Monday, July 23, 2012

KCKCC's Gracella Jackson plans to enjoy her retirement


In the workforce for nearly her entire adult life, Gracella Jackson has loved every minute of it. And she sees no reason not to enjoy life to the fullest as she enters retirement.

“I have no complaints. I’ve enjoyed life and hope to enjoy all the years that I have left,” says Gracella, who will retire as administrative assistant in the office of College Advancement at Kansas City Kansas Community College Aug. 1.

She’ll be honored at a retirement reception Wednesday, July 25, from 1-2:30 p.m. in the Provost/College Advancement office.

Those well-earned retirement years will be used on two grandsons, traveling, exercise and work in her church.

“My husband (Lonnie Jackson) retired nearly three years ago from the Post Office and I’ve always wanted to retire at the age of 62,” says Gracella, “My two grandsons who are 14 and 11 play a lot of sports and are very active in a lot of activities in the Olathe school district so I’ll attend most, if not all, of their activities.”

She also has relatives and friends in Phoenix, Houston, Atlanta, Virginia and Washington, D.C., and her brother and sister-in-law in Chanute she and her husband of 41 years plan to visit.

A member of the Salem Baptist Church in KCK where she’s on the Deaconess Board, treasurer of the Usher Board and active in Sunday School, she plans on getting more involved in the mission group at her church which involves visiting nursing homes, the sick and bereaved as part of the church’s mission program.

“I’m also going to start an exercise plan,” she says. “Since Pat Harris retired last December, I have not got in as much walking as I had been.”

Gracella grew up in Chanute, raised by her grandmother, Grace Turner.

“My mother died when I was a baby so I never knew her. I and my brother, Harold, and sister, Veronica, were raised by my grandmother while my dad worked in Kansas City, Mo.”

It was from two grandmothers, Grace and Ella, that Jackson got her name.

A graduate of Chanute High School where she was president and vice-president of the GRA (Girls Recreation Assn.) and member of the Kayettes and Spanish Club, she was a cheerleader while earning an AA degree from Chanute Junior College.

She finished her college education at what then was the Kansas State Teachers Colleges at Emporia.

A member of the Campus Choir, Black Student Union and Sigma Gamma Rho sorority, it was at Emporia that she also met and married Lonnie Jackson.

The marriage produced two sons, Lonnie Lee Jackson, an Emporia State graduate, who teaches at Washington High School, and has the two grandsons; and  Marques, a Kansas State graduate now an assistant manager of an apartment complex in Lenexa. 

Fresh out of college, Gracella spent more than two years working as the secretary to the executive director of the Commission on Human Relations at City Hall in KCK before taking a year off when her first son was born.

When she returned to the job market, it was with Western Union’s corporate office in Kansas City, Mo., a job she’ll never forget.

“I loved working downtown. I was young and the hustle and bustle of working in a busy office and downtown KCMO was exciting.” In 1983, Western Union moved its offices to Dallas but Jackson stayed on – for another two years.

“Those were some of the best years,” she remembers. “At that time the unions were strong and if you had worked in one department long enough, you had job security and they couldn’t lay you off through a contract that ran to 1985. We looked at going to Dallas but neither my son nor I liked it. Since I had job security I continued to come to work every day, and they had to pay us for two years with nothing to do other than to play cards, watch TV and other things. There were five of us that had job security.   As soon as the contract was up they took job security out of the contract.”

With contract’s expiration in 1985, she returned to the workforce at Sun Savings for two years then spent the next 18 years at the Central Baptist Theological Seminary at 31st and Minnesota in KCK.

“I really enjoyed working there,” says Gracella, who started as gift income secretary and moved up to administrative assistant for the vice-president of development, “It was like a family. Everyone was caring and knew everyone.”

Unfortunately, the fallout from 9/11 created a severe drop in donations and ultimately in 2005 over one third of the faculty and staff had to be cut – including Gracella.

“It was really a sad time for those who had to leave,” says Gracella.

However, when one door closed, another opened. “I was told about a job at the college which sounded good because I was looking for a job close to my home. I applied in June and started working at KCKCC the end of July. I’ve enjoyed all my years working in the college advancement department with a lot of great people.  KCKCC is a great place to work--with great benefits and I thank God for the opportunity.  I might miss work for a little time but it’s my time to do whatever I want to do in retirement and I’m looking forward to this new chapter in my life.”