The Rev. Omega Ruby Pope, a nurse and missionary worker who lived for decades in Bay Shore and owned both a child-care business and an adult home in the Brentwood area, died July 11 of natural causes in Newport News, Va. She was 95.
"She loved people," said her daughter, Juanita Treadwell, 77, with whom Pope was living at the time of her death. "If you knocked on her door for money or advice, she was there for you."
Pope, an ordained minister of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, was born in Lynchburg, Va., to John T. and Annie B. Frazier -- who both were ministers. She attended Dunbar High School in Baltimore and earned her licensed practical nurse certification from St. Paul's Nursing School there. She was married to Bernard Jones of Baltimore for about five years.
Pope moved to Bay Shore in 1949 and worked at Pilgrim State Hospital, now known as Pilgrim Psychiatric Center, in Brentwood. While employed at the hospital, she opened her home to care for children. That enterprise started "in the living room with a couple of cribs," Treadwell said.
In 1961, Pope opened a child-care center called Toddle Inn in Brentwood. Family members said they believe she was the first African-American woman to own and operate a licensed child-care center in the area.
"For an African-American woman to start her own business in the time when she came up -- there weren't many people doing that," said Nicole Powell of Dix Hills, a granddaughter. "She never talked about how difficult that was . . . She wasn't a wealthy woman, but she started with what she could."
In 1970, Pope opened Anna Melissa Adult Home, a 20-bed facility in Brentwood for adults with mild developmental disabilities that she ran until her retirement in 1999. Pope retired from Pilgrim State Hospital with 30 years of service.
With a strong devotion to others, Pope was ordained as a minister in 1988. At Bethel A.M.E. Church in Bay Shore, where she was a member, she received numerous service and leadership awards, including The Frederick Douglass Award for Dedicated Service to Mankind, citing more than six decades of working for others.
"I was really encouraged and inspired by her work and her work ethic," said friend Bertha Bangs, 70, an evangelist at Bethel A.M.E. Church.
Bangs recalled a time when she thought she couldn't attend a function because she couldn't afford to buy new clothes, and Pope gave Bangs a brand-new dress from her closet. "That's the kind of lady Omega Pope was," Bangs said. "She will truly be missed."
Granddaughter Donna Lartigue, 55, of Battle Creek, Mich., remembered Pope's advice: "If there was something that I really wanted, she would always say, 'Then go ahead and ask, because the worst that could happen . . . is that they said no -- and no never hurt anybody.' "
In addition to Treadwell, Powell and Lartigue, she is survived by her son, Benjamin Lee Pope of Florida; son-in-law, Henry Treadwell of Newport News; and six other grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren. She was preceded in death by a daughter, Romaine Powell of Dix Hills, five brothers and three sisters.
A funeral service was held Monday at Bethel A.M.E. Church with burial in Pinelawn Memorial Park in Pinelawn.