Maxine Berry Gaines was born to Reverend Alphonse and Leola Watson Berry on September 15, 1939, in Alexandria, Louisiana.
Maxine graduated from Peabody Senior High School, where she was a bright and promising student. She graduated from Grambling State University with a degree in Education. On December 22, 1962, Maxine married the love of her life, Dr. Curman L Gaines. The young couple moved to Lake Charles, Louisiana, where Maxine began her teaching career. Maxine had a natural gift for teaching. She continued teaching in Saint Paul, Minnesota, where she also received a Master of Science degree from Mankato State University. After teaching the third grade for a while, Maxine recognized a need for diversity in the Saint Paul Public School System. Maxine’s innovative and cultural-mindedness helped establish the Multicultural Resource Center to provide curriculum and plan activities/events to celebrate diversity. Maxine focused on Black History within the center. After 30+ years of service, she retired from teaching and moved back to Alexandria.
Upon her return to Alexandria, Maxine became actively involved with her sorority, Delta Sigma Theta, The Links, and numerous Bridge Clubs. She also became a member of Nazarene Baptist Church. Later in her life, Maxine was diagnosed with breast cancer, but did not allow this to defeat her giving spirit. She desired to encourage other survivors, but there was no African American survivor support group in Central Louisiana. Therefore, Maxine established a cancer survivor group and became the founding- president of Sisters on a Mission. Maxine’s indomitable spirit and mission were a beacon of hope to many women.
Maxine Berry Gaines transitioned peacefully into God’s hand on Wednesday, May 11, 2022. She was preceded in death by her parents, Reverend Alphonse and Leola Berry; four brothers; one sister; and her husband, Dr. Curman L. Gaines. Her legacy lives on through her daughter, Yolanda Gaines Peterson (Robert); grandchildren, Robert Curman Peterson, Jordan Alexander Peterson, and Rachel Marie Peterson, all of Charlotte, North Carolina; sisters, Juanita Berry Willams (Paul) of Alexandria, Louisiana, and Bessie Berry Lawrence of Port Arthur, Texas; brother, Senior Pastor Don Berry (Bonnie) of Lake Charles, Louisiana; and a host of nieces, nephews, family, and friends.