Nearly 40 years ago, Congress passed legislation proclaiming the first Sunday after Labor Day National Grandparents Day. In 1978, President Jimmy Carter signed the proclamation.
Almost a decade later, President Ronald Reagan’s 1986 message in part stated: “Grandparents are the backbone of voluntarism and charity in American society. There are no more dedicated or productive workers in the voluntary sector than older citizens who can dedicate themselves almost entirely to their family, their neighbors and their community.”
Throughout the nation, there are thousands of grandparents who fit that description. Here in South Florida, grandparents Susie and Freddie Robinson Sr. and Marietta and Gerald L. Bullard are well-known examples. All have been recognized for the important roles they play in the lives of their grandchildren and our community.
Susie and Freddie Robinson Sr. have three adult children, LaFreda Regina Robinson Smith, Yolonda Denise Robinson Holland and Freddie L. Robinson Jr., along with five grandchildren, Kayla Dominique Holland, Jonathan David Holland, Gabrielle Denae Holland, Noah Jerome Smith, Jr., and Freddie L. Robinson III.
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Retired educators, the senior Robinsons each worked for Miami-Dade County Public Schools for over 30 years. Since retirement, they both work part-time at Florida Memorial University as supervisors for pre-student teachers and interns. Their volunteer community activities include membership and holding office in Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, the Friendship Garden and Civic Club, Jack and Jill of America, St. James A.M. E. Church, Masons, March of Dimes, Boy Scouts and the Afro-American Kiwanis Club.
The Robinsons met at the homecoming dance in 1962 while attending college in Nashville. They married 52 years ago, on Feb. 8, 1965. In 2016, they were among the community personalities featured in the AT&T Bellsouth calendar and honored this year by their alma mater, Tennessee State University.
Marietta and Gerald Bullard have two adult children, Elaine Bullard Buckner and Jeffrey Bullard Sr., and three grandchildren, Briana Buckner Newkirk, Brennen Buckner, and Jeffrey Bullard Jr.
For 30 years, Marietta worked for Miami-Dade County Public Schools. In retirement she worked part-time at Florida Memorial University as a supervisor for pre-student teachers. She has received many awards for active participation in Zeta Phi Beta Sorority and the community. Other volunteer affiliations include the Egelloc Civic and Social Club, the Episcopal Church of the Incarnation, the National Council of Negro Women, and the Top Ladies of Distinction. Gerald retired after 27 years working for the Greyhound Bus Co. and also continues active membership at the Episcopal Church of the Incarnation.
The Bullards met during high school and married 62 years ago, on Feb. 26, 1955. At that time both worked at Jackson Memorial Hospital.
The Robinson and Bullard grandchildren are proud of their grandparents’ longevity, accomplishments, and the time and resources shared with them and the community.
When asked about the Bullards’ influence in her life, granddaughter Buckner Newkirk recalled summer visits: “Our Miami grandparents kept us so busy going to the library, zoo, parks and on boat rides we didn’t need summer camp. You name it, we did it.”
Years later, after Buckner Newkirk finished high school, her grandparents helped pay for her tuition at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the School of Medicine at Chapel Hill, and the internship/residency at the University of Pennsylvania hospital’s Internal Medicine Program. Board certified in internal medicine, Buckner Newkirk later relocated with her husband, Ronnie, to Washington, D.C., where she is a primary-care doctor.
“Whenever I needed an encouraging ear throughout college and medical school my grandparents were always there,” she said.
National Grandparents Day is an opportunity to pay tribute to those older adults who inspire youth with words and support. It’s a good time to let grandparents know you appreciate them. On a personal note, being a grandmother brings me great joy and happiness throughout the year.
Dorothy Jenkins Fields, PhD, is a historian and founder of the Black Archives, History and Research Foundation of South Florida Inc. Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.