursday. Burial was in Ivy Hill Cemetery.

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