Educator, youth advocate, spiritual leader Juanita Tolbert passes on

| October 20, 2017
Juanita Tolbert

Juanita Tolbert

FORT WAYNE—The city lost an iconic community champion recently with the passing of Juanita Tolbert on Oct. 14.

Tolbert, the the matriarch of the famed Tolbert musical, was a renowned education leader in the Summit City and tireless advocate for youth in the community, engaged in a wide variety of community projects, including Friends of Bethany, a program founded by the late Rosa Chapman, designed to teach coming generations positive parenting and family skills, as an educator, serving in many public school posts from classroom to top administration.

Born Jan. 30, 1950 in Forrest City, Arkansas, Juanita Tolbert was the fifth child of nine born to Willie and Hortense Anderson. She gave her life to Christ at the age of 11 at St. John Missionary Baptist Church in Madison, Arkansas, under the leadership of the Rev. G.W. Pitts. She was married to James E. Tolbert on Nov. 23, 1969. From this union, six sons were born. In 1975, the Tolbert family decided to make Fort Wayne, Indiana their home.

While raising six sons, Juanita also pursued her life’s calling as an educator. She often said she was “put on this earth to teach.” She lived that conviction and call to the fullest by impacting the lives of countless children and families. She served Fort Wayne not only as a teacher but as assistant director at Southern Heights Preschool; owner of Tolbert’s Home Daycare; director at the Pontiac Youth Center; teacher’s aide at Adams Elementary; assistant principal at Southwick Elementary; principal at Village Elementary; and music curriculum developer at Timothy L. Johnson Academy. After nearly 30 years of service, she officially retired in 2012 but continued her contribution to the educational community as a substitute teacher.

Juanita also aimed for excellence in her own educational pursuits. Her achievements include a Diploma from Lincoln High School (1967), a Preschool Teacher Certificate from Indiana University-Purdue University at Fort Wayne (1986), an Associate of Science degree in Early Childhood Education from Indiana University (1990), a Bachelor of Science degree in Education from Saint Francis College (1995), and a Master of Science degree in Education from Indiana University (2001). She also began coursework towards the completion of her Ph.D.

In addition to her dedication to academic excellence, Juanita was firmly committed to ministry and community development. She supported her husband, the Rev. James E. Tolbert, in the founding of Good Shepherd Community Church. She served faithfully as First Lady while training their sons to provide music for the church. More recently, as a devoted member of Grace United Missionary Baptist Church, she worked closely with leadership in various capacities, including Church Administrator (planning and organizing services, church calendar, bulletins, etc.), Sunday School teacher, and choir member. She also held a special place in her heart for Friends of Bethany, a non-profit organization focused on family empowerment, educational excellence, and positive personal growth. As the Executive Director of Friends of Bethany, she was devoted to mentoring young women and coordinating events to equip them with the knowledge and resources to build better lives.

Juanita went home to be with her Lord and Savior on October 14, 2017. She was preceded in death by the Rev. James E. Tolbert, husband of 27 years, her parents, and her siblings John, Eugene, Darnell, Roger, and Marion.

She leaves to cherish her memory, sons: Lamont (Susan) of Phoenix, Arizona; Tyrone (Nakia) of Indianapolis; Douglas of Fort Wayne; Lance of Los Angeles; Kenneth (Jachell) of Fort Wayne; and Eric (Stacy) of Columbus, Ohio; sister: DeLoise (Robert) Pendleton of Forrest City, Arkansas; brothers: Larry (Donna) Anderson of Sacramento; and Billy Ray (Clara Ann) Anderson of Fort Wayne; sister-in-law: Erma Smiley of Rochester, New York; three granddaughters and a host of nieces, nephews, cousins, and friends.

Funeral service is 11 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017, at Mt. Calvary MBC, 3506 Warsaw St., with visitation two hours prior. Arrangements were by Carmichael Funeral Service.

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Category: Community, Local, Obituaries, Spiritual Matters

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Frost Illustrated is Fort Wayne's oldest weekly newspaper. Your Independent Voice in the Community, featuring news & views of African Americans since 1968.

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