Feel-Good Friday: A Great-Great-Grandmother Gets to Be Matron of Honor for her Great-Great-Granddaughter's Wedding

Feel-Good Friday: A Great-Great-Grandmother Gets to Be Matron of Honor for her Great-Great-Granddaughter's Wedding
Annie Belle Simmons Foxx in Various Stages of Life. Credit: Jennifer Oliver O'Connell, used with permission

This Feel-Good Friday story touched my heart because of the precious legacy of a woman whom God has graced with the privilege to see, as the Bible says it, “her children’s children.” Juanita Courtney also reminds me of my own grandmother, Annie Belle Simmons Foxx (featured), who I did not have the privilege of knowing, but was regaled with the stories of her fearsomeness, her sass, and that she was the glue that held our family together for a time.

At 97 years old, Juanita Courtney is definitely the glue of her family, and one blessed and fortunate lady, not only because she has lived to see the legacy she built, but that her children’s children, and her senior living facility sought to honor her in such a way.

From the local WVLT.TV in Knoxville, Tenn.

97-year-old Juanita Courtney got a special Christmas gift this year– she was the matron of honor at her granddaughter’s wedding. The ceremony was extra special because it was the first time the family had gathered for Christmas since 2005.

Courtney was married herself on Feb. 1, 1947, and played host for family Christmas celebrations from 1989 until 2005. The large family would gather for the holiday each year as a tradition, but that changed in 2006.

On Jan. 36[sic], 2006, Courtney’s husband Paul died. WVLT News spoke with the family on how that affected the tradition.

This is very sad to hear, but not at all uncommon. As I shared in my Christmas post, death of a pivotal family member changes how we view and celebrate the holidays. Great-great-granddaughter Ashley never forgot the fond memories, and wanted to see them come alive again.

“When he died, Mother was too sad to host another celebration without him in their home,” family members told WVLT News. The family gatherings were especially important to Courtney’s granddaughter and the bride, Ashley Stewart.

“Ashley still talks about some of her greatest memories were spending time with Daddy and Mother in their home. Their home was filled with love, a safe place!! A very humble home…and everyone felt loved with snacks or meal and a place to talk and laugh and just be together as a family!!”

According to Fox News, with the help of The Pointe at Lifespring, the assisted-living facility where Courtney resides, the family was brought together again. The facility has a program called “Living the Dream,” where every quarter, one resident gets to check an item off their bucket list.

Not only did The Pointe host the wedding on Christmas Eve with 34 family members in attendance, but staff bought Courtney’s dress and arranged to have her hair and makeup done. There was even a bouquet made to replicate the flowers Courtney carried when she was married in the 1940s!

Such a story also got the TODAY Show in on the action, and they gave more detail on The Pointe’s assistance:

“Miss Courtney said she wanted all of her family to be together on Christmas Eve because they hadn’t been together on that day in 16 years,” Julie Sharp, director of sales and marketing at The Pointe, told TODAY.

[…]

She also wore high heels for the first time in three years since breaking a hip in a fall that led to her moving to the senior community.

“She just wept, she was so excited,” Sharp said.

The Pointe also had a replica made of Courtney’s bouquet from her wedding to Paul on Feb. 1, 1947, and used the cake topper from the wedding of Stewart’s grandparents 40 years ago. It also had special programs made and a photo from Courtney’s wedding to Paul framed for all to see.

“Nanny” as she is affectionately called by her lineage, got to stand by her great-great-granddaughter’s side as she started her new family.

Courtney’s daughter Vicki Howard (grandmother to bride Ashley) told Fox News:

“They loved Jesus, loved each other and loved their family,” Howard said.

Juanita Courtney has three children, eight grandchildren, 12 great-grandchildren, and five great-great-grandchildren. According to TODAY, there is a sixth great-great-grandchild on the way.

“The fact that we have five generations alive who are active in each other’s lives is just something that’s unheard of,” Stewart said. “It’s a blessing to get to have that. Nanny and Papaw, they set such a great example for all of us in the family and have always been active participants in our lives.”

That great love of Jesus Christ and of family was evident in the honor given to its original matriarch. The light in her eyes and the smile on her face is priceless and a wonder to behold. Such a beautiful Christmas gift!

Juanita Courtney is not only an example of a life well-lived, but an example to the generations after her to live well also. As we enter 2022, let this woman’s testimony be an inspiration to you as well.

Happy New Year!

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