South Bend - Carrie Hull was born on May 2, 1924, on her family's farm in Pecan Pointe, Arkansas. She was the 7th of 11 children born to her parents Samuel and Arlene Byrd. Although life came with its challenges growing up in the segregated, Jim Crow South, as a black family their hardship was tempered.Her father Samuel was highly educated; he was not only a farmer but a local pastor, "spreading the word"; and also worked for many years as a Pullman Porter. Her mother, Arlene, while raising 11 children and helping on the farm, provided the community with midwife services, the primary care available to rural black women in that day. For a while, Arlene worked for a white doctor, learning and honing her skills as a midwife. She delivered many babies in her local community for no charge and saw this undertaking as "the Lord's work." In lieu of payment for her services, on occasion, Arlene would accept cakes, eggs, fruit or vegetable preserves as tokens of appreciation. She realized that those she served often felt better giving her something for her services. Arlene also sold the produce she raised on their farm to local neighbors. Often, as was her way, she was simply happy to give her produce to families in need. Young Carrie's lesson was - give service, expect nothing free.
Carrie's parents instilled in their children very critical life principles; use common sense, set big goals, pay attention to opportunities around you, stay focused, work hard, overcome obstacles that come between you and your goals. Make it happen with no excuses.As Carrie grew from childhood into adulthood, she inherently mastered those principles and used them to navigate her life. Like her parents, one day she would pass those principles onto her children.
Carrie's parents moved the family to Blytheville, Arkansas, a town located in the Mississippi Delta, where generations of her family had been born and bred. It was there that she married Leighton Hull following his service in WWII. In 1945, they arrived in South Bend, Indiana where her brother LC had purchased a home and a "nice" car. This had attracted others of his southern community to follow his lead. They were part of the Great Migration of black people to the North, or as some described it, the "promised land." While she worked as a domestic and Leighton worked in the foundry for the Studebaker Corporation, they saved their money and bought a home on Chestnut Street.
A few years later, Carrie responded to a classified ad in the South Bend Tribune for a nanny position with the family of Harold Vance, who was the president of Studebaker Corporation. Carrie recalled that during her interview, Mr. and Mrs. Vance stated how much they admired her tenacity and commonsense approach toward life. She accepted their offer of employment. During her employment with this influential family, Carrie observed their lifestyle, how they did things. She paid special attention whenever Harold Vance ran his corporation from home. Her desire for financial growth and security became clear, and she liked "nice things" for herself and family. Carrie also recognized in the Vance family the same values and lessons learned from her parents: the importance of education, entrepreneurship, a zeal for achievement and how they labored to raise their children with unflappable values. As inconceivable as it might have seemed, they shared a lot in common. She felt proud to play a role in their children's development. Carrie's lesson was - be thoughtful and focused. Thoughtful and powerful people will recognize your value and want you around.
Simultaneously, Carrie instilled the same attributes in her own children. Among the principles she taught and reinforced were: the dignity of hard work, the importance of grit mixed with common sense, the setting of achievable goals, the ability to see and overcome the challenges that pose obstacles to one's goals, as well as no time for failure. Carrie added another critical element. She knew that black children needed to muster extra courage to be self-confident in a world where they were devalued. Negative stereotypes posed hurdles, but hurdles were to be cleared. While the Vance children enjoyed the white privilege, Carrie taught her children to navigate the obstacle of the black tax. Ultimately, one by one, she encouraged her children "to be somebody. You gon be somebody."Those were among the values she received while growing up, while mastering these principles along the way, using them to navigate her way through life. Carrie's lesson was - perform at your best, pay attention and pass on your learnings.
Carrie was very perceptive about her environment and learned from her observations. She developed great instincts. She also excelled at conceptualizing, processing and utilizing the signals gathered from her environment. She understood and translated those cues into the principles by which she lived including the framework from which she would later teach her own children. Carrie had an entrepreneurial spirit.
In their early years, at her insistence to Leighton, she opened a small grocery store on Monroe Street in the local black community. That was followed by her purchase of a second grocery store on Chapin Street. Over the years Carrie embarked on several part-time businesses while maintaining her full-time jobs and raising a family. She began a laundry service for military servicemen whose uniforms required special handling. She purchased washing and drying equipment and a commercial clothes pressure for her basement on Chestnut. When Tupperware products came along, Carrie became one of their top sales representatives. During her entrepreneurial interludes, she worked for J.E. Waltz Furniture Company and Gerber Manufacturing, both for several years. At Waltz she began in maintenance and was later elevated to Sales Associate, to the vexation of the all-white male sales staff. At Gerber, Carrie worked as a piece-work seamstress where your income was tied to your productivity. She excelled in production. Decades later in Los Angeles, California, Carrie would become an independent contractor for Pre-paid Legal Service, where she rose to the level of Director.
Carrie worked hard to pass her sense of achievement to her children, and she succeeded. She was the catalyst that resulted in her children's achievements, which include: Arlene is a retired Primary Teacher at the Learning Twig Day Care Center in South Bend, Indiana. Joseph is a retired owner of a grocery store in South Bend, Indiana and soul-food restaurants in Los Angeles.Elijah is a Sterling Professor at Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut. Leighton, Jr., is an entrepreneur; he has owned McDonald's, Denny's, Shell, and Bojangles franchises in California, Hawaii, Indiana, and Georgia.Anne is an entrepreneur; she owns McDonald's franchises in Virginia and in Maryland.
In addition to her love and devotion to her family, Carrie was a devoted woman to her church family. She was a member at Greater St. John Missionary Baptist Church in South Bend, Indiana where she served as an usher for nearly four decades. In 1980 she moved to Los Angeles where she joined St. John Church congregation and usher board, and later, Trinity Baptist Church and usher board, collectively ushering for another 30 years.Faith and fellowship provided her much joy, value, and sustenance throughout her life.
In 2017, Carrie relocated to Fort Washington, Maryland, to be near her children.
Carrie's life story is illuminating. It underscores the importance of strong bonds and how these bonds were passed on intergenerationally; her parents served as role models; instilling in her critical principles that lead to certain success in life; then she passed these values on to her own children. Carrie was quite direct, taking a "tough love" approach.
Carrie set forth a value system that has guided her children and their subsequent generations to achieve personal and family success that was unimaginable during the period in which she grew up in rural Arkansas. Carrie's goal and lesson were - lead so that your children can follow.
Carrie Hull, a loving mother, entrepreneur, and devoted Christian passed away after living a healthy and fulfilling 95 years. In the words of her personal physician, Dr. Tammy Jones, "She practiced many years of a healthy lifestyle."
Carrie was the proud matriarch of six generations: her five children, Arlene, Joseph, Elijah, Leighton, Anne, grandmother of 12, great-grandmother of 18, great-great-grandmother of 9, great-great-great-grandmother of 1. She was the last surviving member of her siblings.
Additionally, Carrie leaves behind loving nieces, nephews, cousins, and dear friends who will remember her energetic and loving spirit.
She would sometimes relate the sad story of her pet pig she raised, and to which she became so attached. One day, when the pig had grown so large, her brothers decided they needed to butcher the pig for food, an action with which she could not agree, and thus found it extremely hard to take; she certainly resisted eating any of the pig. Carrie's lesson - your heart can care about everything.
Topic: Carrie Hull's Celebration of Life Memorial Service
Time: Jul 3, 2021, 11:00 AM Eastern Time (US and Canada)
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Local arrangements entrusted with Alford's Mortuary. Visit our website to send condolences to the family of Carrie Hull at: www.alfordsmortuaryinc.com
Published by South Bend Tribune from Jun. 26 to Jun. 27, 2021.