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Maggie Mae Blanchard
September 4, 1921 ~ July 20, 2023 (age 101) 101 Years Old
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Maggie Mae Harris was born on September 21, 1921, on a farm in Craven County, North Carolina. She was the first child of Oscar and Clarissa Harris and the oldest of their ten children. Maggie attended elementary school and graduated from high school in Craven County. After high school, Maggie joined the southern migration north, stopping in Virginia to study cosmetology, which back then meant, “learning how to do hair”. Eventually, Maggie would continue north to New York City where she found factory work. Most close friends and family recall her work at a sweater factory as they were gifted many a sweater throughout the time she worked there. Not content to work in a factory, Maggie learned the technology of the time, keypunching, and moved to office work at Blue Cross Blue Shield in midtown Manhattan.
Not content to have one job, Maggie also worked part time for many years at Chase Bank in lower Manhattan. Maggie’s dual income helped her become a solid financial resource for herself and her entire family. This was especially important because, tragically, Maggie’s mother passed away when Maggie was 19 years old. As the oldest sibling Maggie would go on to take responsibility for raising her two younger brothers, Oscar, and Ed, who were just six months and 2 years old, respectively, when their mother passed away. In addition to raising her brothers, Maggie had her own daughter, Clarissa Gaskins, who was born in 1940.
Once she was established, Maggie brought Oscar, Ed, and Clarissa to live with her in New York. In addition to working Maggie loved a good hobby. She learned to sew and would make most of her own clothes. She took up crocheting and knitting. She would travel with her family and famously took a trip on her own to Israel with her church. Maggie was also a woman of faith. She was a devoted member of Mt Moriah Baptist Church, serving as a Deaconess for many years until the church closed in 2010.
Eventually, Maggie would retire from Chase and Blue Cross Blue Shield but that didn’t stop her work. She went on to work a temporary job with an accountant, took a course to learn how to use computers and improved her typing skills. Maggie would also go on to volunteer at Mt Moriah’s Food Kitchen, serving the homeless and the hungry. She took the walk from her home on 131st Street and Seventh Ave to 126th Street and Fifth Avenue twice a week and worked for 5 hours each day until the age of 85. This work was deeply satisfying to her, and she was greatly saddened when the kitchen closed during the financial crisis in 2008. She then turned her focus to taking care of her aged, but still “baby brother”, Oscar Harris.
At the age of 88, Maggie developed early-stage dementia. The disease greatly affected her memory but never diminished her spirit. She remained socially engaged for many years and enjoyed local outings and trips with her family. By the age of 97, Maggie showed signs of slowing down but retained her humor and spirit. Maggie left us peacefully on July 20, 2023, at the age 101. She was a source of joy to everyone who interacted with her before her condition and after. She leaves as her legacy a stellar example of a life well lived with strength and dignity, care, and character.
Maggie is survived by her daughter, Clarissa Eubanks, her granddaughter, Renee Eubanks, her siblings, Moses Harris, Mary Cannon, and Lucille Alexander, her long-time caretaker Patsy Jeffers, and a host of nieces, nephews, and their offspring. Maggie loved her family dearly and would often say with a big smile at family events where she was enjoying herself, “there’s nothing like family”. Take comfort that she loved you all as much as you loved her.