By Lynda L. Jones
Dr. Mary Ellen Strong, a Wisconsin media pioneer passed at the age of 91 years-old at her home in California on November 27, 2012. She was the first in many things in her lifetime.
Homegoing Celebrations were held in California and Atlanta, and she was laid to rest in Atlanta, GA next to her husband, Atty. James M. Strong.
Strong had made California her home for the past four years, where she assisted Pastor Diego Mesa at his mega church, Abundant Living Family Church in Rancho Cucamonga, CA. Pastor Diego wanted her to move there for many years, and she finally accepted his offer four years ago. This is where the first Homegoing Celebration took place for her on Dec. 1, 2012. Pastor Diego spoke of her many accomplishments, he cited her works with presidents, including President John Kennedy, when she rallied Black ministers to support him. He spoke on her many accomplishments in the business world. And he shared how much of an influence she was on his ministry and the accomplishments she made with helping his church.
She first met Pastor Diego more than 25 years ago, when he worked for a ministry that Dr. Strong often visited as a guest minister. He was led to start his own church in 1994, and it began in his home in Fontana, CA. and soon after moved to an elementary school cafeteria, started with 12 members and has increased considerably.
In December of 2007, the church moved to its new 215,000 square foot property, including a 4000-seat sanctuary and occupying 30 acres of land. The campus includes a kindergarten through twelfth grade Christian school and a school of ministry.
In Atlanta, the Homegoing Celebration was held at another mega church, The Word of Faith Family Worship Cathedral which is pastored under the direction of Bishop Dale Bronner. Bishop Bronner was out of the country, his wife Dr. Nina Bronner spoke on behalf of the church for Dr. Strong’s service.
Again the stories were similar, she was an inspiration to this couple when they first began their ministry as well, and today they have a similar story to Pastor Diego. These were the inspirational stories that Dr. Strong has left behind. This service was held on Sat., Dec. 8, 2012. She was buried in a private family ceremony the day before at West View Cemetery in Atlanta.
Dr. Strong lived a full life, and she was a woman who beat many odds. The following is just a snippet of her life accomplishments;
In Milwaukee, she was the first publisher of the first Negro Business Directory, a publication that published from 1949 through the late 1950’s. This comprehensive business directory was the first of its kind in Wisconsin. She later founded the Milwaukee Defender, the first Black weekly newspaper in Wisconsin, that was published until 1961.
She picked up and moved to Chicago in the mid-1960’s, and began working for The Chicago Courier, a Black weekly newspaper founded by the late S.B. Fuller, the first Black male self-made millionaire in the United States.
Strong was the marketing director for the newspaper, and one of her many accomplishments during her tenure there was being one of two women honored by the Chicago Chamber of Commerce with Businesswoman of the Year, the other woman was the late actress Joan Crawford, who was working with Pepsi Cola at the time.
Strong took her marketing experience and launched her own marketing company, ‘The Welcome New Neighbor Service, Inc.’, a company that did door-to-door sampling in African American neighborhoods throughout the United States. Strong’s company held contracts with corporations such as; Sears Roebuck, Purex, Kelloggs and Proctor and Gamble. Her company travelled around the U.S., and for weeks at a time she hired locals to work alongside her full time travellling crew and they went out door-to-door in poor neighborhoods with samples from Kelloggs and Proctor and Gamble. She also developed an investment banking program for Black owned banks, where the large corporations that she worked with were encouraged by Strong to make large deposits in the banks, a program that allowed these banks to establish corporate credibility.
After years of seeing first hand the deterioration of the Black family, she was disturbed and it led her back into publishing. This time around it was a national magazine, ‘Black Family Magazine’. The focus of the magazine was to encourage the preservation of the Black family unit, and with this in mind she refused liquor and cigarette advertisements. The magazine set a standard that forced more established magazines aimed at the African American audience to cut down on all the “fluff” and “entertainment” and develop deeper content.
She spent her later years in the field of the ministry. She was a sought after speaker in mega churches across the U.S., she even became a regular guest on the 700 Club for several years.
She made Atlanta her home many years ago, and it is where she wanted to return to be laid to rest. She was preceded in death by her oldest son, Jesse Douglas Jones, and survived by her son, Jerrel Jones, daughter, Carolyn Wright, brothers, Atty. Leonard V. Brady, and Welton M. Brady. She also leaves behind grandchildren, great-grandchildren and one great-great grandson.