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Her Life Reflections
Mrs. Mary Ethel Louise Thomas (Bernice) was born on June 3, 1928, in Poplarville, Mississippi to Rev. Willie Sparrow and Lula Sparrow. She graduated from Old Stanton High School in 1946. Mary won the PPP Institute IOTA Scholarship, which was given by the Chi Chapter of Iota Phi Lambda Sorority. The Sorority was established on June 1, 1929, in Chicago, Illinois by Lola M. Parker to increase interest in business education among high school and college women. Mary attended Walker Business College of Jacksonville Florida with her scholarship while working as an Executive Secretary. Mary also attended The Community College of Jacksonville, where she received a AA Degree in Early and Secondary Education. She married John C Thomas Jr. on June 20, 1951, the only love of her life, where 6 children were added to their union. She loved being a wife and taking care of her husband and children.
She was an Educator employed for 35 years, by Duval County School System as a Teacher’s Aide/Paraprofessional Teacher. The last school she worked at was R. L. Brown Elementary. She loved teaching, nurturing, and working with children. Mary was featured in the Jacksonville Journal, on June 13, 1974; the article about was “Degrees In Determination” Awarded To Mary Thomas Mother To 12.
She was a faithful active member for decades at Mt. Lebanon Missionary Baptist Church, where the late Rev Lewis Namon Yarber was the pastor and founder. She then served under the present pastor Rev Freddie Sumpter until her health fell. She served on the board of directors and supported many other ministries in the church. She always had a welcoming smile and a giving heart to family, friends and strangers. She was a praying woman, that believed and trusted in God and taught her children to serve the Lord. She was affectionately called “Aunt Bernice” by many. Mary was a proverb 31 woman, a Woman to be called blessed.
Mary’s true calling was to be a mother to many. At the age of 33, she took in her sister Minnie Lee 6 kids, ages 2-11, when her sister became ill. She now, along with her husband had 12 kids to feed, clothe and raise. Mary who was a stay home mom, got a job as a maid to help her husband provide for their large family. Mary was also known as the neighborhood mother; because she opens her door to kids, she nurtured them, loved them, fed them and even washed their clothes. Mary also had many family members and others to live in her home.
Mary passed away peacefully at home with family members around her bed, after a short stay in the hospital, on Wednesday, February 15, 2023. Mary was proceeded in death by her husband of 70 years, John C Thomas Jr. Father and mother, Rev Willie Dunston and Mrs. Lula Dunston. Mary was the youngest and the last living of 10 children, she had 5 sisters and 4 Brothers. Her granddaughter, Alisha Nichol Morris and Great-granddaughter, Arneisha Annette Morris. Raised cousins: Julia Marie LaSeer and Zerelda Thompson.
She leaves to cherish her memories, Children: Lula Jones, Mary Mainor, Bernadette Williams (Lewis), John C. III (Cheryle), Ronald Sr. (Phyllis), Mandy Annett Lee Kierce, Bonus Daughter: Dessie Young Raised Cousins: Samuel Tillman Jr., Mosezella Ousley, Minnie Graham, Elizabeth Hall. Brother and Sister (twins): Earnest Thomas (Carolyn) and Earnestine Hawkins, Nieces: Nancy Yarber and Gloria Lovett. Grandchildren:19, Great Grandchildren: 50, and Great Great Grandchildren: 16. A host of nieces, nephews, cousins, family and friends.