Elsie Mather, 79, of South Bend

Published 3:38 pm Sunday, September 22, 2013

Born: July 15, 1936

Died: Sept. 19, 2013



Elsie Mae Louise Davis Mather, 79, of South Bend, formerly of Dowagiac and Niles, died peacefully, Sept. 19th, 2013 in Kalamazoo, Mich.

Family and friends will gather Monday, Sept. 23, 2013 from 5 until 8 p.m. in Mitchell Funeral Home, Paragould, Ark., with funeral services held there at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2013, followed by interment in Cardwell Cemetery.

Elsie will be greatly missed by family and friends. She is survived by her three children, Ricky E. Mather of Michigan, Brenda L. Baker of Florida, and Pamela D. Hurst of Georgia; her five grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren. The eldest of eleven children born to Marion and Audie Patricia (Lyttaker) Davis, she is also survived by her siblings, Calvin G. Davis of Michigan, O. Jerry Davis, Evalene (Francis) Davis Bowman, and Danny L. Davis, all of Arkansas, Melvin Davis of Missouri, Bonnie Sue Fava of Montana, Allen R. Davis, Jack (Jackie) Davis, and Myron Davis, all of Arkansas. Elsie was preceded in death by her parents and one sister, Rachael L. Davis of Formon, Ark.

Elsie was born July 15, 1936 in Leechville, Ark. She attended Childress High School, and was selected Homecoming Queen in her junior year. Elsie spent the remainder of her life in the north where she exchanged the fields of white cotton bolls she had known in Arkansas for the wintery snowballs of Southwest Michigan. Determined to transform the world around her, Elsie become a licensed contractor, builder, real estate broker, investor, and entrepreneur. To her credit she marks Michigan’s landscape with her achievements, completing the construction of the building for the Department of Social Services in Cassopolis, and purchasing and developing the Main Street Mall & Art Gallery in Niles. She was the owner and builder of multiple state leased adult assisted care living facilities, located throughout residential neighborhoods in southwest Michigan. She also built the Woodland Mental Health facility in Vandalia.

Elsie’s belief that everyone should have a place to call home led her to participate in the charitable construction of homes for Habitat of Humanity, but she did not stop there. She also built homes for family and neighbors, and extended her skills to remodeling rental properties and apartment complexes.

Elsie never met a stranger and was widely known for her vibrant personality that rivaled a ray of sunlight. She could melt the coldest heart and brighten the darkest corner. Her elegant beauty complemented her gifted genius. Quick to roll up her sleeves, don a pair of work pants, climb a ladder, dig a foundation, wear out a pair of work gloves or paint her finger nails and daub on her ruby lipstick, Elsie epitomized the women’s liberation movement with a flair that few will ever equal. She endured the climb that broke the glass ceiling, advancing women in the work place and in the home. She will be remembered for her relentless efforts, lobbying for change that brought new state and federal legislation protecting victims of domestic violence.

Elsie was a member of the Christian Center Church in South Bend, Indiana where she sang in the choir and volunteered on the 24 hour prayer line, offering support to anyone in need. She loved the innocence of a child, taught Sunday School, and performed puppet shows that embraced the love of God. Elsie also found time to dress up like a clown and entertain crowds of children at charity fundraising events. A member of the yellow-rock square dancers, she clogged and swung ruffled skirts around the national circuits. She finally built her dream home on ten acres on Miami Avenue in South Bend.

Elsie will be greatly missed and honorably celebrated. The family prefers memorial contributions in her memory to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, or to the MIGDAL OHR Jewish Children’s Orphanage, in Israel.

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