“Sylvia’s Haven became the second largest in the country for nine years. Bill Gates was No. 1.”
So says Sylvia Anthony, a National Women’s Hall of Famer and Lifetime Achievement Awardee (by Marquis Who’s Who). She is also the author of Till the End of Time: A Story of Persistence, Love Failure and Success in a Woman’s Life and Utilize All Your God-Given Power: A God-Given Method of Success.
In this recent Q&A, Sylvia shares her fascinating life story and the inspiration behind Sylvia’s Haven, a women’s shelter that she founded 34 years ago.
Q: Can you give us a little more background on your decision to write about your life?
A: In my life, the death of a loved one in my adult years prompts me to do things. In this case, it was the death of Tony. After he died, I reminisced about our life together and all of the twists and turns it took. I felt prompted to put it into a book for the world to see.
Q: How does writing your story influenced the person you are today?
A: Writing this book was a great eye-opener. As I looked back on my life as I was writing it, it made me rationalize different situations. For instance – the drowning of my uncle 18-year-old uncle at an outing, when I was only 5 years old took a far greater toll than I realized as a child. He was my favorite uncle. A vibrant young man. At his age, he was already a hairdresser working in a large salon with 10 other hairdressers under him. He also played the saxophone and clarinet like a pro. He would call me as he practiced and teach me the lyrics to the songs he was playing and I would sing along with him. This started before I was three. As a result, his death set me back tremendously. I became very lonely and withdrawn. Also, my father’s infidelity was something I could not forgive him for, because I loved my mother. He was addicted to sex and really had no control of his needs. I felt sorry for my mother, too. She suffered for her mistake continuously.
Q: How do you remember childhood memories? Do you keep a journal?
A: No. I couldn’t keep a journal as a child. Only within the last ten years have I kept a journal. I have an uncanny memory that goes back to infancy. Not everything, just things that were important to me in my mind.
Q: Having survived an abusive household, would you have changed anything in your life?
A: Yes. But keep in mind none of us can really change anything. What’s done is done. Some of the things we could have changed, others we had no choice in. However, let’s fantasize. I got married the first time, not out of love. I only got married so I could get out of my house. Back in those days, the only way you left the home was to get married. The second reason I married on a rebound was because Tony and I were not seeing as much as before. I thought my husband would do as second best because we went out with for a year and a half and we got along just fine.
The illusion left me the day after we got married. His whole personality changed. When I saw this, I just thought maybe the excitement of the wedding had something to do with it. So I decided to wait a week and see what happened. Nothing happened. I asked my husband, “Eddy, why are you acting this way? He replied, “Now you’re married to me, now you’re stuck to me.” If things could have been different, I would have been more patient with Tony, and we might have married at 20.
Q: You have successfully put a shelter together and taken care of hundreds, if not thousands of homeless women and children, what made you decide to do this?
A: First, let me correct you. Just so you get a feel for this. It definitely is thousands upon thousands. I actually have helped 1100 women and children hands-on. But, when you consider that I have been doing this for over 34 years. The babies born in my shelter are now 34 years of age. They could possibly be married and have children of their own. Also, many of the women went on to get married and had two or three more children. So that the residual effect is thousands. Now what made me decide to do this? All I can say is God. God put it in my heart and made it possible. Everything I did to put it together just seemed to fall into place.
Sylvia’s Haven became the second largest in the country for nine years, Bill Gates was No. 1.
Q: What’s the biggest impact of Tony in your life?
A: Now you’re hitting home. First, I want you to know this love affair was definitely a two-way street. Tony, was a very good looking young man and my girlfriend always admired him. When she came home one day, she was all excited. She said, “Sylvia, Tony wants to meet you. I asked, “Who’s Tony?” She went on to praise him so much I agreed to meet him. When she went to the theater again, they set up a time and place. Keep in mind this was the year 1945. There were no phones then.
Tony instantly fell in love with me. With me, it took a little bit longer. But the love we had for each other was pure love.
He treated me with complete respect and love. Later, when he broke up with me because his older brothers told him he was too young to go steady and should not be tied to one person. He broke up with me because his brothers told him to. Not because he didn’t love me. In fact, he asked me to make a pact with him. He could go with whomever he wanted and I could go with anyone I wanted but we would still keep in touch until we were about 20 and then, get married.
Unfortunately, things didn’t work out that way. But, throughout his life, he never really got serious with any other woman. In fact, one time he told me of a girl who said she wanted to go steady with him and he said to her, “I don’t love you, I love Sylvia.” And this was his theme throughout his life. He was never married. After my second husband died. He entered my life again for the fourth time. This time we truly became soul partners. I had the shelter then and didn’t know how he would fit into this new mode of mine. But, he took to it as a duck takes to water. He worked with me hand in hand, bringing the girls shopping or going to the doctors or hospitals, or schools. moving furniture. He did whatever needed to be done until he got sick.
Our love was a love that I believe very few people truly enjoy.
Q: Do you have any thoughts or advice for those just starting to write their memoirs?
A: Yes. This is no small matter. Give it all you’ve got and be truthful.
Q: Between where you started and where you’re at, can you say you have achieved your goal?
A: No. This is just the beginning. I want my book to be either a movie or TV series or vice versa. Also, I am now writing a book on nutrition. I have been studying nutrition for 33 years and I am now 91 years of age, healthy and working. I think I qualify. After that, I am going to write a book called “ Life Begins at 90.” Because that was the year I was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame, and given the Lifetime Achievement Award from Marquis Who’s Who and God only knows what else.