Verna Mae "Mama" Boone
1929 - 2009
Mama Boone joined Greater New Mt Zion Baptist Church on November 26, 1995
under the Pastorage of Rev Jesse Hardeman Sr.
When the Texas Department of Transportation and the University of Texas at San Antonio tried to move Mama Boone from a spot under a downtown bridge where she would feed the homeless and preach the word of God, she fought back using the power of prayer and the hope of good will.
Boone, who helped homeless people and others in need for more than 50 years, died on Sunday, May 10th, of a stroke. She was 80. Many friends and acquaintances attended her homegoing service on May 18th.
“She never got tired of helping anybody,” said the Rev. James Robinson, a grandson, she raised as a son. “She always thought of other people, even at the end.”
A San Antonio native, Boone went to Phillis Wheatley High School, briefly worked as a beautician, then spent the rest of her working life cleaning houses.
It was on her way to a housecleaning job when she began her ministry in 1952. She was heading to Fort Sam Houston to clean the home of a colonel, and while waiting at a bus stop she saw a woman eating out of the trash.
Boone offered the woman her sack lunch, but she refused. Boone thought it might have been because the woman was white and she was black. She set her lunch down and turned her back. Then she saw the woman retrieve the lunch and walk behind a nearby icehouse.
When Boone was going home that day, she peeked behind the icehouse and saw a small community of homeless people. From then on, she filled two paper bags with sandwiches and left them against a nearby wall.
Her six children grew up watching their mother's ministry in action.
In the early '90s, she began bringing a worship service to a community of homeless people under the bridge of Interstate 35/Interstate 10 at Durango Boulevard.
In her electric wheelchair, she would lead her volunteers to set up chairs before the service. Afterward, everybody would share a meal. She would give clothing to anybody who needed it. Then the volunteers would clean up, making sure they left the place cleaner than they found it.
She registered her Body of Christ Community Ministries as a nonprofit group in 1994 and quietly went about her work.
In 2005, the state started leasing the parking lot under the bridge to UTSA, limiting the land's use to parking. The university said it was sympathetic to Boone's work, but that she had to go.
Reluctantly, she made her case public.
“The Scripture says the poor will be with you always,” she told the Express-News in 2005, “and whatever you do for them you do for me.”
After the ensuing outcry, the parties to the contract announced that although they were not going to change its terms, they weren't going to enforce them, either.
In 2006, friends and admirers from five local churches renovated Boone's home, giving it a major makeover.
She continued her work until last year — focusing on helping her daughter Linda's church on the East Side and distributing food and clothing out of her home.
Her favorite Bible reading, the 23rd Psalm, is a natural for Monday's funeral, and Robinson recalled a verse:
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.”