Roslyn Wilkins, mother of Nizah Morris, 82

Roslyn M. Wilkins, the mother of Nizah Morris, died Sept. 8 after a brief illness. She was 82 and lived in West Philadelphia.

For the past 10 years, Wilkins voiced the belief that her child’s homicide is solvable.

“I’m sure the case will crack wide open someday,” she previously told PGN.

Morris was a transwoman found with a fatal head wound in 2002, shortly after Philadelphia police gave her a courtesy ride.

Roslyn Mary Simpson was born in New York City on Aug. 25, 1931.

She was educated in New York’s Catholic school system, and married twice — first to George Morris, who was Nizah’s father, and later to Rosamond Wilkins.

She owned and operated several businesses throughout her life, including a variety story and a newspaper stand in the East Village of New York.

In the mid-1970s, Wilkins and her family relocated to West Philadelphia.

Wilkins held several custodial-management positions at prestigious five-star hotels in the city.

For 11 years, she owned and operated a family-oriented childcare center, known as Wilkins Family Day Care.

A devout Catholic, Wilkins was active in several religious organizations, including The Ladies of St. Peter Claver, The Legion of Mary and a liturgical committee.

As a pastime, she enjoyed watching soap operas on television, and friends knew not to interrupt her when her “stories” were aired.

When in 2002, Wilkins’ daughter Nizah died under mysterious circumstances, she reached out to the LGBT community for help in solving the crime.

The following year, Wilkins filed a federal wrongful-death lawsuit against the city, which was settled in 2004 for $250,000. But Wilkins continued to speak out for justice.

About 150 people attended Wilkins’ funeral Sept. 13 at St. Cyprian Roman Catholic Church in West Philadelphia, where she was remembered as a loving matriarch to a very large family.

Wilkins’ favorite color was orange. She was buried in a bright orange outfit, and several mourners wore orange in deference to her affinity for the color.

Msgr. Frederico Britto praised Wilkins’ sunny disposition, and her courage in remaining true to her convictions.

“She fought the good fight,” he said. “She ran that race. She took on that challenge.”

Wilkins’ steadfast devotion to her family was the theme of the eulogy delivered by her son-in-law, Lonnie Davis.

“Family meant everything to her,” he said.

Wilkins acted as a mother to countless people in need of love and guidance, in addition to her family, Davis added.

“You left her presence feeling good about yourself,” Davis noted.

He said Wilkins wouldn’t want people mired in grief over her passing for a lengthy period of time.

Ironically, shortly after he spoke those words, as Wilkins’ casket was carried outside the church, a few showers fell from the sky. But the sun quickly came out again.

Wilkins is survived by her sister, Joan Foster; daughters Michelle Davis, Bradley Brown and Andrea Brunson; 20 grandchildren; 27 great-grandchildren; and 11 nieces and nephews.

Interment was at Valley Forge Memorial Gardens in Valley Forge.

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