Bernice W. Slaughter, 95, Was Member of Cottagers

Bernice Wilson Slaughter of Oak Bluffs and St. Petersburg, Fla., died April 11 in New Rochelle, N.Y. She was 95.

The only child of Dorsay and Frances Withers, she was born Feb. 3, 1908, a proud native of Washington, DC - a fact which served to mold her thinking, beliefs and style throughout her long life.

Nicknamed The Island Queen by her family, Mrs. Slaughter enjoyed the beauty of the Vineyard and the spectacular view from her waterfront cottage on Sea View avenue as a summer resident for 40 years. Many would stop by her porch to relax and reconnect - and enjoy the ever changing view. There was always a cool drink to offer and an interest in what's new.

Mrs. Slaughter was well-known for her annual last-Saturday-in-July backyard event. If you were invited once, that invitation was considered good forever. With a large yellow tent and fresh clams, Mrs. Slaughter welcomed her many friends. She had a keen eye for fashion and enjoyed dressing up for the occasion. She was a member of The Cottagers, the NAACP and League of Women Voters.

Mrs. Slaughter grew up in Harlem during its great heyday. Her family enjoyed the company of many historical luminaries and musical legends. As an only child within an extended family, Bernice was doted upon, exposed to and provided with opportunities unavailable to most adults of that era of the early century. She continued to receive her spiritual perspective and influence during many years at St. Philip's Episcopal Church and her education at Wadleigh High School in Harlem.

Later, she attended New York University. She planned to become a teacher. In 1927 she married a young and dashing fellow student, Henry Anton Slaughter, who went on to complete Brooklyn Law School in 1929. Their lives were filled with children, laughter and the struggles of most young couples. Their love and joy for one another, family and friends endured, maintaining their humor and involvement.

Carol Helena, named after her grandmother, was first born. In a few years followed Henry Anton, Jr., called Anton by his family and Tony by his friends. Three years later Kent Withers arrived. After a 10-year hiatus Jeffrey Wilson arrived; she called him P (for Peter because she liked that name too). Many years later, Elizabeth Ann, named after her paternal great-grandmother, arrived to challenge and invigorate. And the baby, Lance Withers, was most dear to her and could do no wrong. Six successful children over the span of nearly 25 years is an honor reserved for few of any generation.

At a time when women with children did not work, Mrs. Slaughter did so, without hesitation. She worked as a paralegal secretary to her husband at his law office, and later she worked for the federal government and served on the local school board.

At age 88 she was elected and reelected to her condo board in St. Petersburg. Because of her ease with words and the pen she served as corresponding secretary for The Cottagers Club in Oak Bluffs. It was her yearly duty to energize, extol and motivate the membership to pay annual dues. Her thoughtful letters were anxiously anticipated and brought a resounding response with the required dues payment.

Survivors include her children, Carol Slaughter Coles and her husband Lemuel, Sr.; Henry Anton and his wife Reina; Jeffrey Wilson and his wife Susan; Elizabeth Ann Slaughter Albert and her husband Wesley Sylvester; Lance Withers and his wife Brenda.

Grandchildren include Lemuel David Coles 3rd; Christian Logan Coles and his wife Jennifer; Suzanne Slaughter Wingate and her husband Kim; Todd Stefan Slaughter and his wife Chandani; Christina Marion Albert, Anton Wesley Albert, and Kelsey Leigh Slaughter. Great-grandchildren include Brooke Rainey Wingate and Raven Skyler Wingate.

A memorial service was held Wednesday in the Bronx.

Mrs. Slaughter's funeral will held on Saturday, April 19, at 11 a.m. at the Chapman, Cole and Gleason Funeral Home, Edgartown Road, Oak Bluffs, with the Rev. Alden Besse officiating. Burial will follow in the Oak Grove Cemetery, Tisbury. The family invites friends to join them afterward at the Sea View avenue home.

Donations in Mrs. Slaughter's name may be made to Public Broadcasting (PBS); Kent School, P.O. Box 2006, Kent, Conn. 06757; Windemere Nursing Facility, P.O. Box 1747, Oak Bluffs, or the children's charity of your choice.