The Rev. Dr. Della M. Blair, founder of Blair Christian Academy, one of the oldest remaining private Christian-based schools in the City of Philadelphia, was born in Richmond, Virginia to Delzora and
Samuel Thomas on October 24, 1936. She was the third of nine siblings. Della Mae (as she was known affectionately among family and close friends) moved to Ansonia, Connecticut where she attended Ansonia High School. She spent summers in Philadelphia and eventually relocated there to be closer to her extended family. While in Philadelphia, she met and married the late, Claude Blair.
Della Mae was a very bright and creative child. When she saw an opportunity, she stopped at nothing to achieve success. She received Christ at a very early age and was bold about her conversion. It was common to find Della preaching from a make shift pulpit and laying hands on her cousins and siblings. William Temple Church of God in Christ in Ansonia, Connecticut was instrumental in her spiritual foundation which would later propel her into ministry.
Della Mae was blessed with the gift of a sincere charm that allowed her to engage with anyone in conversation. She also had a calm, peaceful spirit that flowed about her like a robe. People of all ages were drawn to her – from the youngest of children to the eldest members of her family, who always delighted in her company. In fact, the combined energy of her encounters with elder relatives, including Aunt Lillie Mae, Aunt Rosa, Aunt Drucilla and Aunt Maude would light up a room for days.
Her oratorical skills opened doors to many local, regional and national public speaking contests sponsored by the NAACP. This gift was used in narrative and voice-overs at the world-renown Met Church in Philadelphia. The acoustics in the building, that was once home to the Philadelphia Metropolitan Opera, were so exceptional the Philadelphia Orchestra held rehearsals there.
Her voice could be heard by tens of thousands on church radio broadcasts, as well as on the recordings of its 250-voice choir. Her signature performances include: The Creation, (a poem by James Weldon Johnson), Mt. Sinai, and The Lord’s Prayer. Additionally, Della Mae had an abundance of musical talent; she could sing, beat a mean tambourine, and could shout with the best of them! Her stage credits included performing small roles in Christian drama productions, in support of her dear friend in ministry, Dr. Evelyn Graves.
As her journey continued, Della became a member of The Prayer Clinic; Deliverance Evangelistic Church and Mount Airy COGIC where she was ordained an Evangelist and was a member of the Missionary Board. She attended both the Mt. Airy Religious Training Institute and the Jameson Bible College, where she would later be conferred an Honorary Doctorate degree for her life’s work in ministry.
Evangelist Della answered the Great Commission, to go into the world and preach the Gospel. This response took her to places around the globe, including Haiti, India, China, the Dominican Republic and Bermuda.
Although her missionary appointments opened doors throughout the world, Philadelphia was her true mission field. Her deep love for the children in the City of Brotherly Love, led her to start the Rowan Street Children’s Bible Study and Choir, in the basement of her Aunt Lillie Mae’s home in the Nicetown section of Philadelphia, where she emphasized scripture memorization. She knew that a strong foundation in the Word of God would help ground these precious little ones throughout their entire lives. The children would pile into her station wagon to go sing at churches all over the city. Her zeal for children’s ministry would lead her to open her home to numerous foster children, as well as relatives, in the years to come.
Della’s passion for children grew into what would become the most far-reaching of all her missionary endeavors. In 1977, she launched a daycare center, alongside her daughter Dr. Karen Jenkins, with six children, housed in the Prayer Clinic (a store front church on Hunting Park Avenue). The center later grew into a thriving learning institution, Blair Christian Academy (BCA), which relocated to Upsal Street in Philadelphia’s Mt. Airy section.
She later joined Impacting Your World Christian Center (a church initially housed in the BCA gymnasium) where she served as Director of the Missions Ministry and a member of the Prayer Ministry. In 2008, she joined Balance Ministries International Prayer Center (which also got its start in the BCA gymnasium) to assist her daughter, Pastor Delzora Terrell, and serve on the Leadership Team and Board of Directors as Spiritual Advisor. Each assignment presented another level of opportunity for the anointing that GOD placed on her life to be released.
After a health crisis, Della Mae began preaching the good news of healthy lifestyle and gave carrot juice, vegetables and other herbal products to just about everyone who had a minute to listen.
Laughter, though, was Della Mae’s best medicine. Whether she was on the receiving end of a little fun, or dishing a bit to others, the bottom line was laughter, and it wasn’t unusual to hear her high-pitched laugh in the halls of BCA throughout the day. The fun didn’t start until Della Mae’s GRAND entrance.
Accompanying her sense of humor and healthy outlook was a keen knowledge of fashion that included her stylish hats and Hollywood smile that would radiate at the mere mention of a camera nearby (that may, or may not, have been pointed at her).
A beloved mother, friend, aunt, cousin and genuinely good human being, Della Mae faced even the most formidable, lengthy and challenging battles with grace and alacrity.
A warrior to the end, Della Mae passed along a legacy of strength, endurance and perseverance to her siblings : Carrie Lee (preceded her in death), Allie Fair, Alvin (Yolanda) , John (Brenda), Leonard (Marie), Marilyn (preceded her in death), Frazier (preceded her in death) and Rita; five children: Karen (aka Renee), Delzora (aka Rhonda), Gregory (Carol), Derrick and Claude (aka June); grandchildren: Maurice(preceded her in death) , Heather (Steve), Kia (Akili), Gregory, Jr., Toshiba (Wheatley), Cedric, Lamar, Allen, Kesha, Kimberly, and Derrick, Jr.; sixteen Great-grandchildren and countless cousins, nieces, nephews, and friends, who will continue to feel the impact of her life for the rest of theirs.