“This is really just an opportunity for the church to honor a couple who has been such an important part of the church and the congregation for all those years,” said Rev. Billy Harris, interim pastor of the church.
The church’s music rests primarily in the hands of the pair, as Jimmy Littlejohn, 74, serves as the music director and Phillis Littlejohn, 71, plays the piano for the services.
As much as the Littlejohns have given to the church over the decades, the church has given them one of the most important things in their lives — each other.
Phillis Littlejohn, originally from Wellington, came to Pleasant Valley in 1960 when her father became the pastor of the church, she said. She met Jimmy Littlejohn when he returned to his native Pleasant Valley from a stint in the Army in 1961. By the following year, the pair had married. Although they spent time away from Pleasant Valley early on, they returned in 1968 and have remained there since, Phillis Littlejohn said.
In the intervening years, the couple has found numerous ways to contribute to the congregation.
“They are just wonderful folks who have just done whatever needs to be done in the church,” Harris said.
Jimmy Littlejohn has served as a deacon for more than 40 years and currently serves as both chairman of the deacons and on the board of the Jacksonville Christian Outreach Center. Phillis Littlejohn, said Harris, has been a tremendous asset to Vacation Bible School, Sunday school, Christmas programs and other special events during her years in the church.
“We’ve both tried to be there every Sunday and Sunday nights,” said Phillis Littlejohn, who estimates that her husband has missed one week due to illness in the past eight or nine years.
For all this, the congregation decided to recognize the Littlejohns and worked for weeks to secure a number of honors for their service, including proclamations from the city of Jacksonville and the state legislature. They were also presented with a flag secured through Rep. Mike Rogers’ office that was flown over the U.S. Capitol on Nov. 20 in their honor.
“We’re very grateful for the response people gave to us,” Jimmy Littlejohn said. “It was a surprise in that we didn’t expect that magnitude of things.”
For Phillis Littlejohn, the day was particularly special because “a lot of friends were there and all our children and grandchildren,” she said. “We just appreciate everything everybody did.”
In addition to all the honors bestowed on the couple by various levels of government, the congregation also presented the LIttlejohns with gift certificates to restaurants and commemorative pewter platter engraved with the date to mark the special day.
The congregation also brought in a guest music director and piano player, said Harris, so “they’ll have a day of rest as well as a day of celebration.”