Harlem lost a treasure this week, and many hearts are heavy. Lucille Singleton, also known as the Harlem Runner, a good friend and inspiration to many.
Ms. Lucille moved to New York City in 1950 from South Carolina – married and raising two children, she worked in a variety of jobs from home healthcare to housecleaner, and sadly became a widow in 1969. Noticing a new construction project on 125th Street, she applied for a job – tool belt in hand, construction hat on her head, she got the job at the age of 71.
It wasn’t until 1980 when she found her true passion – Running. Well into her early 90s, she would start her day at 4am, running three miles to her gym, New York Sports Club – she was a regular sight on Frederick Douglass Boulevard, – if you got up that early. So regular in fact, that on a rare off-day, not feeling well, and walking slowly, a local police patrol stopped to see if she was ok.
The year Ms Lucille was to turn 90, her good friend Melba wanted to celebrate. We planned for months, and what a celebration it was, with over 200 of Ms Lucille’s closest friends.
The invitation to the Event held images of Ms. Lucille’s favorite haunts from the Road Runners Club, to her favorite restaurants, and gym – with a tool-belt at the top. Inscribed inside the invitation is a snapshot of her life, as many of us knew her. It read…..
Put on your sneakers and follow along as we jog into Ms. Lucille’s 90th Birthday. The painting begins at her townhouse, her home on West 112th Street where she raised her two children, and lived for more than twenty years before moving right around the corner to The Antliers. While you’re sleeping, she is jogging. If you happen to be up at 5am, keep a sharp eye on Frederick Douglass Boulevard, because she will soon be passing by her favorite haunts. On Sunday mornings you will occasionally see her sitting outside Melba’s 114, enjoying the morning and chatting with friends. Three days a week you will find her in dialysis but back home in plenty of time to have coffee with friends at Frederick’s Cafe’. Then off to New York Sport Club near 124th Street for her morning workout before hula hooping and lunch at the Kennedy Senior Center. Jogging home she will stop by Bier Int’l and 5 & Diamond to say Hi and talk about her next race with the New York Road Runners Club which, which by the way, is the Fifth Avenue Mile Race – later this month. (2013)
Her apartment was decorated with running trophies, medals and countless newspaper articles written about the ‘Famous Harlem Runner.’ None of this seemed to phase her, and she was always curiously surprised at the interest – like the time a young woman wanted to do a short documentary video on her. The young student journalist would later say that she had a hard time keeping up with Ms. Lucille, and her video, featured above, we now hold close to our hearts.
Always a smile, and a flower in her hair, our friend Lucille Singleton (September 9, 1923-February 3, 2018) passed away at her home in Harlem. She will be remembered always, as we celebrate her life with a few images below.
Funeral Services will be held on February 9th, as follows