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Centenarian, community icon poised for street corner naming

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) — One of New Haven’s neighborhood icons is on the verge of having a street corner named after her as she marks her 100th birthday.

Mary Etta Atkinson Joyner is the daughter of a Newhallville minister who has been a quiet source of inspiration for decades, by helping people in need pay their rent and utility bills and providing food and clothing.

In her younger days, Joyner also helped to bring gospel music acts to town including Mahalia Jackson, the Staple Singers and the Soul Stirrers featuring a young Sam Cooke, the New Haven Register reported Sunday.

Known as “Mother Mary,” Joyner raised four children with her husband, then raised five grandchildren after one of her daughters was killed in a car accident.

“We feel as a family that now that she has reached 100 years old, this is how we would like to honor her. This is long overdue,” granddaughter Antoinette Hazard told a city committee that approved the renaming this month. The full Board of Alders must give final approval before it is official.

'If I could help somebody, I would," Joyner said when asked about her service to the community. "I really can’t say too much about myself. Other people have to say it. I do the best I can.”

Joyner would be the third member of her family to be so honored by the city. Her father and sister also have had corners renamed after them, the Register reported.