THE WAITES family of West Philadelphia never thought of Loreen Jones as anything but a treasured member of the family, even if she was a foster kid.
"Loreen joined the Waites family circle when she was 14 months old," said Jean Waites-Howard, who was 14 years old when Loreen arrived. "She was the beloved baby of the family."
Jean more or less adopted her "baby sister," taking her everywhere, the baby propped on her hip. And Jean's mother, Bessie Waites, was no less attentive.
"Loreen was indeed Mommy's baby," Jean said. "They spent many hours together at home and during weekly grocery shopping. Loreen was an integral part of the family."
And when Loreen got old enough, Jean, a teacher, evangelist and civil rights leader, took her to demonstrations in Washington, D.C., and elsewhere.
Loreen Jones, a home health care worker who enjoyed helping the elderly and didn't let serious health issues slow her down, died Dec. 15 of heart disease. She was 52 and lived in that tight-knit neighborhood around 55th Street and Lansdowne Avenue.
"I was active in the peace movement," Jean said. "Loreen accompanied me and my youngest brother, Mickey, to anti-war demonstrations in Washington."
They had one close call. "We arrived in Washington when a demonstration had been cancelled by the authorities," Jean said. "We were met by police on horses. I had to drive quickly to avoid our being arrested."
In the 1970s, Jean and Loreen joined demonstrators in Wilmington, N.C., in support of the "Wilmington 10," nine men and a woman who were arrested on arson charges after violent protests against racial bias in the school system. The suspects were sentenced to long prison terms, but the convictions were later overturned by a federal court.
Jean was then the Philadelphia coordinator of the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, and Loreen worked with her. They took a bus to North Carolina paid for by music impresario Kenny Gamble.
When Loreen arrived at the Waites home, she had serious hair issues. "Mommy focused on a plan to grow Loreen's hair," Jean said. "Mommy made a special hair grease. I braided her hair and greased her scalp daily. Mommy and I were always proud of our combined efforts, and Loreen often heard this story in later years."
Loreen attended Overbrook High School and went to work in the home health care field, working mostly with older folk.
"She enjoyed working with the elderly," Jean said. "She often became very attached to them. Many of their family members kept in touch with Loreen. She was indeed valued as a care provider."
"Loreen was only seven years older than her nephew, Demarcus Waites," Jean said, "so they really were playmates. She spent much time at the family home. She was an aunt to her great-nieces and nephews and a friend to extended family members."
As a child, Loreen attended Sunday School at Resurrection Baptist Church, at 54th Street and Lansdowne Avenue, where her adopted mother taught about the Bible.
In later years, Loreen lost a leg to diabetes, and developed heart disease. She died at Besides Jean, she is survived by another sister, Florence Waites; three brothers, Dr. Wendell H. Waites, McKinley J. Waites and Preston Gibson.
Services: Were Wednesday.