Shelda Jonell Clarke Breedlove was called to the Kingdom and received her Heavenly crown December 2, 2022. She was welcomed with divine celebration and rejoicing as her work here was done.
On March 8, 1952 the world was blessed by the birth of a sweet, sweet spirit in Bessemer, AL. Shelda loved the color pink, in all it’s feminine hues, and she loved flowers. As was her way, she would often gift flowers generously to others throughout her life. As a child, she often picked wildflowers in South Bessemer and gave the blossoms to parents and grandparents along her path while walking.
She attended Charles F. Hard Elementary School and J.S. Abrams High School where she excelled. Shelda was outgoing, vivacious, and so kind; always trying to right wrongs and heal the wounded in her own ways. It was only natural that she became a nurse. She attended nursing programs in Bessemer, AL and Birmingham, AL where she received academic honors. In 1971, she and her husband Mack Edward George welcomed their daughter Twyla, and loved her. Yet, it was pure selflessness, love, wisdom, and divine intervention that saw Twyla happily with Eva L. and Louis S. Clarke as another child for them to love, but chosen.
Shelda was a vessel of compassion and empathy. There never was, nor will be anyone just like her. She would cry with you, and make you laugh in the same conversation. She was referred to by many names, most notably “Nell”, but also with special affect “Sharon”, “Boot”, and “Jo”. In recent years she’d been called “grandma” and “fairy godmother”. Shelda was always happy because she lived freely, and without restraint. Her life of service included working for and supporting the indigent. She opened her homes to the unhoused. And in stark contrast, she also worked as a private nurse and cared for some of the wealthiest families in the Southeast. Her joy was making others happy. Her strength was in giving her best to everyone regardless of their financial or social circumstances. She effortlessly made people feel seen, understood, and cared for. She lived her life passionately, full of loves, and amazing joys. She married twice more; both men preceded her in death.
She was a big shopper and, as a nurse, she worked multiple jobs to afford a lifestyle she’d dreamed of for Twyla and to lavish her with the best. Her love for flowers remained. Not to collect, but to give. For Eva, she purchased beautiful lilies every Easter, red poinsettias for Christmas, and lush colorful roses, magnolias, gardenias, tulips, and exotics regardless of the season or occasion, just to say “Mama, I love you and I appreciate you”. She very often bought blooming plants, and flowers as expressions of joy, kindness or sympathy for friends, and sometimes for friends of friends, or total strangers. This was her way. To see the need first and soothe it, regardless of circumstance or relationship.
Some of her most rewarding years were working at University of Alabama at Birmingham Hospital (UAB) helping new babies arrive in the world. In the Labor and Delivery Unit, she often encountered reluctant mothers, teen mothers, new mothers without the support of their families, or caught in abject and cyclical poverty. She would take her paychecks and buy the new mothers, and babies, bundles of items often pretending the gifts were from relatives who had yet to show up. Shelda “Jonell” never outed anyone with her giving. It was done discreetly. She truly gave as if in service of the Lord, and not herself. She would enclose cash in books, or magazines that she would give away and later tell the recipient to turn to the pages with the cash. She routinely gave away her own things of value (including new furniture, new clothes, jewelry, and art). She gave away many things she admired and enjoyed personally. But God always blessed her, prospered her. And HE always, always made a way for her.
Shelda would also care for others in a professional capacity at no cost. She sometimes worked nursing shifts for friends, and gave said friends the pay. She liked “pretty” things but only truly valued what lay inside the hearts of others. Her own heart was more precious than gold. It was this heart that compelled her to intervene and save the life of Cedric. He, a 17 month old patient who had been given less than 10% survival odds, crossed her golden path on a home care nursing case. The hospital doctors had exhausted their efforts. She was in her prime, working, enjoying life, giving to others, shopping, and, thriving. But her heart said do something, and she did. It took great personal sacrifice, an emergency custody placement, and a subsequent adoption. But all is well where there is love. It took surgeries, extensive therapy, and treatments. But God carried him. Now, Cedric is 29 years old and thriving. Shelda’s heart knew no distinction from the daughter she birthed because there was none. She was unconventional in ways, but wise in this. Because she knew there are no such distinctions in heaven.
She was preceded in death by Eva L. Clarke and Louis S. Clarke affectionately and always known to her as “Mama and Daddy”.
Memories of her will forever be deeply cherished by her children Twyla Taylor (Ramon) and Cedric Oden; whose hearts will always hold her near. She was preceded in death by Cetha C. Simmons tenderly referred to as “Bae”. She leaves behind much-loved, close relatives who will miss her: Gwendolyn C. Miller (Cleveland) Rev. Dr. Gregory Louis Clarke (Regina) Sandra S. Holsey, Cindy Dickerson, and Kathy Carter (Jimmy). She leaves behind a host of nieces, nephews, cousins, other relatives, and non-biological “grandchildren” that she collected along her journey.