MYRTLE SIMS PERRY always put on her finest outfit for church, complete with the big hats that she made herself, her nails impeccably sculpted.
"As a young child she was always told by her mother to give God her best and that's why she loved to dress in her finest," her family said.
"She was the diva of the church," said her daughter, Cheryl Curry.
Myrtle was not only a fashionable dresser at her church, the United House of Prayer for All People, in South Philadelphia, she played the piano for three choirs at services, directed one of them, the Echoes of McCollough, created bulletins, handled correspondence and was chairwoman of the church's Women's Day.
Myrtle Perry, who took on multiple jobs to support her family over the years, died May 2 of complications from surgery. She was 81 and lived in South Philadelphia.
She was born in Charlotte, N.C., to Elder Enoch Thomas and Connie Sims. She attended public schools there until the family moved to Philadelphia in 1938. She graduated from the Philadelphia High School for Girls, where she excelled as a gymnast.
She later studied at the Victor Business School and the Community College of Philadelphia.
Myrtle married Cleveland Charles Perry in the early '50s. They had five children.
"She was a very caring and devoted mother who stressed the importance of education and being the best you could be in any endeavor," her family said.
Myrtle worked at the Gimbels department store as a comptometer operator, Triangle Publications as an accounting clerk, and retired several years ago from the accounting department of Smurfit-Stone Container Corp.
She was only 13 when she began playing the piano at the United House of Prayer. She played for the Gospel Singers, the Young People's Choir and the Echoes of McCollough.
One of her favorite hymns was "Pass Me Not:"
Don't pass me by, gentle Savior.
Please hear my humble cry.
While on others thou art calling,
Do not pass me by.
Besides her daughter, she is survived by three sons, Charles "Eddie," Darryl and Michael; another daughter, Denise "Nee C" Brown; two sisters, Birdell S. Kennedy and Geraldine S. Dunn; 13 grandchildren and 18 great-grandchildren.