Nellye J. Punch, a teacher, education advocate and noted Fifth Ward volunteer, died on Dec. 25 at age 96. A memorial service will be held Saturday, Jan. 6 at 11 a.m. at Pinecrest Presbyterian Church, 4913 Market St.

Mrs. Punch taught thousands of students during her 36 years with HISD, and was chair of the Science Department at E.O Smith Jr. High School. She was a past president of the Wheatley Alumni Association and Houston Classroom Teachers Association.

She was a dedicated member of Pinecrest and the first African-American and first woman to serve as moderator of the Brazos Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church of the United States.

Mrs. Punch was a precinct judge and served on the Lyons Avenue Health Clinic Advisory Board, where she pioneered the “Baby Buddy” prenatal health care program.

Linda K. Brown, CEO of Advantage Communications Group, grew up next door to Mrs. Punch and said she was a “phenomenal woman” who cared deeply for her family and community.

“She was gifted with a tenacity to pursue every possible recourse to be an effective change agent for the betterment of Fifth Ward and others who weren’t able to fight to improve their quality of life,” Brown said.

Mrs. Punch majored in home economics at Prairie View College. She later received her Master’s in Education from Texas Southern University. She was actively involved with Friends of the Library of TSU and served on numerous boards.

Survivors include her daughters, Sheila A. Lockhart and Delores Christine Browne, three grandsons and three great grandchildren.

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