Shepherd 4-H students wave to parade watchers from their float during the San Jacinto County Fair & Rodeo Parade on Saturday, Sept. 23. The float won first place in the float contest. The parade was one of the first festivities to kick of the 70th annual SJC Fair & Rodeo. Festivities continue throughout the week. For more parade photos, visit News-Times’ Facebook page @SJNTimes. (Megan Whitworth Photo)
A photo of Maria Johnson who passed away in June after a long battle with colon cancer at 39-years-old. (Contributed)
By Megan Whitworth
“Maria was a free spirited, loving, caring, compassionate lady,” said Suzi Ener, friend of Maria Johnson, who passed away on June 12 from a long battle with colon cancer.
“She was a very loving mother who adored her daughter Chloe, a loving girlfriend who adored her boyfriend, Roger Stephens. Maria just loved everybody.”
Ener is hosting a memorial ride on Saturday, July 29 to remember Johnson. The ride will start at 880 Beverly Dr. in Shepherd with kick stands up around 12:30 p.m. Riders will travel down HWY 150 into Coldspring and down 156 around Lake Livingston to 190 E. The final stop will be the Wet Deck Bar and Grill in Livingston. The Wet Deck Bar is a bar that overlooks the lake. Musician Kenny Cooper is set to play tunes at 2 p.m.
“This is a memorial ride for our friend, for the friends and family that didn’t get to say their final goodbyes to our dear friend Maria. We will come together to laugh, cry and share stories about her. This is all in her honor,” Ener said. “If she knew that all these people were coming together for her, she would be so very excited and have the best time ever. She would be sitting right there with all of us and drinking her Bud Light Lime, just a laughing at what we all say.”
Johnson was first diagnosed with colon cancer in Feb. 2012. During her battle, Johnson found love with Stephens. In Nov. 2014 the duo was introduced during a night out with friends. Johnson and Stephens stayed out talking after everyone left. Two weeks later, when Ener was on her deer lease, friends came over, including Johnson and Stephens.
“Roger really wanted me to talk to Maria and find out more about her and make sure that she was serious about him,” Ener said. “I thought to myself, ‘Oh my God, even though he knows she has cancer and she possibly only has three years left. He wanted to make sure she was real about him and her. I also thought to myself, ‘This is one selfless, caring man right there.’ She told me that day about her growing up in Georgia and having Chloe, to when she was first diagnosed, to where she is in her treatment at that time.
"She told me how she knows she doesn’t have a long time, but she would really love to spend the rest of what life she does have with Roger. She said he gave her butterflies and wished she had met him a very long time ago. …When Roger and Roy got back from hunting, i gave Roger a thumb up and said, Oh yea, she is a keeper.’ And they were together ever since.”
Seeing her friend go through treatments was difficult for Ener, she said.
“She warned me that she has so many different emotions during the treatment/ When they came in and hooked her up, and about 30 minutes into it, the emotions started. She would sweat, cry, toss and turn, laugh a little and cry some more. When she was done she went in to change due to all the sweating,” she said. “I called my husband, Roy, while she was in restroom and i just cried. I hated seeing my friend go through this. I dried it up before she got back because i was not going to let her see me in a weak position. I refused to let her see me cry, because she loved the fact that i was so strong with dealing with things. …If she only knew how many times i cried for her and prayed for her.
“She was a strong fighter. She loved that she fell in love with Roger and she hurt because, ‘Why did it happen so late in life,’ she said,” Ener recalled of her late friend. “But she said she fought harder knowing he was by her and Chloe’s side, and that is where it stood until she left all of us.”
Ener said every memory with her friend is her favorite.
“Every time we were all together was my favorite. We did plan a trip to Luckenbach, Texas last year, and a bunch of us went and took the bikes,” Ener said. “We all wondered if this was going to be her last trip with us, and we wanted to make it unforgettable and it was. Roger wanted her to experience everything she could - riding in hill country, going into old places that had great Texas history to it. She had an amazing time, but it did wear her out. But i won’t ever forget the sights we saw together and the memories we all made."
Shepherd Middle School would like to introduce you to their new principal, Michael Smith. Mr. Smith was named the principal to SMS at last week’s SISD School Board meeting. Mr. Smith replaces longtime Principal, Brenda Cronin, who has taken a position within Shepherd ISD’s administrative offices. Mr. Smith began working at Shepherd Middle School on February 22.
Mr. Smith comes to Shepherd via Beaumont ISD where he served as Vincent Middle School’s Assistant Principal for the previous four years. Before he was worked on the campus administrative team at Vincent, he taught American History, coached junior high sports, and also served as a paraprofessional serving the special education students at Vincent Middle School. Michael also worked as a paraprofessional in Sheldon ISD.
A resident of Sour Lake, Mr. Smith is a 1996 graduate of Hardin Jefferson High School. His Bachelor of Arts Degree and Masters of Education are both from Lamar University in Beaumont. In December, he completed his studies for his Superintendent certification from Stephen F. Austin in Nacogdoches.
Mr. Smith’s wife, Terri, is a Language Arts and Reading teacher at Henderson Middle School in Sour Lake. The Smiths have two sons, Wyatt and Morgan. The family spends their time following the boys around in their sports. The boys are currently playing basketball and baseball.
Recently, Shepherd ISD Career and Technology students visited Zachery Construction Companies employment and training facility in Deere Park. Shepherd CTE Advisory Committee member and Zachery employee, Mr. Chad LaComb organized the tour. The students heard from leaders in several craft and administrative positions in the company. It was a great experience to hear their job descriptions, starting salaries, how to prepare for employment and even how to apply for a job with the company. The opportunities abound for young people with the “want to”.
On March 1 at Shepherd High School the Career and Technology Department and Economic Development Corporation are hosting a Career and Job Fair for students from 1:30-3:30 pm and open to the community from 4:00-6:00 pm. This is a great opportunity to connect with companies that are hiring and hold positive futures for people with the “want to” .
Shepherd ISD is “Inspiring Success Through Passion and Pride”
Julie Meeks was First Place with her “Sailboat” (shown) and Second Place with her “Ceaser II”.
The Coldspring Area Art League held the local spring art show earlier this year in March. Winners of the show were eligible to compete in the Lone Star Art Guild Show and Convention this past June 26 and 27. The event was held at the new Klein ISD Multipurpose facility. Approximately 250 people participated in the show with 750 pieces of art entered to be judge...all qualifying at previous local shows and members of the Lone Star Art Guild.
Coldspring Area Art League (CAAL) was well represented from a group of talented artists, friends and neighbors of our community – they brought home ribbons. Among the winners were, Julie Meeks in First Place for her “Sailboat”. Meeks took Second Place with “Ceaser II”. Sandi Osiecki took Second Place for “Ziggy”. John Davis received Honorable Mention for photography with “Reaching Out”, and Steven Brownfield received Honorable Mention for Jewelry - “Alpine Sunset”. Other CAAL members that participated were Patricia Blaike, Susie Wallace, Linda Deeter and Lou Turpin.
The CAAL meets the first Monday of the month at Paradise Grill, 6:00. All artists and mediums are welcome.
The Friends of Hopewell, Inc. once again this year hosted a the Juneteenth Celebration this past Saturday. The group is organized by friends for the purpose of the Restoration and Preservation of African-American Heritage in San Jacinto County. They are a State of Texas Non-Profit (501c3).
Grand Marshall, 109 year old Emma Goolsby Prima of Point Blank. Riding in the parade but not pictured is 103 year old Cassie (Sonny) Hutchison of Coldspring.2015 brings the celebration to another milestone. The history of Juneteenth is celebrated in Texas each year. On June 19 (Juneteenth) 1865, Union General Gordon Granger read the Emancipation Proclamation in Galveston, thus belatedly bringing about the freeing of 250,000 slaves in Texas. This message came to Texas over five months late, as President Abraham Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation January 1, 1865. The tidings of freedom reached slaves gradually as individual plantation owners read the proclamation to their bondsmen over the months following the Civil War.
The first broader celebrations of Juneteenth were used as political rallies and to teach freed African-Americans about their voting rights. Some of these earlier emancipation festivals were regulated by city authorities to outskirts of some towns. Some Juneteenth Planning Committees collected funds to purchase tracts of land for their celebrations; examples, Emancipation Parks in Houston and Austin. In time, however, Juneteenth was marked as we know it today by festivities throughout the state and neighboring states of Louisiana and Oklahoma and other states, as African-American Texans migrated to those areas.
Production for festivities for this year began with the preparations by the Friends of Hopewell, Inc. many months ago. This years festivities began at 9:00 am on the front courthouse steps which were patriotically decorated for the event.
The Emancipation Program was opened by Mrs. Lillie Lunnon-Bosom, opening the event ceremony to all attendees. Rev. Rayfield Jefferson eloquently delivered a prayer of thankfulness for the many blessing bestowed upon the African-American race as a result of the proclamation, allowing freedom to those that were slaves in 1865. The action that has also assured the generations after that they have not had to endure the status of slavery.
Welcoming all to the event was Mrs. Ester Elmore-Wynn. Commissioner Ray McCoppin, representing San Jacinto County, presented the proclamation that was approved by Judge John Lovett, and the County Commissioners, earlier in June to declare the Juneteenth Celebration with the official proclamation. Young enthusiasts Christy and Carson Combs read the Emancipation Proclamation. The American Legion Post 629 represented by Dale Everitt, presented a Juneteenth flag for the flag ceremony. Everitt indicated that the flag would fly at the courthouse until Sunday afternoon and then placed in the courthouse for future celebrations. The flag ceremony included the singing of the Negro National Anthem “Lift Every Voice and Sing”, led by Minister Carolyn Walker-Jefferson. The event Emancipation Program segment concluded just in time for the continuation of the events – the Juneteenth Parade.
The parade began at Old Jones High School and went to the San Jacinto County Fairgrounds. The parade was the best ever commented shop owner – Cora Standley. The Grand Marshall’s of the parade were, Emma Goolsby Prima, who will be 110 on August 5 of this year. Also serving as another Grand Marshall was Cassie (Sonny) Hutchison, who is age 103. The attendees were in awe to be able to honor these two individuals. Floats, trail riders, cars, trucks, and the like were all in the parade to celebrate Juneteenth.
Festivities for Juneteenth then moved over to the unveiling ceremony for The Hopewell Center of San Jacinto County. The center is still under construction, but was opened and enjoyed on this day of celebration. The program began with Minister Carolyn Walker-Jefferson. The ceremony included singing, and a status report of the center. Dale Everitt and Rebecca Hammond made a historic presentation to the Friends of Hopewell on this celebratory day. A lovely dinner was provided by Friends of Hopewell, Inc. A day of blessings and love was partaken of by the showing of the those attending this memorable occasion for both the Friends of Hopewell and the 150 Years of Freedom.