Mother Eliza House was born in Edgecomb County, North Carolina to Cicero and Bertha Bullock on December 30, 1923. She peacefully departed this life on Sunday June 28, 2020 in comfort and love at her home in Lockport, IL.
Mother House was born the 3rd oldest daughter of 13 siblings. Her parents were sharecroppers who raised peanuts, cotton and tobacco. Growing up, she was known as, “The smart one,” because she performed well in school, earning straight A’s. Mother House always loved school and valued education. As a child, she attended Lawrence Elementary School, where her favorite teacher was Mr. Sheilds. In her words, “He taught more than academics; he taught students, all African American, of course. He taught us how to be young men and women and to carry ourselves with dignity and respect.” Her favorite subjects were History and English.” While attending Brick Tri-County High School, she was often a part of the school districts competitions for speaking, sports and dance. “I could do anything I put my mind to.” In her last year of high school, she moved to Portsmith, Virginia to work for the wartime National Youth Administration in the Navy yard. While there, she also attended classes in the evening. It was in Virginia she met her future husband, Deacon Thomas R. House.
After WWII ended, work in the navy yard slowed down. She and her husband decided to move with their young son, Tommy, to Lockport, Illinois where her husband’s family lived. She began working at various jobs and always made sure she sent money back home. At some point she obtained her beauty license, doing hair in her kitchen on the weekends. In the 1950’s, she and her husband joined Shiloh MB Church. During this time, she worked at S.W. Sickles, near the Joliet prison. The House’s grew their family and were blessed with 3 more children; Rhonda, Richard and Lorna. In 1964, she had another baby boy, Bryan. By this time, she started working at Caterpillar Tractor Co. in Joliet, in the maintenance department. Always striving for better for herself and family, she would soon become the first female security guard at Caterpillar.
Mother House was very industrious and remained very active in her community. In the 1960’s, she became a founding member of The Order of the Eastern Star, Ruth Chapter #9. In the late ‘60’s, she played on the Caterpillar women’s baseball and basketball team with women half her age. One of her greatest loves was being a member of Shiloh MB Church. She has always been a faithful and active member of Shiloh, serving in the Senior Choir and Greater United Choir. She managed the children’s choir for many years when her children were growing up. She was a Sunday school teacher for over 30 years as well as a member of the Home Mission Ministry. For many of her senior years you could still see her singing soprano on the 2nd row of the choir. Mother House also loved to travel and, among her many trips, was blessed to visit Israel in the 1980’s. After 27 years of service, she retired from Caterpillar, and became a foster grandparent at the Fairmont Elementary School. She volunteered with the school well into her 80’s. It was a source of great pride as she was able to live out her dream of teaching children.
Mother House lived her life with a great commitment to excellence. She invested herself greatly in everything she pursued. And, by the grace and love of God, she continued to press her way a few years short of a century. One thing she always told her children “Do the best you can. I don’t care if you’re digging ditches, be the best ditch digger you can!” Her children remember the long speeches she taught them to memorize for Easter, Mother’s Day, Children’s Day and any other day that was appropriate for a speech.
Mother House leaves to cherish her memory siblings Elizabeth Washington, Clarence Bullock and David Bullock; children Rhonda Bailey, Richard (Robbie) House, Lorna House, Bryan (Leah) House Sr.; grandchildren Carlos Hayes, Tamekeyo (Sinatra) Griffin, Tanya House, Kaleah Bailey, Brenton Bailey, Rishawn House, Ryan House, Brittney House, Bryan House Jr., Jory House, Rakelle House, Brooklyn House, Liam Gulmi and Marcus House, and a host of great-grandchildren, nieces and nephews.
Mother House was preceded in death by her husband, Thomas House; her parents, Cicero and Bertha; son, Tommy House; and nine siblings.
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