|Birth: ||Dec. 22, 1934|
North Carolina, USA
|Death: ||Apr. 16, 2012|
District Of Columbia, USA
One of the biggest joys of Annie C. Armstrong's life was sharing her boundless enthusiasm about books and learning with young people.
Anne, who taught in Southern Pines early in her career, spent the bulk of her professional teaching career at Watkins Elementary School on Capitol Hill, and at Plummer Elementary School in Southeast Washington, D.C., where she introduced scores of school children to the joys of reading.
She was married to the late McKinley J.H. Armstrong, a championship-winning basketball coach, football coach and popular teacher at what used to be West Southern Pines School. He passed from this life in 2010.
Anne was born Dec. 22, 1934, to the late Helen Virginia Chambers Corpening and Paul Corpening, of Morganton, the fifth of 10 children. Her parents named her after her maternal aunt, Annie Bell Chambers. Times were hard and money was always scarce.
A preacher from Slade Chapel A.M.E. Zion Church baptized Anne in the family home on West Concord Street when she was around 4 years old. A few years later, she began attending Sunday School, where she discovered that "the Sunday School lessons were helpful, but most of all I learned at home by listening to my parents sing beautiful hymns of praise and thanks," Anne wrote. "Spirituality was much alive in our home."
In addition to developing a personal relationship with God that sustained her throughout the many challenges of her life, Anne became passionate about reading. For a poor girl growing up in the South, books served as her window to a larger world outside the tiny, racially segregated mountain community where she lived. Reserved by nature, she would escape the hubbub of family life by retreating into the bedroom she shared with her sisters to read novels such as"Little Black Sambo," by Grant Richards, and "Flicka, Ricka and Dicka" and "Snipp, Snapp and Snurr," both by Maj Lindman.
"The highlight of the summer always was when one of the Henessee (family members) would drive down to our neighborhood. She had children's books in the trunk of her car. She would allow us to borrow them one at a time," Anne recalled in some notes she made about her life. "The city public libraries were off limits to ‘colored people,' as we were called then. Oh, how I yearned for books and magazines."
Money, however, was always in scare supply. Anne, who had her share of chores at home, was barely a teenager when she started working at her first real job — one vacated by her older sister, Edna.
"Domestic work was the only kind of work that we African-American females were allowed to do. Mrs. Massey, Mr. Massey and Dickie lived about four-and-a-half or five miles from where I lived," Anne wrote. "After school every day, I would wash dishes, run the carpet sweeper, make beds and take out the trash.
"On Saturdays, I prepared lunch for them. That's where I learned the proper way to set a table. My weekly salary was $5… I entered and left by the back door. Ate what I was told to eat. After they finished, I ate in the kitchen. I knew then that I did not want to be a domestic worker. Thanks to God and Chuck (her oldest sister), I didn't have to be one. Hahn's encouragement also was a driving force."
After graduating from Mount Olive High School, she enrolled in North Carolina Central University, formerly the North Carolina College for Negroes. It was the nation's first state-supported liberal arts college established specifically for African-American students.
"I was intrigued by the beautiful campus and the excitement of college life. Chuck told me that I could attend any college I wanted to. I believe NCC was the only college to which I applied. I was very excited when the letter of acceptance came," Anne wrote. "I traveled by way of Trailways bus from Morganton, N.C., to Durham. Chuck had sent me a tan, hard-finished suit with a split in the back with three small buttons on the split. I wore a green, sheer blouse. My money — the most money I had ever handled in my life — was pinned in my bra.
"The year, 1952, was before Mrs. Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a local bus in Montgomery, Ala., hence segregation was the way of life in the South. I hated it, felt humiliated by it and refused to feel less than anyone else even though I wouldn't and couldn't say it aloud."
It was while attending summer school following her senior year that she met the late McKinley J.H. Armstrong. Armstrong, an NCC alum back from the Korean conflict, was seeking a master's degree in education. Tall, handsome and charismatic, he asked her to dance at a school party and they quickly became an item. They slipped away quietly to marry on May 4, 1957, in a private ceremony.
Their first home was in a rooming house in Southern Pines. Anne would be in their tiny space at home and be able to hear McKinley's voice booming across the football field, where he would be coaching.
In June 1961, they left North Carolina and headed north, settling briefly in Washington, D.C., and in Front Royal, Va., where they both had been hired to teach at Criser High School, an all-black school opened in 1959.
After moving to Washington, D.C., in the mid-1960s, she began working as an elementary school librarian at Watkins. Anne retired from teaching in 1992 and spent many of her retirement years passing on her love of reading to her grandchildren.
A long-time resident of the Brookland neighborhood of Northeast, she was a regular at early services at St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church until illness made Masses difficult to attend. Ever faithful, she continued to receive Communion in her home, thanks to the commitment of Deacon John Feeley and other members of the St. Anthony community.
Diagnosed with renal cell carcinoma in 1992, she fought a good fight against the disease for two full decades before she made her own peaceful transition on April 16 at her home. Anne was 77.
She is survived by five children, Chip Armstrong, Jenice Armstrong Turner and Cameron Turner, Cheryl Armstrong Capers and Dr. Quinn Capers IV, Carolyn Armstrong and Marilyn Armstrong; six siblings, Edna White, Vanda Reese, Mary Jo Thompson, Wanda Scott, Brenda Randolph and Ronald Corpening; five grandchildren; and many loving nieces, nephews and inlaws.
A Mass of Christian Burial will take place Tuesday at St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church, at 12th and Monroe streets NE in Washington, D.C. 20017. Funeral services begin at 10 a.m. following a 9 a.m. viewing, also at the church. Interment will immediately follow at Fort Lincoln Cemetery in Brentwood, Md.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that contributions be made to St. Anthony's, www.stanthonyofpadua.org.
Published in The Pilot 21 Apr 2012
McKinley J.H. Armstrong (1928 - 2010)
Baby Boy Corpening (1958 - 1958)*
Fort Lincoln Cemetery
Prince George's County
Created by: Amy Caddell
Record added: Apr 21, 2012
Find A Grave Memorial# 88920726