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Lucille L. Anderson pulled double shifts on a Honeywell assembly line while moonlighting as a maid to ensure a brighter future for her three children.

The single mother worked extra hard to pay for Catholic school tuition and provide her children with opportunities she never had while growing up on Minneapolis' North Side.

"For real poor kids, you're assumed to be a failure," said her son, Dr. Corrie Anderson of Seattle. "But to my mom, you work hard and try not to be a burden on society."

Lucille "Ludy" Anderson, a retired social worker who long mentored underprivileged youth, died April 29 after contracting COVID-19 at an Edina nursing home. She was 94.

Her mother stressed that education was the key to social mobility. So after graduating from North High School, Anderson enrolled at the University of Minnesota in 1944 — becoming one of the few black students on campus.

She later dropped out to care for her first child and held a series of blue-collar jobs to pay the mortgage after her divorce. A 1960s-era job training helped her learn the IBM key punch, which got her a gig at Hennepin County family and children's services.

At home, Anderson taught everyone — even her young son — how to knit. She enjoyed solving crossword puzzles and challenging her kids to checkers. When questions arose that she could not explain, Anderson sent her children to the local library for the answer.

"She wanted us to know the richness of books," said her son, a pediatric anesthesiologist who credits her for his success.

When her son headed to Harvard University, she sold the house and followed him to Boston. There she finished her U degree in sociology/child psychology in 1975, before earning a master's in social work from Boston College.

Anderson, by then in her mid-50s and barely 5 feet tall, went on to counsel incarcerated youth and became a New York City probation officer.

Eventually, she returned to her hometown to volunteer at the Phyllis Wheatley Community Center. "She felt like they contributed to her formative years and wanted to give back," said her granddaughter, Virginia Anderson of Seattle.

Every Christmas, she boarded a train to the West Coast to celebrate with her son's family.

Relatives said she was still cracking jokes and bossing them around until a week before she died. In addition to her son and granddaughter, Anderson is survived by daughters Alberteen Anderson of New York, Cydnae Anderson of Minneapolis and two grandsons.

Liz Sawyer • 612-916-1443