Navalette “Novie” Tabor Bailey, matriarch of one of Venice’s first families, passed away July 18. She was 95.
Born Sept. 7, 1914, Novie was a lifelong Venice resident. Her family moved from Louisiana to Venice when she was six months old, and she lived for the last 52 years on the property that her father, Charles Tabor, purchased in the year of her birth.
For many years Novie was the person whom historians, journalists and community members called upon when they wanted to know about the Oakwood area of Venice. She had fond memories of her childhood, but also acknowledged the discrimination and limitations she encountered as an African American child.
Although she was the first black female student to graduate from Venice High School, it was a bittersweet celebration, as she wasn’t allowed to enter a skating rink, the site of the graduation party.
As a young woman seeking employment, she faced discrimination of the time. During the middle of the Great Depression, determined to find work, she was refused employment at a five and ten cent store. Instead, she found a job that paid $1 a day, doing housework, chauffeuring and taking care of children.
In 1950, Novie was hired at Douglas Aircraft as an electrician installing junction boxes. Later, while taking care of her parents, she became interested in nursing, and worked in a nursing home in Santa Monica. She tried to retire at 62, but was a popular caregiver and she continued to work part time until the age of 67.
Retirement for Novie meant the opportunity to travel. She took her first airplane ride in 1964 at the age of 50 as part of a 29-day around-the-world trip offered by Douglas. She enjoyed cruising the Mediterranean, South America, the Panama Canal and Alaska.
While at home, Novie kept busy. She was a member of the Oakwood Recreation Center senior group since the late 1970s.
There are remembrances of Novie’s life in picture-packed albums. A feature article of the Argonaut’s Feb. 14, 1991 issue entitled “Blacks Who Helped Build Venice” featured a 1915 photo on the cover of Novie as an infant with her parents, sister and brother.
Novie is survived by son Alvin Christman, daughter-in-law Cynthia Christman and grandchildren Allen Christman and Antonia Christman; as well as a myriad of relatives and friends who say they will always cherish having Novie in their life.
Funeral services will be held at Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City at 11 a.m. Saturday, July 31.