Mary Louise Winston (Courtesy photo)

A longtime member of Macedonia Baptist Church, she was heralded for her faith, community involvement and business expertise

Mary Louise Winston made a distinctive mark on South Los Angeles as a child of God, community activist and savvy businesswoman.

An involved member of Macedonia Baptist Church since 1954, Mrs. Winston touched many lives in a positive way while employed at Golden State Insurance Company, Los Angeles Unified School District and as an accounting consultant to local businesses.

Her assistance to others reached a higher level as the founder of the House of Winston Mortuary, which she opened with her late husband, James, in 1975. In addition to comforting grief-stricken people, she mentored scores of young embalmers and served at the highest echelon of the mortician industry.

In 2014, Mrs. Winston sold the mortuary to the Rev. Shane Scott, pastor of Macedonia Baptist. The L.A. Sentinel printed a story about the transaction, which followed a 2013 feature article on Mrs. Winston .

All of Mary Winston’s good works came to a close with her passing on November 27. Her family held a memorial service at Macedonia Baptist in Watts on December 18, to celebrate her life’s achievement and several people attended to express their gratitude for having known Mrs. Winston.

Macedonia Pastor Shane B. Scott directed the service as well as delivered words of comfort. Other clergy offering remarks about Winston were the Rev. Preston Davis of Faithful Central Bible Church in Inglewood, Pastor James K. McKnight of Congregational Church of Christian Fellowship in Los Angeles, and Bishop Jawane Hilton, a Compton pastor and councilmember for the city of Carson. Also, Pastor Ivan Pitts of Second Baptist Church in Santa Ana read the New Testament scripture.

Several representatives in the funeral directors field also recalled Mrs. Winston’s contributions to the profession. The speakers included Inez Adkins, president of 100 Black Women of Funeral Service; Shun Newbern, president of the Nu Chapter of the Epsilon Nu Delta Mortuary Fraternity; and A. Leon Tillman, California Funeral Directors and Embalmers Association (CFDEA). Dr. Hari Close II and Dr. Carol Williams spoke on behalf of the National Funeral Directors and Morticians Association (NFDMA).

Mrs. Winston co-founded the House of Winston Mortuary with her late husband, James, in 1975. (File photo)

A native of Alexandria, Louisiana, Mary was raised in L.A. from the age of 12. After graduating from Jefferson High School, she earned a degree in accounting from L.A. City College and completed courses at Metropolitan Business College, UCLA Extension of Higher Education and USC School of Music.

Her activities at Macedonia Baptist ranged from serving on the Deaconess Board to being a member of the Sanctuary “Senior” Choir, 100th Anniversary Committee, Bereavement Committee, Mother’s Board, and the Scholarship Committee. In fact, she met her husband at Macedonia and in 1963, they united in holy matrimony. Their union produced two children, Harold and Felicia.

The community beyond the church came to known about Mary’s generosity and expertise once she and James started the House of Winston. Her reputation soared as she financially aided others in becoming independent funeral homeowners and created the James W. Winston Memorial Service for families of loved ones who they had serviced throughout the prior year.

She was also active in the local, state and national funeral director trade associations. Locally, Mary held memberships in the NAACP, Los Angeles Urban League, National Council of Negro Women and YWCA.

Her civic and industry achievements led to recognition from a number of organizations. She received awards from the National Association of University Women, NFDMA, Hollypark United Methodist Church and 100 Black Women of Funeral Service. Commendations were presented by Congresswoman Maxine Waters and L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

Also, she managed the Mary Louise Winston Embalmers Scholarship Fund. The fund is affiliated with the Nu Chapter of the Epsilon Nu Delta Mortuary Fraternity.

According to her family, Mrs. Winston truly enjoyed cooking and was known for preparing delicious meals for visitors and on holidays such as Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day.

During her long life, Mrs. Winston witnessed the passing of her husband, James and daughter, Felicia. Cherishing her memory are her son, Harold; grandchildren, great grandchildren, other relatives, godchildren, friends and the Macedonia Baptist Church family.