Former deacon turns 101

Published 10:24 pm Friday, July 7, 2017

Suffolk native James “Jimmy” Stagg turned 101 years old on Thursday. When asked about how it felt to reach that age, he said there wasn’t much to it.

“You just become one-hundred-and-one,” he said.

Stagg was born in Suffolk on July 6, 1916, to Joseph and Almeta Stagg. He was one of 14 brothers and sisters.

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Stagg recalled the many hours spent on farmland in Suffolk when he and his brothers worked to support the family as they got older.

James Stagg, a Suffolk native, smiles at the residence of his nephew Alvin Powell. Stagg turned 101 years old on Thursday.

“I don’t know exactly how old I was, but I know I worked,” he said.

At age 19, Stagg left Suffolk to find work in Baltimore, Md. He worked whatever job he could, including hard labor on a ship, and sent money he earned back home to his family in Suffolk.

“He was the one that everyone looked up to,” said Carolyn Powell, who is married to his nephew, Alvin Powell.

He eventually began work at the Bethlehem Steel Corporation in Baltimore, where he spent 40 years in various roles before retiring as a crane operator.

“I did a little bit of everything,” James said.

He and his wife, Carrie Stagg, joined Fulton Baptist Church in 1942, where he served as a deacon for about 50 years. He would visit members of the congregation that fell ill, in addition to church repairs and building benches.

“I took care of everything,” he said.

He would go to church in fine clothes, his personal favorite being a striking blue suit.

“He was a snazzy dresser,” Carolyn Powell said.

For decades, his favorite way to get around was his 1986 Lincoln Town Car he still has outside the residence he shares with Alvin and Carolyn Powell.

“There’s nothing sweeter,” Stagg said. “I would have owned three of them.”

Stagg was with his wife for 64 years before she passed away in 2007. The couple did not have children and instead took care of others in the family.

He got his nephew Vernon a job at Bethlehem Steel during his tenure, and raised his nephews Ceasar and Antwan Goodson with his wife. The brothers are now in their late 40s with children and grandchildren of their own.

Carolyn Powell said family in Suffolk would go visit “Uncle Jimmy” for fun vacations out of town.

“When you wanted to leave Suffolk and get out, everybody went to Uncle Jimmy,” she said.

The Stagg family will celebrate with a reunion at the Whaleyville Annex on Saturday. They will travel from both in and out of Virginia for music, games and food in honor of the centenarian.

“It’s going to be nice,” said Alvin Powell. “A lot of times, families spread out so far that they don’t really get to know each other. This is a way to get them back.”

Like his brothers and sisters as they were growing up, many in the family continue to look up to James Stagg.

“He has been a great inspiration to the family,” Carolyn Powell said. “He’s a wonderful man.”