Virginia “Jensey” Leland Mann, age 82, of Gatesville, passed away on May 15, 2023, of natural causes.
Jensey was born on June 15, 1941, in Birmingham, Alabama to Leland Alexander Mann and Virginia Bell Dillard Mann. At the age of three, she moved with her parents to Oak Ridge, Tennessee, where she lived until she went away to Georgia for high school at Brenau Academy, graduating in 1959, and went on to achieve her bachelor’s in English Literature at Brenau University in 1963.
After graduating from college, she followed her parents to Indian Harbor Beach, Florida and met and married Stephen Shacoski in 1965, and had three children. Jensey became a part of a growing community of divorced and single mothers at a time when getting a bank account or credit card on their own was near impossible, and when interviewing for jobs was told that, although she might be more or equally qualified, the men interviewed had a family to provide for, “so we had to give the job to him.”
Jensey persevered and while raising her children; she taught college English at Florida Institute of Technology from 1966 to 1973, in Brevard County, Florida, and eventually became a dedicated and proud high school English teacher spending most of her career at South Fork High School from 1981 until 2001 in Martin County, Florida. Through her own personal and family history of struggles with mental illness, losing students to suicide, and supporting colleagues and friends who were struggling, Jensey grew into an outspoken advocate for people with mental illness. Far ahead of her time, she created and supported a student group at South Fork High School in the 80s called Suicide Is Not The Answer (SINTA). Through SINTA she facilitated training students to support peers in crisis and link them to help, knowing that adolescents were more likely to tell someone their age they are thinking of suicide than telling adults. Her passion for destigmatizing mental illness and normalizing talking about mental health led to her eventually achieving her master’s degree in counseling at Liberty University in the 90s and a lifelong belief that it’s important to be open and unashamed about mental health struggles.
Jensey became a born-again Christian in the early 70s and remained devoted in her faith and belief in the teachings of Christ. One of the greatest things she taught her children was to see people as Christ would. She never looked down on people and took into her home and heart people that felt they were not seen or cared for within the communities they lived. They became part of her family and were well-loved. While devoted to her faith and the Bible, Jensey was also a great appreciator of literature, music, and art. She especially loved Shakespeare, Chaucer, William Blake, Milton’s Paradise Lost, and Cervantes’ Don Quixote. Past students commented that they never thought they could ever understand or appreciate literature such as Shakespeare but somehow she made them not only understand the work but also feel like it was ‘theirs.’
Jensey spent her final years in Gatesville, where she was part of a close community of friends who shared coffee and life together, especially at a restaurant called Andy’s, which became the center of their life together. She spent her final years with strong friends who supported each other as they aged into their golden years. Jensey was especially close with Scottie: a devoted caregiver who became her best friend, and who provided the loving care and support that helped fill Jensey’s final years with comfort and love.
Jensey is survived by her friend and caregiver, Scottiemarie Pearson; children, Stephen Christopher Shacoski, Tim Shacoski, and Suzanne “Sunny” Shacoski; daughters-in-law, Julie Cole Shacoski and Kim Rockburn; four grandchildren, Gabrielle, Alexandria, Steve, and Anabelle Shacoski; and a first cousin Marianne Mann Meredith, who was always a sister to her. Jensey was a lifelong lover of animals who were always family in her house. She particularly had an affinity for cats, who were constant companions. She most certainly is now surrounded by all her pets that went before her.
Fear no more the heat o' the sun, Nor the furious winter's rages; thou thy worldly task hast done. (Cymbeline, Shakespeare).