“Ms. Squires was smart, witty and had that unique horsey laugh with that wide smile. I loved talking with her and learned so much from her about ‘old Black Madison’ that shaped her life and the lives of her children,” remembers Kaleem Caire, founder and CEO of One City Schools. “She always said things that made me feel great and special when I would see her.
“Every time I see Ms. Squires’s daughters – Ms. Mona Winston and Ms. Pam Soward – and women like Corinda Rainey-Moore who have dedicated so much of their time to the community, I think of Supergrams,” Caire adds. “She set the standard for volunteering in the community. Her husband Charles – rest in peace – did, too. Her daughters and others like Corinda, Dawn Crim, Annette Miller, Jackie Hunt are following in her footsteps.”
Addrena “Supergram” Squires inspired so many – generations upon generations – in the Madison community, especially young boys and girls like Caire who grew up in the heart of Madison’s south side. The beloved matriarch of the South Madison community, who was known for her tireless volunteer work, outgoing personality and constant presence at community events, passed away peacefully in her sleep on Oct. 1. Squires was 91, a few weeks shy of her 92nd birthday.
“I’m still trying to come to grips with Mom being gone. My life has been forever changed,” daughter Mona Winston tells Madison365. Winston, who along with Annie Weatherby- Flowers founded Madison’s Juneteenth Day 30 years ago, now lives in Mississippi. “It helps to know how much she loved and was loved by our beloved village of Madison. It has been four years since she bravely moved to Red Banks, Mississippi, to live with me and, of course, she made friends right away. Miss Addrena was embraced by this community. That was a big step for someone who was 88 years old at the time and who had never lived anywhere except Madison.”
Caire says that Squires is one the greatest representatives of the strong black women that he was raised around and admired as a child.
“Her mother, Ms. Blossom Maiden, was a friend and mentor to my grandmother, Mary B. Caire. I used to hear Ms. Squires, her mother, my grandmother, Ms. Mae Mitchell and other women talking things out while working on numerous community initiatives at church, at the South Madison Neighborhood Center and when they would visit my grandmother’s home,” Caire remembers. “They were all activists during their time, and they ensured that doors and opportunities were opened to us. I don’t think people understand just how big these large these women were in our lives. They were the guardians and givers in our community.”
Gaddi Ben Dan, the co-executive producer of Club TNT and winner of the 2018 City-County Humanitarian Award honoring the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was a longtime friend of Squires and was saddened to hear of her death.
“My friend, Ms. Addrena Sqires, Supergram, was one of the most elegant and kind women I have ever met,” he tells Madison365. “As the scriptures ask, ‘Who can find a virtuous woman, the price is far above rubies?’ Those traits were the epitome of the beloved Supergram. Heaven’s missing Angel has now come home.”
Caire specifically remembers in high school how he used to be self-conscious about a gap he had his teeth. Because of that, he would always keep his mouth closed when he smiled. That was until an encounter with Squires at Madison West High School changed all that.
“She told me that I had a beautiful smile, and when she said it, she flashed me that big beautiful smile of hers. She had a gap in her teeth, too,” Caire smiles. “I still remember her words and the encounter. She encouraged me to be proud of how I looked, told me how handsome I was and how I came from great people, and that I should never be ashamed of who I am or how I looked. Her words helped me open up. I needed to hear that at that moment.”
Squires was born in Madison General Hospital in 1927. She attended what was then Longfellow Elementary School, followed by Central High and then the Wisconsin School of Music.
For more than 40 years, Squires worked at the old University Hospital and the Dane County Nursing Home (now Badger Prairie) and has been a valued community volunteer for more than 70 years, according to the “Settlin’: Stories of Madison’s Early African American Families” by Muriel Simms. She has served on a variety of boards in the Madison area including Independent Living, Madison School and Community Recreation, NAACP’s Madison chapter, Urban League of Greater Madison Guild, Boys and Girls Club of Dane County, and the Wisconsin Women of Color Network. She was well-known for her selflessness and her volunteering.
“In the 1990s, when I was working at Van Hise Elementary and Velma Hamilton Middle Schools, I used to see Ms. Squires helping with various projects and activities around the school,” Caire remembers. “All the children would stop to give her hugs and they called her Supergram. She was kind and inspiring to the children, and would also talk with them when they got out of line. She was dedicated to making a difference in their lives, and she did. She had such a strong presence … and her gaze when she looked at you was powerful.”
“Supergram was everything the name implies. She was a Shero, she always showed up and she loved you like a grandma – but if you needed to be put in place, she put you in your place,” says Hedi Rudd, a longtime southsider who is now director of the Badger Rock Neighborhood Center. “If you needed a hug, she gave you a hug. You didn’t have to be her grandkid either, she loved us all like that from the kids at schools she volunteered at to city leaders. No one was immune from her superpower!”
Squires was well-recognized for her lifetime of service to her community and was honored with the prestigious Urban League of Greater Madison’s Whitney M. Young, Jr. Equal Opportunity Award.
“I will never forget the strong black women who laid the foundation for us in Madison,” Caire says. “I am thankful to you for writing about Ms. Squires, too, because she deserves to be remembered for the great woman, leader, wife, mother and grandmother that she was.”
The Celebration of Life for Addrena “Supergram” Squires will be held at Mt. Zion Baptist Church, 2019 Fisher St., in Madison on Friday, Oct. 11. Visitation will be at 11 a.m. and the service will be at noon.