Magdalene Reese, 78: She owned flower shop and grocery store

For more than 30 years, Magdalene Reese was a one-woman social service agency. If somebody needed food, shelter, clothing, or almost anything else, she often found a way to help, even if it meant taking money out of her own pocket.

Mrs. Reese owned a string of businesses in the Mechanicsville neighborhood, just south of downtown Atlanta, and along Simpson Road on the northwest side of town. Grocery stores, a men’s shelter and a deli were among her business ventures, one of her sons said.

“She knew God said we were supposed to feed the hungry and clothe the naked, and that’s what she did,” said son Rudolph Simmons, of Atlanta. “She wanted to help somebody.”

Magdalene Simmons Reese, of Atlanta, died Sept. 26 from complications of cancer. She was 78. A funeral was held Wednesday at Word of Faith Family Worship Cathedral, followed by a burial at Westview Cemetery. Murray Brothers Funeral Home, Cascade Chapel, was in charge.

A native of Atlanta, Mrs. Reese ran Reese’s Grocery Store, in Mechanicsville, in the ’60s with her second husband, Horace Reese, who died in 1994. The couple also had a store on Simpson Road, where Mrs. Reese also had a thrift store and ran a men’s shelter.

“The thrift store and the shelter were in the same place, but not at the same time,” explained her daughter Brenda Wright. “But she was always looking out for the people around her, and especially her children.”

Mrs. Wright said her mother didn’t mind saying a stern word to her adult children, if she needed to. It didn’t matter that her children were in their 50s and 60s, she was always the mother, Mrs. Wright said.

“A lot of folks don’t look out for their grown kids like that, but she told us when she thought we were wrong, and she didn’t take up for us when we were wrong,” her daughter said. “And before she died, she told me she wanted me to get back in church, because that’s where I needed to be.”

Not only did Mrs. Reese say what needed to be said, she did what needed to be done. In the ’80s she took a flower arranging class at what was known as Atlanta Area Technical School and opened a flower shop called Flowers by Magdalene.

“And if anybody in the neighborhood died and the family couldn’t afford flowers for the funeral, she’d donate them,” Mr. Simmons said.

Mrs. Reese retired from business in the ’90s, but she didn’t let any dust settle under her feet. She spent her free time volunteering at her church, Word of Faith, and at Grady hospital, her children said.

“She never lost that spirit of helpfulness,” Mrs. Wright said of her mother.

In addition to her daughter and son, Mrs. Reese is survived by a second daughter, Sharon McCrary of Atlanta; son, Darryl Reese of Atlanta; seven grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren.