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Beloved community activist, ‘Miss Reed,’ is dead at 88 • Brooklyn Paper

Beloved community activist, ‘Miss Reed,’ is dead at 88

Mary Reed was a spirited Southern woman who made Clinton Hill her home — and remained a community advocate ever since.
Courtesy of Carrie Stewart

Mary Reed, a spunky Southerner who was an ever-present advocate in Clinton Hill and beyond, died on Monday at the age of 88 after a long bout with pneumonia.

The always conservatively dressed Reed never missed a meeting of Community Board 2 or 88th Precinct Community Council. And people never called her Mary — she was always Miss Mary.

“She was a very sweet person and interested in education and the finer things in life,” said Carrie Stewart, who was best friends with Reed since 1958. “She made me go to all those meetings. She just wanted to keep up on what’s going on.”

Reed dragged friends to CB2 and precinct meetings from the 1970s until a few years ago, when she had a stroke and could no longer attend.

Rob Perris, the board’s district manager, said that she was a ubiquitous presence, even though Reed never chaired a committee.

In fact, she was so well loved that the precinct council designated her as “treasurer emeritus.”

“Every month she would stand up and announce the treasury balance,” Perris said. “Even if it was only few hundred dollars. They created a special title for her because no one could ever really fill her place.”

Council President Delia Hunley-Adossa said that Reed organized youth Christmas parties, Thanksgiving lunches for seniors and the National Night Out Against Crime.

“She kept us all in check,” Hunley-Adossa said. “You knew when you had her seal of approval.”

Hunley-Adossa said that when she joined the precinct council 15 years ago as a young upstart, Reed was her only supporter.

“Miss Mary said, ‘If you don’t cut the mustard in six months, I’m not being a part of this.’ I always respected her for that. She didn’t sugarcoat anything,” Hunley-Adossa said.

Olanike Alabi, the neighborhood’s Democratic district leader agreed that Reed was a quiet giant — and one with a great sense of humor.

“I asked her once if she was going to vote for me,” Alabi said. “This was a woman I knew since I was a kid! She paused, with a very serious look on her face, and said, ‘I’ll have to think about it.’ ”

Born in New Orleans on Oct. 1, 1922, Reed moved to New York as a teenager and attended Hunter College HS in Manhattan, a neighboring borough.

She worked as a secretary in the Brooklyn Navy Yard until enrolling at Medgar Evers College in her 50s. Later, she taught special education at PS 46 on Clermont Avenue.

In 1988, she lost her husband of 44 years, Phillip Reed.

She is survived by her nephew, Gary Anthony Downs of Clinton Hill; and cousins Celeste Bagley and Ellis Bagley Jr.

Funeral services will be held at Emmanuel Baptist Church [279 Lafayette Ave., at Washington Avenue in Clinton Hill, (718) 622-1107], Aug. 29 at 7 pm.

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