Poncella Risiner turned 90 years old today.
Born in Atlanta Georgia on March 12, 1927, Risiner’s family moved to Chicago in 1930. She went to the same school Ella Fitzgerald went to. And that was home until 1969 when she and her husband moved to Racine. Five weeks after the move, Poncella landed a job at Jacobsen Manufacturing and was the first black woman to work in the machine shop. The work was hard. But Poncella was stubborn.
She talks about how segregated Racine was when she first moved to town, but that didn’t matter to her. She knew where to go and where not to go, she said.
Over the years she saw a lot of things that “just weren’t right” on the job and helped start the union. Still, she worked hard and that led to a long career. She bought a home on Taylor Avenue and still lives there today. She retired after 25 years of service to the company in 1994. But the company moved out of Racine in 2000.
She’s proud of her life. Even though she has no children. Poncella was well-known in the community for helping others by taking in their children.
“They are my babies,” she said. “I took them in and cherished them. And I helped break the cycle (of poverty) with them.”
People of Racine County Eye features short stories of people in Racine County.