Alma Laura H. Penn
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Alma Laura H. Penn

Red Bank - Mrs. Alma Laura H. Penn RN, BS of Red Bank died peacefully at home secondary to cholangiocarcinoma of the biliary tree with metastatic disease to the liver. She was 98 years old.

Alma was born in Newark, NJ at the Wright Sanitorium, delivered by its founder, Dr. Thomas Wright, the only hospital where African American doctors could practice and care for their patients in the state of New Jersey. Alma graduated from Red Bank High School on June 18, 1940 and went on to attend Freedmen's School of Nursing at Howard University, Washington, DC, graduating in 1944 with her RN degree' from there she attended New York University, graduating in 1946 with a BS in Nursing.

Alma Laura married William Arthur Penn on July 19, 1952, after initially meeting on the Jersey Shore at the age of 12. Life unfolded and took a few turns, however, once they reunited as adults, their love blossomed and they welcomed their only daughter, Carol on Christmas Day, 1956. Infused with a sense of history and purpose shaped by her lived experience of being an African American child growing up in a segregated community, her days colored and shaped by color lines and caste, she poured her life into her community and her family. Mrs. Penn had a career in Nursing that spanned over 47 years, 44 of those years at Marlboro State Psychiatric Hospital where she became the first African American Director of Nursing in the state of New Jersey and went on to establish scholarships for those seeking to enter the profession of nursing. She became a founding member of The Monmouth County Business and Professional Women's Council, Inc in 1950, where she served in several leadership roles but none more cherished than her role as Scholarship Chair, which she held until her death on January 12, 2021.

Quite a socialite, Mrs. Penn was a member of Les Femmes founded in 1959, a lady's social club, originally brought together, just for fun, the ladies soon turned their efforts to involve the community and conducted fund raising projects making donations to such organizations as Deborah Hospital, Fair Haven Council of Boy Scouts, MCOSS Sickle Cell Foundation and to the Red Bank Community Center Pre-School Program.

Mrs. Penn is survived by her daughter, Dr. Carol Penn (Jones), m. Diem Jones, of Red Bank, NJ; a grandson, Keita O. Erskine, of Chicago, IL; nieces, Beverly Penn, Esq. of Philadelphia, PA; Marcia Penn of Aurora, CO, step grandsons Dr. Khalil Muhammad, (m. Stephanie Muhammad) of East Orange, NJ; Dima Jones of Mountainview, CA; step great grandchildren, Gibran, Jordan, and Justice Muhammad; her beloved cousins who are truly more like siblings than cousins: Beverly Robinson, Ruth Wright (m. Al Wright), Stephanie Robinson, a host of cousins and friends too numerous to mention here but never out of her and our hearts. Mrs. Penn was pre-deceased by her parents George Harvey and Marion Josephine Gilmore Harvey, her brother Joseph Chesterfield Harvey, her loving husband William Arthur Penn Sr, all of Red Bank, NJ and her stepson, William Arthur Penn, Jr. of Brooklyn, NY.

Visitation will be Saturday January 23rd from 12pm until the funeral service at 2pm at Murray Grove Retreat and Renewal Center, 431 US Rte 9, Lanoka Harbor, NJ. Entombment will be on Monday January 25th at Cloverleaf Memorial Park Cemetery, Cemetery Rd., Woodbridge, NJ. In lieu of flowers please make a donation in Mrs. Penn's name to Lunch Break Inc.,121 Drs. James Parker Blvd, Red Bank, NJ 07701. Condolences can be made online at

Lawson Funeral Home & Cremation Services, Long Branch are in charge of arrangements.

To Plant Memorial Trees in memory, please visit our Sympathy Store.
Published in Asbury Park Press from Jan. 20 to Jan. 21, 2021.
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January 23, 2021
Mrs. Penn met me in 1982 as one of the Monmouth County Business and Professional Women's Council, Inc. scholarship awardees. I remain a supporter of the council in part because of my connection with Mrs. Penn. I will miss seeing her at the council luncheons and at the annual Dr. MLK Jr. breakfasts. However, I will be reminded that I must continue, when I may not always want, to give of my time, talent and treasure for the rest of my life. Rest in Peace Mrs. Penn and thank you for ALL that you have done for Monmouth County, NJ. Red Bank Pride for sure!
January 21, 2021
Your mom was the epitome of class, grace, and true kindness.
I will never forget her.
Judi Berrier
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