Willie Anderson was born Willie Beatrice Brown in the Parsonage of her grandfather’s church in Tampa Florida on April 24, 1925. While still an infant, she moved with her parents, Marie and James Brown, to Manhattan (Harlem), New York.  Willie grew up in Harlem in the middle of the Harlem Renaissance, through World War II, the McCarthy era, and the beginnings of the Civil Rights Movement. She graduated from George Washington High School in Upper Manhattan and at 16 she met Albert Edward MacDowell, Jr.  In 1945 they were married and together had one child – Lynn Dawn.  That marriage ended in divorce, but they remained lifelong friends.  Then, in 1954, Willie met and married Paul (Bud) Jordan and together they moved to Pasadena, California.  

If asked, even at 90 years old, Willie would jokingly proclaim that she had been married 3 times – so far.  But in reality, the third time for her was the charm.  Willie’s marriage to Bud ended in the early 60’s, and in 1969 she met the love of her life, Irvin Anderson.  They became one  entity – each without diminishing  the other.  Not an easy feat – a truly rare relationship.  For over 46 years, with enduring love and unconditional support they traveled the globe, laughed often and created memories that turned into amazing stories most often shared with others over a martini.

Willie accomplished many firsts in her lifetime, both personally and professionally.  She was the first black telephone representative at Ma Bell in Pasadena (AT&T) and later their first black manager, for example. But she will be most remembered for her quick wit and artistic flair.  Willie enjoyed drawing, painting, sculpting and making jewelry. Her music collection is a rich mix of both classical and jazz, and when the Metropolitan Opera began to stream performances live – she was in 7th heaven!  She loved jokes (mostly ribald) and was an amazing storyteller. Some people make life better for everyone around them.  Willie Anderson was one who inspired you to think, made you laugh, and encouraged others to create..

She faced death much as she lived life.  In her own words: “As i get older, I am finally aware of my own mortality.  I become bemused sometimes, pondering my own demise.  Fortunately, I don’t have a fear of death. In fact I feel it should be a great adventure.  Certainly, the great action, (or in action) of one’s whole lifetime.  I expect my energies to finally burst forth to the universe.  For a few decades, I might just follow you all around….So if you’re walking down the street and suddenly jump and holler – it’ll be me, snapping at your ankles. “

Willie is survived by her loving husband of 46 years Irvin Anderson; her daughter, Lynn “Nachisale” Williams (Robert); Her Step-Daughters Elizabeth Landrum (Michael); Laura Hamman (Thomas) and Lenora Rollenhagen (Rick):  Her Grandchildren Jua, Jabali, Maisha, Tuere, Ishmail, Christopher, Patrick, Anne, James, Timothy, Robert and Andrew; and a host of great grandchildren, family and friends.  

The family wants to thank everyone for their warm condolences and invites friends to join them in a Celebration of Life for Willie Anderson.  Please bring your favorite memories to share.

The Brookside Golf Club - Arroyo Room
Saturday, August 12th
10:00 am to 12:00 pm
1133 Rosemont Avenue.
Pasadena, CA

Valet parking will be available.

In lieu of gifts or flowers, please make a donation to an Arts organization of your choice


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