LIMA — One of my favorite things about summer is gathering at the family reunion.
Many families have them. A chance to meet and greet with people who share our DNA, yet we see only once a year. Typically in the summer.
Such a reunion continues this weekend when the Jones and Green families gather for their annual get-together. The group, coming from all around Ohio as well as Wisconsin, North Carolina, Michigan and Georgia, is literally taking over Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Park to celebrate their heritage.
“We have always had a reunion with our family, but before my mom died in 1975, she wanted us to get together with grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins. Since then, we have tried our best to do that,” said Lula Estelle of Lima, the fourth of the Jones’ children and one of the hosts of this year’s gathering.
The reunion moves round-robin to different family locations, and this year landed in Lima.
For the most part, it’s Lula’s parents, Booker and Ethel Jones, who are responsible for this weekend’s gathering, with more than 200 relatives expected to gather.
The couple, now both deceased, had 14 children. “The oldest is a boy, and the youngest is a boy,” Lula said. In her earliest memory, the family lived in Belzoni, Miss., which is about 90 miles west of Jackson.
When she was 8 years old, Lula’s dad announced that the family would be moving to Lima where he’d found work in a machine shop.
“I really don’t remember too much about moving, but I do remember it was a long move. There were no modern highways, and it took us a long time to get to Lima, Ohio,” she said.
Once here, the family lived with Booker’s sister before moving into a home on East 11th Street.
After that, the Jones family increased by seven more children as the years went by. For matriarch Ethel, keeping her brood close was important.
“She went too soon, but I know if Mom were still with us, she’d love this gathering,” Lula said. Along with the Jones side, Ethel’s family, the Greens, also share the fun.
And who wouldn’t?
“We have trivia games we play every year. We ask questions about where the family has come from, and how we are connected,” Lula explained. Her sister, Sharon Guice, is the historian of the family.
“We always have trivia for the kids, too. It’s important to us that they know all about where they came from. We want to pass this history down to them,” Lula said.
And winners of the contest get a little something extra for their history knowledge.
“We always try to pick up a little something for the adults. For the kids, we buy them school supplies if they win. And, we make the kids a pinata every year. We fill it with lots of candy, ‘cause they like that. And, we give them a toothbrush too. If you’re gonna have candy, you better have a toothbrush,” she said, chuckling.
And there’s games of basketball and baseball. They like to play Connect 4 and any kind of card game.
And of course, there’s the food. “We started off with hotdogs, but this year we’re having chicken and ribs and all the trimmings,” Lula said.
Good food, good stories, good memories. That’s the DNA for a wonderful reunion.
“My hope is to have enough people there to circle the pond at the park. My one brother has 100 in his family, so that should help us out,” she said, chuckling.
But Lula was quick to point out why her family — why our families — plan reunions.
“We want the kids to know how all this started. People get sick and die, and so many times their stories die, too. We want our kids to know the stories of our family. That’s important.”