Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Legacy of Love

 To be phenomenal means to be outstanding, extraordinary, and exceptional. Well, that was my great Aunt, Marilyn Cheatham Darby. Have you ever met someone that you never knew, but felt like you knew them for years? That was Aunt Marilyn. She never met a stranger. She had a big heart full of love for people and her family. At family gatherings, she would always tell us mesmerizing stories about long gone family members.  She was an extraordinary storyteller and my inspiration for finding my ancestors through genealogical research.
 As I would sit,enthralled, listening to her stories, I would pick up names of relatives and places where they resided. Every time I found a fact about one of our ancestors, I would call her in California. She would be so excited and say, "Yes Yes, you found them."  I have found that I miss having those conversations with her. One of her last wishes was that my aunts and I would plan a Cheatham Family Reunion. She absolutely loved family gatherings!
Whenever she came home to St. Louis, we knew we would laugh, dance, fry fish, and visit old neighborhoods and cemeteries. She just loved to reminisce.
Although she is gone from us, her legacy of love for others and family still lives on. Her granddaughter, Noel, has started a non-profit organization, the SSS Project . SSS stands for selfless, sincere, and serve. The purpose of the project is to help those in need in her community, through Blessing Boxes and meals. Aunty would be right out there laboring with her. The legacy of family is now extended to the family of man.

Not a day goes by that I don’t think about what Aunty would say or do in a situation. Sometimes I can hear her still, small voice whispering in my ear, cuss words and all! I love you, aunty, for who you were in my life and the legacy you left. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

They Called Him "Sarge"

 “Sarge”! Hard as a rock, ram- rod straight, no non-sense, commanding attention, and well respected. Well that was my paternal grandfather, Charles Johnson Sr., Sarge. When he was growing up he had to help his mother with his younger siblings, Lloyd, Abraham,  Eddie, and Sallie, because his father had walked away from the family. He rose to the task, leaving high school in his junior year. He took on many odd jobs to help his mother financially. Eventually, Charles enlisted in the army, serving in World War II. 
When Pearl Harbor was bombed in 1941, he was stationed at Camp Walters, Texas and then sent to Arizona. He earned many awards for his marksmanship. He also had special training overseas and was on the oil ship “ Victory” in Spain. In Spain, the Germans attacked his and other oil ships. He witnessed his fellow African American soldiers jumping to their deaths into a sea of fire. This must have been a traumatic experience to witness. This might account for his seriousness. Later on in World War II, my grandfather landed in Italy and took a Cattle ship to Sicily. He said that he could barely tolerate the odor! He fought from Sicily to Rome. The orders were to go north and not to fire their weapons. Grandpa also told me that the Germans used sledge hammers to destroy the commodes that the Black soldiers would use. This is another example of the detestable treatment African Americans endured even while fighting for freedom. Racial discrimination abroad and at home, hope in hopeless situations. My grandpa fought throughout France, Italy, and Spain. He also was a member of the 5th Armored Division that fought in the North African Campaign. His bravery and valor earned “Sarge” the prestigious Purple Heart. After serving four years in the war, he returned to civilian life working three jobs. He worked for thirty one years and eight months in the United States Postal System, retiring in 1970. For his faithful and dedicated service at the post office, he earned numerous awards and citations. His fellow workers also called him “Sarge” because he was a serious and dedicated worker. It is said that his handshake was so strong and firm that he could bring a man to his knees! He also worked for seventeen years as a part time employee at the Thompson-Hayward Chemical Plant and at Stix Baer and Fuller in housekeeping.
From a young age and throughout life’s difficulties, situations, and challenges, “Sarge” developed a strong work ethic and sense of duty that he passed on to his three sons and four nephews that he helped to raise.

Why did they call him “Sarge”? It was a title of respect and honor for all that he did and for the man that he was.