Dankie Crittenden is honored with 105th birthday celebration

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 7, 2019

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On Saturday, August 31, this writer had the distinct pleasure of witnessing the celebration of Dankie Plister Crittenden’s 105th birthday. Actually, Dankie was born September 2, 1914, as a grandson of slaves in the Oakey Streak community. His Grandfather “Big Joe” Crittenden was associated with the Crittenden Plantation in that area and was overseer of all the shops. Some of the family genealogy will be presented later in this story.

Dankie was honored with the birthday celebration by his family and friends at The River Falls Community Center, which was formerly River Falls School Number Two. The party and program were planned and coordinated by a granddaughter, Venekia “Missy” Gantt, who served as director for the occasion. The colorful decorations were arranged by LeQuetta Crittenden, Beverly Woods and Hattie Lawson who used a theme of red and black throughout the rooms. Arrangements on each table of Magnolia leaves were interspersed with red and white flowers. A special table was decorated with a three-tiered birthday cake prepared by Tish Macks. It was covered in white icing with black and red trim. It was topped by chocolate-covered strawberries, which were painted with a black and white tuxedo image.

The tables and chairs were overlaid with black cloths with red runners and large red sashes on the chairs. A skirted table on the small stage was reserved for Dankie who sat with various close relatives accompanying him throughout the party. There were special tables reserved for each of his seven living children and their families. Other relatives and friends were seated in the adjoining room at long tables which were also decorated in the theme colors and arrangements.

After many, many well wishes and pictures of descendants being taken with the honoree, a program was conducted with Venekia “Missy” Gantt serving as emcee. Following comments and a prayer by Bishop Nathaniel Belcher, a memorial ceremony was held to remember the six family members who have passed. As each name was called, a close relative lit one of the candles placed before a poster stating “In loving memory of those who are forever in our hearts.” The candle for Jewel Frances Crittenden was lit by son Fred Morris; one for Annie Doris Crittenden, by Beverly Woods; one for David Earl Crittenden, by Beverly Woods; one for David Crittenden, by son, Gene Marvin; one for Kashondra Nicole Crittenden, by parents, Walter and Wanda Crittenden; and one for DeMari Khylique Gantt, by brother Amier Gantt. The candles were designed by Tylaars BouQue.

Afterwards, two young girls, Messiah Justice, great granddaughter, and her cousin, Kionnie McTear, performed a “praise dance” entitled “Not Lucky, I’m Loved” before a background of posters featuring John 3:16. It was directed by Rhonda Kay Cross. Next, Hattie Sue Lawson sang “It’s Your Time.” Then various descendants shared personal memories and stories of things involving Dankie and family experiences. Appreciation is expressed to John “Baby Jay” Skanes for providing his sound equipment and Brando “Po Wine” Daniels for the fan cooling the outside dining area.

Greg White, Covington County Commission Chairman, read a proclamation expressing congratulations and well-wishes from the citizens of Covington County upon Dankie’s 105th birthday. He then presented a plaque to the honoree. Curtis Thomasson expressed pleasure in being present and his desire to write a story featuring the honoree and his birthday celebration. Tavia Tillman and Kim Howell, representing Mallette Drug Company, Dankie’s preferred pharmacy for many years, were introduced as special guests. The program concluded with the entire congregation joining in singing “Happy Birthday.” Then everyone was invited to move to the dining area and enjoy the bountiful meal catered by Laponda Smith.

Above the honoree’s table was a banner entitled “Celebrating an Evening of Love.” There was an impressive display of love and respect shown throughout the party which made for a memorable period of fellowship.

Dankie was born as the eleventh child of Burl or Burwell Crittenden and Saphronia “Fronie” Jones in the Oakey Streak community of South Butler County, Ala. His maternal grandparents were Henry and Sarah Jones who were born in 1852 and 1855 respectively. Dankie’s parents and their large family lived on a farm where they endured hardships as well as enjoyed the pleasures of rural living.

Burl Crittenden, was born in 1863 in Oakey Streak and was married circa 1900 to Saphronia “Fronia” Jones who was born in 1875. By 1910, the family was living in the Rose Hill community and in the Straughn Schoolhouse Precinct, in 1920. Burl and Fronia were the parents of the following children: Cleta, b. 1901, m. 1930 Andrew Jackson; Jorie, b. 1902; R.T., b. 1903; Burie C., b. 1903, d. 1991, m. Lula Valentine; Burl Jr., b. 1905; Dora M., b. 1906; Irvin, b. 1907, m. Bell Jones; Bessie Estelle, b. 1910; Kenneth D., b. 1910, m. Ruth ? (1910-2001); Sallie, b. 1911; Lillie Ray, b. 1912, m. 1939 Harvey Williams; Frazier, b. 1913; Dankie, b. 1914; Gopie, b. 1916; and Frank, b. 1920.

At an early age, Dankie Crittenden married Veselene Sanders, and they became the parents of three children: Annie Doris Crittenden, b. 1939; Fred Morris Crittenden, m. Sandra Jacobs; and David Crittenden, m. Helen Jean Daniels. After moving to Covington County later, he was married in 1952 to Jewel Frances Wilson, and they were married 67 years before her death in 2018. They became the parents of seven children: Walter Lamar, m. Wanda Gantt; Linda Gail, m. Jerome Ellison; LeQuetta Ann Crittenden; Seaphronia Dale, m. Billy Matthews; Denita Faye Crittenden; Jewelene Crittenden, and a son, James Edward, who died at birth.

The oldest daughter, Annie Doris Crittenden, became the mother of three children: Beverly, m. Dr. Jackie Woods; Cheryl McGhee, and Eric Crittenden.

The son Fred Morris Crittenden and his wife, Sandra Jacobs, did not have children together, but they reared her two, Jerome Edmondson and Christina Edmondson. Fred was also the father of three children: Fredric Brandon Johnson; Rose; and Tonya, m. Norbert Riggins.

The son David Crittenden and his wife, Helen Jean Daniels, were the parents of two sons, Gene Marvin; and Vaughn, m. Shelia Crittenden.

The son Walter Lamar Crittenden and his wife, Wanda Gantt, reared the following children: LeQuetta Henderson, Carlos Rodriquez Gantt, Gerald DeWayne Gantt, and Kasondra Nicole Crittenden.

The daughter Linda Gail and her husband, Jerome Ellison, reared the following children: Tabitha Gail, m. Rev. Ronald Hunter; James Dontai Crittenden; and Trieka Lashae Crittenden.

The daughter LeQuetta Ann Crittenden is the mother of the following children: Dameion Crittenden, Tanya Kanita Gantt, Venekia Shenai Gantt, Kamilah Natasha Gantt, Miltonio Plister Gantt, Richard Earl Justice, and Kimberly Yvette Dawson.

The daughter Seaphronia Dale Crittenden and her husband, Billy Matthews, reared his daughter, Selena Musgrove.

The daughter Denita Crittenden was the mother of four children: Shauntrecia Monique Crittenden, Shane Deshod Dorsey, India Arie Crittenden, and Saphronia Crittenden.

The youngest daughter, Jewelene Crittenden, was the mother of one daughter, Chainbrin Bequez Flowers.

For the next generations, Dankie Had 58 great grandchildren, 8 great, great grandchildren, and 6   great, great, great grandchildren for a total of 116 descendants. There were six generations present for his 105th birthday celebration! He is known for telling the young kids, “You are growing like a weed,” and occasionally, “You are getting fat like a pig,” all is good fun.

Dankie worked as a farmer all his life. His wife, Jewelene, worked in cafes and was a private sitter in her community as long as her health allowed. She called Dankie “Daddy,” and he called her “Mamma.” Some say, “Their love was a glorious bond, and it was felt among all the family and friends.”

Dankie continues to reside in his home on Hammett Road in the Straughn/Antioch community where he has lived for more than 40 years. His wife, Jewel, passed away about a year ago, so one of his daughters, Seaphronia Matthews, currently lives with him. She is his primary caregiver, and when she is working at Shaw Industries, where she has worked for 30 plus years, Denita Crittenden, another daughter, stays with him. He enjoys being with his many descendants and occasionally watching western movies. With such good personal care and an extensive loving family, who knows how many more years he will enjoy life.

Sources for today’s story include family and party planning records of Venekia Gantt and family genealogy of Mattie (Jones) Freeney. Anyone who finds an error in the above data is requested to contact this writer, Curtis Thomasson, at 20357 Blake Pruitt Road, Andalusia, AL 36420; 334-804-1442; or Email: cthomasson@centurytel.net.