Who can find a virtuous woman? For her price is far above rubies…Proverbs 31:10, KJV.
The writer of Proverbs set the bar sky high when describing a virtuous woman. Nevertheless, a beautiful young Black woman from Tyler, Texas, was determined to live her life in just such a manner.
Ultimately, she became an icon in Denver, Colorado’s Five Points community. As she prepares to celebrate her 90th birthday on Oct. 10, “Mama” Zona Moore is more beloved than ever. Not just by the 14 children she brought into this world but, because she “loves people,” and they, in turn love, admire and respect her.
Zona Porter was born in 1925 to a mother and father who could retell firsthand accounts of enslavement including toil in cotton fields, segregated schools, racial slurs, “whites only” water fountains, belligerent N—– name calling, and midnight lynchings.
At the young age of 16, Zona married her high school beau, Willis Moore and soon thereafter, she became a mother.
While working at the biggest, poshest hotels in Dallas, Texas, Zona was inspired that one day, somehow she would be her own boss. Specifically, she dreamed of owning “a hamburger place.”
In the meantime and by 1958, she and her husband were the parents of 13 children- Betty, Saalim (Charles), Barbara, Donald Ray, John, Reta, Brenda, Rhonda, Sandra, Gary, Michael, Willis and Sharon.
Older sister, Rosie Lee Haggarety, who had already relocated to Denver, convinced her baby sister that Denver was the land of opportunity.
After Willis and Zona decided moving to Denver was a great idea, Willis went ahead of the family to secure work. Three months later Zona and the children followed. As soon as they arrived in Five Points, Zona knew they’d done the right thing.
Within a short time, Zona also acquired fulltime work as a nurse’s aide for five years. Also, during that time, she had Calvin, her 14th baby.
It was then that Zona knew she was ready to achieve her dream of being a business owner.
The first venture, J and Z Liquor Store, was a co-proprietorship with son John who had returned home after serving in the U.S. Army.
About the same time, Zona and Willis started saving to buy property. First one small house, then another, and then another.
A business not far from the store was also very successful called the Tamale King.
When the owner of Tamale King passed away, Zona immediately made an offer to take over the lease. While not grand, it was ideal.
It was well established, manageable, and in a great location at the corner of 26th and Welton Streets.
The food she served wasn’t hamburger, nevertheless, in every other way it was her dream come true. Moreover, she’d worked tirelessly to achieve it. In 1972 the establishment reopened as Zona’s Tamale Stand.
For more than 30 years, seven days a week, from 11 a.m. to sometimes 3 a.m., you could find Zona at heartily greeting her customers (many by name), and taking their to-go orders for her renowned pig ear and hot link sandwiches.
Mayor Wellington Webb, among other city dignitaries, made it one of their favorite stops.
New dreams led to new goals when the houses the Moore’s invested in were demolished, and with a bank loan in hand, a brand new building was commissioned. Zona’s Cafeteria, just a few blocks east of her tamale stand offered sit-down dining with meals served on china.
“We only had the bare minimum to work with,” the elegant matriarch stated. “That made us even more determined to do and be our best. Above all, God has always been there to guide and bless me.”
Zona’s off-springs, which today extend to great-great grandchildren, stand on her virtuous shoulders with whom she shares her Pearls of Wisdom.
- Follow your own dream…and then, when you do, don’t let anyone talk you out of it.
- Don’t mix with the wrong people. If you see trouble coming, get out of the way.
- When trouble comes and you’re facing a problem – say a prayer. Try mine – “Lord help me and show me which way to go.” I guarantee God will answer you.
- Do everything possible to help yourself. Sometimes it’s hard but you have to keep pushing, no matter what.
“I was raised in the church. I am a Christian woman…an A.M.E. (African Methodist Episcopalian). God, discipline, and never giving, up are my formula for success,” said Mama Zona.
Editor’s note: The community is invited to Zona’s 90th birthday celebration on Saturday, Oct. 10 at the Park Hill Golf Club, 4141 E. 35th Ave. in Denver at 1:30 p.m. Tickets are $25 and to RSVP by Oct. 5 by calling to 303-386-2915.
Editor’s Note: Charlene Porter is the author of The Denver Post #1 local best-selling historical novel “Boldfaced Lies.”