By Ginna Parsons
NEW ALBANY – To Jo Ann Roberson, children are a gift from God.
“No matter how much you do for them, it’s never enough,” said Roberson, 77.
Roberson and her late husband, Lawrence E., were blessed to have six children. Three of them have died – one from cancer, one in a car wreck and the other from leukemia. But Roberson is comforted by those left behind, including 14 grandchildren, 21 great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren.
“Every second Sunday, I fix lunch and the kids all come and bring a dish,” she said. “I’ll have anywhere from 20 to 40 people here. It takes four tables to seat everybody.”
Roberson usually prepares chicken and dumplings, a ham or roast, cornbread and sides such as peas, potatoes and macaroni and cheese. And she has to make her from-scratch banana pudding.
“They bring desserts too, but the one thing I’ve got to make is my Nannar Pudding, no matter what else we have,” she said. “They seem to be happy with that, so I just let it hang in there. I’ve always cooked a bunch. With six children, it didn’t do to cook a little bit of nothing. Still, after all this time, I haven’t learned to cook for one.”
Roberson married at 16 and had her first child at 17. She had her second at 18 and her third at 19. The couple waited five years and had three more.
“I wouldn’t take a million dollars for any one of them,” she said.
Roberson was born and raised in Pontotoc County, the second of five children born to A.D. and Mary “Jack” Cruse. She worked in a shirt factory and then in furniture factories before going to work in housekeeping at the New Albany hospital.
For a time in the early 1990s, she had Jo Jo’s restaurant in New Albany.
“I guess I’ve fed just about everybody in New Albany my chocolate gravy and biscuits,” she said.
In fact, when her kids were little they never wanted to spend the night away from home – they always wanted their friends to stay at their house so Roberson would make them chocolate and biscuits for breakfast.
“They call it chocolate gravy now, but I always just called it chocolate – chocolate biscuits,” she said. “I make chocolate at least once a week for my youngest son. Sometimes others will come. I just have to know how many’s coming so I’ll know how many biscuits to make. We’re a crazy bunch.”
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