Resident Spotlight: Joe & Geneva Jackson


A beautiful fourteen-year-old girl with brown hair and lovely blue eyes enrolls in high school and meets a seventeen year old handsome young man who is President of the junior high school class. They fall in love and elope as soon as he graduates, and she has completed her sophomore year in high school. 

Today, that couple, Geneva and Joe Jackson are still deeply in love and will celebrate their sixty-seventh wedding anniversary in May. When asked what attracted them to each other, Geneva said, “I just liked the way he looked.” Joe said, “It was her beautiful eyes.” This is their story:

Geneva Gilliland and Joe Jackson were both born to farming families and lived in neighboring counties of West Tennessee. Geneva was born in 1939 in a community called “Frog Jump” in Crockett County, the last of five girls. “I was supposed to be a boy and I had already been named ‘John Wayne’. I think my father was so disappointed he wanted to pinch my head off,” says Geneva. Geneva laughs when she says this and relates that she had a very happy childhood and a loving family. She was given the opportunity to study piano, played piano at church and for a quartet that sang every Saturday morning on WTRV in Ripley, Tennessee. 

Joe was born in 1936 in the “Nankipoo” community, Lauderdale County, completing a family of four boys and one girl. They would later move to Halls, Tennessee when Joe’s father bought a combined grocery store and service station. Geneva and Joe’s families were members of the Methodist Church. It was at a church gathering that they actually first saw each other. Both would attend high school in Halls, Tennessee; Joe became President of his senior class and their romance blossomed. 

Geneva 1957

It was 1955, at the end of the school year, when Geneva and Joe decided to elope. With two friends accompanying them, they traveled to Holly Springs, Mississippi and were married in the study of a Methodist minister. The next day, they traveled by train to Flint, Michigan. Joe’s parents had moved there previously, and Geneva and Joe made their home with them for one year. During that time, Geneva completed requirements for a high school diploma. 

Returning to Memphis in 1957, Geneva worked as a nursing assistant in the OB-GYN area of Baptist Hospital. She completed a laboratory course and was employed in an OB/GYN physician’s office for six years. When their first son Tim was born, Geneva became a stay-at-home mom welcoming son Robin five years later. 

Joe was first employed by Purity Products, a candy wholesale company. He completed a William R. Moore and Dale Carnegie course, then decided to start his own business, Jackson Vending Company. Geneva managed the office and counted what she called “dirty money” in the literal sense! After ten years, the business was sold and Joe bought a Western Auto store in Trenton, Tennessee. During the six years there, the area suffered a tremendous flood when several area dams broke. According to Geneva, “It was an awful time as property and lives were lost. Business and interest rates were bad, and we decided to move back to Memphis.”

Returning to Memphis, Joe again began a vending company, Spartain Automatic, which he managed for twelve years before selling. Joe’s last job was in Public Relations for Car Wash USA, a business started by their son Tim. 

Following retirement, the Jackson’s took two cruises and enjoyed their family life. Both played golf and were active in church. Joe also played baseball while Geneva loved singing in groups, cooking, and antiquing.

Joe 1957

According to Geneva, “In 2009, Joe and I started looking for a place that was like home. We looked at three other places and didn’t like any of them” Laughingly, she adds, “We had known Nancy Pence a long time, even before she wed George! Knowing Nancy and others who lived here and working with Pat Mills in Marketing—this was our ticket to buy in.”

In 2016, Joe was diagnosed with prostate cancer. After eight weeks of radiation, he was cured. However, the need to make a change resulted in the decision to move to Kirby Pines in July, 2017.

Geneva assists with the memorials held at Kirby Pines, cares for Joe and plans to sing with the Entertainers Chorus. When asked what she likes best about Kirby Pines, Geneva responded, “I like everything (except COVID)! I especially like being near all of our church friends from Christ United Methodist Church who live here. I love the atmosphere and the fact that we are all brothers and sisters in our Lord.” Their two sons live close by, and the four grandchildren and seven great grandchildren make for frequent happy family time.

Joe and Geneva Jackson are a unique couple. To know them is to love them and they seem to love everyone. Geneva has an infectious laugh which is easily identifiable. Joe entertains us by mimicking Chinese and telling tall tales. Both Geneva and Joe hope they will be together for a long time, in love, even into eternity. 

Wrtten by Joan Dodson, Resident, Kirby Pines