Sky Scene 07

Lester Syrus Townsend

March 31, 1908 ~ October 22, 2019 (age 111)


Lester S. Townsend was born March 31, 1908 in Cairo, IL to Minnie (Henson) and Will Townsend. His date of transition was October 22, 2019 in South Bend, IN at the age of 111.

Growing up, Lester had a close-knit family of brothers and sisters, all of whom preceded him in death. His older sister was Lottie Guerden and older brother was George Roe Townsend. After Lester, there were seven other children: sisters, Lillian Shaw, Lenora Alexander, Ora Cherry and Amy Jackson York; and brothers, Joe Townsend, Earl Mayes Townsend and the youngest, Aaron Townsend. Lester was a close friend to his brothers and sisters and was a dedicated friend to his sibling’s children and grandchildren. He also has a special brother, Harold Benion, and special sister, Lynn Hughes, both of South Bend, IN. The close-knit family relationship was extended to a loving circle of cousins, nieces, nephews and friends, which provided Lester with much joy as he visited with them all either personally or by phone.

Lester was married to Rena Woodall Townsend for 80 years. Rena transitioned in November, 2015. They were the proud parents of three children: Oris Townsend (deceased), Dr. Gwendolyn Trotter of Indianapolis, IN and Drapel Townsend of Chicago, IL. Cherished grandchildren include Marc Trotter of Ruston, LA and Barbara Trotter of Phoenix, AZ. Lester also had five great grandchildren.

Additionally, Lester is survived by his former daughter-in-law, Susie Franklin Chandler of Fort Washington, MD as well as a former son-in-law and his wife, Billie and Mary Trotter of Tempe, AZ. The in-law relationships were treasured gifts and joy that continued throughout Lester’s senior years.

Lester was an active and contributing member to New Salem Baptist Church in South Bend, IN for 74 years. He held numerous employment positions starting as a farmer in southern Illinois, as well as a social worker during the depression. He also worked at Studebakers as well as the South Bend Community School Corporation. During this period, Lester became an enabler and friend to family and friends.

Rev. Theodis Hadley, deceased of Elkhart, IN and former friend of Lester’s, said “use what you’ve got and use it wisely.” He indicated that this characterized Lester’s commitment to his church, family, community and friends. Through his close companionship with God, Lester served as a mentor to many in the community and at his church. Lester was the founder of the city-wide Deacon’s Day, which allows diverse individuals to celebrate together sharing the gifts of being a deacon. Lester was also an accomplished speaker and story teller providing “gems of thought” to nourish our hearts and souls.

Lester Syrus Townsend, grandson of slave Syrus Bogan Henson, was a hero.

Funeral services for Lester will be held at 11:00am on Wednesday, October 30, 2019 at Palmer Funeral Home – Hickey Chapel, 17131 Cleveland Road, South Bend, IN. Committal service and entombment will follow at the mausoleum at Riverview Cemetery, South Bend. Friends may visit with the family from 10:00-11:00am on Wednesday, October 30, 2019 in the funeral home prior to services.

Expressions of sympathy in memory of Lester may be donated to the New Salem Missionary Baptist Church Scholarship Fund, 141 Camden Street, South Bend, IN 46619.

Online condolences may be left for the Townsend family at

To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Lester Syrus Townsend, please visit our floral store.


October 30, 2019

10:00 AM to 11:00 AM
Palmer Funeral Home - Hickey Chapel
17131 Cleveland Road
South Bend, IN 46635

Funeral Service
October 30, 2019

11:00 AM
Palmer Funeral Home - Hickey Chapel
17131 Cleveland Road
South Bend, IN 46635


New Salem Missionary Baptist Church Scholarship Fund
141 Camden Street, South Bend IN 46619

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