MINIS COLUMN: Mentor leaves a void in Ladson

Mary Conyers Jefferson

Ask Wannetta Pratt, worthy matron of the Eastern Star's Lily Chapter 134 in Ladson, about Mary Conyers Jefferson and you'll get an unequivocal response. Jefferson, a former worthy matron, was someone with characteristics that every leader should have.

"She was a mentor to everyone," Pratt says of Jefferson, who died Nov. 4. "No matter what your age or background, she had something to offer you. When new members were brought in, she led in teaching them the ways, regulations and requirements (of the Eastern Star)."

The Order of the Eastern Star is the world's largest fraternal organization to which men and women may belong. Its more than 500,000 members strive to adhere to spiritual principles. And its purposes include performing charitable activities.

Jefferson, Pratt says, knew all of the Eastern Star rituals. She gave great examples in many ways, including her recitation of lengthy passages from memory during ceremonies. Pratt, who is the newly elected chapter leader, relied on Jefferson's institutional memory and as a sounding board whose counsel she could count on.

Her death creates a leadership void in their Eastern Star chapter that can't be filled, Pratt says.

Chapter secretary Mary Knox will remember Jefferson as someone who always was ready to serve and particularly adept at raising the funds needed for the chapter to carry out its charitable projects in the community.

She was as happy for the opportunity to take gifts to the sick and shut-ins as she was to be a leader. And when her friends were feeling down, she could be counted on to call with words of encouragement and cheer even though she had many responsibilities.

"She was just a godly person," Knox says.

Jefferson's sister, Ethel Sloss, agrees and says one demonstration of her sister's commitment to those in need is the Golden Band, an outreach ministry at Wesley United Methodist Church in Ladson, where she was a member. Jefferson founded and presided over the group of people 55 and older.

Members of the Golden Band, a senior support group, come from around the tri-county area to fellowship Wednesday mornings at the church. After a devotional, there are blood pressure checks, physical exercises and games such as bingo and Bible trivia. They also hear experts who speak on senior issues, make blankets for less fortunate seniors, share a meal among themselves and prepare the same for anyone unable to attend.

"For many who attend, it's the only activity they have during the week except for church," Sloss says.

That's why her sister organized the group to meet many of their needs.

"She just knew how to do things and everybody loved to follow her," Sloss says.

Sloss says Jefferson, a lay minister as well, preached her last sermon based on the 100th Psalm, one about making a joyful noise and giving thanks to God. After Jefferson preached it, she sang "I Get Joy (When I Think About What He's Done for Me)."

Reach Wevonneda Minis at 937-5705 or wminis@postandcourier.com.