Celebration of Life Service for The Honorable Pearl C. Quarles to be held Friday, Sept. 15th
Celebration of Life Services will be held on Friday, September 15, 2023, for the Honorable Pearl C. Quarles, beginning with a Wake from 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. and a Funeral at 11:00 a.m. Both services will be held at Shiloh Baptist Church, 185 Lincoln Avenue, New Rochelle NY 10801.
OBITUARY: The Honorable Pearl C. Quarles went home to eternal rest on September 6, 2023, at Montefiore New Rochelle Hospital in New Rochelle, NY. Pearl was born on March 29, 1931 in Goochland County, Virginia, one of five children (Louise, Laverne, Rudolph, and Gladys) born to the late Henry and Pearl Christian. She attended New Rochelle Public Schools, graduating from New Rochelle High School in 1949. It was during her high school years that her spirit of community service first began to blossom, as she took on leadership roles in many volunteer youth organizations, serving her school, community and, church while always excelling in her studies. She later pursued a course of study at the American Institute of Banking and became the first African American woman to work in a “white collar” position in the Westchester County banking industry.
In 1952 Pearl married her “life partner” and “best friend” Ernest Quarles, and to this union one son, Ernest, Jr., and one daughter, Donna Marie, were born. Pearl and Ernest enjoyed 52 years of marriage and parenthood before Ernest went home to glory in October, 2004.
After spending a few years as a stay-at-home mother, Pearl returned to work, gaining most of her employment experience in the field of accounting before advancing to the position of Comptroller/Office Manager for a major local retailer, where she worked for 19 years. She later worked for the County of Westchester as a Program Specialist and Supervisor of the Job Development Unit of Employment and Training, introducing many policy and procedural innovations before retiring in 2002. For many years after her retirement from the County of Westchester, Pearl was often stopped and warmly embraced by grateful former clients whom she had helped to gain a new lease on life through employment training and job placement.
While Pearl’s many accomplishments in the world of work were extraordinary, it was in her roles as a public servant and community activist that her talents as a natural leader and trailblazer came to their fullest fruition. She was the first African American to serve as the President of the New Rochelle Board of Education, the first African American woman to serve as a Westchester County Legislator, serving as a County Legislator for the 8th Legislative District, and a long-time member and past President of the County-wide Westchester Black Women’s Political Caucus. She also served on the Executive Committee of the New Rochelle Chapter of the NAACP, working tirelessly to advance and protect the civil rights of New Rochelle’s Black citizens.
Devout in her Christian faith, Pearl was a life-long member of Shiloh Baptist Church in New Rochelle, where she served as the first female Chairperson of the Board of Trustees and a member of the Board of Directors of the Shiloh Housing Corporation, a senior citizen housing initiative. During her 15 years of service as a trustee, she helped to shape Shiloh into a center for community empowerment that sponsored academic enrichment programs, a chapter of the Girl Scouts, and numerous other youth-oriented activities. In the 1960's, she served as a Cub Scout den leader for a New Rochelle pack which included community residents including future mayor Tim Idoni and her son Ernest. Pearl also drew great strength and spiritual sustenance from her sisters in the Maybelle Chapter, Order of the Eastern Star, for which she served as a Past Worthy Matron and Grand Officer of the Eureka Grand Chapter.
Mother Pearl was the recipient of numerous community service awards, including the Rotary International’s Paul Harris Fellow Award; two Sojourner Truth Awards; the Harriet Tubman Award; and the New Rochelle NAACP Main Honoree/Member of the Year and Lifetime Achievement Awards. She was especially passionate about her work to promote peace in the community and in the world, for which she received the New Rochelle Community Action – Dr. Martin Luther King Drum Major Award, the Golden Harvest Humanitarian Award, and, in 2009, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin Peacemaker Award from the Coalition for Mutual Respect. Pearl was an active and valued member of the Coalition for Mutual Respect's Steering Committee for many years and was a strong supporter of all of the activities of the Inter-Religious Coalition of New Rochelle (formed by a merger of the Interreligious Council of New Rochelle and the Coalition for Mutual Respect).
Later in life, at a time when most have settled into the comfort of retirement, Pearl served as an inaugural board member of Sister to Sister International (STSI), a nonprofit organization that links women, girls, and families of African descent around the globe to resources that connect and strengthen them, and most recently served as parliamentarian. Like her adoptive sisters and daughters in the Order of the Eastern Star, her adoptive family in STSI were a faithful and loving presence in Pearl’s life as her health began to decline over the past year, showering her with affection and gifts of service and providing immeasurable comfort and respite for her immediate family. More than a pillar of the New Rochelle community, Pearl in many ways embodied its heart and soul, continuing to serve until her very last breath. Not surprisingly, at the time of her admission to United Hebrew of New Rochelle, the rehabilitation facility where she spent much of her final year, she was still an active and beloved member of its Board of Directors.
No one ever loved or more clearly demonstrated her love for New Rochelle than did our beloved Queen Mother Pearl, and yet her most cherished role in life was as family matriarch; her most cherished titles “Wife”, “Mom”, “Grammy”, “Sister”, “Auntie”, “Friend”. Nothing gave her more joy than plying us with her to-die-for yams, collard greens, barbecued spareribs, and potato salad. Nothing gave us more strength than her wise council, the example of her selflessness, and her faithful presence in times of crisis. No doubt she is standing beside each of us today as we mourn her passing and celebrate her life, urging us to accept the torch of light and love that she is passing to us with a grateful heart and the blessed assurance that, through our loving service to God and to each other, joy will surely come in the morning!
Mother Pearl leaves to cherish her memory her devoted son, Ernest (Deidra); her best friend and closest confidante, her daughter, Donna; the “apple of her eye”, her granddaughter, Adira; her brother-in-law, Luther Quarles II (Pamela); and a host of nieces, nephews, cousins, and cherished friends. Because of her own fragile health, the family did not tell Mom when her beloved younger sister Gladys, her “ride or die” with whom she traveled the world, passed away on August 31, 2023. And yet we sensed that she knew somehow, and called out to her sister in heaven, “Gladys, I don’t know where you think you’re going without me!”
The family wishes to extend special thanks to Mom’s adoptive sister Alma Gaines, adoptive daughters Lisa Tucker, Fern Valentine, Cheryl Brannan, Vera Cheeks, Milissa Bess, and adoptive sons Jerry Williams and Quintin McDavid, who “stood in” for us when we were unable to be with Mom physically, watching over her and doing all that a loving member of her immediate family would do. We also sincerely thank the multitude of neighbors who supported Mom with food, words of encouragement, and innumerable acts of kindness throughout the years, and especially through the challenges of the past year. Next door neighbors like Mrs. McPherson, Hugo and Barbara Broughman-Ramirez and their children Vicki, Kathy, and Hugo, Jr. were our extended eyes and ears when we were away, checking on Mom daily to make sure that groceries were carried, sidewalks shoveled, and small home repairs made. Not to mention the steady flow of Jamaican culinary delights from Ms. McPherson’s kitchen! Rita Mabli and countless medical staff were Mom’s guardian angels at United Hebrew and Montefiore New Rochelle Hospital, providing the best health care possible. We also want to extend a special thanks to Aunt Frances Clements. Mom would often say that Aunt Fran was her oldest and dearest friend. Similar love goes out to mom's big brother Uncle Benny Bolden and his lovely wife, the late Doris Bolden. The list of family and friends who loved and cared for Mom is endless, and we thank each of you with our whole heart. We know Mom would want us to say to you on the joyous occasion of her homegoing that she loved you more than words could ever say. That she loves you still and that she will always love you with a love ever green and ever growing. A love that will never die.