Henri W. Lopes, 98, of Providence, Rhode Island, died Friday, June 26, 2020 at the Miriam Hospital. Her daughter was able to spend time at her bedside before her death. Henri was born May 9, 1922 in the then small town of Corsicana, Texas. She was the youngest child of the late Maude Allen and Henry W. White. Henri was married in San Diego, CA, July 28, 1945, to Manuel J. Lopes, who was stationed there during World War II. Manuel and Henri celebrated their 66th anniversary before he passed away in 2011.
Henri attended public schools in Corsicana and graduated as salutatorian from Jackson High School in 1939. She attended Wiley College in Marshall, Texas and graduated with a degree in sociology in 1943. She moved to San Diego to live with her sister. She initially worked as a riveter in a factory that produced airplanes for the United States’ war effort. Henri was proud of her war work, but left the factory to take a job in her field of social work with the County of San Diego.
When the war ended and Manuel was honorably discharged from the navy, the couple relocated to his hometown of Providence. They started their family and Henri worked a number temporary jobs in the jewelry industry when she was a young mother. Henri’s professional career began in 1959 when she was hired as a social worker by the Providence Redevelopment Agency. She worked in urban renewal, assisting people whose homes were to be demolished, in finding new homes. In 1969, she worked for the U.S. Model Cities Program and became director of the Social Service Center in the South Providence neighborhood. In 1976, Henri was hired as the social worker for the RI School for the Deaf. She later directed the Foster Grandparents Program in Rhode Island for several years before she retired.
Henri is survived by her son Joseph A. Lopes, Esq. of Maryland, and her daughter, Cheryl E. Lopes, Ph.D. of Providence. She was the beloved mother of the late William H. Lopes, Ph.D., and his wife Sandra Gaines Lopes, M.A.; Linda M. Lopes; and the recently deceased Allen D. Lopes. She is also survived by five beloved grandchildren, William M. Lopes, Ph.D., and Mitchell Allen Lopes and his wife Oceana Shawanda, all of Holyoke, Massachusetts; Nathanial Allen Lopes, and his wife Desiree James Lopes, of Charleston, South Carolina; Alexander D. Lopes of Providence; and Rachel S. Lopes, M.P.A., and her mother, Maria D. Lopes, M.P.A., of Maryland. Henri was the adoring great grandmother of Josalyn of Charleston and Ophelia of Holyoke. She was the mother-in-law of Michelle H. Lopes of Providence and sister-in-law of Domingos R. Lopes of East Providence, RI.
Henri was predeceased by all six of her siblings, Allen, Altheron, Alonzo and Tilford White; Theresa W. Pendleton, and Ammon W. Martin; and by several nieces, nephews, cousins and dear friends. She is survived by her niece Ammon P. Jenkins of Oklahoma, and nephew Allen White of Texas. Her surviving White and Lopes nieces, nephews, great nieces and nephews, and cousins are many, and Henri loved and deeply appreciated them all.
Henri lived a rich life in interesting times. Her childhood was spent in the segregated South in the Roaring 20s and the Depression. WWII broke out when she was in college. She recalled that most of the male students left campus for the military when she was a college junior. Food rationing meant that many of her college dining room dinners featured lettuce salad and beans. Henri often recalled to her family the massive celebration that broke out in San Diego when World War II ended in August, 1945.
In her moves to San Diego and Providence, Henri had to adjust to different environments and cultures. As poll taxes prevented her from ever voting in Texas, she always appreciated her ability to vote in California and Rhode Island, and she never missed voting in city, state and national elections. She believed fervently in education and there was never any question that all her children would attend college and have professional careers. She advanced the value of education to the extended Lopes family and to many other families. Henri was so proud of all her children and she so deeply mourned the three that she lost. She was a loving and devoted parent who worked hard to provide her children with everything they needed and more. Her daughter recalls that she worked closely with Santa Claus and always managed to delight her kids at Christmas with the most desired and sometimes difficult to find toys.
Despite advanced age, Henri was always mentally sharp and discerning. Others could sense her dignity. She could be blunt but she also had a great sense of humor and was extremely kind and generous. She knew that her children would face challenges of bias in their lives and she taught them to be strong and persistent. She was recognized by separate local organizations in 1981 and 1993 as “Mother of the Year.” Her children were so proud of her.
Henri enjoyed playing bridge and solitaire and doing crossword and word search puzzles. She was a wonderful cook and baker and prepared massive holiday meals into her 90s. She enjoyed entertaining and setting a lovely table. She loved spending time with her children and grandchildren, and she travelled across the U.S. for her family’s biennial reunions until recent years. Aside from her family, her greatest passion was her beloved Delta Sigma Theta Sorority. She pledged DST at Wiley College in 1942 and was a charter member of her Providence Alumnae Chapter. She served many years as an officer and helped to raise thousands of dollars for scholarships for local, often first generation, college students. Her proudest times as a Delta were when she pinned her daughters when they were separately initiated into the sisterhood in 1974 and 1997. Henri is mourned by her beloved sorors.
Henri’s beautiful life will be celebrated at her funeral on Thursday, July 9, at 9:00 a.m. from the Perry-McStay Home, 2555 Pawtucket Avenue, East Providence with a Mass of Christian Burial at 10 a.m. in Holy Rosary Church, 21 Traverse Street, Providence. Burial will be in Gate of Heaven Cemetery, East Providence. A DST Omega Omega service will take place at the funeral home at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 8. In lieu of flowers, donations to the DST scholarship fund will be greatly appreciated. Please make checks payable to Providence Alumnae Chapter, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., PO Box 40175, Providence, RI 02940.