~The Obituary ~
Emma Ruth Smith Staggers was born in Robeson County, NC on July 1, 1937 to Donald (Don) and Mary Jane McLean. When Emma was a young girl the family moved to SC to be near family, and because she loved to read and loved learning, her father Don made sure she got a proper education when many of the children at the time were spending much of their time helping their families to farm. She joined the Mt. Olive Baptist Church as a young woman, but upon her return to Mullins from living in Jersey City, NJ, joined The New Covenant Church of Christ with her mother where she served as a member and eventually mother until her death.
In her late teens, Emma met and married James Harold Smith (deceased) and had seven children. Shortly after Emma’s oldest child Donald was born, she and James moved the family to Jersey City, NJ for a better life. While living in NJ, Emma worked several jobs, but started her medical career working at Planned Parenthood. It was during this time that she also went to school to become a certified laboratory technologist. This degree allowed her to return to SC in the early 80s making history as the first African American woman to integrate the laboratory at Mullins Hospital in Mullins, SC. It was while working at the hospital that Emmamet and later married her second husband Samuel Staggers (deceased) who was also working at the hospital at the time. Emma continued to work in the lab for over 30 years mentoring other young lab techs and phlebotomists, many of which she encouraged to return to school and earn advanced degrees in careers within the lab, but also in nursing.
Emma was preceded in death by her parents Don and Mary McLean, her husbands: James Smith and Samuel Staggers; brother: Douglas Worley; sisters: Donnie Bell Long, Mary Reaves, Mary “Lill” Bethea, Hazel Funderburk and Mossie Bell Hall; son: Gregory Smith, and grandson Justin Smith. She leaves to cherish many fond memories five sisters: Martha Rae Reaves of St. John’s, FL, Willie Belle Rabb (James) of Walterboro, SC, Charlotte Harvey (Floyd) of Pfafftown, NC, and Marilyn Maxwell and Carolyn Bethea of West Palm Beach, FL; six children: Don Harold Smith (Earnestine) and Dairea Rembert (David “Shug”) of Mullins, SC, Donna Carter, her primary caregiver, of the home, Loretta Pickett, James (Yolanda) Smith of Columbia, SC, and Douglas Dozier (Mary) of Ruskin, FL; eleven grandchildren: Tisha Boston (Randy) of Blythewood, SC, David Smith (Nakia) and Jason Smith of Columbia, SC, DaminSmith of New Albany, IN, Dea Sellmer(Martin) of Jeffersonville, IN, Desmond “Reco” Stackhouse of Ft. Lauderdale, FL, Douglas Dozier, Jr. of Tracy, CA, Precious (Rob) Morton of Atlanta, GA, Gregory Walters, Jr. (Ariel) of Indianapolis, IN, and Erica Smith of Mullins, SC. Mrs. Staggers also leaves her beloved dog, Sandy, 16 great grandchildren, two great-great grandchildren (with three more expected any day now), a host of nieces, nephews, friends and former colleagues.
Emma loved to read and she loved her family. Her greatest joy was when she was able to be surrounded by her family just having a good time. She was quite the jokester and fashionista, and prided herself in styling her children and especially her grandchildren in the most fabulous shoes!
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