Longevity runs in the family of John Lee Fashion.
His own mother lived to be 102 years-old and his eldest sister is still going strong at 102. Fashion will reach the centenarian milestone on June 15. The Moncks Corner man has aged gracefully and still enjoys good health. On most days he can be found sitting peacefully on his front porch while gospel music plays on a nearby radio.
From that shady comfortable spot, Fashion can look out at the quiet, rural land surrounding his home on Old Black Oak Road. He built his home in the 1940s and has lived in it ever since. Before buying land in Moncks Corner, Fashion, along with his four siblings and their parents, all lived in Cherry Hill. He said some of his fondest memories are from his childhood where he attended school in the historic Cherry Hill Classroom.
The classroom, located at 1386 Old Cherry Hill Road, dates back to 1876.
It was originally a one-room schoolhouse that served African-American students from first grade to sixth grade. In the 1920s, a one-room addition helped the school accommodate more students.
When Fashion attended the Cherry Hill Classroom in the 1920s, it was completely segregated. According to the SC Picture Project, the classroom closed in the 1950s as schools were consolidated throughout the state as a means for the government to provide “facilities and thus forestall integration.” The Cherry Hill Classroom closed after the 1954-1955 school year.
In recent years, Fashion helped to make the Cherry Hill Classroom a state historic site. The building was restored and is now used as a gathering place for locals as well as a landmark for visitors seeking to learn about Berkeley County’s African-American history.
Fashion learned how to cut and style hair from his uncle who owned Fashion’s Barber Shop in downtown Moncks Corner. For many years, Fashion worked part time at the barber shop and he also worked as an assistant to Dr. High at Delta Pharmacy. In that era, he was referred to as a “colored man,” and was among the first black employees to work at the white-owned business.
Fashion’s daughter, Bridgette J. Fashion, said her father was treated fairly by his employer, Dr. High. She said he was always very blessed.
However, Fashion’s brother was the president of the Moncks Corner chapter of The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
Bridgette said there were a few times when the two brothers had to sit up all night to guard their homes from members of the Klu Klux Klan.
The white supremacist hate group often targeted black families to vandalize their property or burn crosses on their land.
After leaving Delta Pharmacy, Fashion later worked as an insurance salesman for Pilgrim Health & Life Insurance- a black-owned business based in Charleston.
He was the only black insurance salesman in Berkeley County at that time. He went door to door to sell insurance and soon, everyone in the area knew him. Children often referred to him as “The Insurance Man.”
Bridgette remembers riding along with her father as he made house visits as a salesman. She also remembers picking peanuts in the field on the family’s land in Cherry Hill. She said her father enjoyed taking the family fishing and on trips in the summertime.
Fashion served on the board of the Santee Circle Fire Department which later dedicated a room to him inside of a station.
In retirement he has stayed active. He still mows his own yard and regularly attends church services at Mt. Carmel A.M.E. Church, which is located just a stone’s throw away from his home.
He had five children and now has six grandchildren, six great grandchildren, and seven great great grandchildren.
Fashion remarried after his first wife died. He has been married to his second wife, Neomia, for 57 years.
Fashion does not claim to hold the secrets to living a long and healthy life.
The only advice he offers to younger people is to always save money and to be on time for engagements.
Bridgette said her father has always been a stickler for punctuality and he always encouraged her to save well for the future.