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Mother Leola Naomi McFadden, affectionately known as Lee, was born January 28, 1936, to Arthur Lee Wilson and Zelma Lee Golson in Verbena, Alabama. Leola was blessed to grow up in a very loving family who nurtured her to become the beautiful woman that she was on this side of heaven. Despite the hardships experienced by African-Americans, she was taught that her faith in God, devotion to family, and academic achievement would be the way forward to live a life that God would bless.
Leola was raised by two devout Christians, and through their example she accepted Jesus as her Lord and Savior as a child while attending Big Springs Baptist Church in Verbena, Alabama. Leola, the fourth of 8 children, began her formal education at Big Springs, Verbena School and subsequently graduated from Chilton County Training School. Upon her graduation from Chilton County, she matriculated to Alabama State University where she received her Bachelors and Masters degrees in Education. After graduating from her beloved ASU in 1960, she became an active alumnus. She frequently attended ASU’s Homecoming Thanksgiving Classic and the ASU Magic City Classic in Birmingham, Alabama. She was a life member of the ASU Alumni organization and held several offices in the Philadelphia Chapter. Her tenure at ASU didn’t just provide academic achievement but it would pave the way for what would ultimately be her life’s mission and the cornerstone of her life, the cultivation of her own family.
While attending Alabama State University a beautiful love story began that would last for over 60 years. On the last day of school in 1958, it would be the walk home after an end of school year Sadie Hawkins dance that she met the love of her life, James Sherman McFadden. Over the course of time, their love story blossomed, and Lee and James were married on June 2, 1963. Leola migrated from Alabama to Pennsylvania in the 60s and settled in Philadelphia. In June of 1966, they welcomed their only son and baby boy, Michael Kenyatta McFadden.
She set about becoming the consummate wife and mother. Tremendously supportive of her husband’s passion for civil rights, she could often be found supporting him in all his efforts. As a devoted mother, she poured her love into Michael and ensured that her baby boy would have all that he needed to thrive in this world.
Although Leola began her teaching career at Clanton City School in the Chilton County school system in Alabama, she retired from the School District of Philadelphia in 2004 as a schoolteacher at Ludlow Elementary School. Her love for children extended far beyond the four walls of the classroom where she could be found working with many youth in her community.
Leola finished her race serving faithfully with steadfast loyalty as a mother on the Mother‘s Board of United Missionary Baptist Church. She adored her church and her pastor. She donated to the Youth Ministry, remained faithful to the Women’s Ministry, and attended Sunday School weekly. It was a joy to see her make comments in the chat on Facebook or Zoom.
Mother McFadden loved and fervently supported her family. She took immense pleasure in regularly talking with her children and grandchildren. These conversations were often said to be the best part of her day. She loved traveling to Maryland to spend the holidays and celebrate special events with them. It was indeed one of the greatest highlights of her life. She was also a staunch supporter of her siblings, nieces, nephews, and cousins. She traveled wherever she could to celebrate birthdays, graduations, weddings, and family reunions. She also traveled the highways giving her loving and nurturing support to family members in the hospital. She was an excellent cook and served her family the most delicious meals.
Mother McFadden loved her community and was well respected and beloved throughout the city. She was a faithful member of the Brewerytown Sharswood Community Civic Association of which she was a board member. She was also a member of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers. She served on the National Council of Negro Women and several other civic organizations where she received numerous awards. She was also a member of the Northwest Congress of Christian Education. Mother McFadden was a passionate gardener. She enjoyed being in community with other gardeners at the Brewerytown Community Garden.
Leola was a woman of MANY talents. She loved to fish. She and her siblings began fishing at Dixie Fishing Camp on the Coosa River, Lake Mitchell which was near their family home. Family secret, she taught her husband how to fish. She loved the arts and was very artistic herself. She possessed a keen skill for drawing. She loved traveling with her husband and extended family. Lake George, New York, and the Pennsylvania Pocono Mountains were two of her favorite locations to visit. Leola’s mantra was “Work hard so you can do the things you love.”, and she did just that! Her life was devoted to serving her entire family, her church, her community, and anyone whom she loved.
Leola was preceded in death by her parents Arthur and Zelma Wilson and 3 siblings (Autherine Smith, Julius Wilson, Albert Dean Wilson). She leaves to cherish beautiful memories with her husband, James S. McFadden, son Michael K. McFadden (Sonia Regina), 3 grandchildren (Chelsea McFadden, Xavier McFadden, Lauren McFadden), 1 sister (Clara Robinson), 3 brothers Brady Wilson (Viree), David Wilson (Deloris), Samuel Paul Wilson (Ethel), cousin (Dr. Samuel E. Wilson), and a host of nieces, nephews, cousins, family, friends, and her United church family.