(Written by: Sheryl Holder) If you haven’t seen the work taking place on Jimmie Davis Blvd. in downtown Jonesboro, then you are missing a real treasure. Main Street, as I still call it sometimes, has had a facelift with the addition of hanging plants, sidewalk urns overflowing with blooms of magnificent color, and a gorgeous new water fountain topped with an elegant fleur de lis. New bricks and cross ties have been implemented to repair the flower beds as well as the Tony Rome Park entrance and exterior.
These beautiful improvements were only possible through donations and the citizens of Jonesboro will be forever thankful for the kindness many have expressed. Hanging Flower Baskets were possible through memorial donations and many of the sidewalk urns were adopted by local businesses. Cross-ties, new bricks, and an elegant water fountain, and landscaping were donated by Anthony “Tag” Rome as a memorial tribute. Truth be told, it takes more than money, hard work, and sweat equity to bring the glory back to a distressed town. The most vital assets are love, devotion, and commitment to keep our precious hometown regal and majestic.
The beautiful new water fountain was erected in dedication to two former residents of Jackson Parish that devoted their lives to making Jonesboro a hometown everyone could be proud of. Upon relocating from Donaldsonville, LA to Jonesboro, LA, the community embraced Anthony and Marlene Rome as one of their own. They both had such strong ties to Jackson Parish that you never would have known they were not both born and raised here. They had an infectious spirit that could captivate your heart almost instantaneously. They were both rare in any day and time because they led by example. As devout members of the Catholic Faith, they taught their children, their friends, their peers, and their community the importance of living every day with God as your focus. They let His guidance navigate their walks through life and spread His light through their deeds.
Anthony, (Tony to most) owned Anthony’s which was a men’s clothing store on the once named Main Street. Now, I know you are thinking “how can a clothing store change a town that drastically?”. Well, my friends, that is the single
reason that Christmas lights were even a notion in Jonesboro! Anthony’s Men’s Clothing Store was the first business to display Christmas lights on its storefront building. Trust me, that was only the beginning of the Great Christmas Lights Extravaganza! After a trip to Marshall, TX to experience a town exploding in twinkling holiday lights, Tony partnered with then Mayor Richard Zuber to originate what we lovingly refer to now as Christmas Wonderland in the Pines.
For Tony, giving back and making a difference in someone else’s life was more important than possessions, successes, and recognition. In fact, Tony preferred his good deeds to be recognized as an example only and rather others use it as inspiration to pay it forward.
Now, if you’re like me and think that the Tony Rome Park was named after its donor, then we were both wrong. Tony was instrumental in transforming that parking area into the wonderland it is today. I have been told Tony hauled in the first metal building to serve as Santa’s house during the holidays. That information I haven’t been able to verify, however, I can verify that his vision has transformed many Holiday memories!
If you think Marlene sat on the sidelines and simply cheered Tony on, you are greatly mistaken. She not only backed all his ideas; she championed them with gusto to inspire even more ideas. Marlene went back to college after her three boys were in school. Her love of family and children took her on a journey of teaching. Her students absolutely adored her and this I know from personal experience.
Mrs. Rome (to us kids) started her career as a teacher assistant when I was in about the fourth grade. What I admired about her on that first day was that she was young, pretty, and smiled! To a fourth grader, you notice these things when you aren’t used to it. She informed us that it was going to be very hard for us to get in trouble. Boy, she was checking off the list of making a great teacher in our minds!
Mrs. Rome showed us this really large baseball diamond she had pinned on the bulletin board and little paper baseball bats with each of our names written on
them. Then she told us again that we would not be getting in trouble but instead
we would be earning a prize at the end of the week! Our minds were racing as to where this wonderful, fantastic teacher came from and can we have her in every class!
Each day that we did as we were instructed, we could advance one base. If we didn’t do something, like homework or talking too much, we got a strike and moved back to base. If you received 3 strikes you had to start over, but you could do extra credit projects to help you advance. On day five, everyone at home base on her bulletin board got to choose a prize from her glorious, mysterious box!
For Mrs. Rome, she had a classroom full of students doing everything possible to win a prize. It didn’t matter that the prizes probably cost less than a nickel. It mattered that Mrs. Rome taught us to be in-charge of our own futures and take
responsibility for our own actions and choices.
Tony and Marlene will forever live in the hearts and memories of so many their lives touched. Their legacy of faith, love, and devotion to community will be passed to countless generations as their testament to God’s work through others.
Their eldest son, Anthony “Tag” Rome would like to recognize his parents, Anthony and Marlene Rome, for their dedication to God, Family, Friends, and Community. The beautiful Fleur de lis Fountain on Jimmie Davis Blvd was donated in their honor.
Once the plaque is received, there will be a dedication ceremony and the entire town is invited to attend. If you carry their memories with you today, if they have
touched your life or someone else’s you know, please consider attending as a
dedication of thanks to their life of great works.
Next time you drive through downtown Jonesboro, stop, and pay close attention to the new dedicated water fountain. Let this small token of thanks be your inspiration to make a difference in someone else’s life.