Dr. Esper Gold Hayes, 84, ESPER group founder, dies

Mark A. Kellner

Mark A. Kellner

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Dr. Esper Gold Hayes, 84, ESPER group founder, dies

ESPER Secretary Neal said Hayes was “a stalwart of hope, encouragement, pride, commitment, and celebration for the members of the society that bears her first name and for the philatelic community in general."   

     At a New York City stamp exhibition some 40 years ago, Esper Gold Hayes, an African-American, a social worker, and a stamp collector since the age of 9, came face-to-face with one of her heroes, legendary Olympian Jesse Owens.Scott 2496 Jesse Owens

     Noting they were the only two African-Americans in the room, Owens challenged Hayes. “Where are our people? We have to do something to make our people take price in what they do, and what they’ve accomplished. Can’t you do something?”

     Although she was in graduate school at the time, Hayes, who passed to her rest at age 84 on January 10, 2019 in Pineville, North Carolina, took up the challenge and founded the Ebony Society of Philatelic Events and Reflections (ESPER), one of the more active affiliates of the American Philatelic Society.

     Don Neal, the group’s secretary, said that following her return from the group’s 2018 convention, Hayes “fell and suffered a devastating injury from which she was unable to recover.”

A Lifelong Commitment to Pride, Heritage and Culture

     Esper Gold Hayes was born on October 13, 1934, in Farmville, North Carolina. When she was three, her family moved to Norfolk, Virginia, where she graduated from Booker T. Washington High School.

     Hayes went on to attend Shaw University where she majored in religion, and after graduating from Shaw, she worked with youth organizations throughout the community helping young people to acquire the skills they needed to be successful.

     At the age of 33, she moved to New York where she became a social worker working for the City of New York and worked tirelessly to help children find stability in their lives. While managing two group homes for the Lutheran Services Agency, she earned her master’s and doctorate degrees, each in social work, from Yeshiva University.

     When she retired from Lutheran, she went on to teach Human Growth and Development and Social Policy at Seton Hall University in New Jersey. The school later awarded Hayes an honorary doctorate for her work with students and the inspiration she had become to students in pursuing a career in social work.

     In a 2014 video interview posted on YouTube, Hayes asserted that philately was an ideal means of teaching younger African-Americans about their history.

     “You can talk more about your history, [but] you know you can't bore them because stamp collecting is supposed to be inert, you couldn't let … people think it's boring, so you have to spark their interest,” she said at the time.

     In the video, Hayes also said that the great number of African-American musicians depicted on U.S. stamps were an entry point to introduce today’s youth to philately, and that it was important to generate interest in the hobby at an early age.

     “Start with the young,” Hayes advised. “You don't realize you can plant the seed because the seed of stamp collecting remains with you — you can go back to it at any point in your life.”

 

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     ESPER Secretary Neal said Hayes was “a stalwart of hope, encouragement, pride, commitment, and celebration for the members of the society that bears her first name and for the philatelic community in general."

     A celebration of life service will be held on January 19, 2019, at 12 noon, at Grier Funeral Service Chapel, 115 John McCarroll Avenue, Charlotte, NC 28216. A repast will be held immediately after the service at Friendship Missionary Baptist Church, 3400 Beatties Ford Road, Charlotte, NC 28216. According to Neal, the family is asking that donations be made to a scholarship fund in memory of Dr. Hayes in lieu of flowers. The ESPER website will contain details of the scholarship fund, he said.

 

—     With reporting by Don Neal, ESPER

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