Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Saying Goodbye to a Community Leader and a Friend

"Jenny was always a fighter.  But sometimes, you have to let the Lord win some of those fights for you."

The life of Virginia Hankins, affectionately known as "Jenny" is being celebrated.

Jenny Hankins lost her courageous battle with cancer Monday night, June 24, 2013, peacefully surrounded by family and friends.  She was 63.

"The community will miss her willingness to help in a time of crisis," says longtime friend Roberta "Bert" Webb.  "She was heavily involved in the American Red Cross, and was always being called to help somewhere.  I was talking to her daughter Tiffany and I said 'if your mama wasn't in this bed sick, she'd be up in Calgary, Alberta helping those people with the flooding there.  We started laughing, and wondering where the next catastrophe would be.  Jenny went anywhere the Red Cross sent her, she would go.  She just always wanted to help and comfort people."

"She might have retired from Eastman, but she didn't retire from life."


"I've known Jenny since the second grade," says Bert.  "Since we were seven.  We've been around each other almost 50 years.  She has been a good friend over the years.  I could just pick up the phone and call her, and we would sound just like school girls.  There wasn't anything we wouldn't do for each other."

"You just couldn't ask for a better friend."

Webb said Jenny was also totally dedicated to her classmates, the Class of '68.

"That was her special bond," Bert says.  "Even though we all went our separate ways after Douglass intergrated with some of us graduating from D-B and other schools, we all shared that bond of starting at Douglass and being part of the Douglass Class of '68.  We always wondered out loud what things would have been like, had it been at 301 Louis Street."

In 2011, Jenny was elected president of the Douglass Alumni Association of Kingsport, and oversaw the renaming of the organization to the Sons and Daughters of Douglass, Inc., as it transitioned from just a neighborhood group, into a non-profit 501(c)3 charity.

"She was a dedicated alumni member to the Douglass Alumni," says past president Doug Releford.  "She always had ideas for fundraisers, and was always willing to work on anything.  She helped us get a grant from the Kohl's Department Store people, and organized pancake breakfasts to raise money for the Sons and Daughters of Douglass."

Ill health forced Jenny to resign from the presidency in February.  Her resignation came as a shock to her fellow board members, as the cancer that racked her body eventually settled in her liver.  Tears took over as news of her resignation settled over the board at its meeting that Saturday.

"She always wanted the alumni to work harder to strengthen the organization, and felt the Executive Board of which she was president, and the Working Board who carried out the policies, was the key to holding the group together," Releford says.  "She wanted the organization to be a sounding board in the community, as Riverview moves forward in its relationship with Kingsport.  We had never been a member of the Kingsport Chamber of Commerce, and she pushed for that.  It let people know that we as African-Americans are important members of the community as a whole."

"Her goal was to keep the history of Douglass School known in Kingsport, by passing it on down to our descendants like the Ebony Club," he says.  "She always felt that they were Sons and Daughters of Douglass, too, and our history is part of their history, too.  Hopefully, we can continue that dream."

Funeral services will be announced soon.  Please check back at the PASSINGS AND OBITUARIES link for the homegoing of Virginia "Jenny" Hankins.