ST. PETERSBURG — When Rosa Jackson died, grandson Darryl Jones was the only family member willing to carry on her tradition of feeding the hungry and lonely at Thanksgiving.
He did so even as he battled cancer. When Jones died earlier this year, Rosa Jackson's family decided they would hold just one more gathering at the Campbell Park Recreation Center. It would be in memory of Darryl and his beloved grandmother.
"I promised him I would do it once," Darryl Jones Jr. said of his talk with his father, who died in February, 10 days before his 51st birthday.
That has since changed. Jones, 31, and a cousin, Allen Jackson, 30, say the younger generation must carry on the legacy of caring for others. Jackson has taken the lead. "With my grandmother doing it for so many years and Darryl following, my reason is to keep it going and at the same time bring the family back together, as well," Jackson said.
"Once I'm not able to do it anymore, there has to be someone doing it after."
Jones, who works for the city's wastewater department, is supportive.
"I just feel that God gave my great-grandmother and my father the gift to please people. They enjoyed making people happy," he said.
Rosa Jackson, a retired dietary worker who died in 1996, began the tradition in 1973. Her grandson continued the dinner, postponing chemotherapy to prepare for the feast and canceling it only once because of his illness.
For this year's dinner, the family already has turkeys and hams, but needs donations such as vegetables, mashed potatoes and juice. The stuffing is being made by two of Rosa Jackson's daughters, Eloise Jackson and Mary Rogers. Pies and other desserts have already been donated.
Recently the two men reminisced about shelling peas for the annual gathering at Rosa Jackson's Roser Park neighborhood home when they were children.
"I didn't want to let it go," Jackson said.