Lydia Pelzer Kirkland, the owner of Lydia Pelzer-Kirkland Funeral Home, Inc., died on Sunday, July 28, 2019, after a brief illness. She was 93.
She was born on Oct. 23, 1925, in Philadelphia. She was the oldest of nine children of the late Deacon Clyde C. and Ruth Garriest Pelzer.
She was educated in the public schools of Philadelphia and graduated from South Philadelphia High School for Girls on Jan. 20, 1944. She then completed a program in mortuary science from Echols Mortuary School and became a licensed funeral director in 1947. She graduated from Claflin University in Orangeburg, South Carolina, where she majored in biology.
She was baptized in 1940 at Union Baptist Church under the pastorate of Rev. James E. Kirkland. She married the late Rev. Joseph T. Kirkland in 1949 and was a founding member of the Church of the Redeemer Baptist Church. She personally selected the name of the church and was an active and influential first lady for many years.
She established the Lydia Pelzer-Kirkland Funeral Home, Inc. at 19th Federal St. in 1949. During the next seven decades, she continued to work as a funeral director, meeting the needs of families across the city and surrounding suburbs.
Kirkland served as a mentor and role model for many local funeral directors and was especially invested in supporting African-American business owners. In addition to this work, she was assistant executive director of the Girl Scouts of Eastern Pennsylvania.
Kirkland was an ardent supporter of Claflin University and a lifelong member of the Claflin Alumni Association. During her years in college, she was a founding member of the Gamma Nu Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. and was the first president. She reached AKA Golden Soror status with 70 years of service. Kirkland was a charter member of Dickens Auxiliary of the Women’s Board of Abington-Jefferson Hospital, a member of Quaker State Funeral Directors Association and a member of the National Funeral Directors and Morticians Association.
She was preceded in death by a grandson, Joel.
She is survived by: her daughters, Dr. Claudia K. Lyles (Gregory) and Judge Lydia Y. Kirkland; grandchildren, Josef, Leon, Joseph and Noelle; great-grandchildren, Kaliyah, Grant, Joseph and Eva; siblings, Elizabeth Kelly, Claude Pelzer (Laura) and Juanita White (James); and other relatives and friends.
The first viewing will be held Aug. 8 from noon to 7 p.m. at Garriest Crawley Funeral Home, 5816 Vine St. The second viewing will be held Aug. 9 from noon to 7 p.m. at the Church of the Redeemer Baptist, 1440 S. 24th St. (24th and Dickinson streets). Services will be held Aug. 10 at 11 a.m. at the Church of the Redeemer Baptist.