, Port Arthur, Texas

Local News

December 25, 2013

Family makes Christmas special for loved one

PORT ARTHUR — Sitting at a crowded table looking out over the waters of Lake Sabine, Leanna Gillam knew Christmas 2013 was one she would remember for the rest of her life.

Not only was there opportunity to visit with many of her relatives during the Jones Family reunion held on Christmas Day at The Palms clubhouse on Pleasure Island, Gillam was paid tribute in a way that brought tears to her eyes.

Gillam, 65, was presented a key to the city while Port Arthur Mayor Deloris “Bobbie” Prince read a proclamation in her honor.

“I thank God for the opportunity to do this,” Prince said, adding there was nothing more significant than family gathering on special occasions. “She is a true blessing to those who know and love her.”

Beverly Raymond, one of the family gathering’s co-chairpersons, said Christmas was the perfect time to let Gillam know how much she was loved and admired.

“Once we realized a lot of family members were coming to town, we decided to have a special Christmas celebration. We are trying to make her Christmas special,” Raymond said.

Gillam, who is battling lung and liver cancer for the second time, said she was as touched as she was surprised by the honor paid her.

Cancer, she said, has taught her to live each day to its fullest.

“It is like nothing else matters but friends and family being together. I have learned to just be happy this day, because tomorrow is not promised,” Gillam said. “To be with family that are all together on a happy note; its a blessed day.”

About 80 family members were present Wednesday to honor Gillam including her sons, Jason Powell, 37, of Beaumont, and Junious Powell, 43, of Houston; and her husband of 30 years, Lawrence Gillam.

“Today is indeed a blessing. She will do anything for anybody, always giving and giving and giving, and a lot of the times she is not on the receiving end,” Lawrence Gillam said. “She is everybody’s favorite niece, favorite auntie, favorite cousin — just a wonderful spirit”.

While it was  easy to get the relatives together for the special reunion, finding a place large enough, and special enough, to accommodate them was another matter altogether.

Port Arthur City Councilman Kerry “Twin” Thomas, who was attending the reunion with his girlfriend Amy Polidore, suggested The Palms

It turned out to be the perfect place,  Raymond said.

“Since our grandmother Mary Jones died in 1999, this is the first time we’ve had this big of a Christmas,” Raymond said. “Our relatives have come from as far away as Baltimore, Tennessee, North Carolina, Houston.”

Among those many relatives was Leanna Gillam’s four sisters, and her mother.

“I just feel wonderful, just blessed. Very seldom are we all together. This is a day I am never going to forget,” Leanna Gillam said.


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