We regret to tell you that Mrs. Jewel Sisson died early Tuesday morning, June 19, 2018. She was 93. Visitation with the family will be Friday, June 22, 5:00–7:00 p.m., and a memorial service will be held Saturday, June 23, at 10:00, all at Memorial Park (5668 Poplar Ave. Memphis, TN 38119).
To say that Mrs. Jewel Sisson was a friend to Harding Academy is an understatement. Miss Jewel, along with her late husband Pete Sisson, were parents to four Harding Academy alumni, grandparents to ten alumni, and in-laws to five alumni. While her own children were in school, she was active in the Mothers Club and other parent volunteer groups. Then in 1987, she accepted an appointment to Harding Academy’s Board of Directors and became the first woman to serve in that capacity. She retired from the Board in 2000.
The late Dr. Harold Bowie, former president of Harding Academy and friend of the Sisson family, said that Miss Jewel was “a capable leader with a gentle spirit and a deep loyalty to Harding Academy.”
In October of 1996, the newest gymnasium on the Cherry Road campus, the one that had been called “the girls gym” for so long, was renamed in honor of Mrs. Sisson. The day of the dedication was a grand occasion. Pat Head Summit, coach of the national championship University of Tennessee women’s basketball team, was the keynote speaker. All of the students at Cherry Road, along with members of the Sisson family, gathered in Sisson Gymnasium to celebrate Mrs. Sisson as the building was named for her.
The Sisson family established awards that have been presented for many years at the end of each school year to recognize outstanding achievement on the part of several teachers and support staff members. The Sissons established an endowed fund to provide monetary awards for the recipients, and they chose namesakes for each of the awards: Miss Pat Bowie Little Harding teacher, Mrs. Terry Ellers lower school teacher, Mrs. Betty Bates middle/upper school teacher, Mrs. Betty Copeland staff person, and the Mrs. Jewel Sisson Outstanding Employee Contribution award which was established in 1989. Until this past May, Mrs. Sisson had attended every year-end dinner when the awards were presented; and no one was more joyful about recognizing the winners than she.
With so many children, grandchildren, and in-laws having attended Harding Academy, Mrs. Sisson was a familiar face at programs, concerts, plays, and athletic events. She came to support her family, but she loved and cared about all of the children in the big Harding family. She made you feel special whenever she saw you. Her smile lit up a room, and you always believed she was glad to see you. Mrs. Sisson and Mr. Pete were generous donors to Harding Academy, but they were also generous with their time, work, influence, and prayers. Harding was their ministry and their family.
When one of her sons was going through papers after her death on Tuesday, he found a note she had handwritten to herself: “Jerry said I could have new carpet or help Harding. In ten years, the carpet would be thrown out. With Harding, some child will know God and return to help the community.” Miss Jewel decided against the carpet, and no one was surprised in the least.
Ed Sisson (Peggy)
Jerry Sisson (Debra)
Debbie Dees (Philip)
Ginger Hamlet (Richard)
Larry Sisson (Lee)
Steve Sisson (Carla)
Children who graduated from Harding
Debbie Sisson Dees 1977 (Philip 1978)
Ginger Sisson Hamlet 1980 (Richard 1979)
Larry Sisson 1985
Steve Sisson 1988
Grandchildren who graduated from Harding
Jennifer Sisson 1999
Elizabeth Sisson Martin 2002 (Alex 1999)
Heather Dees Smith 2002
Lauren Wimbs Edwards 2003 (Trevor 2003)
Lydia Sisson Farmer 2005
Whitney Dees McPherson 2006 (Taylor 2006)
Carly Wimbs Gray 2008
Allan Sisson 2012
William Sisson 2013
Caroline Sisson 2016