Mrs. Cleo Elizabeth Austin Lee was born October 12, 1929 in Waco, TX to the parentage of Mr. & Mrs. Robert Austin.
Cleo Lee accepted Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior at an early age. She was baptized and became a member of Second Missionary Baptist Church, Waco, Texas.
Following her formal education in the Waco Independent School District, she graduated from A.J. Moore High School. She received an undergraduate degree in Home Economics with a minor in Biology from Huston-Tillotson University in Austin, Texas. Cleo Lee later received a master’s degree in Elementary Education from Texas Southern University and an administrator’s certificate from Prairie View University.
Her teaching career began in the Waco Independent School District. She spent two years as a second grade teacher at Kirk-Wilson Elementary School.
On September 5, 1957, Cleo married Dazell Lee and moved with him to Corsicana, Texas and began teaching in the Corsicana Independent School District. To this union three children were born: Dazell Ivan Lee who preceded her in death, Danzell Ivan Lee and Valinda Lee Johnson. Over the following 16 years, Mrs. Lee taught second, third, and fourth grade at Jackson, Lincoln and Fannin Elementary schools. For eight of those years, she was a reading specialist at Lincoln Elementary School. In 1974, Mrs. Lee became the principal of Fannin Elementary School. She was the first African American female to be appointed as a principal in Corsicana, where she served until her retirement in 1998.
Mrs. Lee was an exceptional instructional leader whose priorities included: creating a good learning environment for students, setting high expectations for students, teachers, and staff, cultivating a climate for teacher and parental involvement, last but not least, cultivating a love in her school. Cleo Lee served the Corsicana Independent School District as a classroom instructor for approximately seventeen years and as a principal for an additional twenty-four years. Cleo Lee was the consummate professional during her 40+ years of educational service. These were the words she used as a guiding force in making both personal and professional decisions: “Oh, God give me the guidance to know when to hold on and when to let go. Please give me the grace to make the right decisions at the right time and the right way with dignity. ”These key words and her God guided her life to a peaceful conclusion as she released life with dignity in the evening hours on January 5, 2020.
Cleo Lee was active in the Corsicana community as an avid CHS Tiger Booster supporter. She was a devoted active member of the First Independent Baptist Church of Corsicana for over 55 years, a diamond life member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., Red Hat Society, Professional Women’s Club, Texas Retired Teachers, and TXU Educational Board.
Mrs. Lee’s living legacy are the children she taught, educators she mentored, her children that she adored and her grandchildren she loved while gently guiding them into maturity. She was faithful to her God, protective of her family and loyal to her friends.
Cleo was preceded in death by her beloved husband Dazell Lee; son Dazell Ivan Lee; parents; sisters: Alma Fayetta Rush, Bobbie Jean Green, Malinda Victoria Marlin and brother Daniel W. Austin. She is survived by her loving son Danzell Ivan Lee; wife Paula, and daughters MaKenzie Danielle of Houston, TX and Mariah Elizabeth Lee, Lake Charles, LA; devoted daughter Valinda Lee Johnson, and her daughter Lauren Elizabeth Edwards; husband Devin and great granddaughter Lily Elaine Edwards of Chula Vista, California.
She is survived by her beloved sister, Virgie Austin Rowe, Houston TX/Colorado Springs, CO, cousins, Lowell (Patricia) Bell Colorado Springs, Colorado. Eva Jeanette Greene Los Angeles, California and Hazel Rowe, Waco, Texas. Kenneth Rowe, Dallas, Texas.
“Mother’s” memory is cherished by her adopted children Oran Alpha Rowe II, wife Alma of Houston, Texas and Son Oran III of Houston, Texas; and Exie Rowe Robinson of Houston Texas/Colorado Springs, Colorado. Preceded in death by Virginia Alpha Rowe-Franklin of Houston, Texas, daughter Ayanna of Houston, Texas and a host of relatives and friends.
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