The yard at the Bell family home in the Occoneechee Neck area of Jackson was the setting for the Friday, Aug. 11 family gathering and fish fry opening the 39th annual Bell-Ransom family reunion. The next morning, the family was invited to tour the Edward Cheek House in historic Halifax. Saturday afternoon the family gathered at Kirkwood Adams Community Center for their annual reunion program and dinner.

Hugs of welcome and squeals of delight could be heard throughout the room as family members greeted familiar faces, old friends and met new members of the family. The room, decorated in a red and white theme by Freida Wellman Décor 4 Joy, included banners, posters, memory boards and family trees highlighting the Bell-Ransom family’s history and in celebration of its legacy of achievement and service. Therman Taylor provided music during this meet and greet time.

Terry Bell of Roanoke Rapids presided at the program and gave the official family welcome. A group of young Bell-Ransom cousins led the family in the Pledge of Allegiance. Scripture was read by Catherine Bell of Garysburg, and Clarence Bell Sr. of Roanoke Rapids prayed. Remarks on the importance of the occasion were made by A. Brion Gardner, M.D. of Dunn Loring, Virginia.

Recognition of the senior members of the family is an important part of the annual program. Crystal Belfield of Edenton presented tokens of appreciation to 2017 Honorees Mrs. Viola Boone of Garysburg, Mrs. Lucille Hardy of Jackson and Mr. Jasper Jones of Gaston.

Dr. Mattie Cheek of Washington, D.C., and Dr. Beverly Underdue of Jackson presented more than 85 certificates or commemorative paper weighs to family members for outstanding achievement and service during the past year. Receiving certificates were: Youngest Achievers Randall Gregg-Lewis, Skylar Gregg-Lewis, Taylor Gardner; Younger Achievers Aric Gardner, Clariel Bell, Noah Rosser, Micahia G. Bell, Chance Bell, Monroe Bell, Elizah Dawson, Jakayla Dawson, Cary Joseph Bell, Andrew Smith Jr., RJ Pyatt, Sophia Pyatt, Ethan Moore, Damaris Dozier, Aiden Dozier, NyAsia Dawson, Jordan Hunter, Bryan Hunter, Sakina Johnson, Rosa Underdue, Tiffany Underdue, Cheyenne Person, Autumn Reveley, Joydan Wellman, Olivia Bell, Audrey Bell, Kelsey Bell, Alexis Walker, Quinten Ballard, Kayla Bell, Elijah Garcia, La Tia Hunter, Aaron Hunter, Yasmine Paige, Leilani Paige, London Zhiloh, College Achievers Amira Hawkins, Randolph Hawkins, Shemaiah Hawkins, Ashley Douglas, Alexis Douglas, Staci Bell, Phillip Bell, Amir Bell, and Tyler B. Pass. Community Service Certificates: Kathy Moody, Ralph Bell Sr., Lisa Gladden, the Rev. Florine Bell, Marquita Banks, Louis Bell, Jeanette Richardson, William Rosser and Chemeka Turner-Williams. Professional Accomplishment Certificates: Terry Bell, Whitney Jenkins, Rudy Pyatt, Valencia Turnage, SSgt. Talisa Bell Higgenbotham, TSgt Cody Higgenbotham, Police Sgt. Cary Thomas Bell, Cheryl Bell, Margaret McGee and Chemeka Turner-Williams. Commemorative paper weighs went to Graduate and Professional School Achievers Randy Johnson M.A. Towson State University, Ernest A. Garner Jr., D.D.S. East Carolina University, Curry Cheek, Duke University College Graduates Deborah Johnson, Morgan State University, Daryl Gardner, Howard University, Maya Ransome, Syracuse University, and DeAndrea Scott, Maryland Eastern Shore University; Public Service Fred Belfield, Jeanette Richardson, David Birdsong, Lisa Gladden, Cary Thomas Bell, Valencia Turnage; Special Accomplishment Olivia Bell, Alexis Walker, Elijah Garcia and for Service to the Family Reunion, Cheryl Bell, Margaret McGee and Percy Underdue.

Evelyn S. Dawson of Weldon announced the 2017 Bell-Ransom Scholarship recipients as: Trinity Scott, Largo High School, Upper Marlboro, Maryland (N.C. Central University), Ricky Norwood, Greenville County High School, Emporia, Virginia. (Virginia State University) Michael Wesley Evans Jr., Forest Park High School Woodbridge, Virginia (Virginia State University)

A 2017 Bell-Ransom Outstanding Service plaque was presented to Mrs. Lucille Rawles Hardy of Jackson by Keith Bell of Roanoke Rapids. Mr. David Rudolph Bell Sr. of Roanoke Rapids also received an Outstanding Service plaque. It was presented by Rudy Pyatt of Brooklyn, New York. The 2017 Bell-Ransom Outstanding Achievement plaque was presented to Terry Bell of Roanoke Rapids by her daughter, Stephanie Lockhart.

Margaret Hawkins of Weldon and Sandra Rosser of Roanoke Rapids conducted the memorial service in memory of ancestors and in tribute to family members who died since the 2016 reunion. The Rev. Quincy Hawkins of Durham made additional remarks in concluding the memorial and remembrance segment of the program.

Louis Belfield of Edenton offered the blessing before the Captain Bob’s catered buffet was served.

Linda Strickland of Durham introduced Bell-Ransom family members using a “chain of love and unity.” Family members linked in a circle as they were introduced.

Beatrice Gardner of Fort Washington, Maryland, assisted by young family members, awarded door prizes at the close of the Saturday afternoon program. All school-age children received bags stuffed with back-to-school supplies donated by Jeanette Bell Richardson.

Reunion fun and entertainment continued on Saturday evening at Kirkwood Adams Community Center where Angela Bell of Lanham, Maryland, and Erika Person of Upper Marlboro, Maryland, coordinated the family fashion/talent review and dance. Guests enjoyed a catered buffet by A Catered Affair during the evening. Dance music was provided by DJ Terrance Blount.

The reunion weekend concluded on Sunday with services at area churches.

Ralph Bell, Sr. of Lanham, Maryland, preserved the memories by photographing the reunion events throughout the weekend.

Photographs by Ralph Bell Sr. and Linda Strickland.