A TIME TO BE BORN
On December 20, 1956, a spitfire by the name of Eloise Anita Jemison was born in Chicago, Illinois. She went by the name of “Nita” and was the second born of 8 siblings, but you couldn’t tell her she wasn’t the “oldest.” She loved and protected her siblings with a fierceness that was only matched by her unwavering faith in God. Eloise was born with Sickle Cell Anemia, a genetic illness that causes mal-shaped blood cells to occasionally clot in excruciatingly painful episodes known as a “Sickle Cell Crisis.” Although many doctors told her that she wouldn’t live past her teenage years and that she should never bear children, Mom firmly believed that “God has the last say.” As a child, she protected her younger siblings from neighborhood bullies and was known to put her own antagonizers in their place when they would tease her when her eyes would yellow from an impending sickle cell crisis. These impending crises however, did not prevent her from whooping up on those kids who dared tease her. Most of her antagonizers would come to respect her afterward and would ultimately become friends.
Growing up, she was very strong willed. She often made her mama, Dorothy Ruth Jemison, “earn this whooping” by making her mother chase her down the street. Nevertheless, she was always a big mama’s girl and daddy’s girl. She loved and respected them even if, in her mind, they were absolutely wrong. Since her father Robert Jemison, Sr. was in the Navy, her family moved often. They settled in Virginia Beach in 1975, when she would wear her hair in a stylishly massive afro. Mom attended high school at Kellam High School and would later matriculate at Norfolk State University. She attended classes and worked as a clerk for the Virginia Beach city office at Princess Anne Road.
A TIME TO UNITE
In 1980, she met Michael Wallace and married him six months later. In true Nita Wallace strong-willed fashion, she bore not one but four children! She named her first born daughter Eloise after herself because “we couldn’t think of anything else to call her.” Her second born daughter was named Christine to remind her to “always keep Christ in her heart.” She named her third child and first son Michael, who she often reminded us was “born two weeks early but shot up like a weed.” Her last child Matthew, was named after her favorite disciple in the Bible. She poured herself into her kids and was a devoted mother and wife. She made sure each of her kids had the opportunity to experience as many activities as they desired. This meant constant shuffling between basketball, football, baseball, and softball practices; orchestra and chorus concerts; debate team competitions, volunteer activities, different magnet schools, karate practices and tournaments. You name it, we did it, and she made it happen. You could constantly see her pink and gray Dodge 91 Ram van all over the city. Pink was her favorite color, so in 1996 the family built a pink house with a pink kitchen, which she stubbornly called “mauve.”
A TIME TO BE PROUD
She was immensely proud that three of four children graduated from University of Virginia and one graduated from the Navy Nuclear Power Program. She was essential to all our successes and constantly harassed us all for grandkids. When she finally became a grandmother, she loved each of her grandchildren so much. She constantly bought them toys, books, clothes, and candy. During this time, she also became an advocate for Sickle Cell Anemia and would volunteer at their yearly parade in Norfolk, host blood drives, and attend support group meetings to help others with Sickle Cell Anemia.
A TIME TO LIVE
In 2016, she moved to Woodbridge, VA to live with her eldest daughter after intense persuasion and bribery for additional grandkids. She was always fiercely independent and anxious about leaving all her family, friends, and fellow volunteers in Virginia Beach. She had a big heart and cared for many family members, neighbors, kids, and friends. Her eldest daughter would often tease her by calling her “Captain Save ‘Em All” because she was always trying to help out others, even when she was the one who needed help during her Sickle Cell crises. In her last demonstration of strong will, she left this Earth on the morning of April 5, 2021, NOT from a Sickle Cell Crisis, but from heart failure, after 64 years of astonishing doctors. Take that you quacks! Just kidding! She had several excellent doctors helping to prolong her life and ameliorate her symptoms. In her final act of charity, she donated organs and tissues after her passing.
To cherish her memory and maintain the love and fire she shared, she leaves four children Eloise (Russell), Christine (Damie), Michael Jr. (Yandace), and Matthew and four grandchildren: Russell III, Arya, Ayden, and Eloise III. Also, she is survived by her father, Robert Jemison, Sr. and is preceded in death by her mother, Dorothy Ruth Jemison. She is survived by all seven of her siblings Charles, Jacquelyn, Robert, Dorothy, Dennis, Kevin, and Keith and an abundance of beloved nieces, nephews, and cousins.
A TIME TO GIVE BACK
Please support the Sickle Cell Association, Inc. She and her mother, Dorothy, loved and supported this non-profit organization that provides assistance to those with Sickle Cell Anemia in the Hampton Roads area.
Sickle Cell Association, Inc.
870 N. Military Hwy. Ste 201
Norfolk, VA 23502
Please become a Blood Donor with the Red Cross (or any blood bank) and a bone marrow donor with Be the Match. These two organizations save lives and offer cures to those with Sickle Cell Anemia (and other afflictions). Even though the cure will come too late for her, we can save someone else.
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