Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Epilogue | Rose "Mama Rose" Payne

Mama Rose Payne, oldest member of St. Petersburg's Friendship Missionary Baptist church

ST. PETERSBURG — The tiny woman with the tidy hair and church clothes strolled from bar to bar along 18th Avenue S.

She plopped on a stool and ordered a Coke and peered at the men cozied up to beers, the men who came to church on Sunday but didn't live the word throughout the week.

She called them all over. They came like sheep, because they knew about her.

"Uh-uh," she told them. "If you want to get to heaven, you got to be like Jesus."

Rose "Mama Rose" Payne lived 96 years and died Monday. She was solid, she told people, because she didn't drink, didn't smoke, didn't run the streets. And, of course, because she preached.

She said what she thought and meant what she said. When she was 14 and growing up in Jordan Park, she told her family she was leaving the home church because the people fought too much. She joined St. Petersburg's Friendship Missionary Baptist Church, back when it had eight members and a different name.

She stayed for 82 years.

She oversaw the church's missions, and she took it seriously. So seriously, she preached every single place she went.

"She would preach to me wherever she would see me, whether it was the old Webb City parking lot or the Winn-Dixie produce section," said Arthur Reese, a deacon at the church. "She would preach to the old men. 'Where have you been? You spend time everywhere. Why don't you be in church?' She'd stop you in your tracks."

Well into her 80s, she drove her little white Ford to bad parts of town where troubled kids loitered beneath trees. She stood in the middle of the street, never screaming, just jabbing that finger into the air and telling the people what was what. Her daughter, Barbara Thomas, told her to stop. What could happen to her, out there all alone?

Her mother refused.

"If I didn't take Jesus with me, then I would wonder what was going to happen."

Mrs. Payne had six children, four biological and two she adopted when their mother was in jail. She made the kids get up at 6 a.m. and finish homework while she cooked eggs and grits. Then, she started the daily routine of the three cleaning jobs she worked while her husband, Handy, traveled with the Army.

Sundays were for learning, and if her children fell asleep in church, she put two small fingers to their flesh and pinched. Saturdays, when all the kids in town watched movies at the Royal Theater, Mrs. Payne went, too.

"We wouldn't go unless she went with us," said Thomas, 71. "She wanted us safe. She wanted us protected like that."

Her husband was so smitten with her, he followed her everywhere and constantly cuddled up to her at home. She preached to him, too, every day, to put down the drinks and cigarettes and to go to church. She succeeded, in part.

"He drank that stuff, but he went to church," said Thomas. "She stayed on him. 'Listen,' she would tell him. 'Listen. If you want me, then you got to serve the Lord. If you don't want me, then you leave.'

"Honey, daddy wasn't going nowhere."

When she got older, she got a special seat at the front of church, where the most respected sat. She sang in the choir and raised money for Haiti long before there was an earthquake. When her circulation got bad, the deacons wheeled her into church. When it got really bad, she stayed home, the television always tuned to the gospel station.

Every other weekend, a throng of people she preached to got in their cars and drove down her street, so many cars that no one could get through. They came inside and sang and prayed.

They brought church to her.

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

.Biography

Rose "Mama Rose" Payne

Born: April 15, 1914.

Died: March 15, 2010.

Survivors: Daughter Barbara Thomas; sons Charles Payne, Leroy Watson and Shane Watson; sister Susan Turner; grandchildren Diane Elias, Stephanie Brown, Bridgette Elias, Kevin Elias, Iesha Watson, Janice Lewis, Ahmi Stewart, Laronna McMiller, Qwaiyyi Stewart, Charles Payne Jr., Michael Payne, Richard Payne and Tracy Payne; and many great-grandchildren. Predeceased by husband Handy Payne; and daughters Mary "Ami" Brinkley and Carolyn Payne.

Mama Rose Payne, oldest member of St. Petersburg's Friendship Missionary Baptist church 03/20/10 [Last modified: Saturday, March 20, 2010 7:29pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Pinellas sees spike in infant deaths from unsafe sleeping, and advocates are concerned

    Health

    The reports from the Department of Children and Families are tragic: A Pinellas County mother falls asleep on a recliner during an early morning feeding and wakes to find one of her 3-month-old twins unresponsive. Another finds her 6-month-old daughter lying still, a blanket over her head. Another infant is found wedged …

    Advocates are looking to step up their public information efforts this year after reports show a spike in sleep-related infant deaths in Pinellas County. [iStockphoto.com]
  2. Kellyanne Conway warns of health care spin, but then delivers her own in Miami

    Blogs

    On the same day that Senate Republicans were forced to delay a vote on their healthcare legislation because not enough of them wanted to vote for it, White House senior counselor Kellyanne Conway defended the bill in Miami.

    White House senior counselor Kellyanne Conway is welcomed by state Rep. Carlos Trujillo, R-District 105, at the Miami-Dade GOP’s Lincoln Day fundraiser on Tuesday night.
  3. Sign up for our new daily News at Noon email newsletter

    News

    The Tampa Bay Times will soon launch a daily newsletter called News at Noon. You can make sure to be among the first to receive it by signing up now.

  4. New poll shows tight St. Pete mayor's race

    Blogs

    A new poll shows a tight race between former mayor Rick Baker and Mayor Rick Kriseman, currently engaged in the most expensive mayoral race in St. Petersburg history. 

    Former Mayor Rick Baker answers a question during the mayoral candidate forum at Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church on Tuesday. Mayor Rick Kriseman is in the foreground.
  5. Review: Mark Bowden's 'Hue 1968' a gripping, and timely, history

    Books

    More than 40 years after it ended, America's war in Vietnam is still contentious, still misunderstood, and fast slipping into the fog of history.

     On Feb. 15, 1968, U.S. Marines carry out an assault on Dong Ba Tower in Hue, South Vietnam. In the battle for the tower, six men died and 50 were wounded.