Bell-Ransom family members were determined to continue the tradition of gathering in reunion the second weekend in August even after having canceled the in-person reunion because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The wonders of Zoom technology made it possible. The 42nd annual Bell-Ransom family reunion was held virtually Aug. 8, 2020, to honor the family heritage and celebrate continuing a legacy of excellence and service.
First-time attendees as well as Golden Stars (members who have attended all 41 reunions) celebrated virtually. Family and friends in New York, California, Nevada, Virginia, New Jersey, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Washington, D.C., Louisiana, Georgia and North Carolina were able to join in a program that celebrated and acknowledged that we are who we are today as a family because of who our ancestors were. And the family had a lot to celebrate.
The Zoom program, hosted by Jacqueline Pyatt in Maryland, opened with a slide presentation that took all down Occoneechee Neck Road, Jackson and to the Bell home with the reunion banner in the yard where the Friday fish fry would normally be held. And then as if gathered in Kirkwood Adams Community Center, where the Saturday program would have been held, the program opened with recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance.
Dr. Claudia Anyaso in Washington, D.C., gave the invocation. Dr. Tanita Dozier of Washington, D.C., used a YouTube presentation, including a writing by her son, Aiden, to emphasize the importance of the occasion and express how despite the hardships of 2020 the family had managed to continue the Bell-Ransom reunion legacy.
Margaret Bell Hawkins read a poem as a memorial tribute to Bell-Ransom ancestors and those family members who died since the 2019 reunion. From his home in Atlanta, Louis Bell concluded the tribute by singing the song, “How Great Thy Art.”
The second part of the program was a PowerPoint presentation highlighting how family ancestors have inspired Who we Are in 2020. The slide highlights included:
Three family members have reached the milestone of their 100th birthday since our 2019 reunion: Mrs. Lucille Hardy of Jackson, Mrs. Geraldine Clark of Garysburg and Mrs. Almeda Carroll of Lanham, Maryland. Other Senior Honorees were Mr. Jasper W. Jones, 99, of Gaston, and Mrs. Viola Boone, 95, of Garysburg.
Bell-Ransom Scholarships recipients: Serenity Ellis, who graduated from Durham’s Josephine Dobbs Clement Early College High School and is a UNC-G Dean’s Scholar, and Alexis Walker, who graduated from Durham’s Jordan High School. The champion swimmer will study at the University of North Carolina Asheville.
Other scholars recognized were:
• Veatrice Taylor graduated from North Carolina Central University.
• Alexander Edge graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point.
• Staci Marie Bell graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in Environmental Science and Statistics.
• Randolph Hawkins graduated from North Carolina Central University with a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science and Business.
• Ashley Douglas graduated from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.
• Alexis Douglas graduated from North Carolina State University.
• David Phillip Bell graduated Summa Cum Laude from North Carolina Central University, with a Bachelor of Science in Pharmaceutical Science. Phillip will be attending Wingate University School of Pharmacy where he has received an academic scholarship to pursue a Doctorate degree of Pharmacy.
• Douglas Boone III was recognized at Morehouse College 2019 Senior Day for members of the Morehouse Maroon Tigers Football team. An Accounting and Business major, Douglas III graduated in the Class of 2020.
• Shawn Bell enrolled in Newark, New Jersey’s Rutgers Colleges and Universities Business School in the Supply Chain Management Certificate Program.
• Naseyah Williams and Nacyiah Williams had an opportunity to travel to St. Lucia with Durham’s Hillside High School Drama Department’s “One Voice.”
• Illustrator James Earl Ransome announced that the book, “Freedom Bird” was the Spring 2020 Parents’ Choice Award Silver Award winner. His book, “The Bell Rang,” is included in the 39th Annual Original Art Exhibition Celebrating the Fine Art of Children’s Book Illustration. The book was a Coretta Scott King Honor for Illustration. The artwork of James was part of 1619: A Commemoration in Sound, a remembrance event to mark the 400th anniversary of the arrival of enslaved people in the North American British Colonies.
• Grover Massenburg’s photography work was part of the exhibit Lay of the Land at the D.C. Commission of the Arts at 200 I Street in Washington, D.C., in September 2019.
• Toni Rawles was a member of the University of North Carolina Dance Team 2019.
• Fannie Greene was among those honored as African-American Heroes by Halifax Community College during Black History Month.
• Victor Boone, Raleigh Managing Attorney Wake County Bar Association, helped to raise $129,492 for Legal Aid of North Carolina.
• Melanie Person, former Dance Theatre of Harlem Principal Ballerina and currently Co-Director of The Alvin Ailey School, conducted a Free Master Class during Dance Theatre of Harlem Founders’ Week Celebration.
• Stephanie Lockhart completed the March 1, 2020, Kings Runner 10K in Honolulu, Hawaii.
• Terry Bell has been named as a Sales Director with the Dream Unit of Mary Kay Cosmetics.
• Raquel Lowe launched RAQfit Wellness to promote meditation and stretching exercise to alleviate stress.
• Julius Tillery, founder of Black Cotton, was featured in the Summer 2019 edition of Front Porch Living.
• The Rev. Florine Bell, pastor of New Hope Apostolic Church in Roanoke Rapids, was honored as an unsung hero for her unwavering commitment and perseverance that has improved the life for all in the Roanoke Valley and beyond by the Roanoke Valley (NC) Southern Christian Leadership Conference at its 5th annual gala held at Halifax Community College, Oct. 5, 2019. An example of Florine’s community commitment was her organization of volunteers on Thursday, May 14, 2020, to help give away food in the Hollister community in a drive-thru food pantry at the Haliwa-Saponi Tribal School.
• Margaret McGee, 2019 Teacher of the Year at Everetts Elementary School, traveled to Atlanta in September 2019 for professional development sessions at Ron Clark Academy designed for the 2019 Halifax County Schools Teachers of the Year.
• Beverly Underdue, educator and visionary behind the Garysburg Volunteer Public Library and the annual Halifax/Northampton Juneteenth Celebration, was recognized by the Northampton County NAACP.
• Rudy Pyatt was promoted to Staff Attorney III on the Law Enforcement Bureau team at the New York City Human Rights Commission.
• Warren Keith Bell, principal of the Haliwa-Saponi Tribal School, was featured in a video about remote learning for students and posted on Online Learning by the Center for Energy Education.
• Jeanette Richardson, Beverly Underdue, volunteers and patrons of Garysburg Volunteer Public Library are featured in the beautiful Front Porch Living magazine article “Bookworms.”
• Autumn Revelry, a rising junior at National Cathedral School, was featured on the cover of the school’s magazine. She is on the service board and member of Black Student Union. Autumn participates in Model UN, is a member of the field hockey and crew teams, volunteers at the local food pantry and is currently working on her Girl Scout Gold Award.
• Dangelo Martel Harrison Mobley, son of Raphael Bell and grandson of Ralph Bell, is part of new Japanese Street Food Spot Eatery in Adams Morgan, Washington, D.C.
• Sandra Bell Rosser is the new treasurer of ZETA AMICAE of Roanoke Rapids.
• Dr. Jerryl V. Moody is Pastor Elect of Israel Baptist Church in NE Washington, D.C.
• Naseyah Williams was named Miss Black USA Talented Teen in the National Scholarship competition in Washington, D.C., Aug. 11, 2019.
Events and service include:
• Allen Owens II and Giulia Donvito were married on Sept. 5, 2019, at the Cathedral of Saint Cataldo in Taranto, Italy. Family members in attendance were Robert, Wanda and Ivey Owens, Jeanette Richardson, Keith and Dianne Bell, Douglas Bell III and Family, Brion Gardner and Family, Jarrett Caldwell, Preston and Ann Pendergrass and Family, Gloria Crank, Melvin Branch Sr. and Melvin Branch Jr.
• Margaret Bell Hawkins and Quincy L. Hawkins Sr. celebrated their 61st wedding anniversary on Aug. 15.
• Ralph Bell Jr. and Ralph Bell Sr. enjoyed the excitement of the 2019 World Series journey of the Washington Nationals and Houston Astros at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C.
• Michael Bell, wife Bonita and daughter Michaela supported the Halloween and Daughter/Father’ Valentine’s Celebration at their daughter, Michaela’s New Jersey elementary school.
• Joyce Douglas and friends enjoyed visits to New York and the show Ain’t Too Proud: The Temptations and the show Tina. Joyce also attended a concert by Bebe Winans and Korean Soul at City of Praise Family Ministries in Landover, Maryland.
• Freda Peele-Wellman celebrated the Sigma Gamma Nu 50th Anniversary in Hampton, Virginia, during Hampton University Homecoming Weekend. Freida also attended the biennial Kittrell College National Alumni Association Reunion in Richmond.
• Crystal Belfield attended the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Eastern Carolina Cluster meeting in Fayetteville.
• Linda and Bill Strickland had a busy year traveling to NC A&T State University football games including Homecoming. They attended games in Charleston, Norfolk, Orangeburg, Baltimore and the Celebration Bowl in Atlanta.
• Beatrice Evans and Doretha Johnson were among family members who cheered the NC A&T State University Football Team to victory at the Celebration Bowl in Atlanta.
• Margaret and Quincy Hawkins, Valencia Turnage, Margaret and Rodney McGee, Jeanette Richardson, Beatrice Gardner, Wanda Owens, Keith Bell and Beatrice Ivey Evans attended the 2019 NC A&T State University Homecoming.
• Emma Smith traveled from Delaware to Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
• Kyle Lockhart, an avid soccer fan, met with USWNT World Cup winner and NC Courage star Crystal Dunn and NC Courage head coach Paul Riley.
• Randy Pyatt, Emily Pyatt, RJ and Sophia Pyatt and Rudy Pyatt traveled to Austin, Texas, to attend the Formula 1 Emirates 2019 United States Grand Prix.
• Madelyn Bell was selected to compete in the March 2020 AIG Math Competition at Chowan College.
• RJ Pyatt was named second quarter Mightiest Mustang for his third-grade class at JC Parks Elementary School in Indian Head, Maryland. RJ and sister, Sophia Pyatt, are honor roll students and both participated in the Charles County, Maryland, Designation Imagination competition.
• Cary Joseph Bell celebrated his 7th birthday on March 11 in Long Beach, California.
• Skylar Gregg-Lewis and twin brother Randall Gregg-Lewis celebrated their 3rd birthday on June 5.
• Aric B. Gardner celebrated his 5th birthday on June 9. Aric graduated pre-school on June 12 and has been accepted into the World Language Spanish Immersion Program for Fairfax County Virginia Public Schools.
• Jaiyan Branch, grandson of Melvin Branch, celebrated his basketball team’s championship.
• L.J. Smith celebrated his 5th birthday.
• Monroe Bell, grandson of Gary Bell, entered his first day of school.
The family continues to grow and to thrive:
• Veatrice Taylor is a new mom. Veatrice is the granddaughter of the late Therman “Doll” Taylor and Leatrice Taylor.
• Ashley Gardner Fillippa of College Station, Texas, gave birth Feb. 4, 2020, to Nora Kay Fillippa.
• London Zhiloh is a new mother to baby, Sage.
• Dr. Brion Gardner and wife, Tala, announce the birth of a baby girl, Ava, on Oct. 23, 2019, at 2:57 p.m.
• Emma Smith announced the birth of granddaughter, Annabella.
• Donavan and Donisha Wells of Knightdale are the new parents of baby daughter, Summer Cali Wells, born Dec. 2, 2019.
Pictures of Bell-Ransom families and group photographs of past reunions completed the slide presentation.
The Zoom Room Door Prize was won by Joyce Douglas.
Ralph Bell Sr. of Lanham, Maryland, gave closing remarks and thanked everyone for participating in the virtual reunion. He reminded all to stay safe by wearing masks.
It was announced that the 43rd annual Bell-Ransom reunion is scheduled for Aug. 6-8, 2021.