Marian JoAnn “Mary Jo” McElroy Cole has come to live with us at Caring House. We’re honored.
Born and raised in Guthrie, OK, Mary Jo is the third of five children of Joseph and Ruby Clarke McElroy. She attended Favor High School in Guthrie, and graduated from Colorado Springs High School in Colorado Springs, CO.
Since her early days, Mary Jo has been a woman of faith. She was a member of her family’s church, Progressive Baptist Church, in Guthrie. Coming from a long line of family musicians, she and her sisters and brothers played the piano and sang in the church choir. She has kept this tradition going with her children and grandchildren.
Mary Jo met Robert Cole in Oklahoma where they were wed. Robert Cole’s military service led the family to travel and live in Hawaii, Germany and France as military dependents.
Mary Jo moved from France to Washington, D.C. where her sister and brother resided. Family has always been important to Mary Jo and she determined that Washington would be where she would raise her three young children: Rudy, Gabriel and JoAnice.
Mary Jo purchased her first home in the Marshall Heights area f South East (S.E.) Washington. She became involved in her church, choir, bible study, prayer services and other ministries. As a devoted mother she was very involved in her children’s education and extra activities, including PTA, Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts. She also became the head basketball coach for the Marshall Heights YMCA.
To help improve her community, she joined with others to create the Marshall Heights Civic Association. That brought grass roots work to rehabilitate housing and get the community streets, curbs and sidewalks paved. She is also one of the founders of the Marshall Heights Community Development Organization (MHCDO), serving in leadership roles for many years.
She was one of the main coordinators of the Queen Elizabeth of England’s visit to the first homes the MHCDO built on Drake Place, S.E., today known as Queen’s Stroll, S.E. The Queen’s visit led to an education-cultural-exchange tour of Great Britain arranged for students of Fletcher Johnson Middle School. Mary Jo represented the MHCDO and served as a chaperone on the tour.
She work for many years in the Federal government, first as a secretary in the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and than as an executive secretary with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). During her time at FEMA she became a leader of the Black Women in Sisterhood for Action.
After retiring, Mary Jo continued her community activism full time. She worked to reduce crime and build community partnerships and to strengthen the Capitol View Library and its Board of Friends of Library.
Mary Jo loves to play the piano. After retiring she became a piano teacher, giving lessons to neighborhood children and her own grandson. She has played for churches and associations across the Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Area.
A few months ago, Mary Jo moved to Redondo Beach, CA to live with her eldest son and his family.
We’re glad that Mary Jo is with us at Caring House. We look forward to caring for this determined and accomplished woman of faith.
Mary Jo died on February 10, 2018. Honor her. Remember her.