His strength, knowledge, wisdom and deep-down character helped shape the lives of his children and influenced his congregation. Those family members and congregants gathered at his beloved Greater Salem Church on May 4 to pay respect to the church’s oldest member.

Albirtus Alexander Cathey, a Charlotte native and a longtime deacon at his church, died

April 28, 2011, at age 93. In his 85 years as a member, he had been a church greeter,

Albirtus Alexander Cathey, 93

church clerk, and president of the usher board.

He taught Sunday school for more than 40 years and was superintendent of the Sunday school for 27 years. He held many other positions and was named Member of the Year in 1992.

“Straight-up good man”

“If he had something to say, he wouldn’t hide,” said Margaret McCullough, who grew up with him. “He got up in front of the congregation … and whatever he said, he had a scripture to back it up. He was a straight-up good man.”

Albirtus, or “Bert,” was one of the first black men to lead a Scout troop, his daughter, Denise Cathey, said. He won many blue ribbons as scoutmaster of Salem Troop 108, the county’s largest Black troop.

He met Vinnon Strong at Salem Missionary Baptist Church, as it was known then. They wed in 1938 and were parents of sons Franzel and Antonia Cathey and William Ross, and daughters Amelia, Barbara and Denise.

“He could whip you with his eyes when we had done wrong,” said daughter Barbara Cameron. “He told us to keep our faith, put our trust in God and He would always work things out. He never got stressed out about anything; he was so calm. He told us we needed to learn how to rest and not try to do everything.

“He taught us very well, and I follow in his footsteps,” Barbara said. “He was a great teacher, an ambassador for the church and a legacy for his church.”

“Til death do us part”

After Vinnon died in 1988, fellow church member Katherine Springs became a widow. “We’d talk, or he’d take me to the doctor, and the first thing we knew we were getting married,” Katherine said. “He was a nice, quiet, lovable person and he was always there for me. We promised to take care of each other ‘til death do us part in 1996.”

Bert worked for the old Colonial grocery and several other grocers and then operated a lawn-maintenance service. One customer was the historic Excelsior Club on Beatties Ford Road, where Nat King Cole once entertained the club’s clientele of black professionals. Until about four years ago, “He made sure the lawn was immaculate,” Denise said.

He served on the McCrory YMCA board of directors and lent a hand in the neighborhood wherever it was needed.

“He was a humble person who helped in the community,” his daughter said. “He drove ministers to appointments and worked with teachers and widows. He had a good heart and his mission in life was to serve. He did what God intended for him to do.”

He certainly did, Denise. He served his God and is now reaping his heavenly reward.

Editor’s note: This is our series called Lives That Matter. Written by Charlotte writer Gerry Hostetler, this weekly feature will profile individuals, recently deceased, who had a positive impact on those around them.

Got news to share with Qcity readers? Email us at editor@qcitymetro.com.
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