Celia Marie Abney Cleveland, born in Raleigh, N.C., June 14, 1921, to Pastor Benjamin and Celia Abney, went to her earthly rest, Thursday afternoon, May 29, 2003. Funeral services were held at the Oakwood College church in Huntsville, Alabama, on June 4.
Celia received her early education in Missouri, in English schools in Cape Town, South Africa, and at Oakwood Academy in Huntsville. She enrolled at Oakwood College in 1941 for two years and became a campus threesome with Elizabeth Mumford and Lorraine Davis Henri. Even then, Celia's knowledge and understanding of the Bible was known. Because of her father's influence and her own interest in reading the Bible, ministerial students would come to her for biblical information and affirmation.
Thee daughter of a pastor, evangelist, and missionary, Celia's world was extensive. The Abney's served in South Africa for eight years as the first Black missionary family. Her music ministry began when she was 11 years of age as a pianist in her dad's tent meetings. She served as a Bible instructor for a year in 1940 with Elder Herman R. Murphy, and when her husband, Edward Earl Cleveland, began his evangelistic career in 1943, Celia became his principal Bible instructor and pianist, and helped to lead more than 4,000 people to the church.
Celia and Earl were married May 29, 1943, in Meridian, Mississippi. Throughout their 60 years of marriage, Earl extolled his love for Celia to his listeners throughout the earth.
God blessed their union with a son, Earl Clifford, and four grandsons. Celia was a wonderful wife, mother, grandmother, and mother-in-law. She had unlimited love for each family member, and was cheerful, sympathetic, supportive, and generous. Celia had an amazing memory and could easily recall times, places, and dates of events, people's names, and birthdays of not only family members but friends too. She was her husband's memory bank.
Celia traveled to many nations with her husband as they conducted more than 60 evangelistic meetings with her at the piano.
For 11 years she served as secretary for the National Service Organization, supplying literature to soldiers in military service. She took a personal interest in each soldier, memorizing many of their names and service units. Students attending the seminary in 'Washington, D.C., also found in her a mother away from home. She opened her home to them for relaxation, refreshments, and recreation.
Celia's friends around the world have benefited from her calm, pure, enduring Christian counsel, advice, and friendship. Many will remember her for her positive attitude about life and death, her cheerful disposition in pain and suffering. She knew and understood the promises of God, having read the Bible through a total of 45 times. Her relationship with God was secure. Her faith was unshakeable. Celia Cleveland earned the respect and adulation of all who knew her. Hers was a life that pointed to Jesus Christ, her Friend and Saviour.
She leaves to cherish her memory her husband, Edward Earl; her son, Earl Clifford; her daughters, Veda and Frieda; her grandsons, Edward Earl II, Omar Clifford, Matthew McCall, and Christian Tyler; her brother, Benjamin Abney; her brother-in-law, Harold Cleveland; her sister-in-law, Elizabeth Cleveland; her nieces and nephews and their children; and a host of friends.