Guy & Allen Funeral Directors, Inc.
2959 West 11th Avenue
Gary, IN 46404
(219) 949-6325
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Jessie Mae Protho

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Jessie Mae Protho Obituary
Protho, Jessie Mae 85, was born on October 11, 1928 in Winona, Mississippi (Montgomery County) to Duncan and Julia McKenzie. While a very young child, she moved to Indiana with her father after her parents separated. She attended East Chicago Washington High School and received her Bachelor and Master's degrees from Indiana University. In 1944 she married Orlando Protho Sr. (deceased) and together they had two children. (After 26 years they separated.) Her Master of Science in Education (Indiana University) was bestowed on September 7, 1971. The date is noteworthy because Jessie, solid as a rock, put her daughter, Phyllis, through Bethune-Cookman University (1967) while she earned her own Bachelor's degree from IU. She would later return to IU, where she and Phyllis were conferred Master's degrees together (1971), while son, Orlando graduated from Morehouse College (1971.) She attended all of the graduation ceremonies. Jessie was extremely enterprising. She was a fashion model in and around the Chicago area, as well as a seamstress, creating her own popular patterns and creating outfits for the public, as well as friends and family. As one of the early African-American entrepreneurs of Gary, she was the sole owner of the very successful Jessie's Beauty Centre for many years, as well as part owner of Protho Appliances. Later she would take a position teaching at Brunswick Elementary School, followed by an appointment to Director of Cosmetology at the well-respected Gary Career Center where she finished out her career. Jessie retired after 35 years of teaching, remaining a remarkable and doting mother, devoted grandmother and loving great-grandmother. Jessie was a member of Phi Delta Kappa Sorority, Beta Mu Chapter. She was also an avid churchgoer and a former member of Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church, Zion Progressive and Southlake Church of God and Christ. During her career Jessie had the pleasure of mixing with celebrities like Muhammad Ali, Eartha Kitt, Mahalia Jackson, Coretta Scott King and many others. She is listed in Marquis's Who's Who in America publication ( She proudly attended the August 28, 1963 Civil Rights March on Washington; as well as the 1968 funeral of Dr. Martin Luther King held at Morehouse College, where her son marched in the funeral procession as a member of the Morehouse Drum corp. She loved music, fashion, traveling and cooking, and her support for her children was unparalleled. She was preceded into the life beyond this life by her parents, Duncan and Julia Edmond McKenzie (Winona MS); brother, Jack McKenzie (Norfolk VA); sister, Annie Nora Purnell (Gary IN); and daughter, Phyllis Protho Noble (Merrillville IN). Her palpable love and spirit will be remembered by Orlando Carlton Protho (Los Angeles, CA), son; Nichelle Marea Protho (Los Angeles, CA) and Octavia Shavonne (Antonio) Cater (Gary IN), grandchildren; Roberts Edwards, Jr. (Hammond, IN), Da'Vaughn Cody (Gary, IN), Donna Cody (Gary, IN) and Yovonne Cater (Gary, IN), great-grandchildren; Odiesstean (Robert) Taylor (Gary, IN), niece; Burdis (Ruby) Phillips (Gary, IN), special cousin; and a host of additional nieces, nephews, cousins and endearing friends. Visitation: Friday, December 20, 2013 from 12:00p.m.-8:00p.m., family hours from 6:00p.m.-8:00p.m. at the Guy & Allen Chapel, 2959 West 11th Ave., Gary, IN. Funeral services: Saturday, December 21, 2013 at 11:00a.m. at Unity Baptist Church, 2019 Connecticut Street, Gary, IN. Interment: Evergreen Memorial Park, 3815 W 39th, Hobart, IN.

Published in the Post Tribune on Dec. 18, 2013
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