Ellis Alexander Jackson, born in 1918 in Yancey Mills, now 94, looking in sleek health, was the star of the Jackson/Thomas Family reunion July 27-29. The three-day congregation of the families, descendants of Rice and Sadie Thomas Jackson of Yancey Mills, brought 150 relatives and loved ones to Piedmont Baptist Church for a Sunday service in the church Jackson was raised in. His grandfather laid the cornerstone for it.
Jackson retired after 36 years as a butcher. He’s also a vet. He retired as a sergeant in the U.S. Army. He has lived most of his life in in Prospect, Kentucky, now with his son Mark. It was his request that the reunion be held in Virginia so he could see home.
“Joy! Joy! Joy!” he cheered. “Family joy is so important. And I don’t mean just personal family. Everybody is family. And love.”
He had said a prayer over the assembly earlier in church. It was a favorite, from memory.
“You have to pass on the love and kindness you were given over the years,” said Joyce Jackson Colemon, Ellis’ niece. “Uncle Ellis and his brothers Jesse and Alonzo kept the family going. The family values are here, so we maintain that and teach our children what we learned from our parents.”
Events started Friday when everyone rendezvoused in Staunton to look at the West African farm village area of the Frontier Culture Museum. Nearly all day Saturday was spent in a family picnic at Ridgeview Park in Waynesboro. Family members put on a fashion show and a talent show. That night a family banquet was held at the Waynesboro Best Western and former Waynesboro mayor Frank Lucente presented a proclamation from the city celebrating the reunion. A letter of congratulations from Congressman Bob Goodlatte was read out.
Then young people in the family were given awards recognizing their academic and sports achievements.
After the service Sunday, in which Bishop Wayne Jackson spoke on the topic God’s Favor Is Fair, came a photo session and a luncheon. People had come from Texas, California, Atlanta, New Jersey, Ohio, Baltimore and Kentucky.
“We’ve had a grand time over all,” said Colemon. “Everybody has enjoyed it and we’ve been blessed. Our children understand how they belong. We have a family directory and we keep up. We have a next generation council which we are training to carry on the values.”