Sportsman’s Association honors those who give back

Published 9:54 am Saturday, November 29, 2014

Herman Charity, left, and Littleton Parker, right, present an award to Ida and Charlie Williams of Williams’ Florist in Courtland. -- Cain Madden | the Tidewater News

Herman Charity, left, and Littleton Parker, right, present an award to Ida and Charlie Williams of Williams’ Florist in Courtland. — Cain Madden | the Tidewater News

More than 50 people were present on Friday at the annual Hayden Reunion Breakfast when the Sportsman’s Association honored four from Western Tidewater who have given back to the community in multiple ways. Many present were graduates from Hayden High School — people were there representing as early as 1954 all the way to 1970, the last class of the school.

As part of that event, they honored Edna Cheatom of Ivor; Charlie and Ida Williams, who own Williams’ Florist in Courtland; and Raystine Johnson-Ashburn, mayor of Franklin and manager of William Johnson and Sons Funeral Home in Franklin.

“The honorees today are honorees we are very proud of,” said Larry Rose, treasurer and master of ceremony. “They have made a difference and have been steadfast.”

Rose said one of the functions of the Sportsman’s Association was to recognize those who have made a difference.

“We look over those who have done the work and those doing it, and we let them know that we appreciate them,” he said. “We don’t want to ignore them. We want them to know that someone is thinking of them.”

The first honoree, Cheatom, was a graduate of Hayden High School, class of ‘59, and she volunteers in numerous different aspects in her community of Ivor. She works yearly in assisting residents in voter registration; she’s volunteered with churches and other organizations to feed the needy; she participates in Relay for Life; and many more volunteer-centric activities. She has been involved in the New Branch Baptist Church in every role except preaching, said Moses Wyche of the Sportsman’s Association when he introduced her.

“She is a fine young lady, who has lived in Ivor all of her life,” he said. “Much like myself — I’ve been in Capron all of my life. We did not leave because it is home. Now everyone that did leave is hurrying to get back.”

Cheatom started out with the poem, “The House by the Side of the Road.” Then she spoke about being called and told she had been selected to be honored.

“At first, I was very reluctant to accept,” she said. “I was thinking that I had not done anything, I was just lending a hand to my neighbors. But then I thought if someone thought enough of me to honor me, it would be rude to decline.”

Growing up, she had seen neighbors come together to help each other make it through hard times. If one had a vegetable garden, it would be shared. If one borrowed sugar from another neighbor to bake a cake, the cake would be shared. Informal adoptions took place to help raise the community’s children when the parents could not.

“When I got of age, there was not question that I would help others,” Cheatom said. “It was in my DNA.

“I may never run in the Boston Marathon, but I can walk in the Relay For Life. I will not build a big medical center to help those in need, but I can volunteer in the clinic to help those who are ill. I have no means to feed all who are hungry, but I can volunteer at the Salvation Army or a local church.”

Cheatom said she could make a difference in her community, and she challenged those who could to do the same.

“I can help out in my corner of the world,” she said, and concluded: “Let me live in my house by the side of the road and be a friend to man.”

Littleton Parker III introduced Ida and Charlie Williams. It all began just before Mother’s Day on South Street in Franklin, back in 1985, and in 1994 they moved to their current location at the Courtland Shopping Center.

“Charlie says that they love making people happy,” Parker said. “We are grateful for the decision you made to become a florist. We thank you for making this a better place.”

Williams said it had been in his genes to be self-employed. He had special thanks to his wife, for being the backbone of the business. For his family, for always being there to help with the business when needed.

His customers also deserved credit, including Michael Smith who kept them going in the early years by buying flowers for his church. The area funeral homes have also supported him, and he had a special thanks to the Rawlings family for helping him at the Courtland Shopping Center.

“God has been good to us,” Williams said. “I want to thank all of the families that supported us. I think I’ve said enough. Thank y’all for coming out and supporting this event.”

Johnson-Ashburn was sick, and her husband, Charlie Ashburn Jr., accepted the award in her place. Herman Charity had good things to say about both of them.

“I’ve made quite a few of these presentations over the years, and I’ve got to say, this is going to be the easiest one,” he said. “You all know the mayor. I won’t insult you by reading through all of her accomplishments. But I will say that I’m real proud of her.

“She’s a former student of mine, and it’s so good to see the young people come through.”

Charlie Ashburn was also a former student of Charity’s, and he said Ashburn’s time is coming.

Johnson-Ashburn had wanted to be there, her husband said.

“She stayed up practicing the speech she was going to give last night,” Ashburn said. “She wanted to be here with you, but her illness would not allow it.

“I’m not someone who gives speeches, so I won’t be long. I think she is by the book, she’s fair, and she’s consistent. I think she’s good people, and she has the people’s best interest at heart.”

Johnson-Ashburn was appointed to city council to fill an unexpired term in 1999. In 2000, she ran for the Ward 4 seat and sat there until 2012. In 2006, she was elected vice mayor by fellow council members. And finally, in 2012, she became the first female to serve as mayor and the first African-American to be elected by the people.

A Franklin High School graduate of 1977, she was licensed for funeral service in 1982 and has worked ever since at the funeral home established by her grandfather in 1914.

Just after 11 a.m., John Holloway, the Sportsman’s Association president, closed the meeting, which started at 9 a.m.

“This is one time that I don’t want to leave — it was just so good,” he said. “It is always a good one, but this one was real good. I thank you for coming, and the Lord willing, we will see you here next year.”