Vivian Vaness Stuart—born: Oct. 21, 1932; died: Oct. 2,2013. Vivian Vaness Stuart was born Oct. 21, 1932, in St. Louis, Mo., the daughter of a housewife and a waiter, who joined the Navy to provide for his family. A middle child, and black woman growing up in the segregated ’40s, she detested the unpleasantries of her situation and vowed to do something about it. At age 14, she protested the segregated eating arrangements at the local Woolworth’s on a family outing by standing in the alley behind the store, refusing to join her family in the dirty store room provided for “Negroes.” Just before graduating from Sumner High School, the counselor told her the best she could expect to be was a maid or clerk, and to forget college because “that was not an attainable goal.” Then she heard about St. Louis University, and all that was needed for entry was to pass a test. She passed that test and matriculated for two years there. But St. Louis was a rough town, and living at home with parents provided little freedom. She picked up and moved to Indianapolis to work at Fort Benjamin Harrison as a clerk.
Needing some dental work but not being able to afford a regular dentist, she sought free dental treatment at Indiana University College of Dentistry. It was there that she met her future husband, Bernard Stuart, a young, energetic dental student. After courtship, they married and moved to Fort Devens, Mass., and New Jersey where her husband served in the Army Dental Corps during the Korean War. They moved to Fort Wayne, Indiana in 1959, her husband’s hometown, where he established his private dental practice.
While her husband was actively involved in the Civil Rights Movement, marching to Washington with Dr. King, being president of the NAACP, and one of the first blacks appointed to the Fort Wayne School Board, Vivian stood quietly in the wings, protecting her family from the angry and sometimes vicious threats that came with the territory. Not a stranger to protest, she organized and picketed the Board of Realtors office, along with her then six-year-old daughter, her oldest, because they refused to sell her family a home in an all-white neighborhood. But, slowly she emerged from those wings and developed her own Civil Rights identity by joining and actively working with the League of Women’s Voters, The Panel of American Women and a board member of the YWCA. Also during this time she was encouraged to host a community television talk show, called “Stone Soul,” which she hosted for five years. During her tenure, she interviewed famed columnist Carl Rowan. She was also keenly interested in collecting art, especially African art, and for this reason she was appointed by the mayor to the board of the Fort Wayne Art Museum.
By the time her fourth child entered elementary school, VIvian decided her life needed more purpose, and she chose to resume her college education. She graduated with a B.S. in Education from St. Francis College in Fort Wayne and then began her teaching career in the Fort Wayne Community Schools. She continued her love of community service by being inducted into Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Fort Wayne Alumnae Chapter in 1978, followed by The Links, Incorporated in 1979. She later earned her Master’s Degree in Education from Indiana University in 1985. She worked diligently as an elementary school teacher until she was forced to retire for health reasons in 2004. She moved to Columbus, Ga., to be closer to two of her daughters and grandchildren and enjoy her retirement. Having served an active life, she now is enjoying a very needed rest in a better place. She was preceded in death by her three brothers Richard, Marlon and Evently Jr., and her ex-husband, Bernard Stuart. She leaves behind a sister, Geraldine Atkins, three daughters, Karen Stuart(Harold Mayweather), Stephanie Stuart, and Gretchen Stuart, and a son, Warren Stuart, and two grandsons, Brandon and Alex Mayweather, and a host of nieces and nephews, cousins and friends.
Johnny Lee Braster Jr., 21, passed away on Friday, Oct. 4, 2013, at Parkview Regional Medical Center. He leaves to cherish his memory his mother, Tonja Upshaw; father, Johnny L. Braster III; brothers, Devon Upshaw, Jamarcus Upshaw, Jakwon Braster, and Neeko Braster; and sisters, Valerie Upshaw and Aniya Braster. Services were Saturday, Oct. 12, 2013, at Emmanuel Baptist Church, 2340 Fairfield Ave., with burial in Covington Memorial Gardens. Arrangements were by Ellis Funeral Home. Send condolences at www.ellisfh.com.
This article originally appeared in the Oct. 16 print edition.