Stokes descendants honor Rabren family at reunion

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 4, 2014

The descendants of Burrell Jackson and Cornelia Georgia (Hare) Stokes gathered for their annual reunion on June 28 in Andalusia, Ala., at Cedar Grove Church of Christ, located on Brooklyn Road. Approximately 70 relatives were on hand to enjoy the traditional activities of fellowship, meeting new relatives, remembering deceased ones, reviewing family history and the delicious dinner.

After a morning of visiting, etc., Curtis Thomasson, a great-grandson of B.J. Stokes, welcomed everyone at noon. Appropriate announcements were made, and then Robert Lee Holley, a great-grandson as well, voiced the invocation. The Stokes family is well known for producing an exceptionally tasty meal, and everyone enjoyed the abundant spread featuring many favorite dishes.

At approximately one p.m., the audience assembled for a short program featuring the family’s history. First, acknowledgements were made of the following persons. Clara (Stokes) Bass at 96 years of age was honored for being the oldest person present. Her ready smile and pleasantness brightens any occasion, and her family is to be commended for the loving care they give her. Chappell Thomasson Clanton, 3-and-a-half-year-old son of Andy and Christy (Thomasson) Clanton, was recognized as the youngest relative present. It was determined that Clyde Stokes of Jacksonville, Fla., had traveled the farthest distance.

All the descendants present were introduced or recognized according to their ancestor who was one of the children of Burrell Jackson and Cornelia Stokes. Those descended from Justice Lamar and Flossie (Huggins) Stokes had the most in attendance. The next largest number was descended from Leland Congdon “Lee” and Bama (Fuqua) Stokes. There was a significant number descended from Matthew VanBuren Sr. and Agnes (Eiland) Stokes. There were some present who descend from Wright Absalom “Ab” and Minnie (Rabren) Stokes and some representing Mary Delilah “Lila” (Stokes) and James Henry Lafayette “Fate” Rabren.

In earlier years, the reunion featured each of the children of Burrell Jackson and Cornelia, and currently the programs are focusing on the grandchildren, with most of those being deceased. At present, there are eight known grandchildren living, and the two present at the reunion were Clara (Stokes) Bass and Sybil (Stokes) Nall.

The grandchildren who were featured at the 2014 reunion were the children of Lila and Fate Rabren. They resided in the Adellum community along Brooklyn Road and reared six children. Their house sat next to Lila’s father, Burrell Jackson Stokes’s, as the first two houses on the north side of Stokes Road, which was named Rabren Road in later years. A small stretch of the old road, which is unpaved, is now named Bill Rabren Road. Fate worked for the county on the roads department, and Lila was a homemaker and an accomplished seamstress. She and her daughter, Thelma, made dresses for the Tisdale Brothers’ Store, located on South Court Square.

The children included the following: Thelma Lee, b. 1906, d. 1971, m. Warren Claybon Girdner Sr.; Edna, b. 1909, d. 1968, m. Ollie Fletcher (1907-1969); Burrell Joseph “Bill,” b. 1912, d. 2005, m. Lula Irene “Bobbie” Moore; Esther, b. 1915, d. 1941, single; Thomas Edward, b. 1921, d. 1981, m. Ella Mae “Squeak” Wade; and James Heflin, b. 1924, d. 1993, m. Jean King, twin sister to Jane (King) Fuqua.

The oldest child, Thelma, was 16 years of age when she married W.C. Girdner Sr. His parents resided on Rabren Road near her parents. They began marriage by living in her parents’ home for a time. They later lived in various houses in Andalusia. W.C. operated an automotive repair shop, and Thelma was a homemaker and seamstress. She later sought employment at the Andala and Alatex textile industries. Thelma has been described by relatives as being a fun-loving person who enjoyed laughter. She was a gracious and generous person who loved people.

W.C. Sr. and Thelma reared four children: Warren Claybon Girdner Jr., b. 1923, d. 2001, m. Johnnie Pearl Burks; Lois Elizabeth, b. 1925, d. 2005, single; Helen Valeria, b. 1928, m. Newton Madison Carroll; and James Jackson, b. 1930, m. Virginia Christina “Jean” Kirkland. Each of the four children had two children.

The next child, Edna Rabren, was married to Ollie Fletcher, but they did not have any children. Ollie’s career was in the U.S. Army, so they lived all over before retiring and returning to their roots in Andalusia.

The oldest son, Burl (Burrell) Joseph “Bill” Rabren, married Lula “Bobbie” Moore in 1936. Bill worked at Andalusia Manufacturing Company for 30 plus years before his health forced him to retire. In addition, he was an avid gardener, raised and sold catfish, and enjoyed hunting and fishing. Bobbie was a homemaker and worked for many years at Alatex. They built a house next door to his parents on what is now Bill Rabren Road. They reared one daughter, Linda Joyce, who married first Sam Mock with whom she had one son, Tracy Alan Mock. Linda is currently married to Kenny Dubose.

The next child, Esther Rabren, remained single. She mostly sought work in cafes or restaurants.

She was working and residing in Troy when she died at the young age of 26 years.

The next son, Thomas Edward Rabren, enlisted in the U.S. Marines even when he was under age. The family recalls how he and his mother walked to town, so she could sign for him to join. He had his clothing in an old suitcase when he boarded a bus for California. By the time WW II began, he was a sergeant in the Third Marine Division. He served as a mobile gun commander (a half track with a 105 Howitzer mounted on it and a crew of four) in an infantry combat battalion. He was at Guadalcanal, Tarawa, and Saipan and was in the thick of it at each one.

Upon leaving the marines, Tom was married to Ella Mae “Squeak” Wade of Andalusia. He operated an auto body repair shop next to their home on Rabren Road, and Squeak operated a beauty salon in one section of the house. He was an avid gardener and enjoyed sharing vegetables with his friends and neighbors. Squeak enjoyed working in her yard and growing specimen flowers.

Tom and Squeak reared three children: James Edward “Eddie,” m. Drucilla Bozeman; Sandra Delilah, m. (1) Denson Bolan (2) Art Smith; and Freida Juliet, m. (1) James Robert Morgan Jr. (2) John T. Bass Jr. Eddie had two sons: Richard Drury, m. Pamela Bozeman; and Douglas Edward, m. Kimberly Grimes. Sandra and Denson had one son, Thomas Lee Bolan, d. 2013. Freida and James Robert had two sons: John David Morgan, d. 1988; and Thomas Shaun Joseph, m. Caitlin Rider, d. 2014.

The youngest son, James Heflin Rabren, joined the U.S. Army in 1943 and was assigned into the 99th Infantry Division. He served in the Philippines in 1945. In 1947, he was married to Jean King. He and three other friends, one being his first cousin, L.C. Stokes, went to Freeport, Tex., to seek employment in 1951.

Heflin went to work a few days later for Dow Chemical Company as a truck driver. He worked for the company for 29 years and received a medical retirement in 1980.

Heflin and Jean reared two sons: Hershel Rodney, m. (1) Dorothy Louise Stahl (2) Beth Iris Nave; and Marcus Clint, m. Vickie Lynn Sullivan. Rodney and Dorothy have two daughters: Georgina Kaye, m. Shane King; and Kimberly Ann. Marcus and Vickie have two daughters: Jenny Lynd, and Brandi Leigh.

The reunion was concluded with Clyde Stokes, a Stokes family researcher, giving an update on the Stokes genealogy. He hopes to publish his records on the Stokes family some day and include the above family.

This writing was based on family records and interviews with Stokes family members.

Anyone with questions or seeking additional information is requested to contact Curtis Thomasson at 20357 Blake Pruitt Road, Andalusia, AL 36420; 334-804-1442; or Email: