Obituary for William David
Oregonian, The (Portland, OR)
October 28, 2007
William David Stitt Sr. died Oct. 20, 2007,
of cancer at age 79.
William David Stitt was born Jan. 8, 1928, in
Birmingham, Ala., and moved to Portland in 1947. He was a
kitchen aide for Portland Community College and member of
St. Andrew Catholic Church for more than 20 years.
Remembrances to the American Cancer Society.
Arrangements by Ross Hollywood.
Submitted by L. Kemp
Obituary for Charles H. Wyse
The Oregonian (Portland, OR)
October 5, 2005
A funeral will be at 11 a.m. Saturday, Oct.
8, 2005, in Bethel A.M.E. Church in Portland for Charles H.
"Charlie" Wyse, who died Oct. 1 at age 85.
Mr. Wyse was born Dec. 27, 1919, in Brenham,
Texas. He moved to Portland in 1945 and was a logger and
construction worker, and then a custodian for the Oregon
State Office Building for 15 years. He was a 50-year member
of the church. In 1943, he married Bernice Delores Taylor.
Remembrances to the American Diabetes
Association. Arrangements by Skyline.
Submitted by L. Kemp
Fairbanks - First African-American woman inducted into the
US Figure Skating Hall of Fame
From a huge living room window overlooking New York's
Central Park, Mabel Fairbanks, a baby-sitter young enough to
need a baby-sitter of her own, would look out at the skaters
twirling, jumping and gliding on the frozen lake. Just days
before, the girl--too young to get a job and homeless-- had
been sleeping in the park when a woman spotted her and
offered her the work.
But Fairbanks ached to skate with the other children. When
she had the time, she took to the ice at the park's free
skating sessions in used skates, two sizes too big, that she
bought for $1 at a pawn shop.
She couldn't afford lessons. And even if she could have, the
rinks wouldn't have allowed her in. It was the 1930s and
Fairbanks, an African American, was repeatedly told she had
no business wearing skates in an era when the words "Colored
Trade Is Not Solicited" were prominently displayed at many
ice rinks. But that didn't stop Fairbanks from teaching
herself--and later, as a young adult, from overcoming
barriers to become a pioneer in the skating world for people
of color, a top coach and, in 1997, the first African
American woman inducted into the U.S. Figure Skating Hall of
Fame in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Fairbanks died Saturday at Providence St. Joseph's Medical
Center in Burbank after a long illness. She was 85. In the
last few weeks, she had been diagnosed as having acute
leukemia. Four years ago she was diagnosed as having
myasthenia gravis, a muscle-wasting disease that limited her
Fairbanks, who was born Nov. 14, 1915 in the Florida
Everglades of African American and Seminole ancestry,
according to her birth records, never was accepted into
competitive skating and was denied a shot at the Olympics
because of the color of her skin. But she still had the
moxie to make her own moves on ice.
That caught the attention of others, including figure skater
and coach Maribel Vinson (nine times U.S. Ladies Champion)
who recognized Fairbanks' talent and offered advice on
technique. Howard Nicholson, another well-known coach of the
era, joined Vinson in contributing to Fairbanks'
development. Fairbanks also benefited from watching and
listening while the white children received formal
instruction. She copied and practiced their moves.
Undaunted by racism, Fairbanks continued to practice at
various rinks in New York, earning money by skating for
black community benefits and charities. Soon, she was
producing her own programs and presenting them at the Gay
Blades Ice Arena in Manhattan to a mixed but mostly black
She also earned income by being the only black skater in
some of the many small ice shows that performed in
She was always billed as the "extra added attraction" but
was never allowed to dazzle the audience with her skill and
amazing jumps and spins because "none of the white skaters
wanted to be outshone by someone black," she recalled in a
She traveled with ice shows to Mexico and other countries
where there was greater acceptance of mixed races in such
Later, after coming to Los Angeles in the 1940s, she gained
fame and respect as a coach focused on young competitive
skaters of all races and backgrounds.
She is credited with pairing up Tai Babilonia with Randy
Gardner, who later became five-time national pairs champions
in the 1970s. She also worked with the future champions Atoy
Wilson, Scott Hamilton, Kristi Yamaguchi, Rudy Galindo,
Tiffany Chin, Debi Thomas, Leslie Robinson and Michelle
Fairbanks also continued to knock down barriers and fight
the politics of skating. Her own exclusion from skating
clubs propelled her to petition the Culver City skating club
in 1965 to admit Richard Ewell III, which it did. Ewell is
thought to be the first black to gain admission to a U.S.
A year later, she coached Wilson to become the first African
American national champion with his U.S. Novice Men's
Wilson, now 50, met Fairbanks when he was 8. He was skating
at the Polar Palace Ice Skating Rink, which today is the
home of Raleigh Studios on Melrose Avenue in Hollywood, when
Fairbanks spotted the youngster and began working with him.
"Her death is a tremendous loss to the African American
community, the skating community, and to people who didn't
know her as well because she was a gracious woman, classy,
effervescent and full of integrity," Wilson said.
"I and everyone else who was ever coached by her knew that
she was coaching her students not only to become great
skaters but, more than anything, to become great human
"Her students have gone on to become lawyers, doctors,
teachers, writers. She coached them to stand on all those
podiums even though she never got to stand on one herself.
That's what made her a human champion."
On Oct. 15, Fairbanks will be honored by the Women's Sports
Foundation when she is posthumously inducted into the
International Women's Sports Hall of Fame in a ceremony at
the Waldorf Astoria in New York City. Wilson and Babilonia
will remember their coach at the event.
Fairbanks, who never married, is survived by her sister of
Jacksonville, Fla. Services are pending.
Submitted by L. Kemp