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OUR LEGACY

Newstell Marable - (This obituary appeared in the Pottstown Mercury on January 26, 2015)

Newstell Marable, a longtime community activist and president of the Pottstown Chapter of the NAACP for more than 30 years, died Jan. 21 in his Old Douglass Drive home at age 84.

Marable, who came to the Pottstown area as a young man from the deep South, was a civil rights activist on numerous local issues through his life including the closing of Jefferson Elementary School, integrating segregated pools in the area; advocating for the opening of Gruber Pool and replacing it when it closed; confronting instances of racism in Pottstown and Boyertown and a champion for keeping the Ricketts Community Center open for all.

One of his final campaigns was the try to convince political leaders in Pottstown and Lower Pottsgrove to

The most recent Martin Luther King Jr. community celebration in Pottstown was dedicated to Marable, just two days before he died.

A memorial service has been scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 7, at Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church at Franklin and Beech streets in Pottstown.

“To me, he was bigger than life, like someone people should make a move about,” said Johnny Corson, who worked with Marable for 12 years as vice president of the Pottstown Chapter of the NAACP.

“He wasn’t afraid to stand for something and he wasn’t afraid to stand alone,” Corson said. “But he loved people and he loved diversity so much, he would help anyone, black, white Hispanic, Asian, he didn’t care.”

“He was a fine person, straight and upright and he was always very big on Pottstown; he just loved Pottstown and wanted to make it better,” said Elaine Blakey, who helped to found the Pottstown chapter of NAACP and served on the Pottstown School Board during the tumultuous times that surrounded the closing of Jefferson Elementary School to desegregate schools here.

“Newstell was very conscientious; militant but respectful, if its possible to be both things at the same time,” Blakey said with a laugh. “He always did what he thought was right.”

“Mr. Marable was a man to be admired,” said former Pottstown School Board member Valerie Jackson. “He had a spirit of commitment and tenacity, especially when it came to civil justice and equality.”

She added “what I admired was the fact that Mr. Marable also took the time to share his knowledge with others and he made sure younger generations were aware of their history, the importance of not just talking but in taking action.”

Marable was born and raised in Birmingham, Ala., to Alfonzo and Daisy (Hardwick) Marable and his son, Newstell Marable Jr., was one of the people to whom those lessons were taught.

“He grew up with all that in the 1960s, the ‘colored’ bathrooms and water fountains and he taught me a lot about standing up for yourself and standing up against injustice,” said Marable’s son.

Millicent Marable, with whom Marable would have celebrated a 60th wedding anniversary next month, said the family saw plenty of examples of discrimination when they would travel south to visit family.

“We were in Tennessee once and we stopped for gas,” Millicent Marable recalled. “Newstell asked where the bathroom was and the clerk asked why. He said ‘my wife wants to take my son to use the rest room’ and the clerk replied ‘we don’t have one ... for you,’” she said.

“Well Newstell said ‘you can take that hose right out of my gas tank because I am not buying any gas from you,’” she recalled.

The couple met at Bethel AME Church when Marable came to Pottstown after serving in the U.S. Army.

“His mother worked for Sidney Pollock and I used to baby-sit for her and she would tell me about her life and her children,” Millicent Marable said.

change the name of Armand Hammer Boulevard to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

Vernon Ross, the pastor at Bethel AME, said the third Sunday in February will be “Newstell Marable Day,” in honor of the man he got to know during his 14 years at leading the church.

“Newstell was in the men’s choir and the men’s ministry and served on the retention committee, but he didn’t jockey for position or try to be in charge. He was very sincere and community minded,” Ross said.

“Every Sunday he would come up to me and say ‘I’m still trying to live by Dr. King’s message Reverend,’” said Ross.

Marable was no stranger to the Civil Rights movement.

He grew up less than a mile from Frederick Lee Shuttlesworth, the noted civil rights leader and Alabama minister who was co-founder of Southern Christian Leadership Conference and was instrumental in the 1963 “Birmingham campaign” that led to the city changing its discrimination laws.

“They knew each other quite well,” said Millicent Marable.

She said he was among the black men who climbed the fence at the pool at Sunnybrook Ballroom, which at the time did not allow black members.

“When he was younger, he was a real go-getter,” said Blakey in recalling that campaign.

Marable was also valued in the community for his political insights, said Ross.

“He was very astute about local politics issues and he informed me about issues and political concerns in the community that he thought I needed to know,” said Ross.

“We used to work the polls together and we had so much fun, even though he was there for the Democratic candidates and I was there for the Republican candidates,” Corson recalled. “Even though we were on opposite sides, we would stand right next to each other and joke around.”

“And he would help anyone who asked for help,” Corson said. “I remember one time a white person asked him if the NAACP would help white people too and he looked at him and said ‘the NAACP was founded by white and black people working together, now how can we help you?’”

Marable graduated from Parker High School in Birmingham and attended Alabama A & M where he majored in chemistry and plumbing.

Throughout his life, he also took classes at Temple University, Albright College, Cheney State University, New York University and the University of Michigan said his wife Millicent.

He worked at Pottstown Plating for 12 years and for a time he also ran his own plating business, Tech Plating, on Cross Street and also worked for the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission.

“I guess I took him for granted, because he always looked the same and I never thought he was going to go away,” Corson said, his voice cracking. “He was my mentor.”

“The last time I saw him, he told me he wanted to find someone in Montgomery County who could help bring jobs to Pottstown,” Corson said. “‘These young people won’t stay out of trouble if they can’t find job,’ he told me.”

In addition to his son and wife, Marable is survived by two sisters, Margaret Seltmann and Juanita Hightower and an older brother, Sylvester Marable.

Credit: Mercury Staff

 
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OUR LEGACY

Bishop Everett V. Debnam - (This obituary appeared in the Pottstown Mercury on August 28th, 2021)

POTTSTOWN – Bishop Everett V. Debnam, pastor of Invictus Ministries and longtime community activist, died Monday, Aug. 23, on his 68th birthday.

In addition to his pastorship at Invictus, Debnam was first vice president of the Pottstown chapter of the NAACP as well as serving as the chaplain for the Pottstown Police Department.

“He loved God. He loved his family. And he really loved the community and being a leader in the community,” his son Brian said Saturday, speaking from Arizona. "That was his passion. And since he passed I have had a number of people contact me and tell me that when they were in crisis, or they were facing a loss, or a challenge, they could call him any time of the day or night and he would be there for them,” said Brian Debnam. 

His father was born in Baltimore in 1953 to the late Leona and William Debnam. He attended Baltimore schools and while in Northwestern High School founded what may well have been the school’s first gospel choir, his son Brian said.

Debnam was a musician and taught himself how to play the piano and organ by ear. He was also active in the church as a young man and was an ordained deacon, his son said.

He worked both as a Maryland state trooper and held a leadership position in the Maryland Transit Authority before he moved into the ministry.

Debnam was trained at Good Tidings in Baltimore and moved his family to Pottstown in 1987 for his first pastorship at Second Baptist Church on North Adams Street.

After leaving that post, he founded Invictus Ministries, eventually leading his congregation to the purchase of the former Transfiguration Lutheran Church on North Hanover Street. 

Debnam also was named the Second Presiding Bishop of Kingdom Connection Fellowship International. “He was very proud of that and dedicated a lot of his time and attention to that,” said his son.

The Pottstown chapter of the NAACP posted a message reading, “We mourn the passing of our beloved First Vice President and brother, Bishop Everett Debnam. He was a dedicated servant-leader to our branch and community until the end. Bishop Debnam got into ‘good trouble’ and faithfully finished the race.”

The Pottstown Ministerium has also circulated a resolution on Debnam’s passing. It reads, in part, “the passing of Bishop Everett C. Debnam has left us deeply saddened, he will be greatly missed, but never forgotten.”

The resolution also reads “we embrace the entire Debnam family and Invictus Ministries and offer our prayers and assistance in the days ahead.”

Debnam is survived by his wife Robin; sons Marc of Pottstown, Brian of Arizona, Lekeisha of Texas, Danielle of Pottstown; step-children Scott and Calista of Pottstown; siblings Dehin Baughn of Virginia, Marlon “Butch” Debnam of Virginia, Helen Brown of Baltimore, Kemmitt Scott, also of Baltimore; Bonita of Pottstown, the mother of his children.

Brian Debnam said two of his fondest memories include when his father baptized him at age 8, and officiated at his wedding to his wife LaShun in 2000.

“He was a giver and people remember him for that, and for his sense of humor; his one-liners and his signature belly laugh, head tipped slightly back and his shoulders shaking,” Brian recalled.

Services for Debnam will occur over two days.

A local and traditional homegoing celebration will take place Thursday, Sept. 9, at Heart of God Family Worship Center, 201 N. Hanover St. in Pottstown. The public viewing will be from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., with a public service at 4 p.m.

A national homegoing celebration will take place Friday, Sept. 10, at Heart of God. The public viewing will be from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m., with a worship service at 10 a.m.

Bishop Jerome H. Ross Sr. will be the presiding prelate.

In lieu of flowers, the Debnam family is asking people to make a monetary donation to Invictus Ministries Inc.

Credit: Mercury Staff