2003 Jossey-Josey Reunion Highlights - By Diane Josey


Hurrah for the Red, White, and Blue Reunion of the House of Josey/Jossey family in Valdosta, Georgia, April 25-27, 2003! If you were there, you know what a wonderful, patriotic reunion it was. If you were not there, shame on you! You missed a great one. The theme for this year's reunion was Patriotic Family Ties, a theme our president, Ray Josey, and wife, Janeen, demonstrated beautifully at each event.

Upon arrival each attendee registered and received a goody bag, maps, agenda, and a Scavenger Hunt Guide - the Scavenger Hunt turned out to be a popular activity. Our secretary/treasurer, Jackie Helfrich, had every detail of registration carefully planned and her team of volunteers moved over 100 of us through the process smoothly and quickly, so we could get on to the "visiting" with relatives we had not seen for two years. As always her husband, Chuck, served as trouble-shooter. What would we do without Chuck? He is our most devoted HOJJ volunteer. (If you didn't make it to the Reunion, be sure to contact Jackie regarding your HOJJ dues for 2003-2004.)

Friday night we all gathered at the screened pavilion on the grounds of the Comfort Inn for a traditional southern BBQ dinner. The BBQ ribs and chicken prepared by the folks at Austin's Cattle Company Restaurant were the stars of this fantastic meal. After a warm welcome by Ray to his hometown of Valdosta, our Friday night event saw the start of what will surely be a HOJJ reunion tradition: door prizes! Lots of folks brought handmade pieces and items representing their home area to be used as door prizes, and what a hit this was! (Swapping prizes afterwards was almost as much fan as winning a prize.) Matt Smith of Tifton, Georgia was in charge of door prizes and he did a fantastic job, handing out dozens and dozens of prizes during the weekend. Thanks, Matt. After the dinner, family members got re-acquainted and caught up on the news of the last two years.

Saturday morning, Ray led a group on a driving tour of Valdosta, a beautiful town anytime, but especially in the spring. Other family members gathered in the hospitality suite to chat & enjoy the dozens of wonderful teacakes provided by Faye Josey. When was the last time you had a homemade teacake? These were great. Let's hope they become a reunion tradition too - please, Faye? Bud & Marion Josey set up their computer in the hospitality suite & were busy all weekend updating Josey/Jossey family files, and selling CDs containing the updated HOJJ books. All 8 volumes are now available on CDs to those people who have longed for a copy of their family's book. If you want to buy a CD or if there have been births, deaths, or marriages in your family recently, be sure to let Bud know. It's almost worth a trip to the reunion just to hear Bud laugh, something he does well and often. Thanks, Bud!

After Bud addressed our Saturday afternoon genealogy and history meeting, a real treat this year was meeting family historian, William "Bill" Downing of Washington state. As he explained it, "Your family owned my family." Colonel Downing is a descendant of Joseys who were slaves owned by the J. J. Josey family in Texas. When he addressed our Saturday afternoon meeting, it was immediately clear that he had done a great deal of genealogical research on his family and was a history scholar as well.

If you have attended a HOJJ national reunion before, you know that Saturday night is our big banquet event and this year's banquet was truly outstanding! In keeping with our theme of Patriotic Family Ties, the banquet hall of the Woman's Building was beautifully decorated by Janeen and her team with balloons, flags and table decorations in red, white, and blue, and most attendees were dressed in our patriotic colors as well. The total effect was stunning. The Valdosta High NJROTC provided a color guard, and Valdosta Mayor Jimmy Rainwater welcomed us all to Valdosta. He read a proclamation declaring Saturday, April 26, 2003, House of Jossey/Josey Day in Valdosta! That has to be a first for us, and a much appreciated honor.

Will Josey, of Sterling, Alaska, led our recognition of our HOJJ veterans and members of the military and National Guard. Several veterans from WWII were in attendance, as well as representatives from most American wars since then. (Don't forget to check out the Veterans page on our website.) Foster and Joan Josey of Red Level, Alabama, conducted a Memorial Service for HOJJ members who had died since our last reunion. As many of you will recall, our immediate past president, Martha Josey Larsen, died of cancer last year and was certainly missed at this Reunion. After Bob Josey of Marietta, Georgia, gave the invocation, we enjoyed a delicious buffet - my mother is still trying to track down the chef's recipe for Chicken Valdosta.

We gave lots of prizes and awards at this year's banquet. Jackie presented the Top Recruiter award to Margaret Josey Howard of Union Point, GA.  Julia Josey (Bartow, GA), Jean Josey Bonneau (Galveston, TX), and Neline Josey Farmer (Milledgeville, GA) were the judges for our costume contest and John Ryan Josey (St. Simons Island, GA) helped keep the contest organized. Winners were: Best Era - Melinda Josey Haynes of Lucedale, MS; Most Patriotic - George "Bob" and Karin Josey of Crestview, FL; Best Husband & Wife Costumes - George Michael "Mike" and Priscilla Josey Knight of Gautier, MS; and Best Landmark - Myrtle Josey Fowler of Holt, FL. The judges insist that they were not intimidated by the shotgun carried by Mike Knight, but they may have been influenced by the jar of what he claimed was White Lightning!

Trophies were given in the following categories:

The couple married the longest (57 years) - Bobby and Alice Josey of Marietta, GA;

The most recently married couple - Margaret and Henry Raymond Smith of Balsam Grove, NC (less than 2 years). Raymond was also recognized as a veteran of World War II.  Yep, you read that right! There's something about those Josey men...

Most living children (7) - Windom and Karen Josey of Riddleville, GA;

Longest distance traveled to reach the reunion - Will Josey, who came from the banks of the Kenai River, near Sterling, Alaska.  How many miles is that, Will?

Youngest attendee - Catalina Juarez (10 weeks old), the daughter of Amy Juarez of Valdosta, GA;

Oldest attendee - Elsie Ferguson, Bud's mother (We had 3 family members over 80 in attendance).

Ray presented three awards and I was delighted to be the recipient of his Appreciation Award. He said it was because I had been a mentor, coach, and sounding board to him, but I think it was really because I let him con me into writing these articles! He inaugurated the President's Award, which was presented to our tireless secretary-treasurer, Jackie Helfrich, for all of her hard work on our behalf. In addition to getting out the newsletters, Jackie is the Webmaster for our HOJJ website. If you have not already done so, be sure to check it out. She has done a fantastic job! A very special award was begun this year, the J. Edward "Bud" and Marion Josey Distinguished Service Award. This award will be presented to persons who have served the interests and pursued the goals of the Jossey/Josey family for many years. Ray explained that his inspiration was the saying "You make a living by what you get, but you make a life by what you give". Certainly no two people have done more for the House of Jossey/Josey for many years than Bud and Marion Josey, so it was appropriate that the award was presented in this its inaugural year to Bud and Marion. If you would like to nominate someone to be a future recipient of this award, notify Ray.

Throughout our banquet, Joel Hunt entertained us beautifully on the piano. Thank you Joel - you were great and quite a relief. When Ray said "my son-in-law will play the piano", we were not sure what to expect. No wonder he was so proud of you!

In appreciation of the fine job Ray Josey has done as president, the HOJJ family presented to him a framed, crocheted "JOSEY" made by a woman from the county where he grew up, Washington County, Georgia. We also gave him and Janeen a huge card signed by all attendees.

After all of our awards were presented, Matt gave out more door prizes, and William Josey conducted our live auction of items made and contributed by family members. The auction earned the HOJJ almost $700 and was more fun than I could begin to relate - you just had to be there!

We had lots of first timers at this reunion, and at least 4 people who had attended every HOJJ Reunion we have had since 1989. Lots of people had attended 4 or more Reunions - does that tell you something? Why don't YOU plan NOW to be at the next Reunion. Don't let the rest of us have all the fun. See you in Biloxi in 2005!