By Joyner Wiley Adams
I believe there are some valuable lessons to be learned in reviewing the life of a faithful child of God. On this premise 1, therefore justify the comments I shall make about the life of my earthly father, Joyner Wilson Adams. It is a eulogy, to be sure, but my purpose is for it to be more than a eulogy. I want it to serve as a form of instruction to those who read it. I trust it will accomplish this two-fold purpose.
He was born September 25, 1902 to David Bonnie and Mary Adeline (Allen) Adams in a remote rural section of eastern North Carolina known simply as Pike Road. He departed this life December 9, 1986 at his home in Chesterfield County, Virginia near Hopewell. He was 84 years old. Had he lived until December 23, he and his wife, Nollie, would have been married sixty-three years.
My daddy was the oldest of six children. Life was hard in those days. His mother died in child-birth when he was twelve years old. He dropped out of school to help his father make a living in the “log-woods.” The lumber company hired on the basis of a man and a team. So, he had to become a man out of necessity sooner than he should have.
With reference to social life he used to speak of candy parties, box suppers, and buggy rides. He spoke of “union meetings” on the church yard with dinner on the ground. Sometimes such occasions were more social than religious.
He met and courted Nollie Matilda Stotesberry who lived in the same community but over on the “Stotesberry Road.” When her widowed mother moved her family to Hopewell, Virginia (a textile town at that time) to make a living running a boarding house, it did not take my daddy long to decide to leave the farm and move up there, too. He got a job in the silk mill and their marriage took place December 23, 1923.
It is unique that the marriage took place in a class-room between “Sunday School” and “church.” The preacher was named John Tate of Richmond, VA. He was the Secretary of the Virginia Christian Missionary Society, an affiliate of the United Christian Missionary Society of Cincinnati. My folks were among the large group of “tar heels” who came to Hopewell for employment and they had rented a building and started a congregation of what we would today refer to as a conservative Christian church. It was in this building that the marriage ceremony took place. The first thing my parents did after they were married was to worship God. The ceremony was announced to the assembly at the close of the services.
To this union three children were born. Joyner Wiley, Connie Wilson (after his father and Connie Mack of baseball fame), and Glenda Mae. All were born at home attended by a local doctor and my grandmother who was the best mid-wife around.
Daddy moved us from Hopewell to Chesterfield County in the early days of the depression to share a 100-acre farm and house with Uncle Mac and Aunt Ida. It was called the “Vaughn” farm after its owners but is today the Bermuda Golf Course. This place was haven for many since all the food we could use and give away could be raised or grown. It stands out in my memory as a wonderful place.
So many things could be said but we must be selective. Overshadowing everything was the depression, hard times, yet strong family ties and always love. Unemployment colored the scene for a long time. Later on Daddy bought a piece of land closer to Hopewell and he and Mama worked and labored tirelessly to build a four-room house by cutting logs from the land and hauling them to the nearby sawmill to change into lumber. I learned about the crosscut saw but was never able to come close to my father in the use of an axe or saw.
With Mama’s help Daddy was able to pay for his place mostly by raising chickens. We used a brooder and bought several hundred day-old chicks from the hatchery each time we were ready for another batch. They knew how to work together and make it count. I am sure it is because they loved each other so very much. Real love can do great things.
Our home was always shared with others who needed help. There were days of religious unrest and increasing dissatisfaction with the Christian Church. Our family, along with several others, left the digressives in the summer of 1942. We started a true church patterned according to Bible authority. He served as an elder in the church in Hopewell and later in the Rivermont church across the river (Appomattox River).
He and Mama had some lonely days as their children married and moved away to preach the gospel. They took in many foster children over the next few years all of whom called them Grandma and Grandpa. Several of these often return for visits with them. Then there were trips to see all their children and grandchildren. Time took its toll and his health was on the decline. There were periods of hospitalization. He became bedfast for the last two years of his life. During all this he received the tender care of both his wife and his sister (called affectionately by the family, Buby). There were anxious days. Children and grandchildren were frustrated by distance in trying to help. Neighbors, friends and relations were wonderful and especially the church members. Then came that quiet moment with no struggle at all when he just went to sleep in Christ. We sorrow but not as those who have no hope.
The day of the funeral was cloudy but mercifully the rain held back. The funeral home chapel was overflowing with friends, neighbors, brethren. A group of singers under the leadership of Allen Malone, preacher for the West End Church in Richmond, sang Amazing Grace, How Beautiful Heaven Must Be, and Above the Bright Blue. It was beautiful and uplifting. The singers were from Rivermont and Richmond.
John Nosker, an elder from West End in Richmond and a long time family friend, delivered the principal address. Being acquainted with the family his comments were most appropriate ending with an appeal to the lost in the audience to consider the salvation of their souls through obedience to the gospel. Ronny Milliner, also a family friend and the preacher for the Rivermont church made some appreciated remarks relating to his association with the family. Later on at the grave side, Roy Diestelkamp a former preacher for Rivermont and a family friend made the final remarks closing with a prayer. He now preaches for a church in Ontario, Canada. The service contributed to a feeling of sweet sadness for all of us. It was wonderful.
Over 40 cars comprised the procession to the cemetery at Sunset Memorial Park in Chesterfield County. As we rode along memories and thoughts crowded into my mind. I am the first-born . . . I bear Daddy’s first name and middle initial, . . . My brother bears his middle name . . . The torch is passed to us who are left behind . . . We are a large family . . . Will the circle be unbroken by and by? . . . Seven of us preach . . . Will there be others? . . . What a strong heritage is ours and what a legacy to uphold. . . Not just for the family’s sake but for the Lord’s sake.
After the grave side services and most had returned to the cars, I stood quietly by as the dark blue casket was lowered into the vault, I just could not tear myself away. It is so hard to let go even when they are faithful to the Lord. That’s because we are human, I guess. As the lid was sealed and the grave filled in and the floral arrangements adorned the site, my youngest son stood at my side comforting me. The others, too, stood nearby. Then we left the earthly remains of Joyner Wilson Adams in quiet repose to await the resurrection morning. Farewell, sweet Daddy . . . for now!
– By Joyner Wiley Adams in fond memory.
Guardian of Truth XXXI: 5, pp. 136-137
March 5, 1987