Bernice Virginia Potter was born May 27, 1927 to Andrew and Rosa Cozart Potter in Summit, Oklahoma. She was the youngest of 12 children.
Bernice graduated from Dubois High School in Summit and completed one year of Junior College in Kansas City, Missouri. She worked as a maid in the homes of white families as she cooked, cleaned, and cared for their children. For a short time, she worked as a Secretary for Dr. T.O. Chapelle at the Morning Star Baptist Church and the W.L. Hutchinson Branch YMCA in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Bernice was later hired as the first black, female stenographer at the US Core of Engineers, in Tulsa, Oklahoma. During her 40-year tenure, she was promoted through the ranks and eventually supervised the entire the secretarial pool for the Engineering Department at the time of her retirement in the early 1990’s.
Bernice accepted Christ at an early age and reluctantly learned to play the piano, under the tutelage of her older sister, Rosa. She also discovered her love for singing and had a beautifully rich voice, with a distinct mezzo-soprano tone, that eventually earned her the nickname “Jay” (short for Jay Bird). She served God using her musical gifts for over 44 years as the Minister of Music at Antioch Baptist Church where she served under her brother, C.L. Potter, for approximately 21 years and later under the leadership of her nephew, M.C. Potter, for approximately 23 years. She served faithfully as a Sunday School teacher, served in the Mission Ministry, and she was the State Convention Music Director.
She was married to the late Hunter T. Leach. To this union, 3 sons, Hunter, Charles, and Leonard were born. She then married the late Tom Bates. To this union her only daughter, Thomasetta, was born.
Bernice experienced a crescendo of joy in June of 1972 when she married the love of her life, Alfred (AJ) Porter. They were happily married for 31 years. After the passing of Alfred (AJ) porter in 2002, Bernice moved to Texas. She joined Mt. Hebron Missionary Baptist Church in Garland where she continued faithful service under the pastorate of her son, Leonard O. Leach. During her membership at “The Mount” she was the organizing musician for the “Spirit of Caleb” choir. She was also a member of the Senior Sunday School class until her health began to fail.
Anyone who encountered Bernice enjoyed her cheerful and magnetic personality. Her loud and hearty laugh was certainly contagious. For several decades, she mentored women by her own example and as she “spoke the truth in love” concerning attire, conduct, marriage, parenting, and purity. She was the ultimate paradigm of the woman described in Titus 2. Bernice lived her life as a faithful warrior and spoke often of her trust and dependence on God. She leaves an indelible legacy of love, strength, perseverance, and faith that will continue to inspire everyone who has been touched by her life. She will be forever remembered by the stunning hats she wore at every Sunday Service.
On Friday, April 16, 2021 at 4:35am Bernice prepared to sing one of her favorite songs as she transitioned into the presence of her Heavenly Father, “I’m too close to heaven and I can’t turn around.” Bernice was preceded in death by her husband AJ Porter; her parents, Andrew and Rosa Potter; and her son, Hunter Bernard Leach (Myrtle); She is also preceded in death by all of her siblings: Frank Potter (Katherine), Olivia Pearl Hudson (Willie), Ray Potter (Bernice), Rosa Andrew Bates (John), Joe Potter (Ailene), Cecil Potter (Vera Mae), Clara Edmonds, Erma Davis (Richard), Ruth Etta Brown (Willie), Harvey Potter, Ruby Esther Randolph (Joe).
Bernice leaves to cherish her memories: Sons, Rev Leonard O. Leach (Sharon), Bishop Charles E. Leach (Annette); Daughter, Thomasetta Blount (Arnold Ray); Sister-in-law, Leola Moore; 17 grandchildren, 13 great-grandchildren, and a host of beloved nieces, nephews, friends, and loved ones.
Disclaimer: This biography is specially composed by the family and posted accordingly.
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