Chez'Ron Anderson had had a troubled life. A stroke gave her new purpose: to help others avoid her mistakes.
For years, during the best part of her life, Chez'Ron Anderson created a safe place in north Minneapolis for kids looking for relief from gangs, drugs and poverty.
Troubled kids knew where to find her, dishing up meals and advice in equal measure at a storefront drop-in center along W. Broadway.
That's how most people knew her when she left Minneapolis last year to be closer to her daughter and granddaughters in Atlanta. She was on her way back to Minneapolis for a visit June 2 when her car was sideswiped on the freeway near Mount Vernon, Ill., killing her instantly. She was 48.
"'Thank you, Jesus, for giving me another day.' Every time she crossed the threshold, that was her statement," said Winfred Payne, a longtime friend whom Anderson regarded as her father.
Her life didn't start out as gracious as it became, said friends. As a younger woman she faced charges for such crimes as passing bad checks and forgery.
She suffered a stroke in 1993 that left her in a coma for nearly six months before she recovered and found a new purpose. Daughter Dum-A-Nagan Anderson Evans, 31, was 13 when she woke one morning to find her mother on the floor in their north Minneapolis home, her eyes frozen. The aneurysm put Anderson in the hospital for several months, and she never regained the use of her left arm, said friends.
She had been a hairstylist, and the injury ended her life's dream of opening her own salon. Payne, who had once dated Chez'Ron's mother, took her in when he got out of prison in 2000.
They wanted to help young people from their neighborhood avoid the mistakes they had made, and in 2002 they created a nonprofit called Alternatives: A Program for Youth.
The group used donated food to cook meals for kids who stopped by their 1108 W. Broadway location.
Some girls who came by were troubled by gang life, said Payne.
One day, a young rape victim dropped in shortly after she had been assaulted, looking for Anderson.
"Her whole thing was to hug every young woman who came in," said Payne. "It was a grandmother type of thing. ... Having been a young mother herself, she knew how to bond with them. She knew how to make a difference."
He and others have begun raising money for the Chez'Ron M. Anderson memorial fund to help girls in crisis. They ask that donations go to the Rev. Kelly Chatman of the Redeemer Center for Life.
"She was someone you could not make sad," said Celestine Miller, who'd known Anderson since they were children. "She always had something positive to say."
Anderson is survived by her father, three sisters, four brothers, a daughter and two sons. Services have been held.
Matt McKinney • 612-217-1747