Stith brothers reunite
Published 12:04 pm Saturday, August 8, 2015
A band of brothers once inspired a party that hasn’t quit.
Last weekend, four of the five sons of the late Rosa and Henry Stith were surrounded by a multitude of family and friends for the annual gathering. Charles, James, Robert and Henry Stith are the centerpiece of this wingding, which took place at the home of Lavern Stith in Zuni. She’s the widow of Harold, who was the oldest brother.
Their daughter, Velma S. Briggs of Richmond, said that she and her late husband, Joseph, hosted the first Brothers’ Party at their home in Windsor during the summer of 1977. Velma said that she came up with the idea for her uncles to enjoy a gathering, complete with music, dancing and beverages. She spoke to her Uncle James about the idea to add the party for them to the family reunion and, “the rest is history.”
“We are a family grounded in love for one another,” Velma said. “We take great pride in the fact that our hearts continue to hold dear for one another. This celebration, though unplanned, is now the Stith Family’s annual reunion for both young and old. We are family!”
The brothers grew up in Manry. Henry Stith, the youngest at 74, described the place as “a nice, little community,” which was located between Courtland and Wakefield. But, he added that it’s no longer considered a community because people have moved away.
Completely retired after 35 years as the facilities manager for The New York Times, Henry has an apartment in New Jersey. But he also keeps a home on Wakefield Road in Sedley.
‘I come down from time to time,” Henry said.
Velma observed that the brothers have a strong bond, whether it’s fishing, talking about national or world event, watching TV or sitting around enjoying what she called “proof thirst quenchers.”
“What makes these guys special is the fact that they are not only brothers, they are truly best friends,” She added. “Every gathering for the brothers is a true celebration of family, and must include the endless number of nieces, nephews and lifetime family friends from their hometown.”
Henry remembered when Harold had a stroke in his mid-40s. But although a bit incapacitated, “he was still very much involved in planning family activities.”
When Harold was on his deathbed in 1995, he reportedly asked his wife to continue the party. Later it was decided to have the event the first Saturday of each month at her home.
Velma had this to say about the recent occasion:
“The Brothers’ Party gives true meaning to the words family, love and friendship.
“Each year, preparation begins the week prior to the first Saturday in August with family pruning the lawn, shopping for food, steaming crabs, preparing food and setting up tents, grills, lights, tables and chairs.
“The Thursday night prior, mostly family and several friends, caravan to Norfolk to fish from the pier while once again enjoying each other’s company.
“The Friday night prior, many of the family members arrive early to enjoy a more quaint moment with one another while frying and eating the freshly caught fish, listening to music and preparing for the big day.
“Finally, on the big day, Saturday, come rain or shine, family and friends from across the country (California, Chicago, New Jersey, New York and more) gather to enjoy the day. The following Sunday, family and close friends return for a final quaint moment to feast together once more, share more conversation and then begin the cleanup.
“The weekend normally closes with an exchange of hugs and kisses to say farewell until the next family gathering. The number of guest has been noted as high as 250, however; we have never known the true number of guest in attendance.”
The reunion from last weekend really stood out for Henry.
“It was one of the best because everything fell in place,” he said, figuring that about 350 people attended this time. “The weather was perfect. The crowd was very large — we seem to gather more and more friends, and it gets bigger every year.
“Everyone is welcome.”
Velma Briggs contributed to this story.