Ruth Sizemore was the founder of the annual Pre-Labor Day Soiree, inductee in the Philadelphia African American Legends Hall of Fame, leader of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Black Nurses Association, and former president of the Philadelphia chapter of the National Council of Negro Women.
Sizemore died at her Laverock home on Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2013. She was 84.
She was also listed as one of the “10 Most Influential Blacks in Philadelphia” by the Tribune in 1999. This came on the heels of being installed into the African American Legends Hall of Fame (AALHOF) at Drexel University’s Mendel Theater and being named one of 12 women included the WDAS Female African American Leaders of Organizations calendar in 1996.
A former model, Sizemore is an alumnus of the old Flamingo Modeling and Charm School. During her fashion career she modeled for Run-Way Model, was voted Philadelphia’s Most Popular Model, and was the 1956 Miss Sepia.
Her career is noted in Rosemary Reed’s 2004 book “Threads of Time, the Fabric of History,” and the National Association of Fashions and Designers named her as one of Philadelphia’s Best Dressed Women.
Yet among the things Sizemore is known for is increasing the local membership into the NCNW. When she stepped up to the helm of the Philadelphia chapter in 1996 the group “increased its membership by 33 percent,” she told the Tribune Magazine in March 1997. She was the brainchild of the local chapter’s involvement in voter registration and education by joining forces with the old Black Women’s Voter Crusade alongside the late C. Delores Tucker.
“We made a great impact in these drives,” Sizemore said.
“We added 1,400 new registered voters in addition to increasing our own membership.”
Her NCNW community service included collaborating with the Gateway Feed Program, the Salvation Army food program for the shut-in, and collecting toys and clothing for needy African American families. She also spearheaded the Quaker Oats breakfast which she said “recognized women in the trenches” who were contributing to the local community on a grassroots level.
She was born on March 30, 1928, to Walter Berry and Isabel McFarland-Berry. She grew up and attended public schools in Greenville, S.C. As a young woman she met and married her “church sweetheart” Charles Daniel Sizemore. Together they purchased and managed real estate property in the Philadelphia area.
Upon relocating to Philadelphia she earned an associate’s degree from Community College of Philadelphia, a bachelor of science in nursing degree from Lawrence University, and a bachelor’s in human services from Antioch. She also studied at Temple University and participated in the BSN Co-Op program at Hahnemann. As a R.N. she worked as a nursing supervisor, rehabilitation nurse, public health nurse, did clinical research for the government and was active with the Southeastern Pennsylvania Area Black Nurses Association.
Sizemore also served as lifestyle editor for old Delaware Valley Defender newspaper for almost a decade. Her by-line later appeared in the Tribune, the Leader, Scoop newspaper and the Germantown Courier, covering social events including writing about her own late-summer, at-home Pre-Labor Day Soirees.
Her home-based large social gatherings began as Super Bowl parties in her Overbrook home before turning into one of the premier late summer galas that hosted more than 150 guests outside her Laverock home. She said she rotated the invitees so that those in attendance could network and broaden their civic affiliations. Guests ranged from personal and professional friends and those active in faith communities to virtually every African American elected official, judge and professional organization leader.
Sizemore was also a champion for neighborhood causes through her other volunteer efforts. She was an active volunteer with the Red Cross Bloodmobile, the conversion of the Stenton Child Care Center, the PGH Nursing Home, the American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society, the Leukemia Foundation, the Sickle Cell Disease Foundation and others. Though a longtime Republican, Sizemore volunteered for Organizing for America and contributed to President Barack Obama’s campaign.
The recipient of more than 50 accolades, Sizemore was active with numerous organizations. Besides the NCNW’s Chi Eta Phi Theta chapter and the African-American nurses group, she was a member of 2000 African American Women, a matron with Loucelia Chapter 38 of the Eastern Stars, the National Association of Business and Professional Women’s Club, ministries at Bright Hope Baptist Church, the Coalition of 100 Black Women, the Philadelphia Urban Guild, the Association of African American Life and History and the Laverock Civic Association.
Sizemore is survived by her daughters, Gerry and Gwen Sizemore; grandson, Chris E. Ballard, great-grandson, Brandon C. Ballard; niece, Isabel Coombs; and nephews, Charles Berry, Robert Palmer and Sylvester Palmer.
Services will be held January 30 at 10 a.m. at Bright Hope Baptist Church, 1601 North 12th Street.