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Mayretta Kelly Brunson Williams Bryant Jones (1932-2012)

Story by Deesha Philyaw (Read author interview) May 2, 2022

Art by Yohan Marion

On March 14th, 2012, Mayretta “May” Brunson Kelly Williams Bryant Jones slept away peacefully right into Jesus’ arms after a long undisclosed illness (and if that big-mouth Margaret Hill says May had a nasty woman’s disease, she’s a goddamn lie).

May was born August 13th, 1932 to Essie and Eddie-Frank Kelly (both deceased) in Bainbridge, Georgia. Eddie-Frank had too many outside kids to name, but May was one of twelve children born of the union between him and Essie: Meddie Ann (deceased), Frankie (deceased), Tessie (Joe), Frank-Eddie (Mary), Jessie (deceased), Georgie, Oletha (John), Ernest, Tommie (deceased), Freddie (deceased), and Coretta (Bill). Eddie-Frank used to joke that his tribe of twelve made him Jesus, or at the very least, Jacob. But everybody knows the Bible don’t count Jacob’s daughters. Essie used to tell May and her other children not to pay their father no mind, especially when he was drunk, which was all the time.

May attended the local county schools and graduated from Cantor High School, class of 1950. She then married Mr. Cyrus D. Brunson (deceased) and from this union, two loving and devoted daughters, Celeste B. Ellis (Kenneth) and Kelly M. Brunson, of Savannah, GA, were born. Cyrus met his untimely demise in 1963, after falling from their younger daughter’s second-story bedroom window where he shouldna been in the first place. May then married Mr. Odell E. Williams who raised his hand to May one time; he died from complications from third-degree scalding burns and everybody knew May had acted in self defense and it wasn’t her fault he didn’t get to the hospital in time. May then married Mr. Raleigh L. Bryant, who failed to protect her from his brother Earl who didn’t know how to keep his damn hands to himself; Raleigh’s favorite cigarette case and gold lighter were found on the river bank, but his body was never recovered. May married for a final time in 1996, but her union to Mr. Bert F. Jones was sadly short-lived as he was terminally ill when they met. In 1997, May spent a year traveling to Ghana, Senegal, and Ivory Coast. (If Margaret tells you May married that man for his insurance money, tell Margaret to mind her own empty pockets.)

May leaves to mourn her passing and celebrate her life: her legitimate siblings; beloved children; cherished grandchildren, Sierra Bradley (Ron), Eric Ellis (Mariah), Kenneth Ellis Jr., Crystal Ellis, David Brunson, Dara Black (Carlos), and Derek Brunson (Alecia); a host of great-grandchildren, nephews, nieces, grandnephews, and grandnieces with no home training whatsoever; and three special friends: Shirley Thomas, Ella Davison, and Walter Broome. Now May knows each one-a y’all thought you were her only special friend. . . well, now you know the truth. May was a woman with a lot of love to give. (After decades of special friendship with Margaret, God revealed to May in a dream that Margaret was low down and not to be trusted. May had the dream right after a special friend trip they took to Fernandina Beach in 2010. Come to find out, Margaret was going around town telling all of May’s business, but leaving out her part in it. So May decided she didn’t want to be her special friend anymore and Margaret been bitter about that ever since. So don’t pay her and her lopsided wig no mind.)

May was a loyal and dedicated secretary in the county school system for 40 years when she retired in 1997. After retiring, May hosted weekly bid whist parties at her home on the city’s northside and focused her energies on family, church, and friends.

May was a lifelong and faithful member of New Mt. Hope Missionary Baptist Church under the leadership of Rev. Hezekiah Stephens (1930-1967) and Rev. Earl Bryant (1967 – present, because he knows there’s a special place in hell waiting for him so he’s trying to hold on to everything he can in this life).

The funeral service for Mrs. Jones will be held 11:00 am Monday, March 19th, 2012 at New Mt. Hope, 2851 W. 18th Street, associate pastor Rev. Jamarcus Smith officiating. Right before she was called home to be with the Lord in her eternal resting place, May asked Rev. Smith to officiate her homegoing, during one of the handsome young reverend’s many pastoral sick-and-shut-in visits, and he agreed. So if y’all see that old Herman Munster-faced Earl standing over May, get up and walk straight out of that church. The visitation will be 5:00 – 7:00 pm, Friday, March 16th, 2012 at Sarah M. White Funeral Home, 1180 North Cross Street. Interment in Shiloh Cemetery. The repast will be held at New Mt. Hope in the church fellowship hall. (If Margaret makes the potato salad, don’t eat it.)

May’s final request: In lieu of flowers, mourners are asked to send donations to Sun Coast Bank c/o The Margaret Hill New Wig Fund.

About the Author

Deesha Philyaw’s debut short story collection, The Secret Lives of Church Ladies, won the 2021 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, the 2020/2021 Story Prize, and the 2020 LA Times Book Prize: The Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction and was a finalist for the 2020 National Book Award for Fiction.

About the Artist

Yohan Marion is a photographer from Washington DC.

This story appeared in Issue Seventy-Five of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Seventy-Five
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