ABOVE PHOTO: Carrie Atkins Meeks (Photo by LaShinda Clark Photography)
Carrie Atkins Meeks, whose indomitable spirit endeared her to family and friends, joined the angels on Tuesday, February 18, 2014, following an extended battle with dementia, renal cancer and spinal stenosis. She was 87.
Mrs. Meeks will be remembered by many for her will to enjoy the fruits of this life and cheerfully give the gift of her counsel to others despite the ailments that robbed her of physical freedom for more than 14 years. Her personal strength and unwavering love always defined her, say those closest to her. Many recall that as a young mother in 1951, she rescued one of her children from a burning house in Fairmont by scaling a ladder and then scrambling farther up the side of the building to reach a third-story window. The family lost all their possessions to the fire, but escaped unharmed.
She was born Carrie Atkins on August 11, 1926, to Pauline Williams Atkins and William Atkins Sr. Carrie was 5 when her mother died and her family moved to the Fairmount home of Ida Williams, her grandmother. While living there, she contracted tuberculosis from a roomer in the house for whom she ran errands. She then endured many weeks living in a sanatorium far from home. When she rallied back to health, she completed her education at Lydia Darrah Elementary School and the Stoddart-Fleisher Junior High School. She entered the William Penn High School for Girls (now called the Franklin Center), and though she loved her studies and developed a passion for sewing and the arts, she dropped out as a sophomore to begin working to help support her family.
She went on to marry Tomie Lee Meeks, who worked at the National Biscuit Company before and after decorated service in the U.S. Navy in World War II. Mrs. Meeks worked at Dee’s Record Shop and the W. T. Grant department store, and later enrolled in and graduated from the Apex Beauty School in South Philadelphia.
Ever an entrepreneur, she opened an independent cosmetology business in her home and supplemented her income by selling dinners on weekends. She made a name for herself in her kitchen: she will be remembered for a Killer Chocolate Cake and a favorite fruitcake that she marinated half the year in Crème de Cacao.
Throughout her life, Mrs. Meeks often relied on faith. She had been “saved” for 47 of her 87 years, and was proud of her 30-plus year membership at Deliverance Evangelistic Church. She served as one of the many founding donors of its Hope Plaza complex in North Philadelphia, though in recent years her condition kept her on the congregation’s sick-and-shut-in list. Visits from members of the Deliverance outreach team kept her in communion, and her spirits often were buoyed by the sermons of the Rev. T. D. Jakes and others she viewed on the television in her room at the nursing home. When able, she enjoyed occasional outings with her family to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Philadelphia Flower Show and other events.
Mrs. Meeks was preceded in death by her husband in 2004, and by her eldest daughter, Paula Meeks Morton in 1990. She is survived by her sister, Pauline Atkins Denson; daughter, Leslie Yvonne Meeks; son, Gregory Lee Meeks; daughter-in-law, Jennifer Boston Meeks; grandchildren Eric Lorenzo Morton, Nia Ngina Meeks, Christopher Kyle Morton, Leah Denise Morton, Cary Todd Morton, Nathan Gregory Meeks and Simone Marie Meeks; and nephews Edward Hargrave and Stanley Hargrave, along with several great-grandchildren and great-nephews and a great-niece.
A memorial will be held 11 AM to 1:30 PM on Saturday, March 15, at Art Sanctuary, 628 S. 16th St. The family asks that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Salvation Army or the American Red Cross in support of fire victims.