Mary Anne “Madear” Thornton Kinsey was born on September 28, 1919 in Fort Gaines, Georgia to her parents Eugene “Papa Gene” & Hattie Mae Sheffield Thornton. She was the middle child and had six siblings: Clementine, Beatrice, Charles, Eugene, Jr., Fred, and Henry, for whom she named her youngest son.
As a child growing up on her parents farm, Mary had got an opportunity to be an active child having fun and enjoying life while also taking on the responsibilities of tending to the animals and tilling the land. Her father, Papa Gene, was a very intelligent man who was an awesome provider and masterful farmer. He leased and maintained his farmland during the Great Depression. This was a unique feat at such a difficult time, because many others were sharecropping but were not in full control over what they farmed. Through this time, he used his bountiful harvests to assist other families and the community at large. Because her father played this active role in his community, Mary and her siblings understood that a life of service was of utmost importance. This shaped how she viewed and lived her life.
Another important aspect of her childhood was her educational and spiritual life. The valedictorian of her high school class, Mary Anne Thornton Kinsey, was not only a star student, but the crown jewel of Fort Gaines, Georgia. At an early age she gave her life to Christ and was an active member of New Bethel Baptist Church serving on many ministries and attending her beloved church revivals.
Madears life was filled with major transitions and turning points. One of those came when her mother fell ill with Multiple Sclerosis, leaving Madear to be one of her caregivers. When her mother passed away due to MS complications at the age of forty-four, Mary stepped into the role of one of the caregivers for her family. Since she was the oldest sibling in the house, Mary had the task of balancing being a caregiver, honor student, church member and much more. But in true Madear fashion, she not only got the job done but did it with grace.
Mary married Eddie “Bud” Kinsey, Jr. in 1943. Through this union, six sons were born: Horace, Tyrone, Eddie Jr., Bernard, Donald and Henry. Miraculously, Madear birthed her six sons in the span of 9 years.
While still serving in the military, the couple relocated to New York, starting their family’s new life in Harlem. After a couple of years there, the family moved to the village hearth of the family, Gowanus Projects, in 1949. From having lived in Harlem, Gowanus was a monumental step for the family because it gave the Kinseys the space they needed for their growing family. She was now a part of a village. The families that connected there are still bound to each other to this day. It was here also that she met her best friend, Ethel King.
For the next 30+ years In Gowanus, Madear dedicated her life to the service and development of not only her family, but the community at large. She was a mother to those without one.
Their home was a home to everyone in the neighborhood. After she saw the sons off to school every morning, she worked as a domestic worker. Based on the quality of her work, she was constantly employed and highly recommended.
In 1981, she moved back down to her beloved Fort Gaines, Georgia at the age of sixty-two, reuniting with family, friends and reintegrating into rural living. After 30 years of service to her family and community, she was afforded the opportunity to go back home, rest, reflect, and return to her childhood essence. For the first time in her life, she was able to focus on taking care of herself and reaping the rewards of her life’s harvest.
While most elders would have enjoyed the autumn of their years and rose to glory , God had other plans for Madear. Her faith was unyielding and her calm, quiet, elegant demeanor was a testament to Psalms 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God.” In 2009, at eighty-nine years of age, it was her belief in God that told her to “turn to her children,” and move back to New York.
Ever steadfast in her obedience to the Creator, she did as she was told and moved back to Brooklyn where she was cared for, upheld, honored, and cherished by her children and grandchildren.
Her daughter-in-law, Shadidi Beatrice Chase Kinsey (Bernard) was her dedicated caregiver. With her husband and sons all preceding Mary in death, she leaves behind her legacy with her daughter-in-law Pamela Kinsey (Horace), 13 grandchildren, as well as a host of prized great-grandchildren, nieces, nephews, cousins, and beloved friends. A legacy of a gentle, peaceful spirit who exhibited strength and resilience beyond measure. A legacy of a person loved and respected every place she walked. A legacy that spans 101 years of life, service and goodness brought to this earth.
On Thursday, September 9, 2021, just two-and-a-half weeks shy of her 102nd birthday, Mary Anne Thornton Kinsey put on her eternal robe and joined the realm of the ancestors. We rejoice in having witnessed a life well-lived and pray that the ancestors greet her and envelope her with love.
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