Jesse Bell taught math and history at elementary schools in Maywood and Broadview, while also managing a taxi company and later operating his own limousine service.
Bell, 90, died Dec. 25 of complications from lymphoma at AccentCare Inpatient Care Center in Naperville, his daughter, Darletta Anderson, said. She had been living in Aurora since 2008.
Louisiana, St. Born Jesse James Bell in Francisville, Bell moved to New Orleans with his family when he was 4 years old. He earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education in 1955 from Dillard University in New Orleans, where he played football.
Wanting to start a career in California, Bell moved to Oakland to stay with his aunt but was later drafted into the military. He served for two years, 18 months of which was in Germany, where he patrolled the border between East Germany and West Germany, his family said.
Bell moved to Chicago to be with her husband, who also attended Dillard University and began her nursing career at the University of Illinois Research and Teaching Hospitals.
Bell began teaching elementary school in Chicago and took a job at Irving Elementary School in Maywood in 1961; where he taught sixth through eighth grade math and world history and also coached basketball.
“He was always respected by the students he taught,” said Bob Engram, a longtime friend and fraternity brother of the historically Black fraternity Kappa Alpha Psi. “And many (of his students) joined the fraternity as a result, because of who he was and how he worked.”
In the mid-1970s, Bell began teaching math and history to seventh- and eighth-grade students at Roosevelt Elementary School in Broadview.
“Teachers may have popularity, but sometimes it can be the wrong (kind),” Thomas said. “But that wasn’t the case with Jesse; the kids looked up to him and looked up to him.”
Bell retired from teaching in 1991.
While teaching, Bell worked at J&D Cab Co. Managed side businesses including: In 1984, he founded JJ Limousine Service, which operated until 2018.
“One of the things he consistently did as he transitioned from teacher to entrepreneur was that when he built those kinds of relationships (with clients), he maintained those relationships for years, even if people were (no longer) traveling with him,” Engram said. “He never met a stranger; “Anyone who knew him once knew him almost for life.”
Bell was an avid traveler, he said, and owned a motorhome that he would pilot around the U.S. every summer while raising his daughters.
Bell’s wife of 55 years, Doris, died in 2013. In addition to his daughter, Bell is survived by another daughter, Jennifer; and six grandchildren.
Services were done.
Goldsborough is a freelance reporter.