Theresa E. Bolden, a loving mother, respected educator, dedicated community leader and ardent church worker in her denomination, the Church of God in Christ (COGIC), recently succumbed shortly after celebrating her 103rd birthday in May.
Mother Bolden, as she is affectionately called by many, was born in Alton, IL where she received her formative education graduating from Alton Senior High School in 1935. Amongst her many memories of Alton was graduating with the famous Alton giant – Robert Wadlow, the tallest man ever.
Bolden met her husband Varney Bolden, in Alton as he traveled as a national evangelist. They were married for 59 years. In 1940, they moved to St. Louis after the birth of their first child and added four additional children to their family.
Upon graduating from high school, Bolden enrolled into Illinois University at Normal where she spent a year and found herself back home. She stated that she did not take her education serious. As years would pass and her children reached adulthood, she later enrolled into Harris Stowe Teachers’ College earning a Bachelor of Arts in Education. She also received an honorary Doctorate of Divinity from Virginia College of the Bible.
During a recent interview, Bolden shared that she loved working with children as she taught throughout the St. Louis Public School System kindergarten, first and second grades. She ended her teaching career at Ashland Elementary in 1981.
Bolden has represented her community as a servant leader. She was President of the Board of Trustees for Channel 9 (Educational TV) for 3 years and a member of the State Board of Education. She served the city and counties of St. Louis on the White House Conference on Education, worked with the White House Conference of Christians and Jews, served as the only woman on the board to choose the director of community schools and spoke at the House of Legislation in Jefferson City, MO for the establishment of community colleges in Missouri. Bolden has been the recipient of numerous awards and citations. She fondly remembered being named Mother of The Year for Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority.
Bolden’s early religious experience began at St. John Baptist Church in Alton where she taught Sunday School and walked other children to church. She said that she would go to the “holiness church” with her neighbor and gave her life to the Lord at age 13 while attending Monroe Memorial COGIC (Alton) under the pastorage of Elder Ralph J. Monroe.
In 1940, she and her family joined Kennerly Temple COGIC in St. Louis where she served for many years with her pastor the late Bishop Robert J. Ward. In her time at Kennerly, she has worked diligently in many capacities ranging from Sunshine Band, Vacation Bible School, Junior Jubilee Choir and Jubilee Specials, Senior and Radio Choirs and President of the Interdenominational Council of Minister’s Wives and Widows of the St. Louis Area.
In 1981, Bolden was recommended to serve as the Supervisor for the Department of Women of the Eastern Missouri First Jurisdiction (EMFJ) of the Church of God in Christ by Bishop William E. Turner a position she served in for close to 38 years.
Her favorite scripture was, “God is love” and her favorite song was, “Oh How I love Jesus.”
Bolden once stated that her long life was based on God’s grace and mercy. She stated that by her not drinking alcohol, using drugs, smoking cigarettes and living wholeheartedly for God was a contributing factor as well.
She was quoted as saying, “The church was very strict at that time and we couldn’t smoke and drink. You couldn’t wear lipstick, shoes with your toes out and sleeveless clothes. Women were not allowed in the pulpit. The women could not wear short dresses…. we were taught it’s holiness or hell.” She added, “The church has changed in some respects, but holiness is still right.”
When the Church of God in Christ moved its international convocation from Memphis to St. Louis in 2010, Bolden was present each year. In 2016, the church presented her with special commendations as a nonagenarian and in 2017 she was again recognized as a centenarian.