Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Ailing grandson brings back Rosa Jackson's free Thanksgiving Day dinner at Campbell Park

ST. PETERSBURG — Rosa Jackson's free Thanksgiving feast is back after a year's absence.

Darryl Jones, grandson of the retired dietary worker who started the annual tradition in 1973, says he is well enough to continue his grandmother's legacy. Last year's gathering at the Campbell Park Recreation Center was canceled because of his battle with colon cancer.

"I know that I'm sick on the inside, but as far as my ability, I feel good that I can do it,'' said the former cook, now battling cancer of the lung and liver.

Jones, 49, who lives in Apopka and will travel to St. Petersburg this week to begin preparing the holiday meal, plans his usual marathon of frying, smoking and grilling turkeys in his mother's back yard. He'll also prepare hams, whip up ready-made mashed potatoes and open cans of corn and string beans.

"I'll stretch it out so I don't get too tired,'' he said. "My mom, she will be monitoring me."

When she started her dinners in the early 1970s, Rosa Jackson told family members that she was doing what God had told her to do. The retiree had been inviting friends and family to her home and then extended her invitation to those who were lonely and needy.

When her modest Eighth Avenue S home became too small for her growing list of guests, she moved the feast to Campbell Park Recreation Center. At its height, the dinner drew as many as 300 people, along with volunteers and donations of food and money.

Jones vowed to carry on his grandmother's commitment after her death in 1996. Each year since, a candle burns in her memory during the Thanksgiving gathering. Canceling last year's feast was difficult.

"I felt up to it last year, but my mother felt I shouldn't try to do it," Jones said.

He thinks he's better prepared this holiday.

"I'm going to skip the chemotherapy going into Thanksgiving week. I'll be in St. Pete the whole week,'' he said, his voice hoarse and a little faint over the telephone.

His mother, Eloise Jones, 73, will hover.

"He has discussed it with his doctor and the doctor says it's okay as long as he felt he could do it,'' she said. "Last year he was much worse.'

"I don't want him to overdo it. I really would like him to just fight his battle."

The cancellation last Thanksgiving shocked and disappointed many people, but the Wildwood Heights Neighborhood Association organized a replacement holiday meal at another location, Eloise Jones said.

"Darryl and I and his wife, we attended,'' she said.

Her son is looking forward to returning to Campbell Park.

"It's just the promise that I made to my grandma,'' he said, his voice breaking.

"I know that people at this time of year just need somebody to give a handout to them. I just feel I can do it.

"Mentally, I know my position with the cancer, but I am not going to let it get me down. I'm asking God to give me the strength to do it, not just this year, but the years to come."

Waveney Ann Moore can be reached at wmoore@sptimes.com or (727) 892-2283.

. To Help

Rosa Jackson Thanksgiving Day Dinner

Turkeys, hams and trimmings are needed. The event is scheduled from 1 to 3 p.m. Nov. 24 at the Campbell Park Recreation Center, 601 14th St. S, St. Petersburg. Call (727) 327-7496.

Ailing grandson brings back Rosa Jackson's free Thanksgiving Day dinner at Campbell Park 11/12/11 [Last modified: Saturday, November 12, 2011 3:31am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. North Korean missile launch may be testing rivals, not technology

    World

    SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea's latest missile test Monday may have less to do with perfecting its weapons technology than with showing U.S. and South Korean forces in the region that it can strike them at will.

    A woman watches a TV screen showing a file footage of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, at Seoul Train Station in Seoul, South Korea, Monday,. North Korea fired a short-range ballistic missile that landed in Japan's maritime economic zone Monday, officials said, the latest in a string of test launches as the North seeks to build nuclear-tipped ICBMs that can reach the U.S. mainland. [AP Photo/Lee Jin-man]
  2. PolitiFact: Fact-checking Samantha Bee on Florida felonies

    State Roundup

    Comedian Samantha Bee traveled to Florida, where she says "retirees and democracy go to die," to shed light on how the state makes it difficult for felons to regain the right to vote.

    Samantha Bee hosts Full Frontal with Samantha Bee on TBS. Bee portrayed some of Florida’s felonies as not so serious on her show.
  3. For some, Memorial Day comes around more than just once a year

    Military

    ST. PETERSBURG — It is shortly before nine on a Friday morning, and the heat is already approaching unbearable levels at Bay Pines National Cemetery.

    Iles carefully digs up the St. Augustine grass so that it will continue to grow when it is placed back on the gravesite. He tries not to disturb the root base.
  4. State budget uncertainty has school districts 'very concerned'

    K12

    While waiting for Gov. Rick Scott to approve or veto the Legislature's education budget, the people in charge of school district checkbooks are trying hard to find a bottom line.

    It has not been easy.

    The unsettled nature of Florida’s education budget has left school districts with questions about how they will make ends meet next year. [iStockphoto.com]
  5. Ernest Hooper: Removing Confederate symbols doesn't eliminate persistent mindset

    Human Interest

    The debate has begun about removing a Confederate statue from outside the Hillsborough County Courthouse, and its removal is long overdue.

    Robert E. Lee Elementary, 305 E. Columbus Drive in Tampa, originally opened its doors in the early 1910s as the Michigan Avenue Grammar School. [Times file]