Guinevere L. Redd, owner of Redd Funeral Services, who earlier held positions with an insurance company and worked at the Social Security Administration, died Monday from heart failure at Sinai Hospital. The Randallstown and former Pikesville resident was 87.
The former Guinevere Laura Thompson, daughter of Charles Thompson, a truck driver, and his wife, Genevieve Thompson, a homemaker, was born in Baltimore and raised at home on Central Avenue in East Baltimore.
Mrs. Redd was a 1950 graduate of Paul Laurence Dunbar High School and the Cortez W. Peters Business School, which at the time was “the only school in the state that offered clerical training to Negro youth,” said a son, Samuel T. Redd Jr. of Randallstown.
After graduation from the business school in the 1950s, she went to work for the Southern Life Insurance Co., one of the earliest Black-managed insurance companies in Baltimore, as a secretary, and later rose to become office manager.
While working for the insurance company, she got to know a “brash young man,” Samuel T. Redd Sr., whose nickname was “Reds,” according to a biographical profile submitted by her family. “He courted her relentlessly until he won her heart.”
“She got to know him because he’d come by the insurance company to pick up his grandfather, the Rev. Simon Williamson, who was on the board of the insurance company, and he’d ask him to also drive home my mother,” her son said.
The couple fell in love and eventually married in 1953.
Mrs. Redd, who was known as Gwen or Sis, went to work in 1970 as a clerk at the Social Security Administration’s Woodlawn headquarters and in 1979 left the SSA and joined her husband, a mortician, in the operation of the Redd Funeral Home in the 1300 block of Eutaw Place, a business that he established in 1973, and which later became Redd Funeral Services.
“First of all, she was a tremendously meticulous person who made sure that the funeral home was always clean,” said her son, who also works in the family-owned business. “She was also very good at working with families because she had a very kind heart, so much so, that families continued to have a relationship with her after she took care of their funeral services. She treated them as if they were a part of her personal family, and many of them adopted her as their mother.”
After her husband’s death in 1980, Mrs. Redd took over operation of the funeral home.
“She hadn’t been to mortuary science school, but she was able to continue operating the funeral home because of what’s called a widow’s license,” Mr. Redd said. “She was very strict, and even though she was a very kindhearted person, brought a soft side to the business.”
Mrs. Redd continued to own and operate the funeral home until her death and had not retired, her son said.
“There are many words that can describe Gwen: classy, regal, elegant, graceful, smart and the list goes on and on. She was soft-spoken and had a smile that could light up the room,” according to the profile. “She had a giving and caring heart. she always had an encouraging word to lift your spirits and always had time when someone needed an ear to listen. She was the queen and matriarch of the family. Gwen wore her crown with dignity and pride.”
She was a former member of Grace Memorial Baptist Church, where her late husband was an assistant pastor, and at her death had been a longtime active member of Sharon Baptist Church.
Her family said she was very family-oriented and enjoyed spending time with her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and relished her role as “Nana,” as she was called.
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She was an avid catalog and TV shopper and enjoyed playing Pokeno, a card game that is a combination of poker and keno, and playing monthly pinochle games with her siblings.
“She was ruthless and competitive when she played the game Trouble,” the profile said.
Mrs. Redd, who had lived with a son in Randallstown for the last three years, especially enjoyed Christmas and liked planning family gatherings, preparing food, baking cookies and decorating her home and finding the perfect gift for her loved ones and friends.
“That’s when her light really shined,” the profile said.
A celebration of life service will be held at 11 a.m. Tuesday at Sharon Baptist Church, Presstman and Stricker streets.
Respecting Centers for Disease Control and Prevention rules and regulations regarding the pandemic, all guests must wear masks and practice social distancing. The service will be streamed at Zoom 8534225002.
In addition to her son. Mrs. Redd is survived by two other sons, Charles Redd of Randallstown and Jeffrey Redd of Baltimore; three daughters, Monica Redd of Baltimore, Marsha Johnson of Hunt Valley and Donna Redd of Owings Mills; a brother, Ronald Thompson of Cedonia; two sisters, Brenda Thompson of Windsor Mill and Patricia Thompson of San Antonio, Texas; eight grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.