Family and friends are usually the most influential people in the life of young kids. We see their mannerisms, hear their conversations, sometimes even when they are not aware of our eavesdropping. And as such, when we are coming into adulthood, we say and do things that mimic them. Imitation is truly the greatest form of flattery.
I spent a great deal of time in that house as my father had weekend custody of my siblings and me; in a home, he shared with Jackie’s Mother, Clara “Sweetie” Kimbrough, his first cousin. Like many women of that era, Cousin Sweetie worked as a domestic for a family that lived “up in The Bluffs.” Most old school Peorians will remember that name for those who lived above MacArthur Hwy. Hill.
Jackie began working at Caterpillar in an administrative role in the middle 1960s. Not much to say about that…however, it was what she did beginning about 1970 that opened my eyes. She opened a restaurant on MacArthur Highway, next to Cannon’s Liquors. Working full time and running a business was tough. She did it; with the help of her mother and other family members.
As with many eating establishments, it closed all too soon. Yet, Jackie was not to be deterred from her dream of having a secondary income from something she could control. She then received electrolysis certification and began doing work out of her home. It was not long afterward that she then opened her own salon, Center of Attraction, on upper Main Street near Sheridan Road. It was a busy place that embodied her boundless energy and sense of style. And you could always hear the latest 411…
Somehow she also found time to sew and model clothes, write articles for a local paper, and adopt and raise children.
As I have now celebrated 25 years of being an independent video producer, officiated over 1000 high school basketball games, and written a blog post for 10 years, I knew where I got my first motivation to do more than just exist; my cousin Jackie. She would give you money if needed, advice even when you didn’t ask, and always her heart for family. If you ask my family and those close to me, they will likely say something similar about me. We are both driven to be the best and to not take for granted the gifts that God has blessed us to possess.
During this Black History Month, I salute that ONE who showed me the way without even knowing it. The ONE who illuminated the darkness and inspired me to create something that I could take ownership of and feel proud about what I achieved.
My shining light and example of how to live a full life; Jacqueline Kimbrough Macklin.