More than anything, Marilyn Deloris Baker Alston enjoyed family gatherings.
“She loved her family beyond measure. That was her purpose in life,” said daughter Suzanne Hodges.
Beyond her actual family, however, former students, her children’s friends, and the children of her friends considered her a second mother. They called her “Mama A” or “Mommy Alston.”
She was a longtime teacher, social worker, and geriatric specialist who was committed to helping others.
“Even late in life, as she had her own health issues, she would call and ask me if I could help someone else,” said Kenneth Scott, president of Beech Companies, a community service group.
Mrs. Alston, 89, of Abington, died Saturday, May 2, of complications of COVID-19 at Abington Hospital-Jefferson Health.
Mrs. Alston was the widow of former Philadelphia school board president and Beech Companies CEO Floyd W. Alston. They were married for 62 years until his death in 2012.
“She poured her whole life into her family,” Hodges said. “For everyone she loved, she poured her resources, her time, and her wisdom. The core essence of who she was was love.”
Born in Philadelphia in 1930, Mrs. Alston was the eldest of four children of Maude Evangeline Muldrow and Edward Marshall Baker. Her father was the founder of Baker Funeral Home, once a prominent Philadelphia mortuary for three generations. Her grandfather Samuel Baker had been a pastor in the A.M.E. Church.
Mrs. Alston graduated from Philadelphia High School for Girls in 1948. The same week, she began classes at Fisk University. She later studied a semester at Washington Square College, part of New York University.
She married Mr. Alston in 1950 at 19. With marriage and later motherhood, it took time and persistence to complete college. She earned her bachelor’s degree at Cheyney University and later a master’s degree.
Mrs. Alston taught at Philadelphia public schools and also taught learning-impaired children at their homes. She paused her career as her parents and her husband’s parents aged to care for them.
That experience led her to earn a master’s in social work, with a gerontology certificate from Temple University, when she was 56. She also took courses at Thomas Jefferson University and the University of Pennsylvania.
A 40-year member of Grace Baptist Church of Germantown, Mrs. Alston was a voracious reader, a cook who loved to entertain and a woman with an enormous group of friends.
She also enjoyed dancing and social clubs with her husband. She was active with the Sigma Shadows, which is affiliated with Sigma Pi Phi fraternity, Klub Tempo, and the Philly Forties.
“They had their fun, but these were the kind of social clubs that were doing projects with the NAACP," such as raising money for civil rights causes, said her son, Craig Edward Floyd Alston. "My mother was a dynamic, service-oriented person who raised us to be service-oriented and to be caring about others.”
In addition to her son and daughter, Mrs. Alston is survived by two grandchildren, and other relatives and friends.
Burial is private.