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Lillian Corrine Christmas was born March 30, 1931, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to Henry Basil Battle, Sr. and Lillian Francis Clayton. She was the eighth of ten children. She attended Cambridge and Latin High School. After graduating from high school in 1948, she had what she said was a “wonderful career,” working for several businesses as an administrative and executive assistant. At different times she worked in prestigious positions as an executive assistant for Edwin H. Land, the co-founder of Polaroid; Dr. Fred. L. Whipple, an astronomer who worked at the Harvard College Observatory; Lawrence D. Shubow, a retired Brookline District Court judge; and Erich Segal, a Yale classics professor who was also the author of the iconic novel, “Love Story.” She was a member of a woman’s group advocating for women’s rights in the workplace. “At all of my jobs, I loved them, and they loved me,” she recalled fondly.
Although she enjoyed a dynamic career for many years, she was proud to be a loving mother to her only daughter, Tracie. She set an example of what it means to be a strong woman of faith who cared for her daughter and extended family, preserved family traditions, and successfully took on personal and professional challenges while working in her church community, bringing hope, inspiration, and joy to anyone she encountered.
Lillian was a faithful and active member of Mass Ave Baptist Church for over 40 years. Her kind and generous spirit was reflected in her deep commitment to anyone experiencing food insecurity. She was a friendly face as a church greeter who also served hot meals at the church food kitchen, volunteered in the food pantry, and gave her time, talent, and treasure at numerous church fundraising events by serving as the painting instructor.
As a trailblazer in the local area, her many accomplishments as an artist, athlete, and advocate were captured in an interview that was published in the October 28, 2017, edition of “Fifty Plus Advocate”, written by Bonnie Adams, Managing Editor. Lillian was 86 years old at the time of the interview. The article speaks to her how her passion for running unfolded when she was working at a company in Cambridge. There she met a couple, she said, who sparked her interest in walking for exercise and then running. It was something she found she loved.
She has run in numerous road races, including marathons in Boston and Montreal, even though she did not start serious training until she was in her late 40s. She is also an artist who tries to work at her craft every day if possible. And it is through those two passions that she helps others. She ran a series of road races before running her first Boston Marathon in 1986 at age 55. In all, she has run Boston five times, including the 100th Marathon, finishing all but one time. “I got too arrogant and wasn’t able to finish,” she said ruefully. Many of the races she has run have also been fundraisers for various organizations.
Christmas has also served as a participant in the Boston University Alzheimer’s Disease Center Research Registry, also known as the HOPE Study (Health Outreach Program for the Elderly), which studies memory and aging. On the organization’s website, she shared in an interview explaining why it was important for her, an African American woman, to be part of such a study.
After she retired from the corporate world in 2000, she was able to devote time to her other major passion, painting – particularly watercolors. “I had done some when I was a kid,” she said. “I was always the happiest person in class.” As a retiree, she took classes from several artists and offered at local senior centers.
Her work has been exhibited at the Brookline Senior Center, where she served for a time as a member of the Council on Aging. She specifically enjoys painting flowers; she said, “I’ve turned my apartment into an art gallery,” she said. “I love to have my paintings on the wall, along with my family photos. I like to sketch while I am listening to music.” For several years, she was provided private lessons to a young boy whose grandfather lived in her building.
“It’s important to have a positive outlook,” she said of her life philosophy. “And always keep moving. Walking is the best exercise – I do it a lot. But if you can’t go outside, it’s important to do something in your home. Move every day.”
Lillian is survived by her sisters Virginia Turner (Battle) and Anita Reid (Battle). She was a loving mother to her daughter Tracie Christmas, an affectionate aunt to many nieces and nephews, considered a Mother at Mass Ave Baptist, and a warm friend to many.
On November 30, 2023, her memorial service will be held at Massachusetts Avenue Baptist Church, 146 Hampshire Street, Cambridge. Family visitation starts at 10:30 am, the service will begin at 11:00 am.
Her arrangements were lovingly handled by A.J. Funeral Home, Cambridge MA. A private interment will be scheduled for a future date.
In lieu of flowers, the family deeply appreciates donations to Massachusetts Avenue Baptist Church in honor of Lillian. These donations will help support their longstanding commitment to feeding the hungry. Checks payable to the church are welcome; electronic giving is also possible through Cashapp: $MABC146.