By Rebecca J. Barnabi
For Augusta Free Press
WAYNESBORO — Joyce Colemon, president of the Waynesboro branch of the NAACP, retired last year after 25 years as GED facilitator for Waynesboro Public Schools. After 16 years serving on the Blue Ridge Community College board, she received an honorary associate’s degree for her contributions.
“I was just blessed to be able to do all that,” Colemon, who lives in Waynesboro and was raised in Western Albermarle County, said.
Reflecting on her life and career accomplishments, Colemon had saved notes over the years for a book, “but didn’t really think about putting it together until last year.”
“Out of the House of Jesse: How God Made a Move On Me” is 19 chapters, including family photos of “things I kept in my heart,” Colemon said.
“I pretty much recognized and gave honor to all of my siblings,” she said of the book. Colemon is one of 13 children. Four brothers have been lost, but two remain, as well as Colemon and her six sisters.
“We’re still close,” Colemon, 73, said of her siblings. “We’ve passed on the legacy we’ve learned” to be there as a family to their children and grandchildren. Colemon has three adult sons.
Colemon’s father was Jesse, a truck driver, whose mother died while giving birth to him, and who was named for his grandfather. He was raised by his grandparents. Colemon said her father often said he could feel his mother’s spirit with him throughout his life.
When Colemon and her siblings were growing up, she said families took the time to talk and listen to each other and share.
“So, I just felt compelled to maybe write and leave a legacy,” she said.
Colemon experienced tough times, some of which are mentioned in her book. She attended segregated public schools.
“I don’t regret it one bit,” she said. Her parents raised her and her siblings not to see color, but to see love in others. She said the key ingredient is love, “and when you don’t have that a whole lot of other things can seep down in.”
She lost her husband in 2007 after an illness, just before the couple had planned a trip to Africa.
Colemon said her family has reunions every two years.
“When that’s part of your life, you can’t help but feel love,” she said.
Love is in the Bible, she said, and she believes in God’s word.
“Hopefully, [my book] can encourage others who have tough times not to give up,” Colemon said.
In her book, she shares her experience in the education system, where 200 students graduated under her program, and where she said she also saw a key ingredient needed was love.
Colemon’s life experiences and upbringing encouraged her to take care of the needs of students and adults.
“I still try to be a blessing to others,” she said.
Her heart goes out to essential workers.
“I just think everybody needs to be honored and recognized for what they’re doing,” she said. The work you do shows in who you are. She did not expect to receive the recognition she did when she retired, but the work she had done showed up in the recognition she received.
“I just thank the Lord for it.”
In her book, she shares her experience of leaving her parents’ home, ups and downs of life, and the gift she has come to learn she has of listening and critical thinking. She hopes her book “makes you stronger in your faith if you’re a believer.” For her, life has brought rewards when she found out later why she experienced something.
“This pandemic was for a reason,” Colemon said. The pandemic caused all of us to stop, think, regain faith and spend time with family.
Colemon hopes her books sheds a light on the fact “you can make a difference.” “It’s time for coming to the table,” even if discussions at the table are painful.
“If I can help somebody along the way — Dr. King said: ‘then my living won’t be in vain,’” Colemon said.
Colemon’s book is available at www.jjcolemonbook.com.