Obituary of Armelia Ponton-Grooms
Armelia Lavoya Ponton-Grooms was born the second child of five children to the late Ashley Junius (aka June) and Anna Hunter Ponton on January 15, 1936 in North Carolina. She was named Armelia by her father after his older sister. She was affectionately known as “Meda” by close family members. Armelia was truly a sweet, kind and loving person to all. Growing up as a young child, she would often remind her siblings that she was the “oldest girl, in charge and the boss.” Her siblings would always acquiesce to her as the big sister! Although she could be stern and strong-minded, she would always lovingly take care of them and the needs of the family. Importance of family was instilled in Armelia at a young age. Every Sunday after church, the family would have dinner at the home of Armelia’s grandparents. She enjoyed playing with her cousins and siblings and always loved the rich southern home-cooked food, especially the desserts.
At the age of 18, Armelia relocated to NJ and worked as a live-in nanny and housekeeper for a family with children in Newark. During her time off, she spent time socializing with family. This particular family social hosted by Armelia’s family was a turning point in her life. There she met the love of her life, John Randall Grooms. John noticed this quiet girl from the country who captured his attention. At the time, he was serving in the United States Army. On his very next visit home, he obtained Armelia’s phone number from a relative. Without hesitation, he invited her to take a car ride and a trip to the movies. This began their everlasting courtship. John was honorably discharged from the US Army and immediately proposed to Armelia. They were joined in holy matrimony on September 3, 1960 in Patterson, NJ. The following year, Armelia became pregnant with their first child. This led John to purchase a home for his wife and growing family in East Orange, NJ. Their union was blessed with two wonderful daughters: Joyce Renee and Janet Raquel.
Armelia’s passion for education was demonstrated on many levels in her life. Tenaciously she studied receiving her diploma from Gumberry High School in Garysburg, North Carolina. She then pursued higher education at Bloomfield College where she graduated in 1985 receiving a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Administration: General Management. Armelia was a role model to her daughters in the importance of education and she gave new meaning to the word “superwoman.” She would work all day, come home to make dinner, review homework and then attend college classes at night. Sometimes taking her daughters to sit in the back of the classroom while her husband John worked the evening shift.
Armelia accepted Christ as her Lord and Savior at an early age. She was baptized at Faithful Band Baptist Church in Pleasant Hill, North Carolina. Armelia joined Calvary Baptist Church in East Orange, NJ under the leadership of the late Rev. William R. Bailey. Here she served as a faithful member for 62 years. After attending her home church for approximately 2 years, John also became a member. She would humorously tell her children and tease John that he only joined Calvary so he could keep an eye on her and always know what she was doing, since she spent so much time there. Armelia served as a Deaconess, Trustee, Pulpit Aide Member, Chancel Choir Advisor, Gospel Chorus Member and Chairwoman of the Women’s Day Committee.
Armelia introduced her daughters to Christ from the time they were born and was insistent that they participate in every church activity available to them. Armelia toted her girls around to all these activities and still made time to cook a fresh homemade dinner every Sunday, often going back to church in the afternoon for another service.
In 2008, Armelia became a grandmother to her one and only grandchild Jasmyne Raquel, who was truly the light and heart of her later life. She had a new burst of youth with her granddaughter and loved spoiling and taking her in the stroller to church and political functions. In her eyes, her granddaughter could do no wrong. Unlike the switch whippings her mother and aunt endured, Grandma Armelia never ever spanked “Jaszy” and would always say, “she’s just being a child.”
Armelia was always gainfully employed and after she relocated to New Jersey as a young adult she took great pride in sending money to her mother and family in North Carolina, on a regular basis. Armelia held positions of employment at CaterMat, West Caldwell, NJ, and Pitney Bowes in Cedar Knolls NJ. She spent much of her professional career serving as the Rent Leveling Manager for the city of East Orange from 1991 to 2000 and from 2007 to 2015. Due to health issues, Armelia retired in 2015 at the age of 79 years young. She always said, had it not been for her declining health she would continue working. Armelia enjoyed being a servant to her clients and interacting with her co-workers on a daily basis.
Politics was Armelia’s second passion and she found great joy in her community service activities both at the local and national levels. She served as the Third Ward District Leader and Chairwoman for 15 years and as the Vice-Chair of the East Orange Democratic Committee. Armelia was a worker bee and had no problem with rolling up her sleeves and beating the campaign trail to ring doorbells and distribute literature. She endorsed numerous candidates and was instrumental in many past and present elected officials winning their seats following a campaign election. Armelia served with compassion, dedication and enthusiasm that exemplified the true spirit of a “public servant.” She was respected and admired by her City Hall colleagues and the citizens of East Orange and the greater Essex County Area.
In addition to her family and career, Armelia had an entrepreneurial spirit and many extra-curricular pursuits. She sold Avon, Amway, Mary Kay, Noni Juice and everything else in between. Because of her love of desserts, she even had a side business called “Mama Grooms Specialty Baking.” Her pies (sweet potato) and cakes (pineapple- coconut, carrot) and cheesecakes were everyone’s favorites. She enjoyed the finer things in life. Armelia was elegantly dressed at all times. Leaving the house without make-up and matching accessories was unacceptable. She always wore matching hats and suits with her fur coats and designer handbags. She wanted every woman to be at her best every time, in support of that desire she owned and operated: Armelia’s Traveling Boutique where she worked on the weekends.
As graceful as Armelia lived for 82 years, so was her transition on the morning of March 13, 2018. Following a lengthy illness and after saying good night to her husband, she went to sleep, peacefully entering into the eternal rest of her Heavenly Father. Her voice has been stilled but the choir will sing on, and her love for family, church, colleagues and friends will remain in everyone’s hearts through the sweet memories of her smile, strength, love, laughter and encouraging words of wisdom.
Family members who predeceased Armelia were: Herman and Louis (brothers), Altheia and Marylin (sisters), Jesse (Father In-law), Edna (Mother in-law), Alberta (sister in-law), and Mathew and Charles (Brothers-in-law).
To cherish her legacy of honor is her husband of 58 years John Randall (East Orange); Her daughters, Joyce Renee (East Orange), Janet Raquel (Plainfield), One granddaughter, Jasmyne Raquel (Plainfield); One god-daughter, Sherise Allen (West Caldwell), Best Friend/Sister, Glenna Hinton (East Orange); Brother-in-Law, Robert Grooms (Louisa Va.), Sister-in-Law, Frances Quarles (Louisa Va.). A host of Surrogate Sons & Daughters, Nieces, Great Nieces, Nephews, Great Nephews, Cousins and many dear friends.
As the words of her favorite church hymnal ring true, Armelia Ponton Grooms lived a life for God’s service and exemplified how to “Hold to God’s Unchanging Hand and build your hopes on things eternal, Hold to God’s Unchanging Hand”.
Beyond Ordinary Means of Measurement,