Kennedy family holds reunion in Opp

Published 3:13 am Saturday, September 3, 2016

Peggy Jones Stephens, Joellynn Kennedy Heaton, and Anita Kennedy Ellis descendants of William G. Kennedy and Martha Abigale Rushton Kennedy.

Peggy Jones Stephens, Joellynn Kennedy Heaton, and Anita Kennedy Ellis descendants of William G. Kennedy and Martha Abigale Rushton Kennedy.

The descendants of William G. Kennedy and Martha Abigail Rushton Kennedy of Crenshaw County, Ala., held a Kennedy Family Reunion on Sat., August 6, 2016, at the home of Michael and Anita Kennedy Ellis in Opp. This date was chosen in recognition of the birthdate of one of their forefathers, John Greer Kennedy. John Greer Kennedy was the only child of William G. Kennedy and Martha Abigale Rushton Kennedy and was born in Ramah (Ramer), Montgomery County, Ala., on Aug. 6, 1861.

John was raised by his mother, Martha, in the home of her parents, William M. Rushton and Rebecca Susanna Fanning Rushton, who owned property in the Dorman/Vidette Community of East Crenshaw County. Later, their home would be pushed back from the dirt road on the property so construction of that section of U.S. Hwy. 29, a north-south highway that runs for 1,036 miles from Pensacola, Fla., to the western suburbs of Baltimore, Md., could be widened and paved.

John Greer Kennedy’s first marriage was to Nancy Mary E. Loard, daughter of the Rev. Francis Leonard Loard and Susan Ann Bottoms. The Loards originally came from Georgia but settled in Covington County then later their property became Crenshaw County. Together, John Greer Kennedy and Nancy Mary E. Loard Kennedy had four children, Winnie Mae, twins, Albert Baker and Alphus Cidney, and Maude Lee. Albert Baker Kennedy (Exie Madaline Jeffcoat) was represented at the Kennedy Reunion by a granddaughter, Jane Davis Short (Kenneth Short) of Opp, and a grandson, Benny Davis (Sherry Floyd Davis) of Troy. Alphus Cidney Kennedy (Donnie Olean Spivey) was represented at the Kennedy Reunion by a granddaughter, Peggy Imogene Jones Stephens of Luverne and one great-granddaughter, Jennifer Lynn Stephens McLeod of Luverne. Winnie Mae never married and had no children while Maude Lee married Thomas Dewitt Finlay of Pike County and their only son, John Horace Finlay had no children.

John Greer Kennedy’s second marriage was to Margaret Emma Byrd, daughter of James Sutton Byrd and Elisabeth C. McLeod. J. S. Byrd, born in Covington County, and Elisabeth McLeod, born in Eastern Division of Pike County, are recorded in the 1870 U.S. Census living in Township 9 of Crenshaw County. Together, John Greer Kennedy and Margaret Emma Byrd Kennedy had six children, Dewey Sutton, Ruby Cornelia, Katie Maxie, John Grady, Basil (Bill), and Ava Lou. Dewey Sutton Kennedy was represented at the Kennedy Reunion by: a daughter, Anita Rose Kennedy Ellis (Michael Glen Ellis) of Opp; two grandsons, Richard James Gillen (Lori Michele Golsby Gillen-not present) of Gulf Breeze, Fla., and Lee Michael Ellis (Hilary Brannon Ellis) of New Brockton (Hilary’s nephew Corbitt also attended); six granddaughters, Angela Faye Kennedy Harrison (Kenny Harrison) of Waverly Hall, Georgia, Janet Kay Kennedy Barrett (J. B. Garrett) of Waverly Hall, Ga., Candice Leigh Kennedy (Jim O’Brien) of Virginia Beach, Va., Paula Suzanne Gillen Clarkson (Keith Clarkson) of Lakeland, Fla., Martha Machele Gillen Hoffman (Philip Hoffman) of Gulf Breeze, Fla., and Krissy Anne Ellis (via FaceTime) of Columbia, Mo.; five great-grandsons, Chase Christian Clarkson, William James Clarkson, Kevin Wayne Harrison (Ashley Elizabeth Whisnant Harrison), Kyle Wesley Harrison (Samantha LeAnn Adams Harrison) and Hudson Palmer Ellis; one step-great-grandson, Damien Sheppard; two great-granddaughters, Kelly Cordelia Haskell Sheppard (Gregory Chad Sheppard-not present) and Kelsey Kennedy Hoffman; four great-great-granddaughters, Abigail Elizabeth Harrison, Kallie Winsley Harrison, Cordelia Kay Sheppard, and Allie Michelle Sheppard; and three great-great-grandsons, Bryson Wayne Harrison, Kaiden Wesley Harrison and Koltin Wyatt Harrison and a daughter-in-law Susan Carol Still Kennedy Wiggins (Wesley Monroe Wiggins). Ruby Cornelia Kennedy Floyd was represented at the Kennedy Reunion by three granddaughters, Linda Knight of Lancaster, Califf., Olive Jean Chancellor of Orlando, Fla., and Terry Annette Floyd Paquette (Marc Daniel Paquette) of Orlando, Fla. John Grady Kennedy was represented at the Kennedy Reunion by: a daughter, Joellynn Kennedy Heaton (Charles Earl Heaton, Sr.) of Bessemer; a son, John Elbert Kennedy of Oviedo, Fla.; two granddaughters, Jill Lynn Heaton Thomas (Mark O’Rear Thomas) of Birmingham and Emily Carin Kennedy of Oviedo, Fla.; and one grandson, James David Kennedy (Heidi L. Rinehard Kennedy) of Winter Springs, Fla.; one great-granddaughter, Roselyn Key Kennedy and one great-grandson, Justin Paul Thomas. Katie Maxie Kennedy Carr (Andrew Theofolus Carr, Sr.) was not represented at the reunion, nor was Ava Lou Kennedy Lehtinen (Frank Lehtinen). Basil (Bill) Kennedy never married. Bill Kennedy was Sheriff of Crenshaw County in the 1950s.

John Greer Kennedy’s first wife, Nancy Mary E. Loard Kennedy, had a brother named Hinton Cradic Loard. He had a son named Milton Madison Loard whose wife was Dove “Dovie” Soles. Dovie’s mother, Mary Jane Rushton, was a sister to John Greer Kennedy’s mother, Martha Abigail Rushton Kennedy. Milton and Dovie had a son named Aubrey Madison Loard who married Jewell Walker Loard. Jewell was a sister to Cubie Nelline Walker Kennedy wife of Dewey Sutton Kennedy. Jewell had two daughters, Lena Mae Loard Carter and Edith Loard King. Jewell Walker Loard and Aubrey Madison Loard were represented at the Kennedy Reunion by: a daughter, Edith Loard King (Wiley Dauphin King) of Enterprise; and a grandson, Aubrey Dale Carter (Donna Jean Burris Parden Carter) of Harvest, Ala.

A book called The Kennedy Family Digest, authored by Anita Kennedy Ellis, was available for the guests at the reunion to look through, as well as, copies were available for purchase. This Digest spanned the years 1859-2016 of the Descendants of William G. Kennedy and Martha Abigale Rushton (John Greer Kennedy’s parents.) A photo slideshow of family members as far back as the early 1900s was also viewed on a TV screen throughout the day. A photo album of family photos was, also, available for the guests to view. The day happened to be one of the hottest days of August. White hand-held fans with red ribbon were handed out along with red and white lettered koozies provided by Paula Suzanne Gillen Clarkson to keep drinks cool. Special tea cake cookies were packaged for the occasion by Peggy Jones Stephens. A scroll of famous quotes had been prepared by John Elbert Kennedy and given to each guest.

Guests began to arrive around 9:30 a.m. and continued until lunch was served at noon. Many dishes of family favorite foods were brought in and placed on the kitchen island and on the dining room table. Homemade pound cakes from family recipes were on the dessert list along with banana pudding, brownies, cookies and a blueberry dish and all were delicious. Southern fried chicken along with fresh fried okra, fresh Sir Dandy white peas, fresh sweet corn on the cob, deviled eggs, corn bread, potato salad, shrimp salad, and several casseroles were to choose from. Richard Gillen brought several different types of fish from the Gulf Breeze to fry plus French fries and hush puppies. Kenneth Short honored us with the blessing before the meal. Anita Kennedy Ellis spoke to the family members, welcoming them and encouraging them to document family events for their children. She addressed each of John Greer Kennedy’s children and introduced each member that represented the ten children of the Kennedy family.

After lunch, Eddie Spann and the Blue Grass Band entertained the family with music and singing. A short rain shower brought the group inside to the den area of the home but it only enhanced their music. Everyone enjoyed the different songs played that day. The group consisted of Eddie Spann, Zach and John Paul Spann, Larry Spann, all of Opp, David Windle of Mobile, Glenn Thornton of Highland Home and Tori Reisnour of Opp. Larry’s son, Tyler Spann, offered special music as he played the piano and demonstrated his awesome talent as a pianist. The children were entertained in the backyard on an inflatable bouncy castle with a water slide and a snow cone machine combo. Some of the guests rode the golf carts around the property and even some went fishing in the nearby pond.