KENNETT SQUARE — Family, friends and neighbors honored the legacy of Theresa Renee Bass during her memorial service on Thursday at the Episcopal Church of the Advent in Kennett Square.
“Theresa Bass was an incredible public servant. She had a real vision for the community and worked hard to make it a reality,” said Mayor Matthew Fetick.
“Theresa was a great partner with the Kennett Police Department and was a leader in community policing,” he said. “Kennett Square is certainly a better place to live because of the hard work and vision of Theresa Bass.”
Surrounded by loved ones, Bass was then laid to rest at Union Hill Cemetery.
Bass died unexpectedly in her sleep at her home in the borough’s Historic East Linden Neighborhood on Nov. 22.
“The sudden passing of Theresa is a loss not only to her family, but to the entire community. Theresa was a leader, a guiding light, and a role model for her community,” said Chester County Commissioner Josh Maxwell.
“Her dedication to helping the youth in her community was unwavering,” Maxwell said on Thursday. “Her passing leaves an opportunity for all of us to honor her life and legacy by continuing her work and supporting the children in our own neighborhoods.”
Bass was a devoted family woman and served as a significant grassroots leader for decades in Kennett Square.
Born on Oct. 15, 1956, she first came to the borough with her family in 1959. She eventually moved with her six sisters and brothers to a historic home at the heart of the borough in 1971. Her mother, Ophelia Bass, was the rock of the family.
“Theresa was a voice for the voiceless; a fighter committed to making sure our kids had food, housing and safe streets to play on,” said state Rep. Craig Williams, R-160th District, of Chadds Ford. “She will be remembered for transforming her community, bringing neighbors, volunteers, and government together. She leaves behind a legacy that will stand for generations.“
Bass served as a trustee of Bethel AME Church in Kennett Square.
She was an active participant of Playback Theater to Bridging the Community.
Bass enjoyed drawing and painting, local history, gardening, word searches, and motorsports.
She had encyclopedic knowledge of the region’s African-American families and the relationships between them, and found many ways to lend a personal helping hand whenever she could, her family said.
As a young child, Theresa helped support her hard-working mother by caring for her younger siblings, and she never wavered in her dedication to her brothers and sisters, her family said.
Her lifelong friend of Kennett Square was Barbara Williams.
Theresa, called Sissy by family, purchased a home near her mother and worked long hours as a machinist while raising her own children, Jermaine A. Bass, LaToya M. Myers, and Tara N. Irons. After an on-the-job accident, Theresa devoted herself entirely to community leadership and to helping to raise her grandchildren, who were her light and her hope:
In addition to her children, she is survived by grandchildren Payton Ophelia Corp, Taliyah Renee (Ren) Irons and Ariella Nicole Irons.
Bass is also survived by her uncle, George McMillan.
Her father, Isaac Cox Bass, predeceased her.
“As a community organizer, Theresa’s innovative spirit and commitment to action were remarkably effective. Determined to stay when homes began to fall into disrepair and levels of street violence rose, Theresa brought neighbors and allies together to focus energy on the needs of children, and she was tireless in her efforts to provide meals, academic help, social activities, coats, holiday gifts, and constant personal support to children and youth,” said family friend Ethan Cramer of Kennett Square.
He continued, “She pioneered a humane approach to discouraging adverse street life in partnership with three successive police chiefs, relying on direct communication and encouraging personal relationships to win the peace.”
Bass was the founder and leader of the Joseph & Sarah Carter Community Development Corp. Theresa and the social movement she inspired profoundly improved the Historic East Linden Neighborhood, Kennett Square, and the entire region.
Her family noted that her particular commitments to supporting immigrant families, making connections across social boundaries, and investing in humanity were transformative; these were rooted in her deep faith, and Bass’ tireless service was shaped directly by a deeply prayerful devotion to the Lord.
She was a force for good in the lives of generations of children and young people, her family said.
“She really led with love,” said her daughter LaToya Myers.
Myers served as a Kennett Square Borough Council member from 2016 to 2021.
“She was a good mother, a great grandmother,” said her daughter Tara Irons of Wilmington, Delaware, on Thursday. “She inspired me to do pretty much everything in life from going to college to continuing my education and being a better person no matter what.”
Irons said her most inspirational moment with her mother occurred the day when she graduated from Kennett High School in 1976.
“I’m just always going to remember that day,” Irons said.
“She was a hard worker,” said her sister Drusilla Butler of Bear, Delaware. “My sister was like a second mother. She inspired me.”
Butler said her sister was a loving person — a person of compassion and forgiveness.
“She went to church with my mother every Sunday,” said her sister Lesia Bass of New Castle, Delaware.
Sometimes they would be at church three or four times a day based on that day’s happenings she said.
“She was a pioneer,” Lesia said. “She never stopped … It didn’t matter who you were — white, black, Spanish — she was there to help.”
As her daughter said, she led with love.