Ella Mae Sawyer
Ella Mae Sawyer

December 5, 1934 - April 1, 2019
Born in Baltimore, Md.
Resided in Plainfield, New Jersey
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Ms. Ella Hardy was born on the 5th of December 1934 in Baltimore Maryland to Mr. Wilber Thomas Brooks and Mrs Mary E. Hardy. Later she was joined by a brother Earl and a sister Mary. In her later childhood Ella was raised by her Aunt Elsie. She excelled in school and was a popular student at Douglas High School. She was encouraged by several of her instructors to become a teacher and to apply to Hampton Institute in Virginia.
At Hampton she acquired the nickname of Penny because her lithe figure resembled a popular comic strip character of the day. She continued to excel scholastically and joined the Phillis Wheatley Social Club. Upon graduating from Hampton Institute in 1957, she was accepted at Columbia University for a Masters of Education. She was on the verge of declining the offer, thinking it impractical, but was convinced that she must take advantage of the opportunity by a young man she had been dating at Hampton James W. Sawyer Jr.
The couple maintained a long-distance relationship after Mr. Sawyer was drafted into the Army. When he was assigned to Germany they married and she accompanied him and several college friends on exploratory forays across the continent. They had the time of their lives touring Spain, France, Switzerland and Italy in a massive Chevy convertible.
Once James left the Army, the young couple settled in New York City with their her father in law James Sawyer Sr. where Ella held a number of jobs including, one at the United Nations providing opportunities for international students to come and study in the United States. During this time she continued to teach and at one point commuted to work as one of the first black teachers in a school system on Long Island. James worked on the railroad in New York and New Jersey and with Eastern Airlines in Manhattan. The couple lived in the Bronx, Manhattan and Brooklyn including the New Lenox Terrace Apartments in Harlem and later at the Ebbets Field Apartments in Brooklyn.
After the birth of their only child, Steven, they accepted a transfer with Eastern Airlines to New Jersey moving to Plainfield in 1969. Ella continued to work in New York for a few years at the City College of New York before transferring to Essex Community College and Plainfield High School to teach in the Business Education Department. She worked there preparing students for jobs in Business Administration but also helping place them in after-school positions and permanent assignments after High School and helping them go on to college. She became involved with Crescent Avenue Presbyterian Church in the early 1970’s and later she was one of the charter parents in the Plainfield YMCA Seahorse Swimming Team Booster Club. However, she was most dedicated to the students of Plainfield High School. Her efforts were recognized and she was elevated to Assistant Principal after several years as Department Chairman of the Vocational Education Department at Plainfield High School. Ella retired from Plainfield High School in 2001.
In 1983 she was proud when her son matriculated to her Alma Mater Hampton Institute on Army ROTC Scholarship. Shortly afterward she pledged Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority and has enjoyed the sisterhood of the Theta Phi Omega Chapter for the last 30 plus years. She went to many conventions, and on several overseas trips with her sorority sisters. Recently she returned from Safari in South Africa.
In recent years, Ella volunteered at the Seniors Centers became a deacon at Crescent Avenue Presbyterian Church, continued to teach on occasion at various events and was a frequent attendee at Hampton University reunions especially the annual Hampton Ladies Luncheon . She welcomed three grandchildren Jonathan, Ella and James. She also has 5 nieces and nephews including Mary, Enice, Jose, Dwayne and Dana. Ella was blessed with many great and great- great nieces and nephews.
Ella passed from this Earth on the 1st of April 2019 after a bout with breast cancer and only 8 weeks after the death of her beloved husband James. She was surrounded by her sister Mary, her nephew Jose and her son Steven.




Cresant Ave Prebyterian Church
716 Watchung Ave
Plainfield, NJ US 07060
Saturday, May 4, 2019
1:00 PM
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