Jessie Shorter Thomas was a proud and witty fourth- generation Washingtonian. On Sept. 16, 2010, she was blessed to celebrate her 100th birthday. Jessie’s life journey began Sept. 16, 1910. She was the fourth of five children born to Charles and Jessie Freeman Shorter. She was educated in the District of Columbia public schools. After attending Lucretia Mott Elementary School, Jessie graduated from Armstrong Senior High School. (She remarked that there was no middle or junior high school at that time.) Following high school, she completed one year at Howard University, interrupting her education to begin her career at the United States Government Printing Office.
Jessie married LeRoy Samuels in 1930. She and LeRoy had one daughter, her beloved BettyJane. This union ended in divorce. In 1956, she married Charles W. Thomas. Together they traveled the world, collecting animals in conjunction with Charles’ position as “unofficial ambassador” for the National Zoo. Their travels were often covered in Life and Ebony magazines. Jessie and Charles were inseparable until he departed this life in 1991.
Jessie was an active member of the Berean Baptist Church since her childhood. Her father enrolled her in Sunday school when she was 5. She was a devoted member of the Berean family until her passing. At Berean Baptist Church, she was a member of the Missionary Society and the Gideon Club. She also filled the position of financial clerk for the continued to serve as a Deaconess at its successor, the Historic Berean Baptist Church located at 14th Street and Montana Avenue, Northeast. At the age of 90, she was honored as the first mother of the Church. She remained a dutiful deaconess, serving communication and caring for the sick and shut-in until her passing.
Jessie felt helping others was part of the rent we pay our creator. She often shared, ‘When the Lord blesses you, he looks for you to share the blessing.” She helped feed and clothe many in need by assisting at the Crisis Center at Berean Baptist Church. Her dedication to serving others continued until her death. She was an active member of Wings for Joy, Inc., where she regularly participated in the campaigns to bring food and clothing to women and children in need.
Jessie retired from government service after more than 36 years. She then began to devote her time to many worthy causes, and became an avid volunteer. As a member of the Women’s Auxiliary for Howard University Hospital, she worked in the gift shop for over 20 years. She also volunteered at Arena Stage, and the Joint Center for Political Studies, where she contributed for more than 10 years. She was also a dedicated poll worker. She worked on numerous political campaigns in the District and Montgomery County, Md. She would proudly share that the participated in every march in Washington for Equal Rights until she turned 90.
Jessie’s service and contributions to the community did not go unnoticed. She received numerous expressions of appreciation and awards over the years. She was most recently honored with a feature article in the Washington AFRO and recognized as an outstanding senior citizen of Ward 5 by Councilman Harry Thomas Jr.
Jessie loved to swim. She would often share how she and her sister learned to swim when city built a pool in the community. Her love her swimming continued throughout her life. At the age of 90, she participated in the DC Senior Olympics at Howard University and was awarded a trophy for being the most senior lady swimmer.
No one was more devoted to her family than Jessie. She could always be counted on for love and support. She cherished the time she spent with her daughter Betty, and considered Betty’s husband Albert, her son. Her granddaughter Tracy and later great grandson Justin were truly the apples of her eye. She was also delighted to have a loving grandson in Tracy’s husband Larry. She loved family gatherings, celebrations and quiet time shared with the people she loved.
The life of the party — that was Jessie. She was known for her outgoing personality, quick wit and sense of humor. She was a great dancer and sparkling conversationalist.
Always ready with a compliment, pat on the back and a wink of an eye, she would make one feel comfortable and at ease. Affectionately known as “Tots” and “GG,” Jessie was a must-have on anyone’s guest list. Her motto for a long life: Pray, give thanks, help somebody each day and eat chocolate.”
Her parents, Charles and Jessie; siblings, Ransellar, John, Evenly and Geneva, and daughter, Bettyjane, preceded her in death. She leaves to cherish her memory, her granddaughter, Tracy DuPree Davis (Larry D. Davis); great grandson, Justin Davis; niece, Dolores Kiah (Donald A. Kiah); stepdaughter, Harriet Dodson, and a host of great nephews, nieces other loving relatives, her church family and friends.