Miss Jessie was the paternal grandmother of Miko and Titi Branch, founders of Miss Jessie's Natural Hair Products and Salon. A proud southern matriarch, Miss Jessie was the most "tell- it- like- it- is" woman her family ever knew. She was also the "cookinist" woman in Poughkeepsie, chuckled her granddaughter Titi.
Never one to hold her tongue, Miss Jessie reserved her most colorful commentary for two subjects: good food and good grooming. It wasn't uncommon that her food and natural hair preparations contained some of the same ingredients. If Miss Jessie couldn't find what she wanted in a local shop, she'd figure out a way to make it herself (right at her kitchen table).
Jessie Mae Pittman was born in Edgecombe County, North Carolina to sharecroppers Ross and Gertrude Pittman on July 22, 1919. She had five sisters and one brother and received her education from the local public schools. As a young girl, Jessie Mae would pretend to be ill to keep from working on the hot fields picking cotton in North Carolina. Her father allowed her to work in the house to cook for the family. Jessie became an excellent cook and her family wouldn’t dream of taking her out of the kitchen.
At the age of 17, Jessie Mae married Charlie Ann Branch in 1936. He was from Castalia, North Carolina and she had two children with him, Hilda and Jimmy Branch
In 1946, Jessie Mae and her family migrated to Poughkeepsie, NY. Charlie Branch soon died thereafter and she became a widow. Jessie later met George Dancey and had two sons, Irvin and Ricardo Dancey. Her relationship eventually dissolved with George Dancey and Jessie became a single parent of four children.
As the head of the household, Miss Jessie was very protective of her children. She kept them squeaky clean and well fed but was known to tear hind parts up if she had to. Not rich in money but rich in character, good manners was important to Miss Jessie. She taught her children how to stand up for themselves and was known not to take no stuff.
Jessie Branch taught from her kitchen table as she fed delicious food that nourished the mind, body and soul. Collard Greens, Chopped Barbeque, Sweet Potato Pie and Peach Cobbler were some of her specialties. The kitchen was her favorite room in the house. Miss Jessie never worked from recipe books and had excellent dexterity. She was a common sense type of person. Her granddaughters Miko and Titi would come to stay the summers with Miss Jessie and sat around her kitchen table while gathering plenty of wisdom. Able to identify a problem and create a solution, Miss Jessie used to whip up an egg and mayonnaise treatment when her granddaughters complained about their curly natural hair. Many of her preparations included remedies for hair and beauty which she shared with her whole family.
Jessie Branch was an outstanding woman that made others believe they were worthy. She encouraged her loved ones to do their best and follow their dreams. In 2004 Titi and Miko Branch would create and name their salon and natural hair product line after their beloved grandmother Miss Jessie.
Jessie Mae Branch passed away December 21, 2001. She would have been so proud to know that her strength and tenacity inspired her girls to carve out a niche to help woman with many of their natural hair and life challenges. Miss Jessie is deeply missed by her loved ones and will forever live on in spirit.