LELA MAE LEWIS was born September 3, 1942 in Buffalo, New York to John L. and Annie Daniels Lewis. Being the oldest of three daughters, she was named after her paternal grandmother, Lela Lewis and her mother’s sister, Nona Mae Daniels.
By the time this chubby little bundle of love was walking she would often fuss when her father would not share his extremely hot peppers with her. For the rest of her life Mae, as she was known, could eat the hottest food and peppers without flinching. When Mae became school aged, she attended the neighborhood school, P.S. # 75, located diagonally across from her home. She embraced education and entered Junior High, attending P.S. #87; she loved singing in the Glee Club. After graduating from School #87, Lela attended Bennett High School where she majored in Business. After graduation, she attended State University of New York at Buffalo.
Church and Spiritual Training
Like most of the Lewis grandchildren, Mae grew up in Mt. Zion Church of God, Holiness, which was right next door to the Lewis home. She participated in the Sunshine Band, performed in all programs and sang in the Children’s choirs. Sunday School attendance was mandatory and afternoon Sunday and evening services followed. If you were tired on Monday morning you knew, from your family’s spiritual training, God was able to provide. As a teen, Mae became a member of the Purity Club, which meant she was able to have fun and receive training in preparation for “Holy Dating.”
As an adult member of Mt. Zion, Mae sang with the Mass Choir, which was later combined with the Senior Choir. She also sang with the Mt. Zion Concert Choir and the Women’s Chorale. Sister Lela Mae Lewis Alston was baptized along with her sister and nephew. When called upon, Mae helped serve at church dinners and other occasions as a member of an adjunct culinary committee. Sister Alston remained faithful in her attendance to Mt. Zion until her mobility became an issue, but she continued to support her beloved Mt. Zion, both financially and spiritually.
Courtship, Marriage and Family Activities
It was at the University of Buffalo, in an Anthropology class, where Mae met the love of her life, Leondras James Alston. He was a Business major and Mae was a Physical Education major. While the couple dated, James, as he was better known, became a member of Mt. Zion. After a brief courtship, Mae and James married on October 22 in 1966. In 1968, their first born, Linda Suzanne, arrived on April 22. James was one of the proudest dads you could ever imagine. Two years later their son, Lawrence Michael, was born on April 20, 1970. Mae’s loving, immediate family was complete with her husband, children and the Lord in her heart and home. Some of Mae’s proudest moments were when her children graduated from grammar school, high school and college.
Lela Mae Alston was a nurturing mother who was meticulous about her children’s attire, especially when they were attending church. She would tell them not to dust, which meant, “Don’t rub up against a nearby car when getting into the family car with your church outfits on.” Linda and Michael were expected to attend all church youth activities and worship services just as their mother had been expected to do.
The Alston Family traveled to many of the Churches of God, Holiness National Conventions and Minister’s Council around the United States often traveling in motor homes. When the children were small, family vacations with grandparents, sister and brother-in-law, nephew and sometimes a cousin or two, were a staple in the summer. Mae wanted her children to experience as many of the nation’s theme parks as possible from Disneyland in California to Disney World in Florida, as well as those in Canada. Again, traveling to each one via motor homes. Mae also enjoyed cruises, which would take them to islands throughout the Caribbean Mexico, and Central America.
Mae loved holidays, too. She enjoyed shopping for Christmas gifts for her family and friends; she spared no expense. She often remarked that she liked every gift that she gave and often secretly bought one for herself. It was nothing for Mae to tell her sister to open her parent’s door for a delivery while she was at work. Sometimes it would be a new television, stove or refrigerator. It didn’t matter to her that they could afford these things themselves, she just wanted to buy them for her beloved parents. If someone Mae cared about had a problem and money could fix it, if she had it at the time, she would quietly pass it along with no fanfare. She also loved family dinners. The bigger the better she felt, often encouraging her mother and sister to prepare more dishes than they had planned; most often they obliged.
Mae’s earliest job was working in a little diner for a wonderful woman who loved Mae like a daughter. Mrs. Davis was a wonderful cook and successful, honest, church-going business woman. Mae was only allowed to work for Mrs. Davis because she had earned the trust of Mae’s parents who were very protective. Mae didn’t earn a lot but she didn’t care. Her job was fun and the food was great.
Mae loved to work, which prompted her to take several temporary jobs before and during college. She worked the night shift for a small company that manufactured aluminum doors. She worked at the Trico plant briefly, but when Bell Telephone (New York Telephone) hired her, it would be her last place of employment. At the telephone company, she was promoted several times and acquired skills that would make financial gains possible. With a quite lucrative salary, she was able to bless others like she wanted to do. She was also liberal with her church offerings. Mae retired with over thirty years of service and had seen the company evolve from Bell Telephone to Verizon.
When Mae began to have problems with mobility, it slowed her down tremendously. She became housebound but she didn’t complain. Eventually she found a way to shop at home and the gifts began to arrive just as before. She would order birthday, Christmas, Father’s Day and Mothers’ Day gifts for family. She continued to support her church by sending her offerings. In January 2018 Mae was hospitalized. She returned home to her family in May 2018. Shortly after, she returned to the Lord. An excerpt from her favorite Bible passage from Isaiah 54:17 was “No weapon formed against you shall prosper,” which she always wore on a chain around her neck.
On Tuesday, May 29, 2018, Lela “Mae” Lewis Alston received the greatest grace of eternal peace; She was called home from this life into the open arms of the Creator.
Lela “Mae” Lewis Alston made special memories for her family and friends to share through the love she so freely gave to them all:
Her beloved husband, Leondras James Alston; daughter and son-in-law, Linda S. and Deacon Kevin U. Beckman; son, Lawrence Michael Alston; granddaughters, Kaelynn E. and Kearsten A. Beckman; mother, Annie E. Lewis; sister and brother-in-law, Joanne L. and Floyd Williams; nephew, Aaron Williams; brother, Shawn Lewis; niece, Shamirah Lewis; special cousins, Verna L. and Deacon Edward Lewis and their children and grandchildren; brother and sister-in-law, Elder Mel and Claire Alston and their children, grandchildren and great-grandchild.
She also leaves to cherish her memories: Aunt Beryl Daniels (Uncle Edward deceased); Aunt Margaret Lewis (Uncle Eugene deceased); Godchild, Katrina Baker; and a host of Daniels cousins, Lewis cousins, and Sullivan descendants and many good friends and church family.
Mae was preceded in death by her precious father, John L. Lewis and a baby sister, Melissa Christine Lewis; special cousin, Margaret Hulett; her paternal and maternal grandparents, many aunts, cousins and friends and one special nephew, Kevin Lewis.
Family will receive friends Saturday, June 2, 2018, 11am at Mt. Zion Church of God Holiness, 32 Oakgrove Ave. Funeral will follow at 12 noon. Interment at Forest Lawn Cemetery-Buffalo, NY