Head and shoulders shot of an older Black woman with short gray hair. She is wearing a red jacket.

‘The Queen of North Richmond’: A Tribute to Corinne Sain

Head and shoulders shot of an older Black woman with short gray hair. She is wearing a red jacket.

Corinne Sain, seen in 2022, died at home earlier this month. (Photo by Robert Rogers)

Editor’s note: Corinne Sain, namesake of the Corinne Sain Senior & Family Community Center in North Richmond, died in early January. The tribute to her below was posted on Robert Rogers’ Facebook page and is being shared as written with permission.

By Robert Rogers

Ms. Corrine Sain was one of those special leaders who didn’t speak a lot.

But when she did, people listened with all their hearts.

The Queen of North Richmond was royalty in West County, a woman whose name prompted people to speak in reverential tones.

“What will Ms. Corrine think about this?” If she wasn’t in favor, you better rethink your plan.

I got the messages via email and text in the middle of the night this weekend, just hours before I was scheduled to come visit her and her family at her home in North Richmond. Ms. Corrine had been ill, and was home surrounded by loved ones.

She passed sometime between Friday and Saturday.

Ms. Corrine was an amazing person. She served North Richmond in various capacities since the 1960s, and raised generations of family in her beloved community.

As manager of the Senior Center that would eventually be renamed in her honor, she ensured that all people in North Richmond would have a safe, welcoming facility to visit, eat healthy foods, and enjoy social occasions.

Her service was so exemplary and enduring, CHDC [Community Housing Development Corporation] and County officials renamed the Senior Center she managed the “Corrine Sain Senior & Family Community Center” during a tearjerking 2022 ceremony that drew hundreds of admirers.

Ms. Corrine held court that day, looking dignified and radiant in red as the procession of speakers lavished her with well-deserved praise. She wasn’t feeling well, but you wouldn’t know it. She was as regal and powerful and unflappable as ever.

She spoke little that day, but when she did, you could hear a pin drop.

When I worked in North Richmond for County Supervisor John Gioia, Ms. Corrine would always call me into her office at the senior center to educate me. She would tell me what was happening, what the concerns were, who needed help, and so on. She pushed us all to get better and more nutritious foods to the center for local seniors, and to beautify the facility. North Richmond residents deserved a state-of-the-art center, she insisted.

She never needed to directly tell me to do anything. Her polite, wise words carried the force of the sternest order. What Ms. Corrine said was gospel. If she wanted it, we bent over backward to get it done.

We will all miss her. I will forever think of her in thoughtful repose in her office, or in her big white SUV rolling slow through her neighborhood, and at her home near the community center. She would stay late, without pay, so that the community could hold the NRMAC meetings in her center. She never rushed anyone; she just sat there, listening intently, inducing people to be on their best behavior by virtue of her mere presence.

I’ll also think of her in the aftermath of the tragic murder of her beloved grandson, Jammerrei’a “JMac” Frazier, who died right around Thanksgiving 2019. He was only 17, and he was a big, gentle, athletic kid who served as a mentor to younger children at the community center and whom Ms. Corrine gushed over and loved on every chance she got. His death was so achingly tragic, senseless, and crushing that it still pains me to think about it. He was truly a special young man. You saw Ms. Corrine in him.

She was heartbroken when he died, but on the day of his funeral, she was there. She supported the rest of the family in her quiet, elegant, and fiercely powerful way. I always wondered how she could carry on under the weight of so much grief, like an imperturbable structure standing tall and solid amidst a hurricane. She cried inside, but she was strong and loving outside. It was always about others. Ms. Corrine had a servant’s heart.

Ms. Corrine’s life was impactful in all the most profound ways. She will live on, not only in terms of a legacy that includes a beautiful community center named for her, but in the hearts and souls of all those she touched in North Richmond and beyond.

Rest in Power, Ms. Corrine.

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