Jeanette Dowdell Garland (affectionately known as Mom to her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and Mama G to All) entered eternal rest on May 29, 2021 at the Albany Medical Center Hospital after a long illness. Born in Gary, Indiana on September 8, 1940. She was the daughter of Princie Mae Nunn Dowdell & Romas Dowdell. The family relocated to Albany in the 1940’s, after returning to Auburn, AL for a short period.
Jeanette was always looking out for the youth in her immediate neighborhood. She was always straightening hair for neighborhood children and pierced their ears as she did for her own children, younger sisters, and nieces.
She was educated in the Albany City School District. She obtained her Associate Degree in Mortuary Science from Hudson Valley Community College in Troy, New York. Upon completion, she functioned as a partner in the business assisting her husband in the consolation of grief-stricken families within the African American community. In addition to performing administrative functions in the office, she prepared the makeup and attire on the dearly departed.
She was the first Black employee at Flah’s Department Store. She held positions at the NYS Department of Motor Vehicles, Watervliet Arsenal, New York Telephone Company, Albany County Department of Social Services Heap Program. Jeanette accepted a position with the City of Albany Parks and Recreation Department as the Director of Creighton Storey Teen Center (the Rec) where she retired from after 22 years of meritorious service. Jeanette covered shortfalls in the budget to provide holiday parties, snacks, and various supplies for crafts and activities for the children.
Jeanette volunteered for numerous civic and charitable community-based initiatives for the betterment of the African American experience in the Capital District Area. She helped Reverend Surgick, Reverend Roland, and Reverend Bailey secure scholarships for inner city youth to attend Camp Thatcher. She also participated in the beautification of the City of Albany Initiative in collaboration with Mrs. Erastus Corning and Sara Logan. She was a founding member of the inner-city coalition for the Albany County Democratic Party Committee. Additionally, Jeanette volunteered at the Albany Girls Club Inc. and The Grandmothers for Charter Schools. She participated in various events, school board meetings, common council meetings, marches, holiday parties and provided all the supplies and materials needed to make The Grandma’s holiday wreaths. She also canvassed for the opening of Green Tech High Charter School for Boys.
Jeanette has spent a lifetime of giving to others to improving the quality of life for the African American community, as well as the entire City of Albany. She was a member of the MC Lawton Civic & Cultural Club, Inc., the oldest African American Group in the Nation, and was the Historian of the Club. Jeanette received many accolades for her lifetime of service, as well as the following Awards: Women of Color Cancer Support group, (Caregiver award), South End (Community award), Frank Chapman Memorial Institute Inc. Mothers of Pearl award, Black Family (community award) Albany Links, and The Albany City Common Council Black History Award Presenter Corey Ellis, Women of Color Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Award, presented by Michael Logan.
Jeanette fostered several children, including a Haitian student who was facing deportation. As a result of her intervention, the student was able to remain in the United States and successfully continue her education and is now a practicing physician’s assistant.
Jeanette is preceded in death by her parents, Princie Mae and Romas Dowdell, daughter, Benita Elise Garland, son-in-law, Kenneth P. Wilcox, grandson, Gregory Allen Garland, Jr. She leaves to cherish her memory, her husband of 65 years, Benjamin G. Garland, children, Rodney Garland(Sheila) Gregory Garland (Inez), LaSone Garland-Bryan (Bernard), Lillian E. Garland, Phillippa Garland-Wilcox, and James Garland, 3, godchildren, 19 grandchildren; Franziska Garland, Bernard H. Bryan, Jr. Justin McGill, Benjamin G. Garland, II, (Odaysia), Jennifer Garland, William Madera Garland, Jeanette Hickman (Virkwan), Kymir Walker , Keisha Garland, Rodesha Garland, Alyssa Garland, Rodney Jr. & Ronald Garland, Kiante Garland, Phiana Wilcox, Devonte Garland, Rakeem Garland, Zachary Garland, Gage Garland, James Dindali Garland, and 19 great grandchildren, 5 siblings; Rosemary Bush, Ronald Dowdell, Claudette Sims, Carol Demeke, and Leila Dowdell. Two sisters-in-law, Mollie Simon, (Dr. Dennie) and Lillian DeWitt (Ken). 5 nieces, 4 nephews, 12 grandnieces, 5 grandnephews, 8 great-grandnephews, two great-grandnieces, 4 first cousins; Diana Nunn Franklin & Ellen Ruth Nunn of McDonough & Macon, GA respectively, Betty Philips and Daisy Williams of Auburn, AL. She had several dear lifelong friends, Johnnie Mae Miller, Jeannie Portee’, Joan Portee’, Mary Morgan Bowden, Shirley Murray, and a host of other cousins and friends. She is preceded in death by 4 uncles and 2 aunts. Her mother-in-law, Nana, Grace Garland “Nana” with whom she had a special bond, her father-in-law, William B. Garland, and brother-in-law William B. Garland, Jr. affectionately known as Uncle Junior.
Jeanette cherished her time back in Auburn, AL with her Aunt Kate and Cousins Betty and Daisy. She loved her first cousins; John L. Dowdell, Sr., and Lafayette (Buddy) Dowdell who also preceded her in death. She was especially close to her Uncle Eddie & Aunt Bernice who she stayed with during high school.
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