Former teacher also sold real estate
by Margaret Anderson
Special to The Star
Jun 04, 2013 | 1732 views |  0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Sonja O’Kelley (Tucker) Parris spent 25 years as a school teacher. She spent the next 20 years selling real estate. Now, she’s not actively working outside the home, which allows her to spend her time with her family and doing the things she’s always enjoyed but never had time for.

There’s nothing she’d rather do than cook for her husband, Jerry, and their blended family.

Sonja looks forward to holidays because then everyone is together and she has the opportunity to cook for about 20 people, all family or anyone else who is alone and needs a meal; they are welcome at her table.

It doesn’t have to be a holiday though for her to cook for her grandchildren and their friends. She’s known as G’Momma to them and they don’t hesitate to invite themselves.

“I cook big pans of food when all of their friends are coming over,” said Sonja. “I cook things I know they’ll like, like mac and cheese, barbeque, fried okra and mashed potatoes. We’ll have seven or eight of them up here at one time. I love it. Their favorite dessert is Death by Chocolate.”

Sonja and Jerry will celebrate their 12th wedding anniversary this summer. They met at Presbyterian Church of the Covenant at Lenlock. Both are elders in the church and Sonja is active in the Presbyterian Women.

When the first hints of romance began to enter their relationship, she told her daughter, Kelley Pearce, she didn’t want to think about marrying “her best friend” because she was afraid the friendship connection would go away.

“I don’t want to mess up a friendship,” she told Kelley. Kelley convinced her mother to let her feelings for Jerry go where they might. A year and a half after they began dating, she and Jerry married and, sure enough, said Sonja, they’re still best friends. Both Sonja and Jerry feel that it was God’s plan for them to be together.

Jerry retired as an engineer from the U. S. Army Chemical School. Currently he works part-time for a private defense contractor and is a city council member.

Kelley has two children, Megan Haynes, who graduated from Auburn in May of this year with a degree in psychology, and Mallory Haynes, who graduated from Jacksonville High School in May. Kelley’s husband John has two children, J. B. and Morgan. J. B. graduated from Auburn last year with a degree in marketing, and Morgan will graduate in December year from Jacksonville State University. John, also, has two grandchildren, Tristin and Ava.

Sonja’s son and daughter-in-law, Frank and Lori Cobb Tucker, have three sons. Luke is 16, Joshua is 14, and Joseph is 12. The entire family either teaches at or attends Alexandria schools.

Jerry’s daughter, Christina, is married to Scott O’Dell. His son Matthew is a senior at JSU.

Sonja was born in Anniston and graduated from Anniston High School. She has BS and master’s degrees in vocational education and English from JSU. She has fond memories at JSU, especially marching with the Southerners.

Sonja’s first two years of teaching were at Saks High School. She then taught for a year at West End High in Birmingham. She had finished her 20th year of teaching at Alexandria when her son, Frank Tucker, was hired as teacher and later as head football coach. At that time a short-lived rule prevented Sonja and Frank from teaching at the same school. Sonja’s last three years of teaching were at Walter Wellborn High School where she retired.

Sonja taught business subjects at night at Gadsden State for 10 years. She sold real estate for Home Realty in Anniston, which was owned by her aunt and cousin, Gladys and David Dethrage. She served on the Calhoun County Board of Education four years and left that position when she married Jerry and moved to Jacksonville.

Sonja is a member of the Variosa Study Club in Alexandria, the Inter Se Study Club and the Gideons Auxiliary, and is a board member of the Exchange Club.

She’s usually seated in the stands at JSU, JHS and Alexandria High during football, volleyball, basketball, and baseball seasons. Her grandchildren are involved in several sports. Both granddaughters have state championship rings – Megan in volleyball and Mallory in basketball.

“I would say my biggest joy in life and my greatest hobby is being around Jerry and our children and grandchildren,” said Sonja. “My life has been blessed with family and friends and I am thankful and grateful for them.” She also likes spending time with her many friends.

Sonja shares several of her favorite recipes, including her popular Death by Chocolate.

Contact Margaret at


Fried Vegetable Medley

1 green tomato diced
1 yellow squash, diced
2 large potatoes (baking type, not new potatoes) diced
16 oz. okra (fresh or frozen cut)
½ c. flour
1 c. cornmeal
1 t. salt
1 T. pepper
Canola cooking oil – enough to cover vegetables

Wash fresh okra and cut off stem ends. Cut in 1/2-inch pieces. Place all vegetables in large bowl or large baggie. Add cornmeal, flour, salt and pepper. Shake until all vegetables are well coated. Heat cooking oil in large skillet over medium heat (oil should be hot, but not smoking hot). Carefully spoon vegetables into hot oil. Fry, turning mixture occasionally, until potatoes are done and mixture is nicely browned, about 15 to 20 minutes. Drain on paper towels.

Death By Chocolate

3 small boxes instant chocolate pudding mix or 3 boxes chocolate mousse mix
1 (12 oz.) containers frozen whipped topping, thawed
1 box chocolate cake mix (or your own cake recipe) or 2 boxes of brownies
6 Skor candy bars or 6 Heath candy bars, chopped (chocolate toffee bars)

Prepare cake mix as directed, or make your own chocolate cake recipe and bake in a 9 x 13 inch pan. When done, remove from the oven. Let cool. Meanwhile, prepare the pudding or mousse. Tear or crumble the cake into pieces. In a glass trifle bowl layer in this order: ½ of cake, ½ of pudding, ½ of whipped topping and ½ of candy bars. (Make 3 layers if desired using ⅓ of each ingredient instead of ½ of each ingredient.) Repeat layers ending with chopped candy bars on top. Chill well.

Kelley's Pasta Salad

1 box Rotini Pasta
½ c. green olives
½ c. black olives
½ c. crumbled feta cheese
I bottle of Greek vinaigrette
1 T. basil

Cook pasta as directed. Let cool. Add remaining ingredients.

Special Baked Beans

1 lb. lean ground beef
5 bacon strips
½ c. chopped onion
2 cans (16 oz. each) pork and beans, undrained
1 can (16 oz.) baby green limas, rinsed and drained or frozen
1 can (16 oz.) kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (16 oz.) shoe peg corn, drained
⅓ c. packed brown sugar
¼ c. sugar
¼ c. ketchup
½ c. barbecue sauce
2 T. molasses
2 T. spicy mustard
½ t. chili powder
½ t. salt

In a large skillet or saucepan over medium heat, brown beef and onion. Add beans. Combine remaining ingredients; stir into bean mixture. Pour into a greased 2-1/2-qt. baking dish. Place bacon on top of mixture. Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 1 hour or until beans reach desired thickness.
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Special to The Star

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