Elizabeth City, NC ~ Deborah Ann Black King Lawrence, “Babe”/”Mama”/”Mean Ol’ Grandma”/”Sister Deb”/”Mean ol’ Auntie Deb”/”Hard-Headed Angel”….. took Elvis Presley literally when she heard him sing, “Take my hand, take my whole life, too…” on Pandora as she took her last breath on August 20, 2019; surrounded by her loved ones. She was “strong like bull” as she gave her head neck cancer fight “bloody hell” for two long years. And while she loved her life and the people in it, she was ready when God called her home.
Speaking of life, Debbie was born February 16, 1947 in New Bedford, Massachusetts, to Willis Eugene Black, Jr. and Mabel Elizabeth Hillier, as the eldest of 4 children. She protected and loved her three younger siblings, Elizabeth “Betsy” Summerlin of Richmond, VA, Jeff Black (Cindy) of Virginia Beach, VA, John Black (Cathy) of Charlottesville, VA since they were born and until her dying breath.
Her greatest joy was sharing her ‘surf and turf’ heritage as her beginning years were spent in New Bedford, MA where her maternal grandfather was an Atlantic Cod fisherman, and shortly after, at Dugway Proving Grounds, an Army base in Utah, where not too far away, her paternal grandfather was a rancher. Her parents finally settled in Arlington, Virginia long enough for her to graduate from Yorktown High School in 1964. While in Arlington, she was also an active member in Job’s Daughters.
One gorgeous day, Debbie was bitten by the love bug when she saw a long and lanky, stuttering twig (his words, not ours) Gary King O’Malley (Maddy) dancing to his transistor radio down Lee Highway where she exclaimed to her mom as they drove by him, “I am going to marry that young man.” She later realized that he attended the same youth group as her at the Old Falls Church in Falls Church, VA where they eventually married in 1965. She subsequently graduated from The Washington School for Secretaries in Washington, D.C. Over the course of her life she worked as an Executive Assistant in Aeronautics, Electronics, and Legislative Relations. She also served as a personal assistant to Pamela Harriman, Winston Churchill’s granddaughter.
First comes love, then comes marriage then comes Kimberly Ann (1969; Malcolm Wise) in the baby carriage . The first of three daughters all born while her husband was stationed at Naval Air Station Lemoore in California. Three years later, babies (not one, but two), Tasha Joan (Joe Cram) and Tonya Elizabeth (d. December 30, 1976) arriving on the same day (1973)!
The Vietnam War did terrible things to young men’s bodies and minds and destroyed many marriages; including Gary and Debbie’s. Despite that heartbreak, Debbie found the second love of her life and husband of 45 years, Phil Lawrence, who was an amazing partner, daddy to her three girls and best friend and “brother from another mother” to her ex – Gary, with whom she stayed very close. Unfortunately, early in their marriage they experienced the loss of Twin “B”, Tonya, to Leukemia; which impacted their journey beyond measure.
From the West Coast to the East Coast (1976), back to the West Coast (1988), back to the East Coast (2012) Debbie continued her surf and turf lifestyle she loved so much. Most recently she lived in Elizabeth City, NC with Phil and their fur-baby Lilly.
She beautified the world with her artwork and her passion for design. From pencil drawing to watercolor, home décor and crafts – she always found a way for her creativity to be expressed, including dancing to her favorite oldies.
The 1980’s were blessed with the addition of her Godson Ryan “Bom Byan” King (Haley). The 1990’s were filled with the births of four grandchildren: Dana Lawrence, Reese King, Shelby Greer (James) Riah Gonzales King. In the 2000’s she was delighted with her daughters’ legal adoptions of their “bonus” children, Tyler Kerns and Tony D’Chevy Donofrio (Katrina) and in 2010, she welcomed her first great-grandchild, Takoda Burton. Three full generations for her to impart her Deb-isms and oracle wisdom. From “You and me God” to “be a turtle”. From “be her now, now be here” to “truth, honesty, and patience”. From “repeat, repeat, repeat” to “stroke each other’s spirit”. But above all else “there is Love”.
She is preceded in death by both of her “Black” parents, “Gene and Betty”, her “King” parents (Elbert Craig King & Nellie Blanche “Bunny” King), and her “Lawrence” parents (Lyle & Dorris Katherine “Kay”) all of whom she loved dearly, as well as her daughter Tonya Elizabeth. She leaves behind hundreds (literally) of aunties, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews, close friends, and not so close friends in California, Oregon, Nevada, Utah, Texas, Virginia, North Carolina, and Georgia, who she promises to haunt F.O.R.E.V.E.R.!!!
Her parting words were, “Live life with no regrets. And oh, by the way, you will miss me when I’m gone. (also known as “the cup song”)
In true “surf and turf” fashion, we will be celebrating her life with 3 services spanning the U.S.!
East Coast – August 31, 2019 at the Masonic Temple on Granby St. Norfolk, VA from 1 – 5 PM.
West Coast – September 21, 2019 at the Central Valley Event Center 5684 Pirrone Rd. Salida, CA from 1 – 5 PM.
Interment – DATE TBD – Fillmore Cemetery, Fillmore, Utah.