Singleton enrolled in Our Lady of Lourdes School in 1915, where she attended up through her graduation from eighth grade. She would recall over the years how she met St. Katharine Drexel as a student. Drexel, the founder of the Blessed Sacrament Sisters, helped establish Our Lady of Lourdes School and would make visits from time to time.
Singleton grew up in a family with an African Methodist Episcopal Church background, but she converted to Catholicism in 1933. In his October 22 eulogy, former Our Lady of Lourdes pastor Father John Adamski indicated that the church’s baptism register contains many references to Nettie Singleton as a godmother for others. “Indeed, Nettie constantly sought to help others and share her faith,” said Adamski. For many years she served in a number of church related organizations. Singleton was the first secretary of the Our Lady of Lourdes School PTA.
I photographed Ms. Singleton for the first time in 1997 during an October rosary rally at St. Thomas More Church, Decatur. She was just four score and eight at that time. Altogether I probably photographed her on three different occasions. She would always say, “Baby, I’m going to break your camera.” Well, she never broke my camera, but we would both break out in a laugh.
The last time I photographed Ms. Singleton was for a series of photos that accompanied Andrew Nelson’s 2009 story (Centenarians’ Serving Spirit Hailed On Birthdays). She reached the century mark that year.
Her family presented her with an honorary “Doctorate of Evangelism” on her 100th birthday.
Nettie Singleton, right, celebrates her
100th birthday at Our Lady of Lourdes Church
The funny thing about Ms. Singleton is I believe she stopped aging at a certain point. Her physical appearance in 2009 was not much different from that initial encounter in 1997. “Ms. Nettie” was well preserved and immensely blessed by God. That’s probably why she’s in the All Souls Class of 2011.
May the soul of Nettie Singleton and all the souls of the faithfully departed rest in peace.
Michael Alexander, Staff Photographer