CLEVELAND, Ohio – Jeannette “Jay” Stokes, wife of former congressman and civil rights leader Louis Stokes, died peacefully in Cleveland on Saturday at the age of 83, her family said.
Stokes was a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus Spouses, which worked to improve conditions for minorities across the country. She was also a member of the Congressional Club, which sponsored the First Ladies Luncheon, in honor of the wife of the incumbent President of the United States.
After raising her children, Stokes became a multi-million dollar real estate agent with Long & Foster in Maryland, where she and her husband had a second home due to his career in Congress. She has also been the Field Director for the Miss DC / USA contests.
Stokes, born in 1938 in Trenton, New Jersey, was diagnosed at age nine with rheumatism and scarlet fever and confined to Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital for two years of her life, according to an obituary written by her granddaughters Nikki Stokes and WJW Fox 8 reporter Alex Stokes.
But Jay Stokes went on to beat the disease and graduated from John Hay High School in Cleveland, according to the obituary. She attended the Cleveland Institute of Art and explored a multitude of careers, ranging from a position with the Cleveland Board of Education to professional modeling. She then taught at the Earl Wheeler School of Modeling and the Billy Tilton Finishing School and Modeling Agency.
Stokes met her husband on a blind date at Cleveland’s historic Karamu House. He was a young lawyer with three children. She often joked that she looked at him skeptically at first – an older man with children from a previous marriage, Alex and Nikki Stokes wrote in their grandmother’s obituary.
âNonetheless, she quickly fell in love with him and their shared will, determination and desire to make the world a fairer place,â the obituary reads.
The couple married in 1960 at East Mt. Zion Baptist Church. Two years later – against the predictions of doctors, who said her childhood illnesses would prevent her from having children – she took in her daughter, Lori.
Stokes joined her husband in international congressional investigative delegations and campaigned alongside him for each of his 15 terms in Congress, “attending every state dinner and political engagement and building powerful relationships with world leaders “wrote Alex Stokes. “… Together, she and Lou – whom she lovingly called ‘Cap’ – were unstoppable.”
Louis Stokes died in 2015.
Lori Stokes, Jay Stokes’ daughter, said her mother was a beautiful person.
âShe was a fighter but still so sweet and kind. Her impact is reflected in the outpouring of love and the messages we received in response to her passing, âshe said. “She would light up any room with her smile and warmth.” I was honored to take care of my father when he was ill six years ago and am fortunate to have shared the same journey with my mother, allowing her to return home with dignity and surrounded by love.
In her obituary, Stokes’ children remembered her as a woman of many talents. She could do home repairs by day and dine with dignitaries by night. She read poetry, loved to write and had a passion for decorating.
âShe was a brilliant artist who liked the simple things, like spending time with her grandchildren and listening to Johnny Mathis albums,â her granddaughter wrote. âShe loved bowling and trips to Martha’s Vineyard and St. Michaels.
Jeanette Stokes was a lot to a lot of people and dedicated her life to others. Above all, she would describe herself as a faithful wife and mother. “
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