(Aug 11, 2018)
(Honorees, left to right) Program founders Leon Maxie and Veronica Maxie; Honorees Bessie McNeil Jones, Thomas G Stevens, Wilma Jean Holland Finley, and La Sandra D Sanders; and Program founder Tremayne Maxie.
During its 15th annual "Celebrate Ours Seniors" on August 11, 2018, the Brenham Community Festival honored four Washington County citizens for their tireless and long-lasting contributions to Washington County, Texas, and the nation. The honorees included Wilma Jean Holland Finley, Bessie McNeil Jones, Thomas G Stevens, and La Sandra D Sanders. Each of these individuals worked unselfishly for their respective communities and have inspired and motivated others to create better environments for subsequent generations. God blessed them with talents to serve, and they have blessed us, so we can bless others.
Wilma Jean Holland Finley
Mrs. Wilma Jean Holland Finley’s career as a nurse epitomizes the selfless service of those honored in past years. Mrs. Finley completed Licensed Vocational Nurse training in 1966 and after the requisite certifications, she began a long and extensive career in the nursing profession in Grimes, Brazos, and Washington counties.
Her nursing career spanned employment with Grimes Memorial Hospital and Grimes Convalescent Home, both in Navasota; with Sweetbriar Nursing Home and St. Jude Hospital (renamed Trinity Medical Center after a merger with Bohne Hospital) in Brenham; and with Epic Health Services in College Station. Mrs. Finley also served with Baylor Scott and White Hospital in Brenham when it bought out Trinity Medical Center.
As Mrs. Finley transitioned from one healthcare provider to another, so did her skills and area of specialty. She has performed duty as a floor nurse, a charge nurse, and a staff nurse. Her skill set has entailed training in basic life support, cardiac life support, and pediatric advanced life support.
These skills sets served her and her patients well during numerous rotations in various medical departments (e.g., surgery, intensive care unit, pediatrics). In addition to rendering professional services in these settings, Mrs. Finley recognized the need for in-home specialty care for pediatric patients and performed those private services as well.
After more than 40 years of transferred service with Baylor Scott and White Hospital, Mrs. Finley retired from active service as a full time nurse. As a matter of fact, she was the first employee to retire with that much service with BSW in Brenham.
Retirement, however, only afforded her the opportunity to give back even more to her community as a volunteer. She loves God and she loves her church, Goodwill Baptist Church. She has been and remains quite active in the church, serving as choir president, assistant church clerk, organist, and fellowship chair. In the community Mrs. Finley is active with the Brenham Activist Association, the Dr. James Franklin Cemetery Association, the March Trail Riding Club, and the Goodwill School Reunion committee.
The latter relates to her upbringing. Wilma Jean Holland Finley was born on June 22, 1947 to the late Will and Jessie Mae Whitley Holland of Washington, Texas. She attended Goodwill Elementary and High School in Washington, where she was crowned Miss Goodwill in 1963. She graduated from Goodwill High School in 1964 and later attended Texas Southern University in Houston.
When not engaged in her many volunteer activities, Mrs. Finley pursues her love of fishing, traveling, camping out, talking on the phone, playing dominoes, and being a connoisseur of all types of music. Her family consists of son Marcus (LaVonda) Finley; grandchildren Jaleaha Monae' Finley and Travion Britton; step-children KW Finley, James Finley III, and Robert Finley; and step-grandchildren Cardyl Finley, Ronnie Finley and Angel Finley Johnson.
Bessie McNeil Jones
Mrs. Bessie McNeil Jones characterizes her mission in life as "living and telling others about Christ." Although she says she has been doing this for (only) 56 years, in truth she has been doing so for almost 80 years now.
One of ten children, she was born on August 23, 1938 to the parents of Guy and Addle McNeil. The family lived on the family farm in the Wesley community about 20 miles from Brenham. There she attended Wesley Elementary School and Pleasant Grove Elementary School. Thereafter, she continued her education at A.R. Pickard High School in Brenham.
Several years after graduation from Pickard, Mrs. Jones married Fred Jones and they soon had a family of three sons. Knowing that God had imbued her with compassion and the desire to work with the elderly, especially those convalescing in nursing homes, the family moved back to Brenham in 1979 and she began a 30-year career in nursing as a certified medication aide. This work primarily revolved around Sweet Briar Nursing Home in Brenham.
Although the nursing profession was fulfilling and rewarding, Mrs. Jones was not one to sit idly by when other opportunities were also available. This led to a dual career path leading to a 20-year avocation with Blue Bell Creamery.
Now with 50 years of work experience, Mrs. Jones decided that it was time to retire from the rigors of paid employment. Retirement, however, was not a time for her to rest on the laurels she had accumulated over the years. Retirement provided her the opportunity to volunteer more with her church and her community, while increasing visitations with those she had met and served in area nursing homes and hospitals. One such endeavor was helping Brenham ISD students to improve their reading skills through the HOST program.
Regardless of her church affiliation, Mrs. Jones has always been an active member in church ministries, be it at Countyline Baptist Church or Main Street Baptist Church, or her present church, New Hope Missionary Baptist Church. She has served as president of the Mission Ministry; taught Sunday School and Vacation Bible School; served as church secretary and an usher; and been an integral part of the Pastor Aide Committee, and the church cleanliness and kitchen ministries. Such roles have earned her the title of “Mother of the Church.”
Just as Mrs. Jones has been an active participant in her church ministries, she has also been just as active in fellowship with the other churches, especially those in her district association, the Mt. Olive District Association. She has served as the association’s Mission president for 12 years, and currently serves as Sunday School secretary. Through her efforts and the efforts of others on the Mt. Olive District Association board, the Brenham Normal Industrial College is being awarded a Texas Historical Marker later this month. The association now occupies the former college’s premises.
When not involved in these volunteer activities, Mrs. Jones is likely engaged as a guest speaker for numerous civic organizations and churches in the community. Or she is appreciating the blessings of having four grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
La Sandra D. Sanders
Mrs. La Sandra D. Sanders is a native of Brenham. She attended Alton Elementary School and later graduated from Brenham High School. She received an Associate of Arts degree from Blinn College, a Bachelor of Science in Social Rehabilitation and Social Services from Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas, and a Master of Education degree from Prairie View A&M University in Prairie View, Texas.
Upon completion of undergraduate studies, she was employed as a special education teacher in the Houston ISD at Braeburn Elementary School, and then at Fonville Middle School. Later Mrs. Sanders re-located to Brenham and was employed at Brenham State School as an Individual Program Coordinator.
Along the way, Mrs. Sanders completed Post-Graduate Studies in Supervision, and Post-Graduate Studies as an Educational Diagnostician. She also completed forty-five graduate hours toward Licensure for Professional Counselor and completed an internship of 2000 hours to complete the licensing process.
Mrs. Sanders is a person that loves to help and knows that is what God intended for her to do. So she is always looking toward improving herself so that she can help others. With that in mind, she completed a Specialized Training Practicum with the Child Study Bureau in Houston. As part of this practicum, she worked with a certified diagnostician on a daily basis, administering and interpreting intelligence tests and their results - in both English and Spanish.
Subsequently, Mrs. Sanders began employment as the middle school Special Education Resource Teacher in the Brenham ISD. She later transitioned to the junior high school, performing the same services. Completing her service in these roles, Mrs. Sanders transferred to the Brenham Alternative School to work with Behavioral Special Education Students, and later to Brenham High School with the same population of students. In 2012 Mrs. Sanders retired, not for a well-earned rest, but to continue serving in other voluntary capacities.
Her volunteer work entailed various public service projects in the community. She spearheaded an after-school tutorial program at Mt. Rose Missionary Baptist Church to assist students with homework. She organized a group of women volunteers to help students at Alton Elementary School. She also served in various capacities with numerous scholastic, civic, and professional organizations, including The Chappell Hill Cultural Heritage Group, the Citizen's Advisory Board with the Washington County Sheriff's Department, the College of Agriculture and Human Sciences with Prairie View A&M University (under the leadership of Ms. Mary Sanders), and with the Prairie View 4-H Club (under the leadership of Mr. Kenneth Solomon).
Within her church, Mt. Rose Missionary Baptist Church, Mrs. Sanders serves as a Sunday School teacher, Senior Choir president, a Deaconess, and a Matron in the Youth Department. She is married to Dennis Sanders and they have three children: daughter Anissa (Nicole) Washington (deceased), and twin sons Bradley and Brian Sanders; and eight grandchildren, four boys: Jason Wailes, and Braeden, Caleb and Colby Sanders, and four girls: Kaelyn, Brea, and Brooke Sanders, and Hailey Washington.
Thomas G. Stevens
Engineers are known to be meticulous and exacting. Mr. Thomas Stevens, an engineer by education and by trade, honed those skills at an early age and continues to maintain them today. As a boy in Lubbock, those skills enabled him to reach the coveted rank of Eagle Scout. They also served him well while attending Texas A&M University, where he graduated with a Master of Science degree in petroleum engineering.
Following graduation, he served in the U.S. Army, then worked for a major oil company in Houston. He then spent two years in New York City working in JPMorgan Chase's oil and gas department. He subsequently returned to Houston to work in the oil department of a Houston bank. Fifteen years later he was made manager of the bank’s oil and gas lending department.
While in Houston, Mr. Stevens began extensive volunteer work with the Houston Museum of Natural Science. During his many years of service with the museum, the museum was credited with discovering an asteroid. Based on his significant contributions to the museum, including as an integral member of its Board of Directors, that asteroid was named in Mr. Stevens’ honor.
After years of living in Houston, Mr. Stevens and his wife retired and settled down in the Chappell Hill community. His propensity for volunteerism did not wane, however. He has served on the board of the Washington-on-the-Brazos State Park Association, and is a past president of both the Chappell Hill Historical Society and the Chappell Hill Chamber of Commerce. Such tireless efforts led to the distinction of him being selected as the Chamber of Commerce Man-of-the-Year, twice!
Mr. Stevens also serves on the Washington County Historical Commission and has authored two successful applications for historical markers in Washington County. Furthermore, he is an accomplished author of two books: Tennessee Preacher, Tennessee Soldier, a book about the Civil War, and The Methodists Come to Washington, a short book about the 1838 Methodist Church in Old Washington.
He is a member of the Methodist Church in Chappell Hill. He has two children, a son in Las Vegas who is an airline pilot, and a daughter in Cypress, who is a school librarian. In addition, he has six grandchildren, and one great-grandchild. He was widowed when he lost his wife last January.