Once upon a time, Clarence Anno fell in love and married Pauline Ritchie, they moved to the peaceful countryside near Woodall where they raised eight children, Maxine, Clarence Jr., Curtis, Carol Jean, Steven “Tommy,” Jessie James, Brenda and Martha Ann.
Jessie learned at a young age responsibility, the value of a penny, and “You had better have your chores done before your father gets home!” Times were hard in the ‘40s and ‘50s, there was enough to eat but never a scrap left over. In the years to come, the old farm house was replaced by a two bedroom bungalow nestled in the pine trees, closer to Highway 62, with a beautiful creek just under the hill, where Jessie, sister Carol Jean, and brother Tommy spent countless hours roaming the hillsides, catching fish and crawdads – roasting them in little drifts by the creek – using little bits of chipped off cow salt for seasoning, they were creative!
Jessie was good with a gun. He and Tom practiced on momma’s clothes pins still pinned to the line, seeing who could make the most of them “spin.” He missed school on a regular basis to hunt, helping to feed the family. Teachers knew he wouldn’t be in school when quail, deer or any other season came in, for that matter. That’s how he earned the nickname “The Great White Hunter,” compliments of a teacher.
After graduation from Tahlequah High School, he found employment where he could, learning many crafts. He gave his parents electricity, running water and their first TV. He helped countless others during his 74 years before COPD took him away on Nov. 12, 2012.
At 19 his first son, Jessie Gene Winsett, was born. Jess always wanted to be an engineer and design bridges, buildings and such, but there was no college in his future. Instead he became a self-taught carpenter, and a darned good one, working with his brother-in-law, Coy Whittmore. Mary Ann gave him a beautiful daughter, Tammy Dorene, and son, James Mitchell. The marriage was dissolved and he was left with two very young children to care for, having to walk them to the sisters over a half-mile away. He said, “I carried Mitchell and Tammy walked ‘til her little legs gave out, and I’d pick her up too.”
There was a son born. Mary Faye gave him a beautiful boy, Scott Alan Kirk. Jess later married Eula Mae (who resides on the old home place at Woodall). But alas, after 21 years that, too, dissolved. He did love and have quality time with his step-son, Glenn Gibson, and step-daughter, Debbie Garr.
Jessie loved to dance, and 27 years ago while at the Keys Round Up Club, he met what would become the “love of his life” and final partner. Deanna Lee Davis and son Mark A. Davis were a large part of his life. Another step-son, Jeffrey Emerson Davis resides in California. Jessie built his dream home west of Tahlequah, high on the hilltop, where they could sit on the deck and observe the cattle, watch for deer along the bottom and of course enjoy the “nite critters” who serenaded them. Hoot owls, coyotes and all sorts of singing bugs. Raccoons came for supper every night; one would eat marshmallows, cookies or grapes out of his hand, rather a change from a man who grew up coon hunting and selling hides.
He sadly leaves his family of four children, 12 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren. Carrying their grandfather and friend will proudly be Chad Winsett, Mark A. Davis, Jr., Steve Guffey, Eddie Molloy, David Stanley Sr. and David Stanley Jr. Honorary Pallbearers will be Mark A. Davis, Sr., Gary Hix, Steve Molloy, Ronnie Paul Ritchie and Tommy Anno.
I don’t know if God allows hunting and fishing in heaven, but if he does, that’s what Jessie James will do.
Services will be held at Wednesday, Nov. 14, at 1 p.m., in the Hart Funeral Home Chapel. Interment will follow in the Tahlequah City Cemetery under the direction of Hart Funeral Home.
Hart Funeral Home, 1506 N. Grand, (918) 456-8823.