2019 local Women’s History Month luncheon honors ‘Unsung Heroes’

by Courtesy of Cherokee County Women With Purpose

Though they come from varied backgrounds, five area residents being recognized in honor of National Women’s History Month all have one thing in common -- while you may not know them by sight, you definitely recognize their work.

They are Cherokee County’s “Unsung Heroes.”

“Every year, the Women’s History Month Committee identifies a category of women who are going over and above in our community, whether in their careers, service to the community or in support to their family and friends,” said Regina Brown, co-chair of this year’s Cherokee County Women With Purpose committee, which hosts the luncheon.

“Most years, these are women whom many people recognize in the community – with this year’s theme, ‘Unsung Heroes,’ we are presenting a group of women who many are not aware of the amazing work they perform behind the scenes in Cherokee County,” she explained.

The 2019 honorees – Dr. Mary Alice Bone, Toni Dillard, Fannie Franklin, Carri Hassell and Ann Kelley – will be feted during a March 26 luncheon at the Norman Activity Center, located at 526 E. Commerce in Jacksonville.

Cherokee County Court-at-Law Judge Janice Stone is the keynote speaker for the event, which will be held from 11:45 a.m. to 1 p.m., with lunch served by Sylvia Mae’s Soul Food Cafe. Tickets are $20 per person, while tables of eight may be reserved for $140. Proceeds to benefit the Cherokee County Child & Family Services Board.

One of this year’s honorees is Dr. Bone, a Jacksonville native born at Nan Travis Hospital in 1930. She attended Jacksonville schools before going to Trinity University, then Southwestern Medical School. She has held an internship at Parkland Hospital and held a U.S. Public Health Fellowship in internal medicine.

Dr. Bone began her medical practice in 1963, and today is a volunteer physician at Mission House Clinic in Bullard, where she also serves on its advisory board. In addition, she serves on the health needs council for Cherokee County Human Needs Network and volunteers at The HOPE (Helping Other Pursue Enrichment) Inc. Center, of which she is a former board member and past president. She also has been actively involved at the former First Presbyterian Church of Jacksonville.

Dillard – the marketing and admissions director of The Arbors Healthcare and Rehabilitation in Rusk – operates Lola’s House in Rusk, which offers a safe place for supervised visitations for family and CPS cases. Currently, it is the only CPS-approved supervised visitation provider in Cherokee County. She also created the Blessing Box, a tiny pantry located in the front of Lola’s House that’s filled with staple food and basic hygiene/toiletry items. In 1998, she graduated from Central Texas College in Killeen as a Licensed Vocational Nurse, then earned her Registered Nursing license from Lubbock’s Covenant School of Nursing in 2003.

Jacksonville native and 1971 JHS graduate, Franklin has actively served the community for numerous years as a volunteer for The Clothes Closet & More and The HOPE Center. She is regularly assigned to coordinate special projects such as The HOPE Christmas Basket, Children’s Christmas Tree Project and Coats for Kids. Franklin is mother to four children: Byron, Raymond, Donnell and Paulette Franklin. She also is the proud grandmother of 18 grandchildren and a member of New Prospect Baptist Church.

Born and raised in Portales, New Mexico, Hassell relocated to Rusk at age 25. Today, she is the HR manager at Universal Land Clearing, LLC, and owner of Flat Creek Marina & RV Park in Chandler. During the past five years, Carri has volunteered as an accountant for Relay for Life of Cherokee County. She has been a member of Alpha-Alpha-Gamma- Beta Sigma Phi Sorority since 1992, serving as president for eight of those years. She also is on the board of Rusk ISD’s Student Health Advisory Council, taught AWANAs for five years at Rusk’s East Side Baptist Church and is a founding member of “Rusk Packs of Love,” a weekend food program benefitting local underprivileged children.

Arriving in the middle of an air raid in 1944 in her native London, Kelley worked at an English bank for eight years before moving to Texas in 1968 with her groom of one year. In 1972, the couple and the eldest of their three children moved to East Texas, where her husband and his brother began raising catfish on a farm south of Rusk. The Kelleys moved several times before finally settling in Jacksonville. She began working at Nan Travis Hospital in 1982 and retired from ETMC Jacksonville in 2002. She is actively involved with the Smith County Master Gardeners and Relay for Life of Cherokee County, as well as serves as a volunteer driver for cancer patients as part of the American Cancer Society’s “Road to Recovery” program.

Cherokee County Court-at-Law Judge Janice Stone is this year’s keynote speaker. The 1974 Jacksonville High School and University of Texas – Austin graduate taught high school English for two years in Arlington before returning to school to pursue a law degree. She worked at a Dallas firm for five years, then launched a solo practice that lasted 27 years before being elected as a Cherokee County official in 2014. She is married to Jacksonville Mayor Dick Stone.

The annual Women’s History Month celebration began in Cherokee County in March 2014, under the umbrella of In His Image Ministry, a local mentoring program for adolescent girls. The annual event transferred to the Cherokee County Women with Purpose in March 2017. The honorees recognition ceremonies role is to celebrate women in this community who are doing wonderful things to support and or improve Cherokee County, said Brown.