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Opal Strong was born on January 30, 1916 to Rosie Thompson and Fred Henderson in Okmulgee Oklahoma. Opal grew up in a loving family comprised of her parents, two sisters (Blanche and Lucille) and brothers (Cruse and Immanuel Romero). The family migrated to Tulsa Oklahoma where Opal attended Booker T. Washington High School. It was there she met the love of her life, Luther Strong. Borrowing a Model T car, Luther and Opal eloped on June 27, 1933.
From this blessed union, Luther and Opal had five children, Luther Jr., Julius, Selena, Gail and Jackie. In the forties, Luther Sr. migrated to Oregon seeking employment. Settling in Portland, he sent for the family. Luther and Opal were very invested in their children’s education. As followers of Christ, they sought to instill values of honesty, integrity, and generosity in their children. God was at the center of their lives and serving others was their passion. They became active participants in their children’s education through volunteering in the PTA and supporting them in sports and music in which they all excelled. This began Opal’s lengthy career as a political and community activist.
In her decades of community service, Opal has advocated for senior rights, improving public transit, preserving the African American community in the Albina neighborhood, and other causes. In her life as a political activist, Opal served in many roles and received many awards. Opal was appointed by the late Governor Vic Atiyeh and served as a board member for the council of senior citizens for Oregon. She was also a founding member and active participant leading the Humboldt/King neighborhood associations dating back to Model Cities, which is now the NE coalition of neighborhoods. In the Humboldt Neighborhood Association, she served as president. She was also a member of the Albina Women’s League. In working with Model Cities, Opal was an officer and one of the original Model Cities Association Board Members. In 1990, Opal was awarded by the Northeast Coalition of Neighborhoods an award for decades of dedicated service to the community. She was also an original Board Member of the Salvation Army Moore Street Community Center and was awarded the North
Portland Community Pride Award in 2007. In 2011, Opal was the recipient of the Spirit of Portland Community Harmony Award. Opal was also an entrepreneur running flea markets, collecting and selling antiques and running Ma & Pa Strong’s Restaurant. Her sweet potato and pineapple pies were well known throughout the west coast. She was also an Avon representative for over 50 years.
Opal was very active at Life Change Church hosting bible studies, serving on building project committees, serving food and providing hospitality to anyone in need. Opal was a builder in God’s Kingdom and it flowed into every sphere of her life. Opal enjoyed cooking, parties and being the hostess with the mostest. She was always interested in feeding and clothing those in need. She set the standard for loving your neighbor and encouraged everyone to love one another. She loved to laugh and have a good time and most of all, to make sure everyone else had a good time. Her favorite saying was, “And a good time was had by all!” Holidays will always be cherished. Mom/Grandma always had an open door and an open table to family, friends,
neighbors and strangers. At Thanksgiving, all were welcome to come and feast. Christmas was a huge celebration where all were welcome to feast, join in lively conversations and to share gifts. Her home was open to all who entered.
Momma, Grandma, Granny, Auntie, Mrs. Strong, Mother Opal, or Sweet Little Momma, these are all names we called her. She had a special way of making everyone feel cherished and loved. She will be greatly missed, yet her legacy will live on through those who knew her. She leaves a legacy of unconditional love. She was one of a kind. Opal is preceded in death by her father: Fred Henderson, mother: Rosie Thompson, husband: Luther Strong Sr. sisters: Lucille and Blanche, brothers: Cruse and Immanuel, daughter: Selena, son: Julius and grandson: Luther Joseph. She leaves a legacy of encouragement and love to her children: Luther Jr. and Bea Strong, Wade and Gail Strong-Price, Jackie Strong and Eileen Gilchrist, and Earnestine Mitchell, The Peterson Family, Wanda Pope, 19 grandchildren, 27 great grandchildren, 3 great-great grandchildren and a host of nieces, nephews, cousins and friends.