Eloise D. Allen, 80, Was Active as Church Leader

Eloise Downing Allen of Mt. Airy, Philadelphia, Pa., and Oak Bluffs, died on Wednesday, June 23, of sepsis, at Albert Einstein Medical Center. She was 80 years old.

She was born Sept. 7, 1922, in Roanoke, Va., the daughter of the late Dr. Lylburn C. Downing, surgeon, and Helene King Downing, a University of Pennsylvania graduate. Mrs. Allen was reared in Roanoke, then attended Howard University and was graduated in 1943 with a B.S. in home economics and dietetics. She married G. Wesley Allen, then a lieutenant in the Army, in 1944. While her husband finished law school at Case Western Reserve University, she worked as a dietitian in the Burrell memorial Hospital that her father founded and served as superintendent. The couple settled in North Philadelphia in 1947 and moved to West Mt. Airy in 1956.

Mrs. Allen was the first African American woman to serve as moderator of the 68,000-member Presbytery of Philadelphia. She was elected in 1982. She helped reunite the northern and southern branches of the church in 1983, divided since before the Civil War. The new branch was called the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

She was an elder of her own church, Germantown Community Presbyterian, as well as a member of the bell choir and met with a circle of members monthly to discuss the Bible. Mrs. Allen was also a member of the Germantown Relief Society, as well as the Northwest Philadelphia interfaith Hospitality Network, giving aid to the homeless. In the 1990s, she was honored by the Philadelphia prison system for her work with women who had been incarcerated; the Chapel of the Four Chaplains and Carson Valley School, which trains nurses. She was a member of the Links Inc., the Circle-Lets Inc., Club Original, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, the Garden Club and the Polar Bears of the Vineyard, and Camp Atwater.

Her favorite activity was the early morning swim, rain or shine, at the Oak Bluffs town beach and with the Polar Bears. Eloise wasn't one to let obstacles keep her from doing what she set out to do. She was a sweet, kind, compassionate, determined woman.

In addition to her husband, she is survived by two sons, Wesley C. Allen, an attorney, and his wife, Renee Kyle Allen, and Mark D. Allen, an orthopedic surgeon, and his wife, Kim Sledge Allen; a brother, Lewis C. Downing, a physician, and his wife, Patricia Sandridge Downing of North Haven, Conn.; a sister, Gloria Pope of Oak Bluffs; her late brother, Lylburn K. Downing, a dentist, whose widow is Jean Patterson Downing of Hamden, Conn.; two cousins, Letitia Johnson of Philadelphia and Morease Downing of Washington, D.C. Her adored grandchildren are Candace, Annice and Cecily, Wesley's children, and Mark, Laura and Julie, Mark's children.

Her nieces and nephews are Gloria's children, Lincoln of Denver, Colo.; Lance; Leland and wife Julie of La Quinta, Calif.; Lewis's children, Robert and friend Michelle of Hamden, Conn.; Charles and wife, Anne, of Vineyard Haven; Lylburn's children, King of New York; Kenneth of Connecticut; Jeanette and husband, Dr. Joel Park of Barrington, R.I., and Stephanie and her fiancé, Troy of Connecticut. Also surviving are a host of friends, among them Joe and Terry Allen of New York, Suzanne Price of Maryland and Lee of France.

A memorial service will be held on June 28 at the Germantown Community Presbyterian Church. Another service will be held on the Vineyard in August at a date to be announced later. Donations may be given in her memory to her favorite charity, which the church oversees. That address is 6141 Greene street, Philadelphia, PA 19144.