Ronnie Thomas named Guinea Grand Marshal

by Elsa Verbyla - Posted on Sep 12, 2018 - 12:43 PM

Photo: Ronnie Thomas offers his thanks to the crowd at Guinea Heritage Day after being introduced as the Guinea Jubilee Grand Marshal for 2018. Photo by Elsa Verbyla

Ronnie Thomas offers his thanks to the crowd at Guinea Heritage Day after being introduced as the Guinea Jubilee Grand Marshal for 2018. Photo by Elsa Verbyla

Photo: Linda Tjossem speaks about her winning photograph featuring two Guinea crabbers. Photo by Elsa Verbyla

Linda Tjossem speaks about her winning photograph featuring two Guinea crabbers. Photo by Elsa Verbyla

Photo: Kayleigh Graham will wear the crown of Miss Guinea Jubilee 2018. Photo by Elsa Verbyla

Kayleigh Graham will wear the crown of Miss Guinea Jubilee 2018. Photo by Elsa Verbyla

Photo: Assisted by poster contest chair Leslie Belvin, a retired art teacher at Achilles Elementary School, Lee Abston, left, unveils his winning entry, “Marsh Song.”  Photo by Elsa Verbyla

Assisted by poster contest chair Leslie Belvin, a retired art teacher at Achilles Elementary School, Lee Abston, left, unveils his winning entry, “Marsh Song.” Photo by Elsa Verbyla

Ronnie Thomas, a long-distance trucker who has hauled Guinea seafood to every corner of the nation, has been honored by selection as the Guinea Jubilee Grand Marshal for 2018.

Guinea Heritage Association board member Hamilton Williams introduced Thomas to an overflow crowd on Sunday at Guinea Heritage Day. This annual celebration of Guinea’s history, a popular pre-festival event, was held at the Abingdon Ruritan Centre, Bena.

The Guinea Jubilee will be held Sept. 28 and 29 on the Ruritan club’s grounds.

Williams described Thomas as a Guinea native who, after finishing at Gloucester High School and working briefly at the Naval Weapons Station in Yorktown, began in 1969 working as a loader on a Guinea seafood company dock. A year later he became a truck driver, who for 10 years drove clams from Gloucester to Miami and back, with many points in between, in his big rig. He moved on in 1981 to a Hampton seafood company, hauling seafood to Denver and points west. Eleven years later Thomas took a job as a long-distance driver for Walmart, driving from Petersburg to Bangor, Maine, as many as three times a week.

He retired in 2015 with three million accident-free, incident-free miles, Williams said. 

“His work ethic, trustworthiness, determination and flexibility, all Guinea characteristics, are ingrained in his nature,” and led to his selection as marshal, said Williams.

Taking the microphone, Thomas said, “I’ve been all over the country and I’ve always loved Guinea and I’ve always come back to Guinea. I really do appreciate this.”

Guinea Heritage Day also included the silent auction of three dozen cakes, displays of Guinea memorabilia, announcements of art contest winners, and sales of Guinea merchandise … along with tables of refreshments, handshakes, hugs, and hundreds of photographs snapped by proud parents and grandparents as their young ladies walked across the stage in the Little Darlins pageant.

Lee Abston was a repeat winner in the Guinea Jubilee poster contest. He painted a quiet scene, “Marsh Song,” showing a red-winged blackbird perched in the grass above a washed-ashore crabpot and its floats. A remarqued print of this scene was auctioned for $375, and copies were also given to the grand marshal and president of the Abingdon Ruritans.

Linda Tjossem won the inaugural Guinea Jubilee photo contest. Her print shows crabbers Bobby Ray Hill and his grandson Jeremy Carr working their line of pots as the sun rises.

Nan Evans announced that the cake auction had 36 entries; auctioneer Brook Thomas reminded the audience frequently to get in their bids, and prices went as high as $100.

The Little Darlins pageant dominated the afternoon. One babe in arms was carried across the stage, and the girls of all ages, dressed in a rainbow of colors with gloves, shoes, sparkles and ribbons, walked, waved, hung back, blew kisses, and competed in categories from Wee Baby Miss all the way to Miss Guinea Jubilee, high school upperclassmen.

Kayleigh Graham of Hayes won the title of Miss Guinea Jubilee 2018. She attends the online Enlightium Christian Academy as a 12th grader, and said her ambition is to become a pre-K teacher for special needs children. She is active in Waters Edge Church where she teaches two Sunday school classes, one with special needs children and one in kindergarden-1st grade.