Catherine (Morrell) Clay McDuffie (1945 - 2018)

Obituary
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Born on April 5, 1945, as Catherine Morrell in the backwoods of Ellabell - a town so small she said you had to "jump off" the bus - Catherine Clay McDuffie was raised from birth to about 10 years of age by the late Alex and Sarah Morrell, whom she identified as her parents.
It was not until she conceived her son and only child, Khari Morrell Clay, that she had actual knowledge of any living blood relatives. She was 27 years old at the time and a single mother. Catherine (or "Cathy" as friends called her) was 47 years young when she discovered her biological mother, the late Mary Etta. Around the same time, she discovered her two sisters, Gloria Campbell and Hilda Foy, both of whom remained a part of Cathy's life until she passed on April 7, 2018.
Despite being initially taught in a one-room, segregated schoolhouse, Cathy obtained her college degree from St. Joseph's University, the alma matter of her first husband, Leonard Joseph Clay. Realizing the value of education, Cathy devoted all of her resources to ensuring her son went to the best schools – the last of which was Harvard Law School, where she attended Khari's graduation in 1997.
Although Cathy's marriage to Leonard was short-lived, they remained close throughout the years and worked together in the spirit of co-parenting their son, Khari, with the love and support of her second husband, Michael McDuffie, with whom she was deeply in love and to whom she was married for 32 years until her passing.
Catherine's was most known for her determination, entrepreneurial spirit, industriousness, unwavering relationship with family and God, and, above all else, her generosity which overflowed in abundance during her 73 years. She was also known for her inner and outer beauty, her style (which extended to her son whom she loved to dress before he assumed that task) and her tight-knit group of friends and family who supported her and her son like a village.
Some of her closest friends are the late Gilda C. Woods (godmother to Khari), the late aunt Edith Harvey, the late aunt Nannette Foster-Inge and aunt Sandra Washington, who considers Cathy her "sister" without equivocation.
Catherine lived a very active life during which she produced records at Sigma Sound Studios under the Atlantic record label, co-founded an independent label, co-founded a charm school, held the first Miss Black America pageant, was co-proprietor of a beauty shop and also modeled for several magazines and department stores. She was featured in many local papers, on several magazine covers, and her indie label and artists, who received write-ups in Billboard Magazine.
Her jet-set lifestyle, however, was not a priority when it came to her devotion as a mother, wife and devout Jehovah's Witness. After working in music and fashion, Cathy turned her efforts to what she loved most: helping other people. She worked at North City Congress helping the truly disadvantaged, including ex-convicts, to obtain education and sustained employment. She then took a position with the Philadelphia Housing Authority as its first affirmative action officer in which capacity she assisted women and minority contractors in their efforts to bid on government contracts. She worked at PHA until she was forced to retire due to her 35-plus year bout with multiple sclerosis - a fight she won by remaining elegant, positive and unrelenting, despite the degenerative nature of the disease. As a lifelong giver, Cathy gave to others everything and more than MS took from her; and this made her happy.
Catherine came a long way, overcame the insurmountable and made a positive difference in each life she touched. Catherine will be greatly missed and is survived by her husband, Michael; her son, Khari, and his fiancée, Yvonne; her two beautiful grandchildren, Skyler Catherine-Anne Clay and Preston Joseph Clay; her stepdaughter, Anika; and her siblings, Gloria, Hilda, Betty, Will aka "Brother" and Sandy; and her nephews, Phillip and Rayven; as well as a host of family and friends.
Funeral services will be at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, April 14, at the Chapel of Peace at West Laurel Hill Cemetery. www.westlaurelhill.com
Published in BryanCountyNews from Apr. 13 to Apr. 20, 2018