It’s not uncommon to see children with bright red lipstick marks on their foreheads playing together in an area of St. John Missionary Baptist Church.
By those tell-tale signs, church members know Beaulah Knight is somewhere in the building, and the children bearing the reminders of her crimson kisses are some of “Mama Knight’s kids.”
That’s how it has been for 65 years at the church, 5700 N Kelley.
The St. John congregation is preparing to honor Knight as she retires as assistant nursery superintendent after serving in the position for more than six decades.
Anna Sharp, Knight’s daughter, said a retirement reception for Knight is planned for Aug. 24. She said the congregation also plans to honor her mother by naming the church nursery “The Beaulah Knight Nursery.”
On a recent Sunday morning, Knight, 84, said she didn’t really know how to feel as she prepares to leave her beloved nursery.
“I have mixed emotions, because I love babies,” she said with tears in her eyes.
Sharp said her mother is retiring from her nursery duties due to health reasons but will still attend church and serve as a deaconness and an usher.
From the start
Knight said she and her late husband, Clois, were married in 1949 in a little white house near the church’s former building at Second Street and Phillips Avenue. (The house was relocated to the church’s current property.)
The retired cosmetologist said she was asked shortly after her marriage to become a nursery leader. She accepted but literally ran into a snag, she said.
Knight said she was on her way to the church on her first day as a nursery leader when she realized she had a run in her stockings.
She said she went anyway and loved being with the children.
She’s been there ever since.
“Every Sunday morning at 9 o’clock, I’m here,” Knight said. “I want to give God all the praise, because He gave me the health and strength to come here.”
Sharp said most of the children in the nursery will always remember her mother feeding them graham crackers and juice.
Marsha Jones, 56, a nursery volunteer, said she remembers being in the church nursery under Knight’s care.
“I don’t know what the nursery would be like without her,” Jones said.
“Her signature mark is a big red lipstick mark on the forehead, so you would see kids running around with lipstick on their foreheads.”
Fletta James, 69, had been a nursery volunteer for about 30 years until recently. She said Knight is a “beautiful, lovely mother to all children.”
“Every child that comes through here, they want to stay with Mrs. Knight. That’s the type of relationship she has formed with the kids over the years.”
Meanwhile, Sharp said her mother already has warned her that she plans to visit the nursery whenever she feels inclined, and Sharp said she knows her mom will do just that.
“I think she’s going to head right in here,” Sharp said, smiling.
Retirement reception for Beaulah Knight
Every Sunday morning at 9 o’clock, I’m here. I want to give God all the praise, because He gave me the health and strength to come here.”
assistant nursery superintendent at St. John Missionary Baptist Church