Caratina "Jackie" L. Alston, 76, second United States Secretary of the North American Free Trade Agreement Secretariat, passed away peacefully on Friday, December 17, 2021, at her residence in Maryland, surrounded by family and friends.
On Sunday, August 12, 1945, Jackie came into this world born to her loving mother, Rose Mae Alston, and father, William Edward Alston, in Raleigh, North Carolina, joining her brother and best friend, Willie "Bob" Lester Alston.
Growing up in Washington, D.C., Jackie studied at Morgan Elementary School & Bryant Elementary School. After school integration, she attended John Tyler Elementary School, Hine Junior High School, and Chamberlain Vocational High School.
Jackie had an extraordinary career with the Department of Commerce; she was the longest-serving U.S. Secretary in the history of the office and one of the original officials responsible for establishing the trilateral office, first as Deputy U.S. Secretary before ascending to U.S. Secretary. As the first woman to serve as U.S. Secretary, she was also the first Black American to serve in that capacity. She was recognized for her negotiation expertise in the trilateral countries in North America. She worked on other Free Trade Agreements for which the United States had a Dispute Settlement Article.
Jackie's Federal career began as a GS-1 at the Main Post Office in Washington, D.C., later at the Department of Commerce, she worked her way up to a desk officer with the International Trade Administration. She contributed as a trade specialist on the negotiating team of the largest trade block, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Her memberships included Blacks in Government (B.I.G.), and she was an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) representative during her career. Jackie retired in 2008 with more than 45-years of Federal service.
Jackie was a civil servant of the highest order, but she was also a loving daughter, sister, cousin, and beloved friend to many who've known her for over 50 years. The doors to her home were open to her many friends and family, and she never turned a visitor away from a home-cooked meal at her dinner table. She was not only a great cook but a phenomenal baker and truly loved her time in the kitchen creating a delicious meal or baking her famous sweet potato pie for friends and neighbors alike.
To know Jackie was to love her, her smile lit up a room, and her laugh was easy and contagious. She had a sense of humor that was sharp and witty, and she could talk football like she was an ESPN commentator. She loved NCIS and anything that had to do with aliens, noting that you could find her watching back-to-back episodes of Ancient Aliens, Perry Mason, anything on the Hallmark Channel, or figuring out who committed the crime on Investigation Discovery.
Jackie was generous beyond measure... if there was something she had that you needed, she was there to help without question or hesitation. Jackie spent her life dedicated to civil service and ensuring her family was loved and cared for beyond measure. She spent most of her life with her mother, Rose, and will spend eternity with her loving mother by her side.
"A pure heart is a heart that has warmth and comfort, that will make others feel cared for and in safe hands. This heart does not have a limit in giving, it does not limit welcoming others, and its doors will always be open for those who are in need." If this is the definition of being pure of heart, I think that many who knew her would agree that Ms. Caratina LaVon Alston (better known as "Jackie") was the standard-bearer and a lasting example for us all.
Jackie is survived by her loving family:
Brother Willie "Bob" Lester Alston & his four children, Keith Eric Alston, Keisa LaVon Alston, April Bernadette Caceres (Cesar, Annabelle, & Kyla), and Bobbi Renee Alston (Molie Chavez & Julianna)
Cousins Judy Jenkins (Eric, Alexis, Gabriel, Clara), John "Johnny" Powell (Adrienne, Jackson, Sydney, Jordan), James "Jimmy" Powell, Jr. (Kim, Lindsey, Andrew), & James Powell, Sr. (Jeannie), Stanley Crowder (Demetria "Dee"), Peggy Davis, Geraldine, Marcia & multiple other family members across the country from Baltimore to Philadelphia, North Carolina, Georgia & beyond
Long-time friends Bernadette Nicholson, Charlotte Yates, Cypriana "Cyp" Hunter (Bill, Martine), Betty Blaylock (Charles), Charles & Lloyd "Stinger" Cooper, Marsha Iyomasa, Pam Woods, Chandra Watkins, Jennifer Parker (daughters Jenna & Jewel), neighbor Jolie Johnson (Curtis, Lisa, Ivette) and countless others; who though remain unnamed were no less loved and will always be a blessing to the life of Jackie.
She is predeceased by her mother Rose Mae Alston, father William Alston, uncles Otis & Ralph Crowder, aunts Zelma Crowder & Anne Crowder-Wall, aunt Gladys Alford (Eugene), cousin/best friend Johnell Powell, and life-long friend Janice Perry.
On Tuesday, January 18, 2022, a funeral mass will be held at Holy Family Catholic Church, 2210 Callaway Street, Hillcrest Heights, MD 20748, followed by burial services at Resurrection Cemetery 8000 Woodyard Road, Clinton, MD 20735.
A Celebration of Life is planned for the summer of 2022; more information to follow.