Minnie Lee Chess was born to the late Mr. Dave Chess and Angeline Owens Chess of Fairfax, South Carolina. She was educated at Trinity School and Allendale Training School.
As a child, Minnie started her Christian walk traveling with her father to Trinity CME Church in Allendale County and to St. Matthew AME Church in Luray with her mother. She joined St. Matthew AME Church in Luray, SC, where she served in many capacities, namely as the church secretary and treasurer until her health restricted her ability to perform her duties. Minnie was faithful to the Lord Jesus Christ and her AME church family and she loved serving. She attended the AME annual church conferences and conventions.
Minnie received her formal education at Trinity School. After her matriculation through Allendale Training School, she continued her educational studies at South Carolina State College and received her degree in May of 1957. Following her graduation, she immediately began her teaching career at North District Training School. Later, in 1968, she became one of the teachers of the first integrated class at Wade Hampton High School. She taught Food and Nutrition, Cooking Phase, Sewing, and Child Development. Additionally, she was fondly known as the advisor for the Future Homemakers of America. During her thirty years of teaching in Hampton School District One, Minnie met and inspired so many students who absolutely adored her. Not only was she affectionately called “The sweetest lady around,” she took care of each child as if they were her own. She often let her students use her car to run their errands. Minnie retired in 1988. She was talented and the epitome of a servant. Minnie enjoyed chauffeuring her family and friends around the community. She was a member of the Allendale Retired Teachers Association, the Fairfax Neighborhood Club, and the Fairfax Women Club.
Ecclesiastes 9:10: “Whatever your hands find to do, do it with all of your might.” Minnie was compassionate, motivated to serve others, and determined to excel during difficult times. She was studious and had a passion for reading and sewing. When guests arrived at her home, Minnie was notorious for going into the kitchen and finding a full course meal
in the refrigerator. Her love for her family and friends was immeasurable. Minnie will be immensely missed for her love for anyone she encountered. She never met a stranger; she could spark a conversation with anybody, always asking, “Now what is your name? Where are you from? Who are your parents?” By the time they departed, she would tell them where she lived and invite them to come and see her.
In 1967, Minnie married the late Squire Smart and immediately became a second mother to three children whom she loved as her own: Willie “Bubba” Smart, Celia Smart Thomas, and Squire (Joyce) Smart. In 1968, Minnie was blessed with the birth of their baby girl, Stephanie. Although she only had only one biological daughter, she loved and cared for Antoinette (Bernard) Graham and Henrietta Williams as her daughters. Minnie’s door and heart were always open to her family. She was also a godmother of Steven and Tyrone Bennett, Jerome Polite, Jr., Alfred Fagin, and Ruby, Bertha, Brenda, Eugene, and Pearlstine Capers.
“Oh I want to see Him, to look upon His face, there to sing forever of His saving Grace, for it's on the streets of glory, let me lift my voice, my cares are passed and I am home at last, ever to rejoice.” On the morning of Friday, July 2, 2021, just four days after the passing of her husband Squire, Minnie, in the stillness of time and in the comfort of her home, completed her life’s journey. Minnie was preceded in death by her brothers, Willie Dave and Donald Chess, and her sisters, Ruth Chess Smalls and Pearl Chess Dorman.
An immeasurable legacy and fond memories will forever be etched in the hearts of: her loving daughters, Celia Thomas of Oliver, GA, Antoinette (Bernard) Graham of Columbia, SC, Stephanie (Joel) Gittings of the home, and Henrietta Williams of Barnwell, SC; her loving sons, Willie C. Smart of Oliver, GA and Squire (Joyce) Smart of Sylvania, GA; loving grandchildren reared in her home, De’Andrea Youmans, Malcolm (Crystal) Graham, Jamelia Graham, Alecia Williams, and Jada and Joel Gittings; loving sister, Corrie Mae (Fred) Crowder of Bronx, NY; 13 grandchildren; 30 great-grandchildren; 14 great-great- grandchildren; first cousins raised as her sisters and brother, Claretta Polite of Fairfax, SC, Willease Lawton of Alexandria, VA, Elizabeth and Johnnie Mae Wilson of DE, and the Honorable Sammie (Sandra) Chess, Jr., of High Point, NC; sister-in-law, Annie Ruth Smart of Newington, GA; devoted lifelong friends, Mamie Peeples and Ellen Coker; and a host of nieces, nephews, cousins, friends, and former students.
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