Journey along the streets in the Brownsville neighborhood and you’ll see solid homes and well-kept lawns, highlighting the pride of the people who live here – past and present.
The little frame house at 2978 NW 52nd St. is one of the oldest structures in the neighborhood, having been built in 1937. But there is more to it than the age of the house and its frame structure. There is a family’s legacy of enduring pride in a community.
“We bought that house in 1949,” said Agenoria Spearman Paschal, 88, a retired teacher and administrator. Pointing to the eldest of her three children, Fletcher Alonzo Paschal III, a retired pharmacist and business owner, she said: “He was about a year old. Back then you had to take a year off from work after giving birth.”
A second child, Elvis Wardell, a retired high school band director, was born two years later to Paschal and her late husband, Fletcher Alonzo Paschal, Jr., who died in 2004.
The family was not yet complete. The couple bought a second home across the street at 2975 NW 52nd St. in 1957, where their last child, Agenoria Paschal Powell, a K-8 Center principal, was born.
That’s where a simple story of home ownership and raising a family would seem to end. But to appreciate the life and times of Fletcher Alonzo Paschal and Agenoria Spearman Paschal, you would have to take a few steps backs into their family histories and accomplishments.
The union between Fletcher Alonzo Paschal, Sr., and Lennie Rogers in 1917 produced four children – Roger William Paschal, a retired teacher at Phyllis Wheatley Elementary; Lillian Paschal Wheeler, a retired elementary school teacher in Washington, D.C., Fletcher Alonzo Paschal, Jr., a retired Miami-Dade school administrator.
A renowned jazz musician, Paschal, Jr., played with Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway, Billie Holiday and Dinah Washington. He attended Florida A&M University and played in the FAMU Jazz Band and the famed Marching 100.
“He was in the band and I was a majorette. That’s how we met,” remembered Agenoria Spearman Paschal, who majored in social studies and English at FAMU. The couple wed in 1943 and their marriage would last for more than 60 years.
“He was in the ROTC and went into the Army during World War II.”
Fletcher Jr. served in the European Theatre with the 92nd Infantry Division, assigned to Genoa, Italy. Meanwhile, Spearman Paschal lived in Washington, D.C., and worked at the Pentagon. Around the time Fletcher Jr. was discharged from the U. S. Army, she was offered a job in Tallahassee.
“He came home and said we’re moving to Miami. I barely had a chance to pack and we left.”
The young couple moved in with Paschal’s family in an apartment on Northwest 18th Street near Phyllis Wheatley Elementary School.
“He was hired at Booker T. and I was hired at Phyllis Wheatley,” Agenoria Paschal remembered.
Teaching by day and working at night, Fletcher Jr., played tenor saxophone with the likes of Nat and Cannonball Adderley, Duke Ellington and others. He also played the local hot spots, including the Reno Bar, Harlem Square, the Rockland Palace and the Night Beat, all while raising a family.
Agenoria Spearman Paschal has fond memories of the couple’s first house on Northwest 52nd Street.
“We had to do everything to it, paint, add a fence, buy furniture, add a back porch. It was really a time of getting adjusted to being married because he had been away in the Army and then we lived with his parents.”
She remembers her husband was never impressed by what others had.
“He pursued his own goals for himself and his family.”
They needed a bigger place because the family was growing. Their son, Fletcher III, was an infant when the couple moved into the house, which, at one time or another, has been home to at least one member of five generations of Paschals. And each has taken the unspoken pledge of painstakingly adding features and repairs to maintain the house’s original character.
And Agenoria Spearman brought her own strong family legacy into the union.
She was the fourth of six children born to the Rev. E. W. and Tryphenia Spearman. Her father was postmaster at FAMU.Hermother was a first-grade teacher.
Spearman attended elementary, high school and college in Tallahassee.
Her siblings: Viva T. Spearman Coleman, a home economics and vocational teacher in the Miami-Dade County Public Schools and the first black registered dietician in Florida; Dr. Rawn W. Spearman, a Broadway star, concert artist and college professor; Olivia Chandler Spearman Parker, a retired executive assistant in the Department of Student Services in Washington, D.C. schools; Dr. Elvis O’Hara Spearman, a renowned band director, jazz musician and member of the St. Louis Symphonic Orchestra; and Leonard Hall O’Connell Spearman, president of Texas Southern University and executive director of the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities, making him the first former president of a historically-black school to hold the position.
Their parents could not afford to send six children away to college, she said. They went to school in Tallahassee.
“Our parents instilled in all six of their children that you must educate yourself. You must go to college and make something of yourself. Our parents walked the talk.”
Agenoria Spearman Paschal fashioned a legacy in education highlighted by the role she played in developing an education model in Miami-Dade that ended up in the Library of Congress.
Fletcher and Agenoria Paschal’s children, grandchildren and great grandchildren followed in their footsteps when it came to getting a solid education.
Now, the Brownsville community is growing and changing, but it still is the reflection of a family’s legacy of enduring pride in a community.