Geraldine (Betts) McDonald was born on October 3, 1930 in Booneville, MS to Ellis Alonzo and Mary Anna (Wiley) Betts. Geraldine was the first grandchild born into a family of 10 siblings. It was said her paternal grandfather, Rev. Ed Betts, wanted her to be named Eddie Faye, but “Geraldine” won out. She had one younger brother, Ellis Leon Betts (Flora). Her beloved parents and brother preceded her in death. Geraldine’s maternal grandmother, the late Anna Belle Owens, began teaching her to play the piano when she was 8 years old, and Geraldine started using her talent within the church at age 12. Geraldine graduated from Prentiss County High School in Booneville, and received a 4-year scholarship to attend Mississippi Industrial College in Holly Springs, MS. She went on to study music for a little more than a year. While there, she auditioned for and became a member of the Choral Club, singing as a mezzo-soprano.
Geraldine became the bride of Henry M. McDonald, Sr. on June 24, 1951 at Spring Hill Baptist Church in Booneville, MS. They relocated their family to Joliet, IL in 1964. Geraldine was soon visited at their home by the late Rev. Dr. Isaac Singleton, Sr., Pastor of Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church, and her late uncle Andrew Betts, who served as a deacon. During that meeting, Geraldine was offered a pianist role at Mount Zion, which she accepted. She played the piano and sang with the Mount Zion music ministry for more than 47 years, under the leadership of James Brown, the former Minister of Music, and along side several other talented musicians. Within their inner circle, the musicians fondly referred to themselves as “Gerri and the Boys”. Throughout the years, Geraldine led the children’s choir with the assistance of Linda Kimble, and likewise co-led the annual Women’s Day chorus with the late Ernestine (Tina) Thompson.
When she was not involved in her music ministry, Geraldine’s favorite activities were cooking and baking for her family, mentoring younger women in the ways of life, and staying in touch with family and friends. She was affectionately known as Ms. Mac, Sister Mac, Gerri, Grandma Gerri, Aunt Gerri, Cousin Gerri and so on. Ms. Mac was employed as a substitute teacher in the Booneville school system prior to relocating to Joliet. Her final employment was with Personal Products Co., of Johnson & Johnson Corporation, in Wilmington, IL. She worked as a machine Operator-Packer for several years before retiring in 1994.
Henry and Geraldine were one month short of celebrating 56 years of marriage at Henry’s passing in 2007. Gerri never stopped grieving his loss. When her health began to decline, Gerri relocated to North Attleboro, MA in October 2011 to live with her daughter and her family. Music gave Geraldine life and joy in the Spirit, as she continued to use her musical gifts at Mount Hope Community Baptist Church in Providence, RI. However, in early 2020, at the seasoned age of 89, Geraldine recognized it was time to retire from her service. In the early hours of Monday, March 29, 2021, the Lord called Geraldine home to rest.
Geraldine is survived by; three sons, Henry M. McDonald, Jr. (Patty Christenson) of Bartlett, IL, Lee A. McDonald (Elizabeth) of Chicago, IL, Frederick W. McDonald (Tamara) of Matteson, IL, and one daughter, Priscilla A. Eskridge (Herry) of North Attleboro, MA, 20 grandchildren, 24 great grandchildren, and 3 great-great grandchildren, one goddaughter, Danielle Withers (Dr. Christopher) of Franklin, WI, two aunts; Jettie F. Taylor of Jefferson City, MO, and Annie Mae Betts of Joliet, IL; three sisters-in-law; Flora L. Betts of Joliet, IL, Betty J. Robinson of Kansas City, MO, and Betty J. McDonald of Las Vegas, NV, along with a host of nieces, nephews and cousins across the country.
Sister Mac lived out a life consistently devoted to the three sources of her joy; Faith through service, love of Family, and love of Friends. Countless extended family members and friends will miss her presence and her infectious laugh. May the memories of her legacy live on for ages to come, bringing comfort to all those who knew and loved her so dearly.
“Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all. Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Honor her for all that her hands have done, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.” Proverbs 31:29-31 (NIV)
The home-going celebration will be limited to immediate family.
Donations can be made to the Alzheimer’s Association in honor of Geraldine McDonald (https://act.alz.org/donate).