Deaconess Thelma Iola Harding Jefferson was the 10th child of 13 born to the parentage of the late John and Elizabeth Harding on July 7, 1932, in Pleasant Hill, North Carolina. Mrs. Jefferson transitioned from labor to reward on September 8, 2021, at Envoy of Lawrenceville after a brief illness.
Thelma received her early education from the Northampton County Public Schools System and graduated from Gumberry High School in the Class of 1953. Growing up in a home of eight girls and four boys she was taught to sew, cook, developed a love for flowers and gardening as well as how to take care of a family.
Thelma accepted Christ at an early age and joined the Faithful Band Missionary Baptist Church where she attended and worked faithfully until no longer able. Thelma loved the Lord and loved going to church. She adored her church Faithful Band Baptist Church and her Pastor Rev Gregory Evans and spoke of them often. She often attended church with her husband at Saint John COGIC as well as other neighboring churches. She never missed anyone Homecoming or Revival Service. At Faithful Band she served as a Deaconess, a member of the choir, Sister in Service, Pastor Aid and a faithful member of bible study. She enjoyed feeding the Pastor, preparing food for church services (rolls, yams, cornbread, fatback, cakes, pies and more).
Thelma loved to cook and nurtured her love for cooking at the Emporia Diner. While working at the Diner she met the love of her life. The driver of a 1953 black Chevy, Benjamin F Jefferson. They were to be married later that year.
Thelma was never the type of lady to sit down and do nothing and would fuss if you did, she started her work life early with the Emporia Diner, later she and her husband Ben ran Chapel Hill Store together, an Oil Delivery Service and Halifax Street Grocery Store. She also worked at Fox Bakery as a supervisor until retirement. After retirement she became a caregiver for Mr. John and Mrs. Dorthula Knox until their death.
Thelma was a snazzy lady that loved to dress up in her extravagant suits with hats, gloves and of course her heels to match. Whether you saw her at the grocery store, doctor's office or even outside watering the flowers she would always be matched head to toe.
Thelma loved to talk and could find someone she knew wherever she went or make a new friend while she was there. She tried to feed everybody; if you stopped by her house, she wasn’t going to let you leave without feeding you something and usually something to go. If she wasn’t in the kitchen cooking or outside tending to her yard, she could be found on the phone with one of her sisters, friends, watching her stories or catching up on the news.
Thelma loved her family. For many years she coordinated the Friday Night Fish Fry during the Harding Family Reunion and thoroughly enjoyed feeding her family during holiday dinners. Rolls, cakes and pies were just some of her specialties. Family and friends were often treated to homemade chow-chow, preserves and pickles for Christmas made with love by Thelma.
Thelma could be seen working in her flower garden or tending to her vegetable garden most spring and summer days. Due to her pretty and colorful display of flowers she became known as “The Flower Lady”.
Thelma was preceded in death by five sisters – Veoria H. Sykes, Irnes H. Banks, Irma H. Robinson, Abry H. Johnson and Lola H. Ferguson; four brothers – John Wesley Harding, George H. Harding, Kermitt Harding and Willie June Harding; and her husband of 60+ years Benjamin “BF” Jefferson.
Precious memories and fond stories will linger in all of those that knew and loved her forever. Left to cherish those memories - one daughter, Sandra “Faye” Jefferson of the home; one grandson, Najah “Peterjohn” Travis; one granddaughter, Adrienne G. Giles (Lamar); and one great-granddaughter, whom’s arrival she was eagerly awaiting, Melanie; three sisters, Martha H. Scott of New York, NY, Georgetta H. White of Brooklyn, NY and Dozine H. Hampton of Pleasant Hill, NC; one sister-in-love, Marie Harding of Richmond, VA; one Godson, Derrick Webb; special neighbors/friends, Mary Lewis and Veronica Powell; nephew and neighbor, Joel Jones, George and Corrine Bailey; a host of nieces, nephews, cousins and friends.
Everyone has a story about Ms. Thelma. She was a classy and beautiful lady inside and out. Those stories will remain in our hearts and memories forever until we shall meet her again.
In lieu of flowers, the family request donations be made in memory of Deaconess Jefferson to:
Faithful Band Missionary Baptist Church
Post Office Box 54
1233 Cornwallis Road
Pleasant Hill, North Carolina 27866
Relatives and Friends are encouraged to visit Deaconess Jefferson's tribute wall to share memories and extend condolences, as sentiments to the family.
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