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FAMILY HERO:
ERNEST JONES, SR.
by Lynai Barnes from New Haven, CT


My definition of a hero is someone who made it through hard times and especially someone who has accomplished something in a time when black people weren’t treated equally. My hero is my grandfather, Ernest Jones, Sr., because he fits my definition of a hero. He is a man of his word and when he says he will do something, he will stick by it no matter how great the cost.

I have four reasons why he fits my definition of a hero: He worked on owning a business that he could call his own. He also had to raise his kids and stick by his wife. He survived multiple health problems and is still alive and well. My grandfather is a person whom I look up to. If I said I want to be like him, there would be no question as to what kind of path I would be on.

Ernest was born and raised in Suffolk, Virginia. He met a young beautiful woman there who taught him that "where there is a will there is a way." Later on they moved to New Haven, CT. Ernest worked as a tailor, but wasn’t getting what he deserved. His wife told him to follow his dreams and to start his own business. He opened his own shop with little money. He worked hard and very soon after he owned a place called Rite-Way Cleaners & Tailors on Dixwell Avenue. He is a great tailor and a great husband to his wife, Mamie. She was also a high-achieving woman. She owned a Beauty Salon in Virginia, and two in Connecticut. I am proud to be her granddaughter.

Ernest was a good husband and father. Brenda, a healthy baby girl, was the first of his three children. Mamie had problems having children and was in the hospital many times. When she became well, she was the greatest mother alive. The next child was a baby boy named Ernest, Jr. Not too long after that, they had another daughther, Wanda; she was like a beautiful Indian doll and loved her big sister. Ernest made sure he had the upper hand with the children and disciplined them well. Ernest remarried and had a daughter, Cheryl, and a son, Marc. By teaching his children and disciplining them when needed, the children stayed on a straight path. He made sure his children made it through high school and moved on to college. I respect him for that.

Later in life, he had health problems such as prostate cancer and then he was in remission. He was an active, healthy man. Years later, he fell off a ladder trying to fix something at the cleaners. We were worried, but he never gave up. He celebrated his 80th birthday and we had a big celebration at my aunt’s house. Around the time he was 81 years old, he went in the hospital twice for breathing problems and complications due to treatment of multiple myeoloma (cancer). We did not know what to expect because he was older. He survived that, but had to close down Rite-Way Cleaners after about 50 years. We are not upset because we have my grandfather and he accomplished his dream and made it last for many decades.

In conclusion, Ernest Jones, Sr. birthed a generation of leaders and there are many more to come. I wouldn’t dream of having another grandfather. I am thankful for him being here long enough for me to have memories that I can write about. I love and respect my grandfather and that is why he is my hero. Thank you for reading my feelings on who, what, and why Ernest Jones, Sr. is my hero.


Written by Lynai Barnes from New Haven, CT
Photos courtesy of Marc S. Jones
Last changed on: 8/12/2005

 

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