Ethel Lee (Edmonds) Swanagan, known as “Baby Sis”, Aunt Ethel, Ms. Ethel, Ma, and Grandma transitioned to glory at the age of 71, Wednesday February 3, 2021 in Hospice Care at Waterside Nursing Facility in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
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She entered this world on a Saturday on February 19th in 1949, born to Ethel Powell Gertrude (Edmonds) Darden and Jim Allen Edmonds in Norfolk Virginia at Norfolk General Hospital. She is predeceased by her mother Ethel P. Darden and three of her older brothers, Sampson Edmonds, Fred Edmonds and Curly Edmonds. Ethel was not married at the time of her passing but leaves to cherish her many memories, one daughter: Cherique Kavonne (Swanagan) Bullock, two grand-children, Ryan Nichole (Swanagan) Stiff and Shaunn (Swanagan) Smith; one sister: Barbara Edmonds Dickerson and One brother: Leroy Edmonds (Chico) and a host of nieces, nephews, great nieces and nephews, cousins and friends.
Ethel shared her birthday month with her Mother, Ethel; Sister, Barbara; Niece, Bethany Anne (Trussell) Pebbles and her Grandson Shaunn. She lived to not only witness our First African American President, Barack Obama but also lived during the inauguration of our very first Female Vice President.
Ethel grew up in Norfolk, Virginia living most of her life in the Park Place area of Norfolk. She attended and graduated from Booker T. Washington High School in 1968 where she was a cheerleader and participated in home economics and their Mock Wedding project. Shortly after graduating she married George Emael Swanagan, and had one daughter Cherique, on August 23, 1969 in Portsmouth Virginia. Ethel attended and graduated Anne’s Beauty College in Norfolk where she became a licensed Cosmetologist and loved everything about doing hair. She began working at the age of 22 at Mackee as a cook and prep associate. Following her employment there, she continued to work in the hospitality industry working for Holiday Inn and Service America. She later transitioned to working at Wal-Mart and as a Cafeteria Worker at Lake Taylor, Norview Middle School and Granby High School. Ethel was extremely loved by all of the students and faculty she encountered because of her jovial spirit and spontaneous gift of song. Her last place of employment was at Children’s Hospital of the Kings Daughters in Norfolk as a Security and Information Clerk.
Ethel was a life-long member of Abyssinia Baptist Church in Norfolk, Virginia under Pastor Frank Guns Sr. and frequently visited Wesleyan Union African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church also in Norfolk, Virginia under Reverend Willie L. Dixon. She was a member of the Women’s Choir and Usher Board at Abyssinia Baptist Church.
If you knew Ethel you knew her to be serious about her appearance. She was always a sharp dresser and took pride in how she looked when she stepped out. Her thoughts were always “You never know who you will see” a moto she lived by up until she was admitted into Autumn Care Nursing Home in April of 2019. Ethel was also very forward and direct and she would be sure to let you know exactly how she felt at a moment’s notice. There were no grey areas when it came to her. A lesson she passed to her daughter and grandchildren, to speak their minds and “Don’t take any wooden nickels off of anyone,” meaning don’t let anyone take advantage of you.
Ethel enjoyed singing and dancing and genuinely having a good time with family and friends. Her favorite dance was the hand dance and the tick. Her favorite singers included Aretha Franklin, Mahalia Jackson, Al Green, John Legend and Anthony Hamilton. She thoroughly enjoyed her gospel music as well, such as Dottie Peoples, Dorothy Norwood, Albertina Walker and a host of others. Ethel owned a very extensive record collection representing her true love of all kinds of music. She loved to laugh and her laugh was certainly just as infections as her smile. She often thought of her daughter and grandchildren as comical often stating “Ya’ll keep me laughing.” Ethel also enjoyed her reality T.V. and one of her favorite shows was ‘The Haves and the Have Nots’. She would often call her friends up to catch up on the latest episodes. Knowing her meant that you knew she loved to cook and would feed anybody who would cross her threshold and would not let you leave empty handed. Whether it was a meal to go, snacks, trinkets or things she was trying to get rid of she had a generous heart. Ethel knew what she wanted and would never settle for less than that. If you were going to do something you were going to do it right, 100%, especially if it was for her. If she did not like something she would tell you, no sugar coating. She spared no expense to ensure she had the best that her heart desired. While she resided on 37th Street she was the Neighborhood watch and could tell you anything and everything about her block and was not ashamed to tell it. She made sure that everybody was in line and cared about the appearance of where she lived and took pride in it.
Ethel will be greatly missed and has left a special piece of her with us all to cherish and remember. Her strength, courage and vibrant personality will be remembered forever.