Living Legend – Jan 2015

Jerry Yawn met his future wife, Tommie Faye Riley, when her family moved from Dothan AL to his neighborhood in Graceville FL.  The Yawns had been in the Graceville area since 1850.  His great-grandfather was a charter member of the Graceville First Baptist Church established in 1896 and his grandfather and father were deacons.  Jerry grew up in a strict, conservative Southern Baptist environment.  He made his profession of faith and was baptized at age 8.

His father, a graduate of the University of Florida and a schoolteacher, expected Jerry to follow his educational path.  Acting on his father’s instructions, Jerry enrolled in the University of Florida in the fall of 1951.  He left after three semesters and, upon losing his deferment, he knew the Army and Korea would be emerging and joining the Air Force would be his best option.

Jerry decided early on that Tommie was the girl for him and they had dated for a year prior to his leaving college.  Therefore, he says he did the smart thing and went back to Graceville, picked up his sweetheart and went to Meridian MS to get married.  They were underage for getting married in Florida.  Tommie wanted a Baptist preacher to perform the ceremony so they drove to the small town of Quitman where the pastor of the First Baptist Church, who was in his study working on his Sunday sermon, performed the ceremony.  Shortly thereafter, Jerry joined the Air Force and was sent to Lackland AFB for basic training.  Tommie came a few weeks later.  Following basic, Jerry went to language school in California where he learned Russian and was assigned as an intelligence gatherer.  He later studied German, and he and Tommie did four tours in Germany.  He was also stationed in England and Japan.

Jerry retired after 23 years active duty, and he and Tommie moved to San Antonio in 1976.  While on active duty, Jerry earned a bachelor’s degree in foreign languages from the University of Maryland.  After relocating to San Antonio, he enrolled in St. Mary’s University and obtained a second bachelor’s in accounting.  He worked the next 30 years as an independent contractor.  His interest now is in genealogy that he pursues through Ancestry.com.  He has traced his ancestry back to the 1850’s.

While stationed in Germany, Tommie met a lady who owned a pug.  Tommie was not familiar with that breed, and she was fascinated that the pug allowed the owner’s parakeet to ride on his back and peck on his body.  She watched this activity, marveling at how placid the dog was.  Later, the dog left and Tommie asked where he had gone.  The owner said the dog went under the bed to get away from the bird, but now the bird went under the bed with him.  Tommie fell in love with the pug breed, which originated in China, and in 1980 purchased her first in a long line of pugs.  She began attending shows, taking classes and learning about judges.  In 1983, she started showing pugs at Dog Shows throughout Texas and won an American Kennel Club Championship with her dog, Misty Dawn.  Over the years, Tommie won AKC Championships for six pugs.  She says she tried breeding pugs, but, after one litter, gave it up.  It was too difficult to let them go.

Tommie and Jerry started attending Trinity in 2002.  On their 50th wedding anniversary, they celebrated a renewal of vows in the Thrift Chapel.  After joining the church, they attended the early service and enjoyed sitting on the 4th row, right side with Ann Mosley and Admiral Wallace Short. They have many fond memories of Harold Teeter’s Sunday School class.  Jerry and Tommie were also part of a group who made small bouquets from the Sunday church arrangement and delivered them to people in hospitals throughout the city.

Jerry and Tommie are the parents of two daughters, Rhoda who lives in Louisiana and Rhonda, who lives in Virginia.  They have five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. Although their ability to attend church has slowed somewhat, they love the church and the people and are grateful for the friendships.

Jerry and Tommie are the parents of two daughters, Rhoda who lives in Louisiana and Rhonda, who lives in Virginia. They have five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. Although their ability to attend church has slowed somewhat, they love the church and the people and are grateful for the friendships.

Lea Glisson