Theopia "Thea" or "Thee" GreenDecember 25, 1921 ~ December 18, 2017 (age 95)
Henry Ward Beecher Debnam and Alice Debnam celebrated the birth of their second child by anointing her Theopia, a name that originates from Coptic Christianity and means "Gift of God from Abyssinia." Theopia was destined to live a life that emulated the day of her birth, December 25th in the year 1921. For the next twelve years, she thrived under the warm, nurturing care of her family within their well-appointed home in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Theopia's mother was a devoted homemaker and an entrepreneur serving her local community by providing access to fresh fruit, vegetables, and other essential goods.
Theopia's father, an avid reader, passed this passion on to his precocious daughter. Following the untimely death of Theopia's father, Theopia's mother closed their family's home in Raleigh, and migrated to Brooklyn, New York with her children William, Theopia, (then thirteen years old), Ruth and Margaret. The family settled comfortably in Bedford-Stuyvesant, and through Alice's determination, made a Sterling Place brownstone their new homestead.
The Concord Baptist Church of Christ became the family's spiritual home. Deaconess Alice Debnam, a Concord leader and our family’s prayer warrior, inspired Theopia to serve as a Sunday School instructor under the astute mentorship of Hortense Greene, Sunday School superintendent. Theopia passionately carried forth her mother's legacy of church stewardship. Over her lifetime she served in several leadership positions, such as President of the New Lifestyle Fellowship and President of The Sisterhood. She was an engaged member of the World Wide Guild.
The Concord Baptist Church of Christ was, and remains, an active social force within the civic life of the Bedford-Stuyvesant community. Under the leadership of Reverend Dr. Gardner C. Taylor and Reverend Dr. Gary V. Simpson, Theopia cultivated her enthusiasm for active citizenship and civic engagement. In the early 1970s, Theopia and her husband Carl led local efforts to train, educate, and identify employment opportunities for Crown Heights youth through the Model Cities Program. She co-founded the Crown Heights Community Council and the Progressive Women for Human Rights. She was a delegate for Jesse Jackson and served on the Credentials Committee at the 1984 Democratic National Convention. Locally, she was an active member of the Vanguard Independent Democratic Association. She was the founding member of Women for Congressman Major Owens. Theopia was a devoted member of the National Council of Negro Women, Brooklyn Chapter. As a staunch advocate of higher education, she served as Treasurer of the Community Council for Medgar Evers College, CUNY. Theopia holds the record as the longest-serving member of Community Board 9.
Professionally, Theopia had a long and accomplished career with the City of New York Department of Social Services, now known as the Human Resources Administration. She was an active member of Local 1180 Communication Workers of America (CWA), and she served on the Greater New York Health Insurance Program (HIP) Advisory Board.
Theopia was considered an erudite public speaker. She regaled audiences small and large with her storytelling acumen. She was unequivocally passionate about the arts and culture. She supported the National Museum of African American History and Culture as a charter member, and her last out of town trip was to the Museum this past Spring. Theopia was an avid supporter of the theatre, often attending Broadway and off- Broadway productions. She looked forward to performances of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre each season. She enjoyed diverse music genres including classical, American standards, gospel, and even hip-hop. In fact, she attended the Jay-Z concert to commemorate the opening of the Barclay Center several years ago. Family members recall her only disappointment was that Jay-Z did not share the stage that evening with Beyoncé. Theopia loved to dance to Motown and the Philly sound.
Theopia was married to the love of her life, Carl Green, in 1942 at The Concord Baptist Church of Christ by the Reverend Dr. James B. Adams. She and Carl were an unbreakable duo for more than fifty years as they provided love and guidance to their sons, Carl and Roger.
For nearly ninety-six years, Theopia demonstrated an unceasing devotion to her faith, family, friends and community. As she transitioned from this worldly life into the hands of her Lord, she bequeathed this last reminder, “love you always”, a sentiment she often expressed at the end of family phone calls or visits.
“I wish for them the blessings that I enjoyed in my life. You know you must have faith, you must have a strong family, and when you have a challenge in life, you pray and keep moving forward. You plant one foot before the other. You keep moving forward. That’s what I wish for my grands and great-grands.” ~ Theopia Green, circa 2017