Life Story for
America Mercedes was a compassionate, nurturing soul who was willing to help everyone and take anyone in and treat them as her own child. It's not difficult to understand why she was one of the anchors of 110th Street. She was well known in many Harlem circles and friendly with almost every family that lived on the block. After her arrival from Panama in 1948, she was the 110th Street darling. She spoke no English, loved to laugh and dance, and was the youngest of many Panamanian and Jamaican immigrants brought to NYC by Mr. and Mrs. Thomas. They watched her grow. Gave her Halloween treats. Shared holidays and Christmas cards with her grandparents, Nora Pearson and Robert Turner. Went to the same Catholic School and Churches. Even watched her raise her own children. In turn, as an adult, she witnessed the arrival and departure of other families on 110th Street and watched her friends children grow.
America attended St. Joseph’s Of The Holy Family in Harlem from 1st - 12th grade. She started her family early at 17 years old, and was blessed with four children, Leroy Anthony, John Robert, Christine Mercedes, and Mitchell Thomas. Mothers today may feel like they’re too busy to sit down, and many probably are, but today is nothing like how America was 50 years ago. As a young bride of the early 60s, she immediately went about the business of cooking, cleaning, washing, ironing, play dates, music lessons, ballet, museums, beach time, checking homework, parenting, and elder care for her grandparents with far less resources than we have today. St. Thomas the Apostle Church in Harlem and Catholic Charities were a large part of our lives back then. Education was top of the chart on her mothering agenda for the rest. By the time her children reached high school, she attended BMCC in New York to further pave her path and reach her dreams.
Our mom led by example. She taught us how to respect other cultures, unite by our faith, compassion for others, how to stick together through challenging times, and most importantly, how to enjoy life.
My mom, Ms. Mercedes to many of you, showed what true grace looked like. She spoke her mind, she fought for what was right, always worked hard, and did grassroots work to secure senior rent control, and proper child education, health, and welfare for her family and others in Harlem. Ms. America, as others called her, strived towards truth at all times. She even made it to the Amsterdam News during the late 70s with her tenant advocacy and rent strikes.
God could not have put a stronger woman on this earth. Her life’s work became love and unrelenting support for those she embraced as family including Keila Hernandez, Tanya Gaetan, Ramrahji Greene, Andriane Ferguson, James Owens, Harrington Frazer, Belkis Frazer, Sasha Frazer (her Goddaughter), Lloyd Barnett, Dudley Stewart, Maria Cepeda, Richard Pagan, Alex Holmes (R.I.P.), Tyrone Hardy, and a host of others from West 110th Street and Panamá. Her memory will live on in her surviving sister and brothers, Ilsa Carrera Tryhane, Rudolfo Tryhane, and all of her nieces and nephews in Panamá. She was blessed with 6 grandchildren - Jonathan, Chad, America, Nicole, John Jr., Analexis, Daniel, and 5 great grandchildren with another on the way.
She sang, she danced, she prayed, she played, and she laughed until she just couldn’t do it anymore. Rest In Peace you beautiful soul.