Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Epilogue | Betty McKinnon-Singletary

Her life wasn't easy, but she pressed on

ST. PETERSBURG — From the start, it wasn't easy.

Betty McKinnon-Singletary grew up in New Orleans. Her mother died when she was 9. There was love in her household, but also fighting, her family said.

There was little opportunity.

She kept her pain inside and dreamed of a job in nursing. She joined the government's Job Corps. There was work in three places, an agent told her: Los Angeles, Chicago and St. Petersburg.

"She had never heard of St. Petersburg," said her son, Sarlie McKinnon III. "She found out it was a beach town, and she said, 'I think I would like that.'"

She left.

"She just rose above it," he said. "She was one of those people that you just wondered where she got it from."

• • •

In the middle, it wasn't easy.

She and her husband, Sarlie McKinnon Jr., were pioneer African American entrepreneurs in St. Petersburg. He dug graves for money and started a business, McKinnon Burial Vaults. She stenciled patterns on the vaults.

In 1974, they saw a general store for sale in a mostly white area of St. Petersburg. They bought it and turned the store's old segregated lunch window into a late night service slot to make it something positive.

Just two years after opening the store, her husband died.

Ms. McKinnon-Singletary worked nights as a nurse and managed the store during the day. She raised three children, insisting on high standards.

She went to St. Petersburg College and studied early childhood education. She taught preschool, learned cosmetology and became licensed to do taxes, her family said. She attended charity and social functions by the dozen.

"She was very busy," said her friend, Inez McRae, 59. "Even when she was down and out, she still seemed to have the ability to continue."

• • •

At the end, it wasn't easy.

She was sick with a laundry list: pulmonary and kidney disease, cancer, diabetes. She lost most of her eyesight, and her favorite pastime — reading.

Depression kept her at home.

Her family came to her aid. Her son took her to stores like Neiman Marcus and salons like the Aveda Institute. They traveled to New York, North Carolina, Atlanta. They sold the general store and moved into a condo, her life's dream. Two years ago, her only grandchild, Makensie, was born.

She was renewed.

Ms. McKinnon-Singletary died Tuesday at home. She was 63.

"She was such a young woman," said her son, 36. "But I tell you, I'm finding peace. The last four years, she jammed more into than most people get in a lifetime."

He's preparing her eulogy, and knows what he'll call her: Betty the Unstoppable.

Stephanie Hayes can be reached at shayes@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8857.

.Biography

Betty McKinnon-Singletary

Born: Oct. 25, 1944

Died: Aug. 19, 2008

Survivors: Children, Trudy McKinnon Robinson, Linda McKinnon, Sarlie McKinnon III; granddaughter, Makensie Robinson.

Services: Memorial from 7-8 p.m. today, funeral Mass at noon Saturday, both at St. Joseph's Catholic Church, 2101 22nd Ave. S, St. Petersburg. Arrangements by McRae Funeral Home.

Her life wasn't easy, but she pressed on 08/21/08 [Last modified: Thursday, August 21, 2008 9:13pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Gators rally past Kentucky, streak hits 31

    Blogs

    LEXINGTON, Ky. — For the second week in a row, Florida found itself storming the field in a game that came down to the last second. A 57-yard field-goal attempt by Kentucky kicker Austin MacGinnis came just a few feet short of making history and snapping a 30-year losing streak, as the No. 20 Gators escaped a …

    Florida wide receiver Brandon Powell (4) scores a touchdown during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Kentucky, Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017, in Lexington, Ky.
  2. Pen makes it way too interesting as Rays hang on for 9-6 win

    Blogs

    A couple of home runs provided the news pegs of the night for the Rays, but it was more topical to talk about what nearly happened as they hung on for a 9-6 win over the Orioles.

    Lucas Duda's three-run homer in the third inning was the Rays' record-breaking 217th of the season, as well as his …

  3. An attempt to project what Rays will look like in 2018

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — We know what the Rays look like this year: a team that had enough talent but too many flaws, in construction and performance, and in the next few days will be officially eliminated from a wild-card race it had a chance to win but let slip away.

    Adeiny Hechavarria, high-fiving Lucas Duda, seems likely to be brought back.
  4. Trump fallout: Bucs' DeSean Jackson to make 'statement' Sunday

    Bucs

    Bucs receiver DeSean Jackson said Saturday that he will make a "statement" before today's game against the Vikings in response to President Donald Trump's comment that owners should "fire" players who kneel in protest during the national anthem.

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver DeSean Jackson (11) makes a catch during the first half of an NFL game between the Chicago Bears and Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla., on Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017.
  5. Kriseman invites Steph Curry to St. Pete on Twitter

    Blogs

    Mayor Rick Kriseman is no stranger to tweaking President Donald Trump on social media.

    Mayor Rick Kriseman took to Twitter Saturday evening to wade into President Donald Trump's latest social media scuffle