Clinton Journal | Weldon family descendants celebrate their 100th annual reunion this month

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WELDON – Descendants of Emmett and Alice Gray will reunite on August 14 in Weldon to celebrate Gray’s 100th annual reunion.

Started by Emmett and Alice in 1923, the reunion was a way to reunite their five grown children and spouses and preserve the Gray family legacy.

Emmett and Alice lived in Weldon most of their adult life, where they raised five children and were active in the community. Emmett served as a village policeman, was a manager/partner at the Gray & Company meat market, and also worked at the Railsback Brothers elevator.

Some early meetings took place at the home of Emmett and Alice Gray in Weldon, but over the years most have taken place in Weldon Park, where generations of Gray’s descendants have played the cannon which is still there today .

Other central Illinois meeting locations include Weldon Springs, Nelson Park, Decatur, Crystal Lake, Urbana, Miller Park, Bloomington, Big Creek Park, Canton, Andrew and Leita Jackson’s home, at Weldon, Hessel Park, at Champaign, the home of Charles and Mildred Gray, at Canton, and the home of Phares and Harriet O’Daffer at Lake Bloomington.

The Gray Reunion was established with bylaws and 13 founding members, which included Emmett and Alice Gray and their children/spouses/grandchildren who lived in Weldon or Clinton, Jesse and Haidee Gray and their sons Robert, Virgil and Lila Gray and their sons Kenneth, Charles Gray, William (Bill) Gray, Ruby Gray and Leita Gray and her husband Andrew Jackson. Nine of them attended the first meeting in 1923.

Officers are elected (President, Vice-President, Secretary-Treasurer) for a two-year term. Each year the President conducts a business meeting in accordance with the Roberts Rules of Order. There are meeting minutes recorded from 1927 to the present day.

For nearly 60 years, only men held the office of president, but in 1982 the first female president, Cherry Jackson Kingston, who lived in Weldon, was elected. She was one of Emmett and Alice’s four granddaughters.

After the business meeting, entertainment is provided by the members, including poetry and other readings, song and dance, performance of musical instruments, magic tricks, baton tricks, martial arts demonstrations and silly animal tricks. The members also played horseshoes and early croquet on Emmett Gray’s sandy croquet pitch in his garden at his Weldon home.

Before the business meeting, members enjoy a potluck picnic with many family favorites, such as fried chicken, beef noodles and homemade pies.

There are 62 living Gray reunion members, including three of Emmett and Alice’s grandchildren, aged 88, 91 and 95, 16 great-grandchildren, 17 great-great-grandchildren and two great-great-great-grandchildren. Most live in Illinois or Indiana.

Special activities are planned for the 100th Gray reunion including: lawn games, karaoke, a watermelon seed spitting contest, original poetry readings, a Hickory River BBQ at Urbana, and more.

One of Emmett and Alice’s great-grandchildren, Sara O’Daffer Marberry, has also written a memoir about the reunion which will be published in July 2022. It includes nine original poems written by her grandmother, Ruby Gray O’Daffer Atteberry, on the reunion.

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