EAST TAMPA — Jackson’s Market on Osborne Avenue bustles with people who stop in to buy snacks, newspapers and made-to-order hamburgers.
But this week the atmosphere was unusually subdued at the small convenience store as customers came in to express their condolences to the Jackson family.
Jimmie Jackson, the store’s longtime owner and a well-known neighborhood businessman, died March 10 of cancer. He was 75.
“He did what God wanted him to do here,” said his son, Jimmie “Bo” Jackson Jr.
Jackson bought the store at 3402 E. Osborne Ave. in 1975. He always was willing to provide a meal for a family in need or give ice cream to a neighborhood child who was short on cash, said Bo Jackson, 55.
“He just had a real big heart,” he said about his father.
More than 200 people came to a block party Thursday night in Jackson’s honor, Bo Jackson said. He had touched each of their lives in some way.
Family and friends described Jackson as kind and generous. He loved football and basketball, singing at church, and spoiling his grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Nobody could tell he was sick after his cancer diagnosis last year because he didn’t let the illness slow him down, said Annette Jackson., his wife. After he had surgery to remove part of his esophagus, he didn’t want to take the pain medication or stay in the hospital for more than a few days. Jackson was back at work shortly afterward.
“He was a fighter,” said Annette Jackson, 75.
A memorial service will be held at the Jacksons’ church, True Faith Inspirational Baptist Church, at 11 a.m. on Friday.
In addition to the market, the couple opened the nearby Jackson Funeral Home in 1992, shortly after Jackson retired from the Cargill plant, where he worked for 33 years.
“He believed in working,” his wife said. “He worked 18 years without missing a day or being late. He was very proud of that.”
The couple met while she was sitting on her front porch, Annette Jackson said. He would pass her house every day on his way home from work, and eventually they started talking, she said.
Together they had two sons, 16 grandchildren and 37 great-grandchildren.
Jackson grew up in segregated Alabama, his family said. He dropped out of school in sixth grade and followed his eldest brother to Tampa when he was 16 years old. He went back to school and earned a diploma from Middleton High, Annette Jackson said.
When Hillsborough County schools integrated in the early 1970s, Jackson told his sons he never wanted to hear them say anything discriminatory about another person, even if someone discriminated against them, Bo Jackson said.
“He believed in uniting people,” Annette Jackson added. “He always wanted to make things better.”
Jackson sponsored and coached youth baseball and basketball teams, even after he retired, friends said.
Mike Young, who threw the party in Jackson’s honor last week, said he practically grew up in Jackson’s Market.
“He was like a secondary father to me,” Young, 48, said. And Jackson never hesitated to say how he felt.
When he was a kid, Young said, if he made a bad play during a game when Jackson was coaching, he would hear about it.
“He was a sore loser,” Annette Jackson joked about her husband.
Jackson had a temper, but he was fair and proud, his family said. He was a protective grandfather, tough employer and devout churchgoer.
Through the years he worked with Tampa police to prevent drug sales and other crimes near his store. He always felt it was more effective to help the people involved to turn their life around, rather than just punish them, Annette Jackson said.
“He was very outspoken about that,” she said.
Jackson was a good community servant who helped those less fortunate than himself, said Tampa City Council member Frank Reddick, who represents the East Tampa area. He pushed people to be better, and he will be missed, Reddick said.
“We need more of him in the community.”