Everybody calls him “Jon-Jon,” or “Jon-Q,” and like many 10-year-old boys, he wants to play in the National Football League someday.
He also gets good grades and hustles off the school bus to show his mother his homework and tests.
Jonquavious Ellison is in the fifth grade at Old Pointe Elementary School in Rock Hill, and he is one of the biggest fifth graders anybody ever saw.
But that is not what separates him from other kids in Rock Hill. What makes Jon-Q different is that his father, two weeks ago, was killed.
Just like that – a stabbing and gunshots after a fight at a card game – and suddenly a little kid with big dreams has no father.
Johnny Lee Ellison – who worked for 15 years in restaurants, the hard work in the kitchen, who walked his son to the school bus stop every morning with the hope that his son would never have to work in a restaurant kitchen – was gone.
“He would help me pick out my clothes for school,” Jon-Q said of his father. “He told me I had to do good in school. He told me that he wanted me to be somebody.”
Now all the raising of this kid falls to his mother, Jessica Williams. The couple, she and Johnny Lee Ellison, had just the one son, Jon-Q.
Williams has worked the overnight third shift at a York factory/warehouse for more than seven years. She worked nights, while Johnny was home with their son. She came home from work and went to bed, Johnny made sure Jon-Q was ready for school. Afternoons she would make sure the homework was done, cook the meals, wash the clothes.
A family, hard work certainly, but making it.
“I had to tell him what happened,” Williams said. “But even from the beginning, he hasn’t expressed his feelings about it. He even wanted to go to school the next day.”
When Jon-Q went back to school on Sept. 16 after his father died, Williams met with his teacher and others at the school. She has closely monitored his progress since, spoken frequently with people at school.
The school bus driver, Ann Burris, has a son who played in the NFL after college at Notre Dame. Jeff Burris is a hero to Jon-Q and so many young people.
Ann Burris came to the house to make sure Williams knew that she also was keeping an eye on Jon-Q.
“The staff at the school, from his teacher to Ms. Burris on the bus, have been very sincere and caring,” Williams said. “Jon-Jon has support at home and at school. He’s such a good kid.”
Mornings now, Jon-Q has to get to the school bus without his father.
After school, he rides that bus with his 9-year-old cousin, Corey Johnson, and then the boys head home.
Jon-Q pulls out his folders and his electronic notebook that helps him with his homework. He beams and smiles when the homework is done, and done right.
In the front of the folder is a picture of his father that he carries everywhere.
He says he wants to be in professional sports some day, but his mother reminds him that education is the key to unlocking his future.
“Every day we talk about grades,” Williams said.
The talk now is just with the mother. The father who talked about school and succeeding and trying to be somebody by doing your best is gone.
Two men, brothers David and Jarris Williams – no relation to Jessica Williams – are in jail without bond, charged with murder in what might be the most senseless killing in recent memory. Police say there was a fight, the brothers lost, and took vengeance for a beating.
Wounded pride turned into decades, maybe life, in prison.
And a dead man. And a single mother. And a son with no father.
Ellison, 34, rode his bicycle to work five or six days a week for 15 years. The work was hard, dirty and hot, and it wasn’t great money. Still, he worked, and he wanted better for his son.
Jon-Q is asked where his father is and he says the words that a child should never have to say.
“He is everywhere I go. I hope I live another day and (hope) my father rests in peace.”
Then the kid goes into his mom’s little house on Oates Street to finish his homework without his father. His mother, alone now to raise him, follows him into the rest of his life.