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Alice Blair, an accounts processor and caregiver to siblings and neighbors, dies at 86

Mrs. Blair had several careers and two sons whom she raised in Southwest Philadelphia. She was known for quietly helping her elder sisters and those in need in her neighborhood.

Alice Blair
Alice BlairRead moreCourtesy of the Cothran Family (Custom credit)

Alice Blair, 86, of Tioga, an accounts processor for the Aramark Co. and a caregiver to her older siblings and neighbors, died in her sleep Dec. 17, of complications from dementia at Caring Heart Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Germantown.

Born in Philadelphia, she was the youngest of six children. Her parents, Eliza Jane Collier and Jesse Cothran, had moved north from Greenwood, S.C., as part of the migration of southern African American families in the 1930s to find work and a better life in northern cities.

Mrs. Blair graduated from William Penn High School and earned a certificate after completing barber’s school. She cut men’s hair for several years before taking nursing courses and then went to work as a nurses’ aides supervisor at the Medical College of Pennsylvania.

She made one more career change by earning an associate’s degree in secretarial skills at Peirce College in Center City. She was hired by Aramark to administer accounts that resupplied vending machines, and provided coffee and water stocks for offices. She also handled accounts for catering, her family said.

The clients were institutions throughout Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware.

“She proved to be such an excellent account handler, with a great work ethic, that the company chose her to train other employees in her department,” the family said in a tribute. “She was well-liked by colleagues and supervisors.”

In 1955, she married Nelson E. Blair. They had two sons whom they raised in Southwest Philadelphia.

She mentored young girls in her community who needed a mother figure, the family said.

Mrs. Blair was also a devoted caregiver for her older sisters, Lellia Bell Cromer and Ruby Washington. Both spent their final years at Caring Heart Rehabilitation and Nursing Center. Much later, after they died, Mrs. Blair, also moved to the senior facility.

As a child, Mrs. Blair became a member of Mount Zion Methodist Church in North Philadelphia. As an adult, she joined and supported the Memorial Tabernacle Baptist Church near her home in Tioga.

She took part in the church’s outreach activities that served the community. On her block, Mrs. Blair was known for quietly helping her neighbors in times of need with food, clothing, and money. In one case, she contributed to a fund to bury a neighbor whose family couldn’t afford it.

Her family said she followed the teachings of Matthew 5:16: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”

In April 2019, when her health gave out, she moved into Caring Heart, where she lived under the watchful eye of her family.

“She enjoyed sitting in the window lobby to chat with friends and passersby,” the family said. “Alice enjoyed worship services in the facility’s chapel.”

She had a wry sense of humor, her family said.

Her husband, from whom she was separated, died several years ago. All five of Mrs. Blair’s siblings and a son, Nicholas, also died earlier. She is survived by a son, Michael; a grandson; a great-grandson; many nieces and nephews, and a large extended family.

A viewing and burial on Dec. 19 were private.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Alzheimer’s Association National Processing Center, Box 96011, Washington, D.C. 20090, or through