Several generations of a Staunton family come together for first family reunion since 2005

Published: Aug. 26, 2022 at 12:00 PM EDT
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STAUNTON, Va. (WHSV) - “Honey, you are missing something. If you have not met my family, honey, you have missed a good one,” Jane Smith said. At 104, Jane is the oldest living member of the Smith-Bryant family.

If you start with Henry Lewis Smith and Queenie Marie Carr Bryant, the Smith-Bryant family has raised generations in Staunton and surrounding areas dating back to beyond the 1800s.

For the first time in 17 years, as many of the family members plan to meet in the city where, for many, it all began.

“Whenever there is an opportunity, through weddings and more often than not through funerals, we gather. Parts of us, not all of us, but that has been the key to our connection,” Horace Smith said.

Years ago, Horace worked his first full-time job at the same hotel where the family will reunite.

“I couldn’t eat at the restaurant, but of course, I could work there. It really gave me a very nice understanding of the privileged and the have-nots,” Horace said.

Now called Hotel 24 South, the same hotel will host members of the Smith-Bryant family coming from all over the country.

From generation to generation this family has not been shy about breaking barriers.

“Our family was the first to integrate schools in Staunton,” Germaine Bryant said.

They say education is in their DNA.

“I had to also hear things like, ‘oh, you may not be college material. You may not get into X school because my brother applied and he didn’t get there.’ I can actually look at my guidance counselor and say I don’t know why you would say such a thing, but I’m going. I will send you a card when I get there, and I will send you one when I finish there. That is exactly what I did,” Vickie explained.

“We have had some folks, we got one on this line that is a doctor, Ph.D. I’ve got several advanced degrees so does Vickie. We have gone to the limit because we know that we can, and we had a good foundation to help us get there,” Janis Smith Wilson said.

That foundation emphasizes that family is who you can count on.

“Family is everything. Stick by them protect them, no matter what,” Taron Bryant said.

Jane Smith is an aunt to some, and a great aunt to others.

“Long as I am living I’m still mama,” Jane said.

Though she cannot be there in person, she reminds her family to rely on their faith.

“You have to get it for yourself. Can’t nobody serve God for you. You have to get it for yourself. He will lead you, he will guide you all the way. That’s why I trust him,” Jane said.