‘The Big Finish,’ the-time-to-press call of a Sensei who impacted ‘countless’ – Reflections of the life and legacy of an unsung hero

ICHI! NI! SAN! SHI! Another day of intense workout with Master Zenpo Shimabukuro (center), son of Shorin-Ryu Seibukan’s founder, Zenryo Shimabukuro

By Gail H.M. Brown, Ph.D.,

Contributing Writer ,

ICHI! NI! SAN! SHI! Another day of intense workout with Master Zenpo Shimabukuro
(center), son of Shorin-Ryu Seibukan’s founder, Zenryo Shimabukuro
Everett PHOTOS COURTESY OF FAMILY AND FRIENDS OF
SENSEI REX EVERETT

New Year’s Day is supposed to bring a new beginning, but shockingly it ended the match called life for a “gentle giant” and an “intentional man,” Sensei and Deacon Chairman Rex D. Everett. According to family, Everett, 57, a New Hebron, Miss. native, unexpectantly died in his Clinton home. 

News of his unexpected death drew a chain of heavy-hearted, emotional reactions around the nation from those who knew him well. Prayers and condolences flooded social media. 

Posting a happy photo of Everett and herself on Facebook, Kartessa “Tess” Bell, a Jackson education, leader wrote: 

“Big Finish!”My karate family knew when Sensei yelled “Big Finish” during training or competition, it was time to press, commit to the plan both mentally and physically, and complete the business at hand. Today – new meaning to those words. My heart is broken…

Bell, who earned her first degree Black Belt in 2005, told The Mississippi Link that she was vacationing in Dubai when she heard the news. “I was in disbelief, she said. “Saddened. Shocked. Indescribable pain. Bewildered. My soul is deeply saddened and still weeps at such a tremendous loss. Sensei impacted countless lives.”

Everett and Black Belt Angelina Rios

“Because of Sensei Rex, I am a Regional Mississippi Karate Association Champion, Regional AAU Karate Champion, National AAU Karate Champion, and Junior AAU Coach of a Champion. In addition, I have had the opportunity to referee official karate tournaments, train other students at Everett’s Karate and Tougaloo Upward Bound, and serve as a role model to girls and women showing them that they ‘can do this, too,’” Bell said.

A 4th degree Black Belt, Everett was the owner and operator of Everett Karate School. He started karate after graduating in 1987 from Mississippi College (MC) where he played football on a full scholarship and remained an active alumni. He was a Mass Media Communications major. 

Dr. Jim Turcotte, vice president and executive director of MC’s alumni association, stated: “Rex was a hard worker during his time at Mississippi College. He was highly thought of by everyone who knew him.”

Sensei Everett and AAU Karate Regional Director for Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas Rannie Ladner

“We were all simply shocked. Rex was the baby of our family,” said an older brother Major Donel Everett, from his Philadelphia, Penn. home. “I have had a lot of people calling me crying who knew Rex from MC,” he said. 

Major Everett, an MC Hall of Famer, is a former NFL player who played for the Philadelphia Eagles, Cleveland Browns and Atlanta Falcons. He also served on the MC Board of Trustees from 2006 to 2012.  

“Rex could have gone pro as well, but he suffered some injuries in college. He received an offer but he declined,” said Major Everett. 

Not going pro did not hinder Rex Everett from excelling further. “Rex was always busy, very energetic. Rex was the ultimate ntrepreneur,” Major Everett said.

Osmond Everett, who is eight years older than his baby brother, said Rex Everett gets his entrenenueral spirit from their late parents, Carlie and Velmon Everett. “We owned two barber shops,” said Osmond Everett. The Everetts were farmers, landowners, and their father performed multiple jobs. Their mother worked outside the home as well.

Everett during his appearance on FOX 40 providing safety and self-defence tips

Osmond Everett said, “I was the middle child, and our mother always taught us to go off, do well, and reach back and help the younger sisters and brothers. Rex was my project. He looked to me, and I knew him better than anyone.” 

Rex Everett’s biography reflects a busy life. He worked with Nationwide, State Farm and Shelter Insurance as a claims adjuster for many years. He owned and operated an Allstate Agency for several years.  Prior to his death, he was an independent insurance agent.

He started karate after graduating from Mississippi College. He was taught by Sensei Dan Smith of USA Seibukan Martial Arts who issued this statement Jan. 1. upon hearing of Everett’s death.

Sensei Rex Everett and Sensei Jessica Williams Owens at the 2007 National Karate Championship

“It is with great sadness that I bring you the news of the passing of my longtime student, Rex Everett. Rex was truly a wonderful person and an outstanding role model. He touched the lives of so many people of all ages through Seibukan. To know Rex was to know a sincerely kind and genuine soul. He will be greatly missed by his family, students and friends in his Seibukan family. If I get any other pertinent information I will certainly share it with you.  Please keep his family and his students in your prayers. Thank you.”

He loved traveling to various karate tournaments including AAU Junior Olympics, state, and local tournaments. He traveled to Okinawa, Japan and Budapest, Hungary.

He was also a water aerobics, kick box and step aerobics instructor at the YMCA.

Rex Everett was not only active in the karate world but also considered a great man of faith who loved God and people. He was a member of Progressive Morningstar Baptist Church of Jackson pastored by Rev. Terrick Williams. He served as deacon chairman and a member of the male choir. 

Former Progressive Morning Star Deacon Chairman Darrell Hopkins, who played football with Everett at MC, said Everett exemplified the mark of a good leader because he knew how to follow. “He’s the type that would do whatever needed to be done in and out of the church. If he had the time to do it, he would do it. That was one of the things that I respected about him,” Hopkins said.

Sensei Everett training student Barak Stringer

Longtime friend and student Kenneth Williams and his children were trained in Karate by him. “Everybody in our house took Karate except my wife Vivian,” said Williams aka “Coach.” His wife was very supportive and would observe them in training. “I have known Sensei Rex since 2002, and I have never seen him get upset,” Williams recalled. William’s daughter Jessica and son Buck earned their Black Belts.

Williams’ daughter, Jessica Williams Owens, shared this memory of her martial arts teacher:

“Sensei Rex was the first person I could talk to in life without even talking. I know that sounds weird but it was like he could tell when I was ready for competition or when I needed some extra assurance. I have so many memories with him that I feel the pain of losing him but also the joy of getting the opportunity to experience life with him. His smile was so comforting, his way of making light of bad situations shaped me, his ability to make people feel love without ever saying those words taught me how to love others…. I am thankful that God saw fit to make him a part of my life and I will carry on his legacy.”

Sensei Everett with Black Belt Kartessa “Tess” Bell

Derek Pruitt, owner of Pruitt Martial Arts on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, has known Rex for over 20 years. He described him as “caring, strong and compassionate.” “A lot of people don’t know all the things he did and what revenue [through karate] he brought to the cities of Jackson, Ridgeland and Madison. He worked very, very hard.” Pruitt also reflected on Everett’s time-to-press competition call, “Big Finish.”

“Rex was all about collaboration,” said his nephew and sidekick Victor Keyes. “He did not mind working with other karate programs. It was easy for him on a Saturday or something to say, ‘let’s run down to Hattiesburg and see what we can do down there. 

Former YMCA coworker Floyd Williams, currently of Visit Jackson, said, “Rex would work to do whatever he could to strengthen the community. He gave of himself 100-plus, very freely. I don’t think Rex ever met a stranger.”

Everett’s Karate was not only known in Mississippi, but also Louisiana, Alabama, overseas. 

AAU Karate regional director for Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas, Rannie Ladner said, “Sensei Rex was a super nice guy who was always willing to help the Karate program and especially his own students. He was a good friend and always smiling and reaching out to people who were in need of help. Always pushing his students to be the best they could be in the dojo and in life itself. He will be missed.”

Valarie Barrett Everett, a Philadelphia native and wife of his brother Major, said she admired how well he “was a mentor to young people.” “I think that is his greatest legacy: the positive impact he had on young people and young adults,” she said. 

Keyes and Bell concur. He said all of the young people his uncle worked with learned discipline in the right way. “He taught them how to compete in the right way, and they helped each other. He had a spirit of showing them that once you earned your Black Belt, you go back to help others.” Keyes said Everett had a group that competed well in tournaments and brought home many championship trophies and accolades. 

“Charity begins at home,” he said. “Not only did my Uncle Rex impact me, he impacted the next generation. All my nieces and nephew were inspired to take Karate under him just because he was a “great uncle.” “Better than you, Uncle Vic,” he said one of his nephews told him. 

As part of its community, Everett’s Karate has been featured in a series on FOX 40 News segments, providing viewers with safety and self-defense tips.

According to Bell, Sensei Rex instituted a grade-check policy and made surprise visits to schools to ensure students excelled academically. He often attended their school events and “provided emotional or mental support when students’ loved ones transitioned or to those students needing the extra support from a father figure,” she said.

Barak Stringer, another Black Belt, was one of those inner-city youth, “I started karate when I was 12. I did not grow up with my father in my life. He inadvertently became like that father figure for me. And, his Karate program became like a safe haven for a lot of us that were in the Jackson metro community. It was like a family outside of family.” Stringer is now a ninth-grade Algebra teacher in Dallas. 

Family and friends shared that Rex Everett was also a jokester. “He was very humorous, an entertainer,” said Osmond Everett.

“With each karate trip or event, there was never a dull moment with Sensei Rex. His smile and sense of humor were infectious,” said Bell.

“He would have us cracking up back in the church office after church,” said Hopkins. Family and friends said that he could do comedic impressions of just about anyone famous.  

Everett is survived by his two sons: Rex “Maxwell” Everett and William Everett; five of nine siblings: Delmont, Russia, Osmond, Major and Wendy; and a host of other relatives and friends. 

“Although he completed the ‘Big Finish,’ his light will continue to burn within each student or person he has ever encountered,” concluded Bell.

The Homegoing Celebration of Rex D Everett can also be streamed LIVE on Progressive Morningstar Baptist Church Official Page ONLY (Saturday, January 8, 2022 11 a.m. CST)

Arrangements:

Viewing: Friday, January 7, 2022 ( 9 a.m. – 7p.m.)

Westhaven Funeral Home

3580 Robinson St., Jackson, MS 39209

Funeral Service: Saturday, January 8, 2022 (11 a.m.), Progressive Morningstar M.B. Church, 3677 Robinson Street, Jackson, MS 39209.

Burial: Saturday, January 8, 2022, immediately following funeral services, North Pleasant Hill M.B. Church Cemetery, 495 North Pleasant Hill Road, New Hebron, MS 39140.

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