Jay Sowers /  The Natchez Democrat — Sharina Washington Jones, left, and her mother, Gladys Powers Washington, have given out dozens of angels like these to honor people who touched the life of Sharina’s son, R.J. Foster, who died as a result of a horse accident in June, when he was just 10 years old.
Jay Sowers / The Natchez Democrat — Sharina Washington Jones, left, and her mother, Gladys Powers Washington, have given out dozens of angels like these to honor people who touched the life of Sharina’s son, R.J. Foster, who died as a result of a horse accident in June, when he was just 10 years old.

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Faith & family: Family spreading angel wishes

Published 12:11am Saturday, June 15, 2013

NATCHEZ — Gladys Powers Washington learns more about her grandson every day.

She hears stories from the people who Randy “R.J.” Foster Jr. made an impression on during his time here.

“I’ll see people in the store, and they’ll stop and tell me some memory or story they have about R.J.,” Washington said. “I’m still hearing stories to this day about something he did or said that I had never heard before.”

Randy was involved in a horse accident in June and died shortly after. He was 10 at the time of his death.

As his family began making funeral arrangements, Washington decided to grant a wish Randy requested the Christmas before his death.

JAY SOWERS / THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Sharina Washington Jones, left, and her mother, Gladys Powers Washington, display a photograph of Sharina's son, R.J. Foster, who died in June at only ten years old.
JAY SOWERS / THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Sharina Washington Jones, left, and her mother, Gladys Powers Washington, display a photograph of Sharina’s son, R.J. Foster, who died in June at only ten years old.

“Randy gave me a list of teachers and other faculty members that he wanted to give gifts to for Christmas,” Washington said. “He wanted to give one of his teachers a special gift — an angel.

“He felt as though she was his guardian angel.”

Randy presented one of his McLaurin Elementary School teachers with the angel but immediately wanted to do more for the rest of the staff at the school, Washington said.

“He wanted to present more teachers and faculty members with angels the following Christmas,” Washington said. “He just kept saying, ‘Grandma, there are a lot of angels at my school.’

“So I agreed to give out more angels the next year, not knowing it would be his last Christmas.”

Washington said she purchased 13 angels to give out at Randy’s funeral and was surprised when she saw other friends and family had brought even more.

“There was a lady that knew about the angels and what I was trying to do at the funeral who brought like 100 angels to give out at the funeral,” Washington said. “I was not expecting that, so it was a nice surprise.”

Those examples of Randy’s impact on the people who knew him led his family to create an organization called “R.J.’s Angels” to continue hosting and sponsoring events in his honor, great aunt Sheila Jackson Young said.

“There’s no one thing we’re going to be doing in particular, but it’s any of the things that Randy went through or wanted to do,” Young said. “We’d like to do the angels every year or even help assist a family who travels back and forth for medical treatment, because that’s something Randy did when he was having heart pains.”

Washington said Randy visited several doctors in Jackson and other areas for unknown heart pains he would frequently experience.

Sharina Washington Jones, Randy’s mother, said creating the organization has helped her deal with the loss of her son.

“It’s my way of coping through everything,” Jones said. “He was just a real caring all the time, and he always wanted to give something to the next person.”

Jones arranged a gathering in December at McLaurin where students, teachers and family gathered to release balloons and celebrate what would have been Randy’s 11th birthday.

“It’s all about helping other kids and keeping Randy’s memory alive,” Jones said. “Sometimes I’ll go to sleep and wake up thinking about something else we can do in his honor.”