The Legacy of Emma Shaw
By Rikke Van Johnson
On Wednesday, September 18, at the age of 107 years old the Lord called Emma Shaw home. She’s had her bags packed since she was 90, so 17 years later the matriarch of the Shaw family has moved to her eternal address.
Emma was the 2nd born to James and Gertrude Armstrong on August 9, 1912 in Tallulah, Louisiana. Emma was raised by her aunt and uncle and attended Madison Parish Training School. Emma was not able to complete school because the family needed her to help in the cotton fields. At the tender age of 15 she met the love of her life, George Bernard Shaw.
Emma and George were married on February 6, 1929 and they had 13 children: six sons, five daughters and two children who died at birth. Six of their children Cleveland, Luretha, Johnny B, Joyce, Wiley and Mary were born in Tallulah. Emma and George were married for 62 years until he passed away.
In 1942, George saw potential for advancement by moving his family from Louisiana to Las Vegas, Nevada. While in Las Vegas, Emma was an employee at the El Rancho and Frontier hotels. Emma gave birth to Donell and Ronell before leaving Nevada in 1944.
As times began to change, George had the foresight again to relocate his family to San Bernardino in 1944. Emma began working in private homes as a maid. She then found new employment at Norton Air Force Base. After leaving Norton, Emma began doing seasonal work at the National Orange Show. Once the seasonal work was done, Emma found employment in Palm Springs where she worked for 16 years. While in California Barbara, Vernon and Valerie were born.
Though their resources were limited, that did not prevent Emma from sharing with those who were even less fortunate whenever they stopped by. She was an amazing cook and was known for her homemade biscuits, fried chicken and her peach cobbler.
Emma joined New Hope Missionary Baptist Church under the leadership of Reverend David Campbell. After the passing of Reverend Campbell, Mother Shaw changed her membership to Greater New Jerusalem Church of God in Christ, which was then under the leadership of Elder Herbert C. Pugh. Mother Shaw grew spiritually at Greater New Jerusalem where she became the Church Mother. She served as Church Mother for over 40 years and in recognition for this service Mother Shaw was appointed Church Mother Emeritus.
Everyone who knew Mother Shaw has heard her testimony and can repeat it verbatim as she starts to say…”Early one Saturday morning I was in my bathroom when I heard a loud voice saying, ‘Be ready, I’m on My way back’…” and from that time until she went home, Mother Emma told everyone that she would encounter to be ready, the Lord is on His way back.
Emma Shaw was a local legend. She was still so full of wisdom, discernment, encouragement and honesty. She had a no-nonsense attitude when ‘stuff ain’t right,’ and she would speak her mind and let one know. When one heard ‘now looka here,’ something of importance was about to follow.
Emma was preceded in death by her husband, George; sons, Cleveland, Johnny B, and Ronell, and daughter, Luretha Johnson. The matriarch of six generations, Emma Shaw leaves to cherish her memory Joyce, Wiley (Alexis), Mary (Charles), Donell, Barbara and Valerie. She also leaves well over 300 grand; great; great great; great great great grandchildren and a host of nieces, nephews and friends.
Mother Shaw’s Wake will be held at New Jerusalem Church of God in Christ, 1424 W. 21st Street, in San Bernardino, on Thursday, October 3, at 6:00 p.m. Her Homegoing Celebration will be held at Ecclesia Christian Fellowship, 1314 E. Date Street, in San Bernardino, on Friday, October 4, with the viewing at 10:00 a.m. and the service at 11:00 a.m.