Thursday, March 6, 2014

Thinking of Grandma Jessie Mae Heath-Eubanks: Her Life, Her Story, Her Legacy

As time passes by, I am always pondering the memories of time spent with my Grandmother, her parents, and all my aunts and uncles. As a little boy growing up in Cincinnati, I was lucky because I spent every weekend at my Grandmother's house. And every weekend, my Grandmother made me feel extra special just by sharing any and everything with me. And to think, we did so much just on Saturday and Sunday. My Grandmother was a special lady with class and style like no other. To many, she was the neighborhood popcorn lady or simply the best chocolate cake baker, and she could even make the best potato salad in the midwest. She was awesome and even on what we thought were her bad days, my Grandmother always smiled with grace, dignity, and love! Her smile was infectious and her laughter was memorable. Her name is Jessie Mae Heath-Eubanks.

Affectionately known as Momma, Grandmomma, or Aunt Jessie Mae to family, Sister Eubanks to her church family, or simply Jessie, she was known by everyone! In 1929, the lives of Mitchell Heath and Anna Lue Barrow changed forever as their one and only child, Jessie Mae, was born. Jessie Mae Heath was born on February 19, 1929 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Grandmomma was raised and reared in the old West End section of Cincinnati along with several of her Alabama and Georgia relatives.

Grandmomma, like her mother Anna, often spoke of her family members especially her maternal grandmother, Annie Elizabeth Hunter Nelloms-Barrow, she affectionately called Grand Annie. Grandmomma spent her younger years under the wings of her maternal grandparents and many of her extended family members. Her extended family included the Barrow, Hunter, Nelloms, Heath, Carter, Stonestreet, Griffin, and Montgomery families to name a few. Yes, between Grandmomma's parents, she was from a big family and she knew them all.

As a young girl, Grandmomma attendend Cincinnati Public Schools and graduated from the old Woodward High School which was located in downtown Cincinnati at that time. She had also attended church with her family and became a member of the Beulah Missionary Baptist Church at the age of 14. During her younger years, Grandmomma worshiped under the leadership of Rev. Johnson, Rev. David S. Glenn, Rev. James E. Martin, and Rev. Dr. John B. Ivey. She loved her Pastors and faithfully served God until her health began to fail. Grandmomma had held many positions in the church, but one close to her heart was serving through song as a choir member. Grandmomma was actually one of the original Junior Choir members when she joined as a teenager. She remained with the same choir through the years as the choir changed names and evolved as well bringing many new members and families to the church. Church was everything to Grandmomma, and there wasn't any doubt where you could find her on Sunday mornings.


Grandmomma would talk for days about family, and for that I am grateful! On one of  my many days of interviews and discussions about our family history, Grandmomma shared with me about her trips down south with her aunt on her father's side, Aunt Ornnie Smith-Heath. Her trips south were one of many fond memories of family, but it truly is a fond memory of mine recalling how Grandmomma would tell the story. She enjoyed going down to Georgia visiting relatives and spending quality time with them, and this is what I believe began her knowledge of our family history. She talked about going to see her Nelloms family and a few Barrow cousins too, but her favorite part of the trips south were visiting with Uncle Clem, Uncle Tom, and Cousins Effie and Tess, the Atlanta Nelloms family members. The trips were something she looked forward to every summer as little girl, and she could recall names just as quick as you asked her who someone was or how they were related. On one particular trip down south, while going out on the town visiting and shopping, Aunt Ornnie and Grandmomma got on the bus. Aunt Ornnie paid for the both of them, and Grandmomma sat down in a seat in the front!! During the 1930s, this was not the thing to do for blacks, but my Grandmother did not know as she was born up north. The bus driver talked very sternly to Aunt Ornnie and told her to get "that gal" to the back or there would be trouble. Grandmomma said she moved quickly while Aunt Ornnie talked softly letting her know what she had done wrong. It was this trip that changed my Grandmother's view of the south, and according to her it was her last trip down south to visit family.


Another fond memory I recall was hearing my Grandmother talk of her aunt on her mother's side, Aunt Jennie (Granny's oldest sister). Aunt Jennie was the oldest daughter of Papa Ervin and Grand Annie, and she was beautiful! Grandmomma always said Aunt Jennie was her favorite aunt and just watching my Grandmother talk of her was a joy in itself because you felt the love Aunt Jennie had for Grandmomma and the love Grandmomma had for Aunt Jennie. Now Aunt Jennie passed away before my mother was born which was in the early 1950s. Aunt Jennie was married to Uncle John Henry Harper, and they had two daughters, Janice & JoAnn (affectionately known as Peaches and Puddin respectively). Stay tuned for a post on Aunt Jennie and Uncle John Henry. Grandmomma always said Aunt Jennie was sweet as sugar with a heart pure as gold. As I am typing, I am tearing up as I am reminded of my Grandmother's love and all the memories are racing through my mind.


Now, I could go on and on about Grandma Jessie Mae but I must save some information for more posts. As a family, we honored her on her 85th birthday by remembering her love of family, church family, and community. She indeed was a classy woman with style, grace, and poise. Thank you Grandmomma for loving life to the fullest and for sharing a rich heritage with us all.

15 comments:

  1. Dante...what a wonderful and sensitive post! I use to stay with my FAVORITE grandmother for the Summer, I always looked forward to this time even though I saw her often.

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    1. Thank you Delores for stopping by and reading about my Grandmother. She indeed is a precious jewel in our family. I owe my love of Ancestry to her and her mother, my Granny.

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  2. I hope my grandchildren will remember me as fondly as you remember yours. It must have been such a pleasure to her that you listened and remembered her stories.

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    1. Thank you Kristin! As I look back, I was lucky because many did not know their grandparents let alone their great-grandparents. I saw them every weekend, so it was the norm for me. I am grateful for her loving spirit and grateful Grandmomma and Granny shared their knowledge with me of our southern roots.

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  3. Reading your post reminded me of how much I wish I could have had a wonderful relationship with my elders. Thanks for sharing your grandmomma with us. I too "hope my grandchildren remember me as fondly as you remember yours".

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    1. Thank you Ms. Mary! I am honored as well as humbled by your wisdom & encouraging support!

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  4. I was raised in the same household as my grandparents, and I only wish that they would have shared as much with me. I feel that part of that may have been my own fault, being young and hearing the same stories and tall tales over and over again I may have tuned out. Your post reminds me of those times when I did stop to listen and I cherish those memories even more today. Thanks for sharing with us as always, Dante!

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    1. Thanks for sharing your memory as well! It's amazing the things we missed, but on the other wonderful memories we have cherished & hope will be cherished for generations to come!

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  5. Dante,

    I want to let you know that your blog is listed in today’s Fab Finds post at http://janasgenealogyandfamilyhistory.blogspot.com/2014/03/follow-friday-fab-finds-for-march-7-2014.html

    Have a great weekend!

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    1. Thank you so much Jana! I know my Ancestors are rejoicing!

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  6. Beautiful tribute to your grandmother Dante! I remember spending every weekend at my grandma's house growing up. Those are precious memories. Grandmother's are truly a blessing. :)

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    1. Thank you Denise! Yes, Grandmothers are truly a blessing!

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  7. Thanks Keshuna! Looking forward to reading your blog posts soon!

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  8. Oh my goodness, she is the face of maternal love! Great blog!

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