Father's Day is this Sunday and it will be a bittersweet day, a time of both triumph and tears for former Jackson County resident Jill Eisnaugle.
Jill, who now resides in Texas City, Texas, with her mother, Diana, continues to win distinction for her creative writing achievements, the most recent being her selection as one of the national winners in a contest conducted by Hallmark Cards.
But this Father's Day will also be very near the two-year anniversary of the death of her beloved father, long-time Jackson resident Al Eisnaugle, who continues to serve as a main source of Jill's inspiration to succeed.
And her story is even more special because Al and Diana once owned and operated the former M&E Jewelry and Gifts store in downtown Jackson, which specialized in the sale of Hallmark cards.
"The victory is extremely special for me because of my parents' history of having M&E Jewelry and Gifts when I was very small," Jill wrote to The Telegram. "They sold Hallmark cards in their store and I remember Dad telling a probably 2-year-old me back then to 'stay away from the Hallmark cards because others might want to buy those.' Now, they can buy mine."
Hallmark has been conducting contests since November 2007 in which the public is invited to submit proposed cards based on a different theme for each competition creating the photo or design on the cover, plus any accompanying text and verse inside the card. Jill has had winning entries in both "That's Motherhood" and "Birthday His Way" theme contests. Both cards are available for viewing and purchase on-line at www.hallmark.com.
Winners receive $250 for each winning card, plus their cards can be purchased from Hallmark on-line. In the "Birthday His Way" contest, Jill's card was one of only 30 of 1,874 submissions to be chosen for on-line purchases.
However, Hallmark has also selected Jill's "Birthday His Way" card to be sold this summer in all their stores across the country while also awarding Jill another $250 payment. Hallmark further recognizes the card creator with a photo and brief biography on the back cover of the card. Jill's card is scheduled to start appearing in stores where Hallmark cards are sold on Monday, June 21.
The "Birthday His Way" theme was intended to produce birthday cards for men and Jill came up with what she called a "Chicken and Beer" card after concluding that guys tend to like "food, women and alcohol."
Jill explained, "That led me to think of cooking a whole chicken, pouring a glass of beer and tying it together with the verse, 'The perfect gift: a hot chick and a cold brew. Happy birthday'."
The Hallmark cards are certainly not Jill's first taste of national success as a writer. She has published three books of her poetry, two of which are available at the Jackson and Oak Hill public libraries. She also had a story published last year in the famous Chicken Soup for the Soul: Tough Times and Tough People Collection, which told of her experiences when Hurricane Ike struck the Texas coast. She also has her own Web site: www.authorsden.com.
Jill only lived in Jackson County for a short period of her youth, but says she was influenced by her teachers in both the Jackson and Oak Hill school districts and considers her heart to still be in Jackson County.
But even as she celebrates another creative success, the timing of it all has Jill thinking wistfully of her dad.
"It's still hard for me, given how much success I've found since he died to achieve it without the 'Atta girls' from him," Jill told The Telegram. "If the card does reach the store on June 21, it will be the second anniversary of the last day I had with Dad before he died. If it is likely that next day, as Hallmark has called 'possible,' then that is the second anniversary of Dad's death -- and this was his ultimate dream for me, to some degree. It's family history full circle and a sweet, sweet thing."