Cora Letha Ellerby left her earthly vessel at exactly 11:02 am, Monday, June 12th, 2023, smooth-browed and snoring in comfort.
She entered the world in Rowland, North Carolina, the youngest of two daughters on March 10th, 1942, born to loving parents Maggie Love Alford and John Henry Ellerby.
She grew up in a sharecropping family during Jim Crow picking tobacco, despising tobacco worms, and watching her mother fend off the occasional wayward snake. She was an introspective child who made cornsilk dolls, shot homemade arrows, and had a talent for art.
While she watched her athletic older sister Grace excel at basketball, she later found herself and her career calling after excelling in a typing course in high school. She typed well and fast enough to be hired at the Pentagon, working for Army Personnel, among selected Black women working in that capacity, just as the Civil Rights Movement was gaining traction. She rented an apartment with her best friend Betty. She traveled and lived well; a statuesque elegant big-eyed, gap-toothed girl of small-town NC, who became an accomplished woman of DC.
She took great pleasure in being a loving aunt to her sister’s children, spoiling them when she could, living and loving well those who had the good fortune of being in her life.
One day, on a whim, after realizing traffic would impede her workday, she took the day off one morning and marched with the crowds of people blocking her route in the summer of 1963, witnessing Marian Anderson sing and Martin Luther King speak at the March for Jobs and Freedom on Washington. She took great pride in having been a part of the historic moment.
Years later, she gave birth to her only child in 1976, a daughter named Margo whom she said entered the world babbling instead of crying.
She continued her career, now in a government office building in Virginia, making the long daily commute for 30 years to ensure a good life for her family. She earned a commendation from Lieutenant General Robert L. Ord III for her many years of service.
She attended plays, festivals, and parades, taking her daughter, niece, and on occasion, her Aunt Aletha to a local sprawling orchard, as well. She traveled almost yearly to see her beloved mother in Rowland and to Myrtle Beach.
After Cora retired from her career, she returned to Rowland and eventually took on her mother’s full-time care. After her mother’s passing, she continued to find purpose in gardening, bowling, and competing in the Senior Olympics, earning several medals. She did her best to fight off the grief of losing her mother. As the years passed, however, that grief narrowed her focus, and life’s routines often slipped. She too had a life-changing stroke but survived it, wanting nothing more than to live her final years in the home she purchased years ago for her mother.
She enjoyed being on the porch of that home watching the hummingbirds. She rolled her chair around local shopping centers and loved engaging with every friend and stranger she encountered. With a few more adventures in store, she witnessed a solar eclipse, attended the Robeson County Fair, and often went to the movies.
Her health eventually declined to the point where she was bedbound. Still, she enjoyed watching her westerns, listening to Tom Joyner, observing the birds from her window, and keeping up with her stories. She lived each moment until her final one reaching for the next.
Now, that she has peacefully transitioned, she is finally reunited with her beloved mother.
She is survived by her daughter Margo Mealey, sister Grace Ellerby Kaiser, nieces, nephews, several grandnieces and grandnephews, and many friends, family, and loved ones in and around Rowland NC, and beyond.