Last week family and friends celebrated the legacy of community service through giving by honoring what would have been the 90th birthday of the late former Florida State Representative Willye F. Dennis and her husband Leo Dennis 99th birthday.
For over 30 years the Dennis’s created and maintained businesses in the Jacksonville community. The Dennis’ were married for over 50 years. Not only did they run a successful dry cleaning business, Willye F. Clayton-Dennis was an American librarian, civil rights activist and Florida state legislator. She was the first African American Chief of Children’s Services for the Jacksonville Public Library System and elected president of the Jacksonville Branch of the NAACP, Jacksonville Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta and to the 15th District of the Florida House of Representatives for two terms.
The luncheon, held at Moncrief Community Center, included invited seniors who were served lunch, complete with a birthday cake. Attendees also received gift cards and baskets filled with hygiene and household products. Douglass Anderson High School of the Arts Local students serenaded the seniors with instrumental melodies and games were also played recalling the many historical sites of the Dennis businesses and contributions to the city.
Granddaughter Cisely Hightower smiled, “God gave me the vision to have this celebration. As a Head Start teacher, I remember when I was a young girl and my grandmother would help me with my schoolwork and I witnessed her work with the seniors in the community. I enlisted the help of my mother and my grandmother’s close associates to assist with the celebration. My grandparents inspired me to be the woman I am today. We are excited about what’s to come for our family’s legacy,” she said.
Cisely was so encouraged by the events and its success that she is now in the process of creating a Dennis Family nonprofit organization. The nonprofit will focus on giving back in the areas of education, seniors and children.
R. Silver photo