Mary Eskridge
Mary Eskridge

Obituary of Mary Irene Eskridge

Mary Irene Eskridge was born on December 5, 1928 in Cairo, Illinois to Odie James Talbert and Della Talbert. She had 3 sisters, Gertha, Katie, and Eddie May. And two half sisters Frances and sister Lemon.

Mary’s mom Della was a home maker. She also had a small farm in her yard where she grew vegetables for the family and the had cows, pigs and chickens. She was also known for being a seamstress and would make dresses for herself, daughters and neighbors. She also baked and made cakes and on special occasions corn whiskey. Along with all this she made sure all the girls had piano lessons, did well in school and attend church every Sunday.

Mary’s father Odie was a farmer and during the off season would work in a shipping barge.

She did her primary schooling in Cairo and after attending Sumner high school She wanted to attend college in Carbondale, but at that time it was too far and expensive. Therefore after High School, She began working in town, first in a few restaurants and eventually  at St. Mary’s Catholic Hospital, as a doctors clerical assistant.

Mary Irene was also an active member of the Eastern Star Society.

Her family attended Ward Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Cairo in Cairo. Her dad Odie James sang in the choir and her mom Della, was Steward.

Mary’s sisters Eddie May was a school mate of Jim Eskridge born December 24, 1931 and they all grew up together. Jim and Eddie May played in the school band together. 

James joined the Navy in 1949 got his high school diploma and traveled in the USA, Bahamas, and Europe. During that time he was a feather weight boxer and also played trombone in the Navy jazz band. He flew on Blimps over the Bahamas. He trained to be an aviation mechanic. After a few years of touring he returned to Cairo on leave and began courting Mary and they became engaged.

They were married on June 3rd, 1956 in Ward Chapel Methodist Church AME, in Cairo, Illinois.  She liked to say she married a younger man since he was three years younger. As his wife She traveled with him to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba for 2 years, New Jersey and then to Alameda, California and eventually Sunnyvale.

They enjoyed the weather and did some sight seeing. They went to San Francisco and the beach. They initially stayed with friends they met that were also Navy. They socialized and attend formal dinners. They also enjoyed going to the Chiefs Club at Moffett Field.

In the early 1960s Mary went to Foothill to begin college education. She later began working for the United States Post Office as a mail clerk. She was a trail blazer for her time and became a working mother when her daughter Dawna Marie was born in 1964, and continued working another 6-7 years. 

After their daughter was born and very young they went to a Giants game at Candlestick Park with a group of friends. They also traveled back to Illinois to visit family and friends. They also traveled to Disney Land and drove along The Pacific Coast Highway.

Mary became a stay-at-home mom. She enjoyed being a house wife, and helping her daughter to become a young woman and college graduate. She eventually returned to college and In 1994, graduated from De Anza college with an AA degree in Liberal Arts.

Her late husband, James retired from the Navy in 1972 as a Chief Petty Officer. In 1973 he received an AA degree in accounting and programming from Bryant & Stratton College of Commerce San Jose, California. He enjoyed a rewarding career as a software engineer. In 1974 James received The National Aeronautics and Space Administration Award for Public Service Group Achievement Award for their work on the Pioneer 10 Mission to Jupiter.

When Jim and Mary Irene moved to California they worshipping at a chapel in Moffet Field Navy Military Base. Neighbors Fran and Homer Stahl, longtime members of First United Methodist Church in Sunnyvale invited the Eskridges to join. Theybecame members in 1968 and we have been worshipping here since then. 

She was quite active in the church and helped with communion services. She felt wonderful worshipping at FUMC because it was a continuation of her Methodist upbringing. She loved hearing the choir.

Church means to worship together and to learn more about Christ and the Bible. She looked forward to the Sunday ritual of going to church and listening to the scriptures and the music and the fellowship of people.

To summarize a little more about Mary Irene Eskridge.

She loved music, and was an alto in the choir in AME Ward Chapel. She enjoyed cooking traditional southern food and holiday family recipes. sweet potato pie and collard greens. As a family they enjoyed traveling the USA, Grand Canyon, Rocky Mountains, Route 66, Washington DC, and the 1974 Seattle Worlds Fair, while also visiting family and friends along the way. We also traveled to SF, Big Basin, fishing on the pier at Santa Cruz, and Disney Land. They also went to see Be Be King, The Spinners, The Four Tops, The Jackson Five and Earth, Wind & Fire in concert. 

Some of her favorite singers were Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Johnny Mathis, Duke Ellington, Sara Vaughan, Mahalia Jackson, Dion Warwick, Aretha Franklin and Whitney Houston.

He daughter also got married and the entire family enjoyed having Mary Irene and James visiting wherever she was working and pursuing her dreams  while Hollywood, Valencia or Santa Cruz.

She continued her music hobby by playing the keyboard as well.  

A few of her favorite songs

“I walk in the Garden” and “Lift Every Voice and Sing”

She and her daughter enjoyed shopping at various malls and stores. She enjoyed Basketball, baseball, tennis, Olympics and other sports on TV and music talent shows and award shows. 

Survived by: daughter Dawna Marie Eskridge and many nieces, nephews and friends.

Predeceased by: Husband James Eskridge (December 24, 1931- July 12, 2014), Sisters Gertha, Katie, Eddie May, Half-sister Francis Nunn, Mother Della Talbert , Father Odie James Talbert , Great Neice Rebecca Taylor, Brother-in-Law Clifton Eskridge, Sister-in-law Bertha Eskridge and Step Son James Ford (James Eskridge’s son that he had while a teenager but was raised by his birth mother)


In lieu of flowers please donate to the United Negro College Fund


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Celebration of Life

11:00 am
Friday, November 19, 2021
First United Methodist Church
535 Old San Francisco Rd
Sunnyvale, California, United States


10:15 am - 10:45 am
Monday, November 22, 2021
Sacramento Valley National Cemetery
5810 Midway Rd
Dixon, California, United States