Longtime Sedalia resident Rosa Gravitt, 87, was honored but surprised when she received the Unsung Hero award at True Vine Church of God and Christ on Sunday.
“I was so surprised,” she said at her home Wednesday. “I had to look around twice and then I looked at somebody else, and they were all looking at me … So they knew about it, but I didn’t. I was just very surprised.”
Gravitt received the award during the first of three “Sunday’s with Memories” presentations at the church about the history of black churches in Pettis County. Rhonda Chalfant, Ph.D., program speaker and local history specialist, presented the award to Gravitt.
“The planning committee from the Black History Program discussed some possibilities and she was the first one on everyone’s list,” Chalfant said. “Keeping in mind that the award is for people who do what they have to do, and what they are supposed to do, and do it quietly, and do it well.
“That’s one of the neat things about that award is the people who get it are always very surprised,” she added. “Which I think speaks to the modesty and the notion of doing what what you’re supposed to do because you’re supposed to do it.”
Gravitt is a “mother” to many in the community and many see her as a Godly mother. She has seven children, 19 grandchildren, 40 great-grandchildren and seven great-great-grandchildren.
“I have five generations living,” Gravitt noted.
From 1963 to 1992 she worked at Bothwell Regional Health Center first as a nurse’s aide and then as a ward clerk on 2-South and 3-Southwest.
“I worked there 29 years and four months,” she said.
Gravitt added that after she retired from BRHC she worked for a time at Minniola Nursery helping with children.
Gravitt, who is a member and the secretary/treasurer of True Vine, said she was a deaconess for many years at the church. She was presented with a plaque from her church in 2011 declaring her as “Church Mother,” and on her 80th birthday she was honored by Sedalia Mayor Bob Wasson. She has also been honored by the Sedalia-Pettis County Branch of the NAACP.
For many years Gravitt was active cleaning the church and cooking meals for fundraisers. Until recently, Gravitt was the True Vine kitchen supervisor.
“If we had visiting churches we would serve them dinner after services,” she said. “I just did whatever there was to do.
“I remember all the windows in the old church, I took (tinted) paper, and I covered all the windows in that church,” she added. “Sam my husband would help me when he wasn’t busy.”
On Wednesday, Gravitt reminisced about the number of children who would come to play in the yard with her children. She always greeted them with open arms, a warm heart and food.
“During that time the houses all had children and all the neighborhood children came to my house to play with my children,” she said. “There were so many of them, I didn’t have any grass in my front yard. People might not believe that, but that is the truth.
“They all played here and then they wanted to eat supper,” she added. “I was already cooking for nine people and I’d say ‘let them eat.’ Then they all wanted to stay all night and I let them stay all night. We had pallets on the floor, it was summertime.”
She added when the children grew up, they moved away. Although they didn’t live in Sedalia anymore, they didn’t forget Gravitt’s kindness and the summer nights spent at her home. She said when they visited Sedalia they would drop by to visit her and her late husband Sam.
Gravitt added that she was married to Sam at age 16 and they were married 51 years until his death in 1996.
Like most mothers, Gravitt is proud of her children — Juanita Gravitt, a R.N. who is retired from Sylvia Thompson Residence Center, Stella Frazier, who retired as an R.N. at BRHC after 47 years, Norma Poindexter Ph.D., an R.N. in Georgia and director of Shalom House, Lorraine Waters, of Kansas City, the assistant director of human resources at Research Hospital, Clarence Gravitt, also of Kansas City, a quality assurance specialist with Quest Diagnostics, and Sam Gravitt Jr., of Sedalia, who works at Tyson Foods.
Gravitt also lost a son, Fletcher Gravitt, a U.S. Navy veteran, who died at age 33.
“We have a family reunion every other year,” she said. “I really enjoy that because I just look at all those people and smile to myself. Because I think, me and my husband, we started all of this. I thank God for His many, many blessings.”
Faith Bemiss can be reached at 530-0289 or @flbemiss.