Willie Mae Bledso was born on May 11, 1929 in Pulaski, Illinois. She was the third of six children born to the late Henry Herbert Wright and the late Lula Bell Roberts-Wright. Willie Mae attended Banaker Elementary School and still remembered the name of his first teacher, Miss Anderson. Willie Mae shared other childhood memories, like the family surviving a tornado that destroyed every square inch of a two-room house except for the corner where his family was hunkered down. She enjoyed talking about the farmland they owned and riding horses, growing up tending and milking cows, having pigs, planting vegetable gardens, helping her father pick strawberries in the field and even picking cotton. Just recently on Thanksgiving 2021, she showed her grandchildren and great-grandchildren the hand-picking process she would use to separate a piece of cotton from its stalk. Additionally, his passion over the years has been to dig into the dirt and surround his home with beautiful flower gardens.
The family moved from Pulaski, Illinois to Paducah, KY, then eventually settled in Evansville, Indiana, still farming on a plot of land they acquired. She often indicated that with the farms, they were self-sufficient; they ate what they raised. Willie Mae recalled that his father killed pigs and kept them in salt houses to preserve them. After settling in Evansville, she attended Lincoln High School and married Edward Vanleer when she was 18. During this union, three daughters were born, Geraldine, Talitha and Rene. Edward Vanleer predeceased her and she married John Bledso in 1999, who also predeceased her.
Willie Mae worked for several years at Deaconess Hospital in the Dietetics Department. She also worked as a preschool tutor for Evansville’s Head Start community outreach program. She accepted Christ at an early age, had a beautiful solo voice, and enjoyed singing in church choirs. As a member of the Ebenezer Baptist Church, she helped with the food program and other ministries as needed.
Willie Mae left this life on February 26, 2022. Living a full life of 92 years, she left behind an incredible legacy. She is survived by her sisters: Elsie and Pearlie Louise; daughters: Talitha and René; 7 grandchildren: Kerry, Terry (Janice), Jermaine (Dana), Tamera (Harry), Aliza, Ja’Rue and Ja’Heim; 8 great-grandchildren: Kel’von, Javan, Moriah, Kayleigh, Isaiah, Uriah, Apryl, Kerry Jr.; and a host of nieces, nephews, cousins, extended family and friends.
In addition to her parents, she was predeceased by siblings: Hubert, Harold Edward and Lula Bell; daughter: Geraldine; granddaughters: Lorita and Corita; and grandson: Amon.
In the last 2 months of her life, following a diagnosis of breast and colon cancer, she NEVER complained of pain or took ANY medication! She was lucid, poised and dignified throughout her transition to Glory. She was always smiling and trying to make everyone feel good. Mrs. Willie Mae Bledso, what a remarkable and sophisticated God-fearing lady. Affectionately known as “Big Mama”, she was truly respected and adored by so many people. To know her was to love her!
Published by Legacy on March 3, 2022.