Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Epilogue | Beverly English

Beverly English , 'the pastor's wife,' kept her hand out in friendship

TAMPA — Beverly English embraced her role as a pastor's wife. She welcomed new members at the First Baptist Church of College Hill, and her good cheer spread to others.

At church, her dress and style earned her a nickname: "Miss Sassy."

"When you see her, she was always dressed up, and she always had a smile," said Linda Simpson, a friend. "If anybody had a sad face when she walked in, they didn't have it no more. That was just her personality."

She acted as a lifeline to African refugees, helping them learn English and get their children into schools. In an area known for its crime rates, she walked the streets with her husband, the Rev. Ronald English, inviting neighbors to church.

They met at a high school football game in Charleston, S.C., on a blind date, when she was a student and he was in the Air Force. They married in May 1961.

She graduated in 1965 from the Poro School of Beauty Culture, one of the first African-American cosmetology schools. Her husband's career in the Air Force meant moving several times: Louisiana, New Jersey, Minnesota, Florida, Indiana. He retired in 1978 as a sergeant and technical specialist.

They settled in St. Louis, where he became ordained as a minister and she launched a career in customer service with Federal Express.

They moved to Tampa in 1998, where he became pastor to new members at the First Baptist Church of College Hill. The church has 2,000 members on the rolls. Mrs. English worked for church groups focusing on refugees, missions, hospitality, drama, women's group and couples. She also shared a talent for floral arrangements.

In partnership with another church, she took charge of moving a Liberian family in a guest house, pasting yellow sticky notes to identify household objects by their English names. If the schools needed to talk about the family's children, Mrs. English told them to call her.

When another refugee couple from Somalia welcomed a new daughter into the household, they showed their gratitude by asking Mrs. English to name the baby.

She reached out to the church's neighbors, too, including those who openly sold crack. "They respected us because we were with the church," said Rev. English, 72. "If they wanted to talk, we would sit and talk with them."

A thread of conscious choice ran through her life.

"She wanted to be a mother," said her son, Ronald English II, 40. "It wasn't just, 'I got pregnant and I had a child, so I have to deal with these responsibilities.' "

Though Mrs. English drew a firm line of authority, her son said he never had an argument with her. Nor, as time went on, did his parents quarrel with each other.

"In marriage," her husband said, "(couples) go back and say, 'Well, you said this,' or, 'You said that.' "

About 20 years ago, it dawned on him that arguments about who said what depend on each person's memory.

"The lord opened my eyes," he said. "If he could play it back like TV, we would both be wrong. So we said, 'Hey, let's not argue anymore, because I might have mis-said it and you might have misread it.' "

They gave up having to be right, her husband said. But they held onto a humor that had always sparked their relationship from the first date. Among friends, it was not uncommon for Mrs. English and her husband to break up laughing suddenly, as if triggered by some private joke.

"You didn't know what it was," Simpson said. "But they did."

This year, her family faced another choice — to let her go.

They gathered at the house as her lung and liver cancer worsened, and stayed by her bed for two days at the end. Family members touched her hands and face, sang hymns, laughed and cried.

"We just had church," the Rev. English said.

Mrs. English died May 22, at home. She was 69.

Andrew Meacham can be reached at (727) 892-2248 or


Beverly Bennett English

Born: Sept. 25, 1940.

Died: May 22, 2010.

Survivors: Husband Rev. Ronald English; daughters Eva, Deverri and Germaine; son Ronald; brothers Herbert and Willis; sisters Marie and Irene; nine grandchildren; three great-grandchildren; and nieces and nephews.

Beverly English , 'the pastor's wife,' kept her hand out in friendship 05/29/10 [Last modified: Saturday, May 29, 2010 6:16pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Two boys in critical condition after Largo crash


    LARGO — A 7-year-old boy was thrown from a car in a head-on crash on Starkey Road, and both he and a 6-year-old boy were in critical condition Sunday night, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

  2. Trump's new order bars almost all travel from seven countries


    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Sunday issued a new order banning almost all travel to the United States from seven countries, including most of the nations covered by his original travel ban, citing threats to national security posed by letting their citizens into the country.

    President Donald Trump speaks to reporters Sunday upon his return to the White House in Washington.
  3. Somehow, Rays' Chris Archer remains just shy of being an ace

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — Chris Archer had another bad game Sunday.

    Chris Archer is sputtering to the finish line, his rough start on Sunday his fourth in his past five in which he hasn’t gotten past four innings.
  4. In Mexico City, hopes of finding quake survivors dwindle


    MEXICO CITY — Five days after the deadly magnitude 7.1 earthquake, the hulking wreckage of what used to be a seven-story office building is one of the last hopes: one of just two sites left where searchers believe they may still find someone trapped alive in Mexico City.

    Rescue workers search for survivors inside a felled office building in the Roma Norte neighborhood of Mexico City on Saturday.
  5. GOP health bill in major peril as resistance hardens among key senators


    WASHINGTON — The floundering Republican attempt to undo the Affordable Care Act met hardening resistance from key GOP senators Sunday that left it on the verge of collapse even as advocates vowed to keep pushing for a vote this week.

    Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, a moderate, said Sunday that it was “very difficult” to envision voting for this health-care bill.