|Dr. Ella Mae Piper |
Photo from The Dr. Piper Center for Social Services, Inc.
Dr. Ella Mae Piper was born in Brunswick, Georgia (near the Florida line) March 8, 1884, the only daughter of Ned Bailer and Sarah Williams. Mrs. Piper died June 13, 1954.
Dr. Ella Piper was a well known civic worker and business woman, who established the first beauty parlor and chiropody office in Fort Myers 69 years ago. She attended Spellman College in Atlanta, Georgia and graduated from Rohrer’s world-famous Institute of Beauty Culture located in New York City. She graduated August 25, 1915. Her name then was Ella M. Jones. She majored in body massage and Swedish movements and was a well known Chiropodist (foot doctor). She arrived in Fort Myers in 1915 where she opened her first beauty shop located on Jackson Street across from Englehart’s Mortuary. Later the beauty shop was moved to Hendry Street where she also began the practice of Chiropody. In 1916, Dr. Piper moved her business to 1819 Evans Avenue near her home. She also owned the Big 4 Bottling Company located on Mango and Evans. The community enjoyed Big 4 soft drinks for five cents a bottle.
Dr. Ella Piper held annual Christmas tree parties for children of Dunbar Heights. This event was started by her mother, Sarah Williams in 1915 while employed in the H. E. Heitman’s home. Thus began an institute over the years that grew from an original gathering of 15 little girls to some 600 boys and girls who romped over her lawn at 1771 Evans Avenue every December 25th.
When Dr. Piper’s mother died in 1926, Dr. Piper carried on the Annual Christmas Tree Party with the assistance of many churches, businesses, and many community friends who assisted with contributions and gifts for the youngsters. One of those life long friends was Mrs. Thomas Edison. The annual Christmas Tree Party has continued uninterrupted since Dr. Piper’s death through the faithful efforts of local citizens.
In Dunbar Heights, she was a Grand Lodge Officer and Executive Board member for 26 years of the Elks Lodge. She also served as a state officer. She was the founder of the Tranquillo Temple and organized The Triple City Council and served as Deputy of the District. She was a member of Mount Olive Church and the Pioneer’s Club. She assisted in building the Old Dunbar School in 1926.
Dr. Ella Piper was known as a philanthropist. She was instrumental in helping young people obtaining scholarships to attend Tuskegee College, using her personal money to help some of these students. Dr. Ella Piper was well known throughout the community and often aided elderly persons, particularly the underprivileged and handicapped. It was this interest, along with the interest of children, that led her to leave her property to the City of Fort Myers for the benefit of “young children and senior citizens”.