• Homeless woman hit and killed by vehicle, local priest plans to give her a proper burial

    By: Winnie Wright

    Updated:

    MEMPHIS, Tenn. - A Mid-South community is in mourning after a well-known figure is hit and killed by a car.

    She was a homeless woman that lived in East Memphis for many years.

    The neighborhood referred to her as ‘Ms. Gene.’

    The woman sat on this intersection for nearly a decade—never asking for a thing.


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    She made a mark on her neighbors—leaving one local priest going above and beyond the call of service.

    “She had an independence, an ability to take care of herself. In that, a lot of people admired her, I think,” Father Richard Cortese said.

    Father Cortese is one of the dozens of people that looked after the woman they all knew as ‘Ms. Gene.’

    “It was almost like the community adopted her,” Martha Stewart, an East Memphis resident said.

    Ms. Gene’s real name was Dorothy G. Stansburry.

    No one has any photos of her.

    The 67-year-old woman spoke very little and rarely accepted any gifts, despite countless attempts to get her into a shelter.

    Stansburry lived on a small grassy lot, located on the corner of Park and Mount Moriah. 

    According to the police report, on May 18 around 11 p.m., she was crossing over Mount Moriah when she was hit and killed in a far lane.

    Without Stansburry’s legal name, Father Cortese could not visit her at Regional One.

    After some help and coaxing, he was able to give Ms. Gene her final blessing and was asked to be her custodian.

    As the woman lay dying, no one else claimed her.

    Father Cortese had to make the call to end her life.

    “I wasn’t expecting that to be the situation,” he said.

    In Shelby County, the homeless and indigent are buried in unmarked graves at the county cemetery.

    “I knew after she died, I wanted to make funeral arrangements for her,” Father Cortese said.

    His work was only just the beginning.

    Stansburry now lies in the county morgue, giving the family time to claim the body.

    In the meantime, Father Cortese put together plans and funds to provide her with a proper burial—with the overwhelming support of all who knew her.

    “By the grace of God, that could be any of us sitting on that corner,” Stewart said.

    “It’s like she had her own little ministry there. She was touching people in a deep and unique way,” Father Cortese said.

    No one knows how Ms. Gene got here—but they do know why she stayed.

    She was a member of the community.

    That is evident by the number of people who have stopped to talk to us about her today.

    Funeral arrangements will be made when her body is released from the morgue.

    FOX13 will give that information when it is provided.

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