Essie M. Shepherd, longtime postal worker, business owner, and real estate agent, has died at 88 – The Philadelphia Inquirer

She worked full-time, raised a family, anchored her church community, and never met a person who remained a stranger. “She always maintained an embracing, open and welcoming home,” her family said.
Essie M. Shepherd, 88, of Philadelphia, longtime postal service worker, business owner, and real estate agent, died Saturday, Jan. 28, of complications from kidney disease at Saunders House assisted living center in Wynnewood.
Mrs. Shepherd worked for the U.S. Postal Service for nearly three decades, serving as shop steward for the employees union and later as a supervisor. She also owned Just For You, a women’s clothing store in Philadelphia and, after moving to Willingboro in 1995, sold real estate in South Jersey.
“She was a hard worker who started working when she was 14 years old,” said her son Joseph. “She was definitely an organizer and outgoing to the extent that she liked working with people.”
The daughter of a church deacon, Mrs. Shepherd was active in her congregation throughout her life. She sang in the youth choir at Bright Hope Baptist Church in North Philadelphia and later attended services at Deliverance Evangelist Church in North Philadelphia and Nothing But The Word Deliverance Church in Florence.
“She was a resolute and constant church mother,” her family said in a tribute.
The youngest of eight children, Mrs. Shepherd embraced the value of education and personal growth, as expressed to her by her mother, and served as longtime caregiver to her mother, brother, daughter, and several young people with special needs. “She represented unconditional love,” her family said.
Essie Mae Howard was born Nov. 3, 1934, in Philadelphia. She grew up in West Philadelphia and attended Temple University to study business after high school. She met Eugene Shepherd in the neighborhood, and they were married for more than 40 years, and had son Joseph and daughters Kim and Yvette.
Her husband’s family is from McClellanville, S.C., a small fishing town in rural Charleston County, and Mrs. Shepherd, friendly and interesting, became a welcomed figure in their lives. “Many wonderful summers were spent visiting family members in McClellanville,” her family said.
Mrs. Shepherd was known for her collection of hats, which she displayed nearly every week at church. She liked to vacation in Wildwood and play pinochle, and folks routinely gathered at her home to sample her cooking, especially the ziti, pig feet, and black-eyed peas.
“She always maintained an embracing, open, and welcoming home,” her family said. “Her hospitality and culinary expertise were quite legendary.”
Mrs. Shepherd was so generous that, no matter who you were, you received a Christmas present if you visited her during the holidays. “Her life was based on the love she had for her family, and she showed that to other people,” said her daughter-in-law Kim. “She treated people like she wanted to be treated. For her, there were no strangers.”
Devoted to keeping her relatives connected, Mrs. Shepherd organized family trips and reunions and “always encouraged us to fellowship,” her family said. “She had lots of love and charity,” her son said. “She was family-oriented and pulled us all together.”
In addition to her son and daughter-in-law, Mrs. Shepherd is survived by two grandchildren, 10 great-grandchildren, two sisters, and other relatives. Her husband, daughters, three grandchildren, four brothers, and one sister died earlier.
A celebration of her life is to be held Wednesday, Feb. 8, at Faith Deliverance Worship Center, 1304 N. Route 130, Burlington, N.J. 08016. Viewing is 9 to 11 a.m., with a service to follow.
Donations in her name may be made to Nothing But The Word Deliverance Church, 2071 Route 130, Florence, N.J. 08518.


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