CENTURY LEGACY: Street dedicated to the matriarch of a Picayune community

Published 7:00 am Saturday, July 29, 2017

Many years ago, the Pilgrim Bound Baptist Church congregation was blessed by the presence of a soft spoken, small town girl whose faith in God changed her community for the better.

The late Katie Beck Dees lived on the same street, in the same little cottage, for her entire 101 years, raising her family as well as caring for the rest of the neighborhood.

To commemorate her legacy, Picayune City Council members approved a motion to rename Clarenda Street to Katie Beck Dees Street in her honor.

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Dees was the matriarch of her community for as long as she blessed the neighborhood with her presence, her daughter Pearl Dees Ducre said.

“She always had a strong faith in God that nothing could seem to cause her to waiver, and that’s how she raised us. We had to go to church, whether we wanted to or not and we had to get our education,” she said. “We felt like we always had to do the best that we could at everything because that was her expectation out of us, and no one wanted to fall short of her expectations.”

Dees was widowed in her early 30s, leaving her with the responsibility to raise her eight children on her own. Though a task not many can say they could handle, Dees’ seemed to do it with ease as six of the eight children went to college where they earned two or three degrees. She did it all without having a steady job. Ducre said the only job Dees ever had was cleaning homes in the neighborhood. Despite not having a steady job, Ducre said her mother always kept her faith and found a way to make ends meet.

“We never went hungry or went without clothes and shoes. We always had everything we needed thanks to the blessings of the Lord,” she said.

But Dees did more than raise her family, she helped raise other children in the neighborhood.

“She would say, ‘I don’t know why the Lord is leaving me here,’ after all of her siblings passed away and I would respond, ‘He’s leaving you here to teach everyone how to strengthen their faith and how to get where we all need to be when tough times come.’ She once said that she would never go broke as long as she had faith in God, and we all follow that saying to this day,” Ducre said.

Ducre said she saw times when her mother’s faith was tested many times, from her husband passing away to also losing her youngest and oldest sons.

Despite those losses, she held on to her faith and walked to church every Sunday until she, too, went home to be with the Lord.

“This street will always be a reminder of that sweet, gentle lady who walked up that street so many years ago in her flowing white usher uniform doing her strut everyone loved as she made her way to church, never late for a single service,” Ducre said.

Many years ago, Ducre said the melody of Dees singing “I know the Lord will make a way” filled the streets as she walked to the Pilgrim Bound Baptist Church to serve as the usher, superintendent and teacher of the church’s Sunday school.

Now, the memory and legacy of Dees will forever be remembered.

“Katie Beck Dees Street will live on,” Calvin Dees said, son of Katie Beck Dees.