Annabelle C. Tolson
February 7, 1933 – August 6, 2019
Annabelle C. Tolson (Collins) entered this world February 7, 1933 to the proud parents of Benjamin and Laura Mae Collins. Eighteen months later her beloved sister Yvonne (Bonnie) was born that spawned a relationship that flourished throughout her life. She spent her childhood years in the Jefferson City, Missouri area. Her mother later married Holmes Merritt. Mr. Holmes, as she referred to him, was her dad in all sense and purposes.
Belle graduated from Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Missouri with a degree in Elementary Education and began her career as a social worker. Belle married two men in her life, Lloyd Kelly and James A. (Jimmy) Tolson. Her marriage to Lloyd Kelly blessed her with two sons, Lloyd Jr. (Jet) and his younger brother Paul (Rocket). Following the dissolution of this union, she married Jimmy while her boys were very young. Jimmy helped raise her sons as his own. Belle and James most recently celebrated sixty years of marriage.
After serving as a social worker in Chicago she created the first Head Start program in the state of Missouri. As an active military wife during the Vietnam War, Belle served as director of multiple NCO and service clubs in Ft. Leonard Wood, MO. The family relocated to Denver, CO in 1972, when Belle was hired as a Head Start Community Representative, a position she retained for 25 years with the Region 8 U.S. HEW (now U.S. DHHS) that included approximately 100 Head Start grantees in six states. Belle was highly regarded and respected for her vast knowledge and business acumen, that supported grantees’ governance structures to promote the delivery of high-quality services to low-income children and their families. She served as a mentor and model for other staff and generously shared her knowledge and expertise with new and seasoned staff. She also served as a union steward supporting staff as needed. Belle befriended individuals from a variety of cultures, including friends from various Native American tribes and enriched the lives of many through her relationships.
Belle was a life-long community activist, helping elect individuals to political positions, including but not limited to Wellington Webb as Denver’s first Black mayor and Edna Mosley, as the first Black elected official to Aurora City Council and Odell Barry, Northglenn’s first Black mayor. She also brought attention to housing needs of racial minorities, supporting the efforts of Dorothy King, another community activist who brought public attention to the paucity of adequate housing in the Denver metro community.
It is well known that Belle valued higher education. Recognizing the education gap of minorities, Belle made considerable and noteworthy efforts recruiting minorities to complete college admission application requirements to historically black colleges and universities (HBCU). It was not unusual for her to use the family’s personal resources to help students with transportation and other needs to attend college. Her influence and rallying support is undeniable and results-oriented with a myriad of students graduating with degrees. Belle’s sacrifices contributed to inspiring education goals being created and achieved that then became an intergenerational family value. In 2016, Belle took great pride in witnessing the fifth generation in her family receiving college degrees.
Those who knew Belle also know she liked to try her luck at the casinos, never quite winning the big one, but never-the-less enjoying the time with friends and family. Belle, accompanied by family and friends, visited casinos all over the country.
It wasn’t unusual for the Tolson household to have house guests, lending a hand to those in need, varying from days to months to years, depending on individual situations. Always operating from a base of support, Belle and Jimmy opened their home to many, including their great grandniece Thea where she completed her elementary and high school education. In addition, Belle was able to care for her goddaughter, Jessica Helper, for two years during her formative junior high school years.
After Belle’s retirement from federal service, she volunteered with her friend Ms. Carolyn Thompson, helping at-risk youth and remained involved in community outreach. Her advocacy for the underdog often occurred without a need for recognition or attention, working effectively below the radar, sometimes with those benefiting never the wiser. This was quintessential Belle, not out for glory or accolades but a relentless and loyal advocate for others. She was an equal opportunity advocate, regardless of race, ethnicity or gender and will be remembered for her generosity to others, a devoted wife, mother/aunt, with a moral compass to do the right thing, a selfless individual, putting others’ needs before her own.
Belle stayed current with the latest national news and events, ready to weigh in with commentary.
On August 6, 2019, Belle passed away peacefully in her home, surrounded by many loved ones. Belle is preceded in death by her parents, and is survived by her husband James A., (Northglenn, CO),) her sons Lloyd Kelly (Andre) (New Orleans, LA) and Paul Kelly (Eloise) (Northglenn, CO) great grand niece Thea Murray (Denver, CO) stepsons Tony Lee (Minneapolis, MN) and Eric Cerf (Seattle, WA) grandsons Anthony (Wendy) , (Blumer, MN), Eric Cerf Jr. (Seattle, WA) Christopher Kelly (Williamsburg, VA) and Collin Kelly, (Boston, MA), Aaron Cerf, (Seattle, WA) granddaughter Jordon Cerf (Seattle, WA) her sister Yvonne C. Best, (Chicago, IL), sister-in-laws Betty Murray (Denver, CO) Jacquelyn Williams (Des Moines, IA), great grandson Blake Blumer (Minneapolis, MN) and numerous other nieces, nephews, cousins and friends.
Fond memories of Annabelle and expressions of sympathy for her family may be shared using the guest book link below.
- Christopher Kelly, Active Pallbearer
- Collin Kelly, Active Pallbearer
- Anthony Blumer , Active Pallbearer
- Tony Lee , Active Pallbearer
- Eric Cerf, Active Pallbearer
- Gerald C. Best, Active Pallbearer
- John Costello, Honorary Pallbearer
- William Franklin, Honorary Pallbearer
- Ronald Jones, Honorary Pallbearer
- Bruce Jones, Honorary Pallbearer
- Mike Jones , Honorary Pallbearer
- Ronnie Hardy , Honorary Pallbearer
- Dana Hardy, Honorary Pallbearer
- Chelle Murray, Honorary Pallbearer
- Darious Murray, Honorary Pallbearer
- Jeff Magovirk, Honorary Pallbearer
- Andre Baugh, Honorary Pallbearer
- Norbert Young, Honorary Pallbearer
- Visitation Thursday, August 15, 2019
- Funeral Service Thursday, August 15, 2019
- Committal Service Thursday, August 15, 2019
Annabelle C. Tolson
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August 15, 2019
🙏 I was blessed with awesome people in my life. It is true that it takes a village to raise a successful child. Bell and others, that posses compassion such as her's, taught me to see there are no limits except the ones we impose on ourselves. That "life is full limitless possibilities and I can achieve anything I set my mind to do." She told me to go to college and helped to see my self-worth.
May Anabell's journey in the afterlife be as graceful, kind, loving, forgiving and generous as she has been to everyone who was blessed to have known her.
August 14, 2019
I love you and miss you alot. Thank you for being in my life as a premie baby until now and being apart of my babies lives you was a very wise, sweet, and always loving woman you filled that role of a mother in my life you always listened to me when i needed you and you held me i knew i could call you anytime and you would talk to me and it was Hello Baby mama all i can say is i am strong for you and i will keep going I love you and i aint gonna say goodbye because i will see you again someday when im old and wrinkle lol but i know your my Guardian Angel and i know you aint suffering we all love you mama RIP
You'll never be forgotten you live in our memories and you have touched so many lives and we all love you and thank you for everything you've done for all of us near and far ❤
August 14, 2019
I will always remember you with great fondness as a great babysitter for the LeNoir clan, your cousins and their cousins. Thanks for the Memories,
Surah Carletha LeNoir-Mfume
Marcia E Johnson
August 13, 2019
Thank you for everything you did for my family. Especially for my mother... you were the best friend she ever could have had like Paul is to me. I know you touched everyone you met & we are all so much better for it. I know Paul has not really cried yet so I will do it for him. I love him, he’s my best friend & I love you too. Keep my parents company... God bless you...rest easy.
August 13, 2019
Thanks for everything. You provided me with the most incredible life I could have ever imagined. You knew how much I loved , admired, respected and appreciated you. You also knew how much we irritated each other, how much we enjoyed each others company, how much we laughed and how much we joked.... I still have all your unanswered voice mails. One day I will listen to them. I have not shed any tears yet. Don't worry they are coming.
I have not been to the casino yet, but one day I will take a ride up the hill - just you and me. If only in my heart.
There is no need for you to worry...I got this. Everything will be fine. Dad is going to be ok... I know how concerned you are. I know it snowing someplace in the world right now BUT I will drive careful.
To give credit where credit is due...I learned from the best. That would be you.
I need my lighter back...I will see you when I get there. Save some champagne for me.
August 13, 2019
Okay, Belle what is left to say?
I would say "I love you", but you already know that
I would say "I miss you", but you know that too
I could say "Rest in peace", But you are Belle, and resting is just not your style. And now you have wings too
What I will say is "Thank you"
Thank you for teaching me how to be the best Me I can be... The one I want to be
Thank you for teaching me right from wrong
Thank you for teaching me to think for myself
Thank you for teaching me to find my voice and how to use it
Thank you for letting me fall and teaching me how to get back up.
Thank you for never judging my choices...even when I wanted you too. It is the greatest gift you can give your child.
Thank you for being "My Belle"
This has been the worst week of my life but one good thing has come from this... I learned how much like you I really am...greatest lesson I have ever had
We are all gonna be fine...but you already know
August 13, 2019
What can I say, Cousin Belle was a very sweet, loving and caring Lady. She helped everyone that came across her path. Whether it was a ride someone needed, food, shelter or just an ear, she was there.
She was a great Cousin, we had countless long visits and conversations about everything from politics to silly sitcoms and music. We would have healthy debates on some issues, agreeing to disagree at times and move on with a laugh. I was very fond of her, loved her so much.
I will miss her greatly.
LOVE YOU COUSIN BELLE
August 13, 2019
With sincere sympathy of the loss of a loving, wife, mother,grandmother,aunt,sister,and a loving friend who will be sorely missed.Gone but never forgotten,her memory will always be in our hearts. Mr. & Mrs. Richard C. Johnson