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Sunday, November 25, 2007

Teaching Legend Is Almost "Legal" at 20


There isn't one of us that wouldn't like to take what we know right now, go back in time to our 20th year, and relive those times, with what we know of life in the 21st Century.

Kingsport teaching legend Virgealia Ellis knows that feeling. In four years, she'll reach the legal age of 21.

Having been born on February 29th, a day that disappears from the calendar every four years, Mama "Jill" Ellis is technically about 20 years old, even though she has seen the sun rise and set about 29,000 times. While you're figuring that up, it comes out to almost 80 years. Mama Jill will be 80 at the end of February.

The Ellis children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren gathered with friends in the meeting hall of the Americourt Inn in Kingsport on Saturday, November 24, 2007, to celebrate Mama Jill's upcoming 20th Leap Year birthday.

Friends came from far and near to both roast and toast Mama Jill for her many accomplishments, teaching hundreds of school children over the years, while raising Mack, Robert, Bruce, Michael, Craig, Dawnella, and Voncilla at home.

After feasting on Thanksgiving dinner, relatives and visitors raised a toast to Mama Jill's life, and listened to an audio-visual presentation from son Craig Ellis, that took visitors through the many phases of her life from Rotherwood Heights to Riverview.

Music was provided by Behind The Note.

The event was capped off with a visit from Santa Claus, A-K-A Bruce Ellis.

Several dignitaries also attended the celebration, including Kingsport Board of Mayor and Alderman member Larry Muncey, Tennessee State Representative Nathan Vaughn, and Barbara Moody, representing the Kingsport City School Board. Each had warm words for Mama Jill's many acts of kindness both in the community and at school.

Although overwhelmed by all the attention, Mama Jill was, as always, gracious in directing the focus of the gathering to the accomplishments of others in the family and in the groups of friends attending.

Mama Ellis is an inspiration to us all. Her historical perspectives on Douglass High School, Dobyns-Bennett High School, and the Riverview-South Central community are immeasurable, a virtual first-hand visit to the relationships that formed the very fabric of our lives in Kingsport.

Although we are no longer her students, we are still learning from Mama Jill's accomplishments. With God's Help and Love, we will continue that for many years to come.