Katherine Long Giles Jennings was born Kathleen Long on March 23, 1927. She didn’t like the sound of Kathleen and promptly changed it to Katherine! Daughter of Drayton Moore Long and Sophie Thompson, she was born in Union, SC. One of 13 children (11 girls and 2 boys), she lost her mother at the age of 4, who died giving birth to twins. Her vivacious personality, great sense of humor and zest for life were evident throughout her life. Blessed with a beautiful voice and a gift for writing and producing, Katherine made her mark as an outstanding talent in her church and community.
Even though she was born with a disability (inability to extend her left arm), she never wanted to bring attention to this shortcoming, and defied the odds by living a full rich life! She married Tommie Giles, with whom she bore five children (Diane, Loretta, Tommie, Michael and Larry). After living on a farm and being limited by minimal options for African Americans in the deep south, she decided that she wanted more opportunities for her children. She moved her family to Mount Vernon, NY, following the lead of her sisters. With only a high school education, she started out as a domestic to help raise her family. After many years in his occupation, she decided that she was destined for more! Aided by her highly developed fashion instincts which gave her an aura of refinement, she walked into the Human Resources office of an insurance company one day and asked for a job. When asked about her past skills and experiences, she said: “None, but I can learn anything”. The HR director replied: “Lady, with that kind of courage, I’m going to take a chance on you”. She was initially hired as a file clerk but soon worked her way up the ranks of Aetna Insurance Company, from which she retired many years later.
After 31 years of marriage to Tommie Giles, she later married Kitchener Jennings of Hamilton, Bermuda. They remained married for 31 years, until his death in 2008. Her life evolved around her beloved Macedonia Baptist Church, where she was active in the choir and community, her large extended family, extensive travel, and cultural events.
Moving from New York to Greensboro, NC and then to Charlotte, NC in 2016, with her daughter, Loretta, she once again connected to her southern roots, where she also enjoyed being a grandma and a great grandma. Her illness during the past few months was met with the same courageous spirit that characterized her approach to all of life’s challenges. But early Sunday morning on June 14, 2020 our Heavenly Father dispatched his Angels to end Katherine’s suffering and bring her home. Katherine leaves to mourn her homegoing, her daughter, Loretta, and son, Tommie, 4 grandsons; William Courtney Alston of MD; Maurice Todd Alston & Kareem Lamar Alston of Greensboro, and Mark Lawrence Giles of Raleigh; one great grandson, Quincey Lamar Alston of Greensboro, and 2 great granddaughters, Ava Elizabeth & Ashton Joanna Giles of Burlington, NC; 2 sisters; Rosa Lee Davis & Mary Jeter of Mount Vernon, NY. She was predeceased by three children: Diane Alston, Michael and Larry Giles; 2 brothers, Edward & Drayton Long; and 8 sisters: Sally Long, Arlene Long, Lucille Mims, Wilhelmina Rodgers, Beulah Byrd, Hettie Tucker, Alice Ford and Christine Ford. Also left to mourn are a host of nieces, nephews, great nieces & great nephews and many devoted family and friends.
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