Bell-Ransom family reunion

Bell-Ransom Family members joined virtually on Aug. 7, 2021, for the 43rd annual Bell-Ransom family reunion. The theme of the reunion centered on sharing memories that inspire the continuation of the Bell-Ransom legacy.

Jacqueline Bell Pyatt opened the Zoom session from her home in Fort Washington, Maryland. Keith Bell, in Greensboro, read scripture. Louis Bell from his home in College Park, Georgia, gave the prayer. Joyce Douglas in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, sang a solo.

The occasion remarks highlighted reunion founder, the late Gillie Bell Branch’s charge to the family to hold on to memories and to keep telling the family story of abiding faith, strong work ethic, pursuit of excellence and service. That charge served as the inspiration for the program theme. The host said Gillie Bell Branch and all Bell-Ransom ancestors would be pleased that the family was meeting for the 43rd reunion, even if virtually.

Margaret Bell Hawkins and Sandra Bell Rosser in Weldon and Jeanette Bell Richardson in the Occoneechee Neck area of Jackson, conducted the memorial tribute to family members who died since the 2020 reunion.

Linda Bell Strickland, in Durham, began the memory sharing presentations talking about the descendants of Sumner F. Bell Sr. and Alice Ransom Bell. She shared memories of how the idea of Gillie Bell Branch and husband James Branch became a reality in 1979 when her siblings, Geneva Gee, and husband Lawrence Gee; Alice Odom and husband David Odom; Barbara Jones and husband Jasper Jones, Sumner Bell Jr. and wife Maxine Bell, their brother Jack Bell; sister-in-law Ozette Bell (Thomas), sister-in-law Virginia Bell (Louis) and sister-in-law Beatrice Bell (Douglas), relatives and friends of the Bell-Ransom family gathered for a reunion sponsored by the children and grandchildren. That first reunion honored the memory of Sumner F. Bell Sr. and Alice Ransom Bell and deceased relatives. It was a time to reminisce and share and make memories.

Strickland noted that Bell-Ransom ancestors were hard working citizens in a variety of occupations. Alice Ransom Bell, after the death of her husband in 1935, continued to farm, operate a cotton gin, truck line and store in the Occoneechee Neck with the help of children and their families. The reunion honors that heritage by continuing a legacy of abiding faith, a strong work ethic, pursuit of excellence and a dedication to community service.

Erika Person in Bowie, Maryland, acknowledged the senior honorees of the family for their wisdom and support. Honorees include Jasper W. Jones of Gaston and Viola Boone of Garysburg, both above 90 years of age and at 101 years of age, Amelia Carroll of Lanham, Maryland, and Geraldine Clark of Garysburg.

Claudia Anyaso, a retired US Senior Foreign Service Officer, shared memories from her home in Washington, D.C. Dr. Anyaso talked about the role that religion played in the lives of her parents, the late Wavely and Louise Rawles of Baltimore. Dr. Anyaso recalled that her parents would travel by bus with the First Baptist Church Choir of their Fairfield neighborhood to Roanoke Chapel Baptist Church in the “Neck” each August for revival services. She shared that family members did not just attend church services; they worked in the church as church officers, choir members and Sunday school teachers. The late Mrs. Lucille Hardy, who died in 2020 at age 101, was mentioned as an example of one who attended and served in the church. Mrs. Hardy played the piano for the choir at Roanoke Chapel Missionary Church for more than 50 years.

Terry Bell and her son, Kyle Lockhart, joined the Zoom session from Raleigh to share memories of the family’s strong work ethic and legacy of entrepreneurship. Terry cited the strength, work ethic and business skills of her grandmother, Alice Ransom Bell, as an inspiration for her success today. She spoke of how she observed her parents, the late Sumner Bell Jr., and Maxine Bell, and all her aunts and uncles working as a team in all their endeavors. Terry Bell continues the family legacy. She celebrated 20 years as a North Carolina State employee on June 30, 2021. She is also an Independent Sales Director with Mary Kay Cosmetics.

Tonita Dozier joined in from Washington, D.C., to share memories of school life and the pursuit of excellence. She shared memories of the outstanding teachers and education administrators in the family who inspired her to excel. She included among them Barbara Bell Jones, Keith Bell, her aunt Martha Paige, and her mother Ermagene Ross and related how they provided the knowledge base and experiences that prepared students for success. Tonita Dozier has worked as a television producer, educator and a media-specialist. She recently resigned from District of Columbia Public Schools to accept a position with the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Evelyn Dawson continued the sharing from her home in Roanoke Rapids with the announcement of 2021 Bell-Ransom Scholars and High School Scholarship Recipients.

High School Graduates

• Kelsey Bell graduated from Timber Creek High school in Sicklerville, New Jersey. Kelsey will attend Drexel University in Philadelphia. Kelsey is the daughter of Douglas Bell III and Kelly Bell.

• Javieon Palmer graduated from Claxton High School, Claxton, Georgia, on May 22, 2021. He will attend Georgia Southern University in the fall. Javieon is the nephew of Bill and Linda Strickland.

• Ryan Walker graduated from Jordan High School in Durham and will attend University of North Carolina Pembrooke. Ryan is the grandson of Louis Belfield.

• La-Tia Hunter of Roanoke Rapids graduated from Northwest Collegiate and Technical Academy in the Class of 2021. She plans to attend Pitt County Community College.

• Naseyah Williams graduated from JD Clements Early College in Durham, May 27, 2021. Naseyah is the daughter of Dr. Chemeka Turner Williams.

• Nacyiah Williams, daughter of Dr. Cemeka Turner Williams, graduated from JD Clements Early College May 27, 2021.

• Aaron Hunter graduated from Roanoke Rapids High School in the Class of 2021. He will attend East Carolina University in Greenville. Aaron is the son of Sabrina Hunter and grandson of Martha Paige.

• Kayla Bell, daughter of Gary and Wanda Bell, completed her junior year at East Carolina University with a 3.68 GPA and has met the criteria for entry into the nursing degree program.

• Phillip Bell completed his second year at Wingate University School of Pharmacy.

College Degrees

• Miranda Jordan Merritt earned her Bachelor of Science in Chemistry from Spelman College. Commencement was May 16. Miranda began courses in Engineering at Georgia Tech, where she is studying to complete a dual degree in Biology-Engineering. Miranda is the granddaughter of the late Lindsey and Betty Jordan Merritt and the great-granddaughter of the late Henry and Sally Ransom Jordan.

• Ricky T. Norwood Jr. of Emporia, Virginia, graduated from Virginia State University in the Class of 2021 with a Bachelor of Arts in History. Ricky is the grandson of Ann Rawls.

• Michael Wesley Evans Jr. graduated from Virginia State University in December 2020. He earned a BS degree in Health, Physical and Recreation Cum Laude. Ricky is the son of Michael and Beatrice Ivey Evans of Woodbridge, Virginia.

Graduate Degrees

• Chemeka Williams was awarded a Doctorate in Organizational and Leadership Management in 2020.

• Michelle Boone Pass, the daughter of Mary Jenkins Boone and the late Miland “Mike” Boone, graduated in December 2020 with a Doctor of Philosophy Degree in Curriculum and Instruction with a concentration in Urban Education from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte where she is a faculty member in the Department of Biological Sciences.

Dr. Pass received her BS Degree in Biological Sciences from NC State University and her MS Degree in Biology from NC A&T State University. Her graduate work at NC A&T was in Microbiology.

• Florine Bell, wife of David Bell Sr., received an Honoris Causa Doctor of Divinity Degree from the Eastern Carolina Christian College and Seminary. On June 27, 2021, the Kappa Iota Omega chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. celebrated its 47th anniversary event with Florine Bell receiving recognition for spearheading the Ella Baker Educational Project of NC Inc. The chapter also presented the Baker organization with a grant. Bell is a member of the Shaw UV, Alpha Kappa MU society.

David Bell Sr. of Roanoke Rapids shared memories with the host earlier in the week of how life on the farm was demanding work that molded a life-long appreciation for the value of hard work, honesty and sharing. The farm not only provided a livelihood from the land but also food for table. Families shared the bounty of the gardens with anyone who needed it. That tradition continues today. David and his sister, Jeanette Bell Richardson, both have huge gardens and share the fruits and vegetables with family and friends.

Ralph Bell Sr. of Lanham, Maryland, shared memories of the family’s tradition of military service. He noted that family members have served and are currently serving in the military. Ralph is a Vietnam veteran. He is an advocate for veterans. Ralph is active in local and national Veterans of Foreign Wars activities. He shared information on resources and benefits available to veterans.

Claudette Belfield shared memories of the family’s commitment to community service citing examples of her uncle Fred Belfield as a City Commissioner in Rocky Mount and other family members who serve in a variety of organizations for the betterment of their communities.

Jacqueline Pyatt encouraged the family to preserve its history for future generations and to continue to share the family story by sharing the thousands of reunion photographs taken since 1979, the publication of the Bell-Ransom Family Reunion souvenir program book, newsletter, calendar and cookbook, articles in newspapers and Reunions Magazine, and by saving reunion souvenir gift bags, magnets and other mementos.

Linda Bell Strickland invited members of the family tree and friends on Zoom to give their name and location.

And they did. From Nevada to New York, from South Carolina to Louisiana and places in between, they shared greetings and family news.

Roger Cheek gave closing remarks from of his Washington, D.C., home to end the 43rd annual Bell-Ransom Family reunion.

Jacqueline Bell Pyatt and Linda Bell Strickland hosted the 2021 virtual reunion. The Bell-Ransom family canceled reunion events planned for the Bell home in the Occoneechee Neck and at Kirkwood Adams Community Center in Roanoke Rapids because of the COVID-19 pandemic.