The Reverend Bernice Warren, whose work benefitted a generation of children in her native Chester, died last Friday, July 13, at her home in that city. She was 66.
A Presbyterian cleric, Rev. Warren was for more than 20 years pastor and director of Chester Eastside Inc. and its predecessor Chester Eastside Ministries, developing programs and services to provide residents of Chester with food, support services, education, and opportunities for enrichment. She had announced her retirement from Chester Eastside at the end of December, 2016. Scarcely a week before she was honored at a farewell gala in May, 2017, Rev. Warren received a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, truncating the plans her daughter Kearni Warren said would have continued her ministry in the wider world.
More than a year into her battle with pancreatic cancer, Rev. Warren planned a celebration of her friends for their love and support, care and compassion. As it happened, the “Thank You for Being My Friend” celebration took place last Friday, hours after her passing, but with her spirit abundantly present among more than 100 gathered at Thomas M. Thomas Presbyterian Church in Chester, said her daughter.
Reverend Zuline Gray Wilkinson, who succeeded her as Executive Director of Chester Eastside, called Rev. Warren “an indomitable force for truth and righteousness … a tireless advocate and outspoken truth-teller.” Through her service to the Chester community, Rev. Wilkinson said, “Reverend Warren touched thousands of lives and gave hope to children, families and countless individuals who turned to Chester Eastside for help. Young people, who came from humble beginnings, have gone on to achieve much success … Doctors of Philosophy, computer scientists, educators, medical personnel, ministers, office workers, auto mechanics, entrepreneurs and Gates Scholars have attributed their accomplishments to the influence of Rev. Warren … the energy and the commitment to the City of Chester will not change. Her legacy will continue.”
Reverend Warren is survived by her daughter Kearni and her sister Eva Henry. For those wishing to make a donation, a fundraising page was set up just before her death, at https://www.gofundme.com/my-life-journey-please-help.
Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. on Wednesday, July 25, at St. Luke’s Community Christian Church, 320 Tilghman Street in Chester. A viewing will take place there from 9 to 10:45 a.m. In Rev. Warren’s honor, Chester Eastside will be closed on Wednesday.