THERESA B. FARER earned the nickname "Jazzy Lady" because she was, well, jazzy. She loved music and never missed a chance to join a line dance.
She was always fashionably turned out, had a winning smile and such a giving personality that she charmed everyone who knew her.
Even young people took to her. Friends of her grandson Jamal Jackson adopted her as their "Granny." You don't get that kind of respect from kids unless you earn it. And Theresa earned it.
Theresa Farer, a devoted family matriarch, active churchwoman and longtime community activist through her membership in the Urban League, died May 16. She was 87 and lived in West Oak Lane.
She was born in Philadelphia, the only child of Maybelle and Major Mackie. She graduated in 1942 from William Penn High School, serving as class president for two years.
While still in high school, she worked for the architect who designed the Cheltenham Mall, lending her eye for design to the project.
When she graduated, World War II was raging and Theresa went off to do her part. She worked for the federal government at the Pentagon for a time, then returned to Philadelphia to join the U.S. Signal Corps.
She worked in procurement and rose to become a supervisor in that division. She was proud that she was the first African-American woman to attain the rank of GS-11.
Theresa retired from the government at the age of 50 and did secretarial work at the Temple University School of Medicine, where she worked for the dean.
She married Howard "Buddy" Cunningham in 1953. He died in 1979. In 1989, she married James Farer, who died in 1992.
Theresa was baptized at Jones Tabernacle Methodist Church, and later became a member of Second Macedonia Baptist, where she was a trustee, church clerk and president of Pastor's Aide, as well as being active in the Sunday school, the Sheepfold Ministries and the Giving of Self Partnership.
"She was wonderful to work with," said Geraldine Gooden, head of the Trustee Board. "She was someone you could always depend on. No matter what assignment she was given, you could be sure it was done to perfection."
"She had a beautiful smile," said Deacon Bryant Robinson. "It was genuine because it came from the love she had in her heart. It made you want to be around her."
Her grandson said that his friends were attracted to her "love and her warm spirit. They would always ask how Granny was doing and they would come over just to be with her."
Patricia Coulter, president and CEO of the Urban League of Philadelphia, said that Theresa was a "great treasure for the organization."
"She always wanted to be engaged in the community," Coulter said. "I was the first woman to head the Urban League and she was very helpful to me. She welcomed me with open arms.
"I think what I'll miss most about her was her spirit. She had such spunk. She didn't mind saying what was on her mind, but she did it in such a way as not to demean a person."
She also was a member of the Electra Club of International Toastmasters.
"Theresa loved to entertain her family and friends," said her daughter Robin Gladden. "She was a fashionable and stylish woman known for her impeccable taste and friendly smile."
Besides her daughter and grandson, she is survived by two other daughters, Anita Rogers and Verniece Scott, and another grandson, John B. Scott Jr.