Floral 11

Mrs. Mary “Playmama” Harden

September 21, 1916 ~ April 30, 2020 (age 103)


Mary Magdalene (Tilghman) Harden, a phenomenal woman, was born on September 21, 1916 to the union of Sidney (Papa) and Mary Magdelene Tilghman in St. Louis, MO. She was the fifth child, four of whom preceded her in death. Carrie (Tilghman) Trimm, Sidney Tilghman, Florence (Tilghman) Williams, William C. Tilghman.

Mary married James (Jimmy) Malcom Harden Sr. and to their union was born three children Marlene Frances, Sandra Jean “Sandy” and James Malcom “Boy” Jr. (who preceded her in death). Mary was very active and involved within her children’s school and neighborhood events. She would cook and sell lunch to the teachers for 50¢. She organized a fashion and talent show in efforts to support the school and raised $900 - not at all a small sum in those days. This was the beginning of her legacy.

Mary loved her family unconditionally and spent quality time with all of her children. She adored dancing, reciting poems and recounting stories about the past.

Mary graduated from Sumner High School in 1936. After graduation she became a beautician along with her sister Florence who had a shop. They were known in the neighborhood for the distinct styles they created. Grandma charged only $1.00.

Mary moved to Pruitt-Igoe in 1955 where she quickly earned the name “Playmama”. She touched a city within a city with the spirit of love and always had a kind word throughout the neighborhood. To her family she was known as “Tintsy” and Aunt Pat, from California, New York, New Jersey and Delaware. We know they will truly miss her.

Mary worked for Universal Direct Mail, and later she became a writer for the St. Louis Crusade and the St. Louis Argus newspaper where she wrote weekly columns for the paper and was also a “ghost writer.” She even began writing a book about her life. One of her favorite occupations was working UNCLASSIFIED UNCLASSIFIED with the children at Annie Malone’s Children Home where she met her God-son Christopher Henderson. She also worked for St. Louis City Hospital #1 in billing and records. She retired around 72 years of age from Commercial Lettering in billing and records.

Mary was also a longtime member of The National Council of Negro Women, an organization dedicated to the empowerment of black women and the communities they nourish.

Mary lived the life of a virtuous, Christian woman. You could find her reading her Bible and praying morning and night. She led by example in her everyday life and was a faithful member and worker at St. Bridget of Erin Church (which later merged with St. Teresa) located on Jefferson Ave. The parish’s pastor, Father Bob, was not only a priest but a friend.

Mary blessed the world with a bounty of offspring beginning with her children: Marlene F. (Mack) Harris and Sandra J. (Jerry, "Jack" preceded her in death) Harrell; grandchildren Janice M. (Jordan) Perry, Janet M.B. (Marcus) Roberson, Andrea J. Harrell, William C. (Wanda) Harden of Fredericksburg, VA, Johnny Danrich of Oklahoma City, OK, Jerri Bevly, Christopher J. Danrich Jones (preceded her in death), and Marnessa Harden; 16 great-grandchildren, 17 great-great-grandchildren, one great-great-great grandchild; a dear cousin and friend in the person of June McLemore (Granny) aged 105 years, godson Christopher Henderson, and a host of nieces, nephews, relatives, and play-children from her neighborhood.

To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Mrs. Mary “Playmama” Harden, please visit our floral store.


Private Services

Prospect Hill Missionary Baptist Church
4533 Arlington Ave.
St. Louis, MO 63120

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