By Chinta Strausberg, Chicago Crusader
Because they appreciate the 55-years Theresa “Teesee” Hooks spent as columnist of the Chicago Defender’s “Teesee’s Town” social column, Spencer Leak, Jr., vice president of the Leak & Sons Funeral Home, said his family voluntarily paid for the entire funeral including a reception.
“We donated the funeral to the family because Teesee was very special to me. She treated me with so much respect when we were out at different banquets and functions,” Leak, Jr. said.
“She always had that camera with her. I knew when I saw Teesee in the next couple of days or so, I would see the picture she took of my wife, parents, my family and me.
“She was just that avenue that we needed when we were promoting something,” said the 46-year-old Leak. “The next day she would be promoting it in the Defender. She was older than us, but she would show up at my little teenybopper parties. It was always an honor to see her. Sometimes you are looking for people to promote your business and your ideas, but instead of me going to Teesee, she would come to me and we appreciated it very much.”
Her funeral was held at Trinity United Church of Christ, 400 West 95th Street. The congregation is headed by Rev. Dr. Otis Moss, III. At Trinity, Hooks sang in the choir. She was buried in her gold-colored choir gown.
Like Leak, Jr., Moss said whenever you encountered Teesee, she had her camera and described her as being a “Chicago institution.”
WMAQ Channel 5 Journalist Art Norman read a resolution from the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) saying Hooks gave the Black community the “good news” it deserved writing “well into her golden years.”
Chicago Defender president and publisher Cheryl Mainor said Hooks “was a staple at the Defender” who kept people apprised about the “who’s who of Chicago.” Michael House, who once held the same position, said when he took over the paper, Hooks asked him if he were going to fire her and he told her not as long as he was at the paper.
The Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr. called Hook’s “a queen dressed in work clothes” and said she will be sorely missed in the world of Chicago journalism.
Born 33 years to the day after Robert S. Abbott launched the historic Chicago Defender newspaper, Hooks, an award-winning columnist and photographer, received a homegoing celebration fit for a queen.
Donating funerals is nothing new for the Leak family, the humanitarian practice began with Leak Jr.’s grandfather, Rev. Andrew R. Leak and wife Dottie, who opened the funeral home at 41st and Michigan in 1933 after saving up $500 and a matching amount received as an inheritance after the death of Mrs. Leak’s father.
The Leaks moved their funeral home to 4504 South State Street and remained there until September of 1959 when the city declared eminent domain and later built the infamous Robert Taylor housing projects. They have since been demolished.
They moved to the current site at 7838 S. Cottage Grove in the Chat- ham neighborhood. In 1959 Chatham was in racial transition, as whites quickly moved out of the neighborhood. According to Spencer Leak, Sr., they held an open house when they moved to Chatham and while it was a huge success for the next 45 days their phone never rang.
One day a single mother came to the Leak Funeral Home. Her 10-year-daughter had died and she had no insurance. The Leaks gave her a funeral “fit for a princess,” Leak Sr. recalled. “We gave her the best casket and the best service all at no cost,” he said. From that day on, business has flourished, and they have continued the policy of burying people whose families are too poor to bury them.
But, with Hooks, Leak, Jr. said, “It wasn’t a need. It was I wanting to do it for her because of the way she always treated me.”
During the Hooks visitation at Leak’s funeral home, former U.S. Senator Carol Moseley Braun, along with professor Timuel Black, praised Hooks for her loyalty to her profession.
The Leaks had a table full of light refreshments for visitors attending the visitation service.