Ulysees Gammage Sr., a U.S. Army veteran and entrepreneur, died on Friday, Dec. 13, 2019. He was 81.
Affectionately known as ‘Ike,” he was born on a farm in Parrot, Georgia, on May 2, 1938, to the late Edress Gammage Sr. and Bertha Douglas Gammage.
He volunteered for service in the U.S. Army in 1955 and served honorably until 1958, when he was discharged. He completed duties in Italy and Germany as a military policeman.
After his discharge, Gammage learned the art of shoe repair at Buster Breakfield’s shoe repair shop in Columbus, Georgia. As a friend and mentor, Breakfield inspired him to become the owner of his own shoe repair business. Gammage moved from Columbus to Philadelphia in 1960 and was hired by a shoe repair shop the next day. He later worked in the shoe repair division of Parkwood Manor Cleaners and Shoe Repair Shop in Philadelphia, which he eventually headed.
In 1968, he opened New Father and Sons Shoe Repair Shop at 6050 Castor Ave., as the sole proprietor. He was the first Black business owner on Castor Avenue.
“The success of his business was due to his highly conversant and friendly personality and his desire to ensure customer satisfaction at the highest level possible,” said his family in a tribute. He thoroughly enjoyed interacting with all of his customers, his neighbors and their children.
Gammage was recognized by the Philadelphia Bulletin, Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Tribune, Philadelphia Daily News and Northeast Times for being the owner of one of the oldest and most successful businesses in the Northeast. New Father and Sons Shoe Repair Shop has been in business for over 50 years.
He married Minnie Ree McMillian in Columbus, Georgia, on Dec. 24, 1960. From this union came four children.
He taught his children how to repair shoes, engage with customers, catch fish in a pond, throw a curveball, nurture plants in a home garden and play pool. Gammage would attend as many of his children’s special events as he could. He wanted his children to be happy and to do well in whatever they chose. “He was very proud and lauded in the accomplishments of his children and would, said his family.
His pastimes included riding motorcycles and bicycles with friends and family, attending car shows and shoe repair conventions and workshops and growing vegetables in his home garden. He was highly competitive and was an athlete, playing football in high school, then a little baseball in the Army.
Sports and current events were his favorite subjects.
“He had an infectious laugh and smile that remained encrypted in your heart long after you saw him,” said his family.
He was preceded in death by his brothers, Marvin “Boot” Billington, Edress “Pep” Gammage Jr. and Darnell Gammage.
He is survived by: his children, Johnnie Lee McMillian, Ulysees Gammage Jr. (Bridget), Sylvia Marie Gammage, and Kenneth Alphonso Gammage (Jennifer); grandchildren, Endea Marie Thimothee, Joshua Lee Hylton, Keisha Campbell (James), Tiffany Christina Gammage, Kara Gammage, Trista M. Green, Kenneth C. Gammage, Ryan McMillian and Corey McMillian; great-grandchildren; sisters, Lula Mae Tisdale (Mack) and Gloria Jean Davis (Willie); and other relatives and friends.
Services were held on Dec. 23 at Second Baptist Church of Germantown, 6459 Germantown Ave. Viewing was at 8 a.m. Services followed at 10 a.m.
Bruce R. Hawkins Funeral Home handled the arrangements.