To Thelma Grier, the church was the foundation of her life, and education was a goal she championed for her family and her community, a granddaughter recalled.
Grier, of Uniondale, died at Mercy Medical Center in Rockville Centre Oct. 6 after a long illness. She was 90.
"Her legacy is at her church," said Caprice Rines of Hempstead, one of Grier's five grandchildren. Grier worshipped at South Hempstead Baptist Church for almost 50 years. She joined the church in 1964, soon after she and her husband, Theodore, moved from New York City to Long Island, her granddaughter said.
"The church was so important to her because she knew the church was the foundation of any community," Rines said, adding that Grier wanted to "invest" in the lives of the children.
She was a Sunday school teacher, member of the church's scholarship committee, the pastor's committee "and so many different committees that gave back to help the community." Rines said. "She taught us we need to give back because there're so many kids in Hempstead who don't have."
Throughout her life Grier "stressed the importance of education," which influenced the family, Rines said. "My father is an educator. Several of my sisters and brothers are educators. She taught us you have to be involved in your children's education," and stressed getting a college education.
Rines said her grandmother also "taught us to have passion in what you do and integrity . . . She poured so much into our lives."
Thelma Wallace Grier was born and raised in Charlotte, N.C., but left the South, like many African-Americans who made up the "Great Migration" to northern cities, arriving in Harlem in 1947 to join an aunt.
Grier attended the Sarah J. Hale Vocational High School in Brooklyn, becoming a certified seamstress, Rines said. In the 1970s, Grier earned New York State certification as a nursing assistant, specializing in newborn child care, geriatric and convalescent care.
Grier and her husband moved to Long Island in the early 1960s, buying a home in Uniondale. Rines said her grandmother also bought a home in Hempstead as an investment. "Her father taught her it was important to buy land," Rines said.
In addition to Rines, Grier's survivors include a son, George Wallace Grier of Uniondale; a sister, Hoppie Chisholm of Charlotte, N.C.; and four grandchildren. Grier's husband predeceased her.
A funeral for Grier was held at South Hempstead Baptist Church Oct. 12; burial followed at Greenfield Cemetery in Uniondale.