Great Obituaries

Irishman Dies from Stubbornness, Whiskey

Chris Connors died, at age 67, after trying to box his bikini-clad hospice nurse just moments earlier. Ladies man, game slayer, and outlaw Connors told his last inappropriate joke on Friday, December 9, 2016, that which cannot be printed here. Anyone else fighting ALS and stage 4 pancreatic cancer would have gone quietly into the night, but Connors was stark naked drinking Veuve in a house full of friends and family as Al Green played from the speakers. The way he died is just like he lived: he wrote his own rules, he fought authority and he paved his own way. And if you said he couldn’t do it, he would make sure he could.

Most people thought he was crazy for swimming in the ocean in January; for being a skinny Irish Golden Gloves boxer from Quincy, Massachusetts; for dressing up as a priest and then proceeding to get into a fight at a Jewish deli. Many gawked at his start of a career on Wall Street without a financial background – but instead with an intelligent, impish smile, love for the spoken word, irreverent sense of humor, and stunning blue eyes that could make anyone fall in love with him.

As much as people knew hanging out with him would end in a night in jail or a killer screwdriver hangover, he was the type of man that people would drive 16 hours at the drop of a dime to come see. He lived 1000 years in the 67 calendar years we had with him because he attacked life; he grabbed it by the lapels, kissed it, and swung it back onto the dance floor. At the age of 26 he planned to circumnavigate the world – instead, he ended up spending 40 hours on a life raft off the coast of Panama. In 1974, he founded the Quincy Rugby Club. In his thirties, he sustained a knife wound after saving a woman from being mugged in New York City. He didn’t slow down: at age 64, he climbed to the base camp of Mount Everest. Throughout his life, he was an accomplished hunter and birth control device tester (with some failures, notably Caitlin Connors, 33; Chris Connors, 11; and Liam Connors, 8).

He was a rare combination of someone who had a love of life and a firm understanding of what was important – the simplicity of living a life with those you love. Although he threw some of the most memorable parties during the greater half of a century, he would trade it all for a night in front of the fire with his family in Maine. His acute awareness of the importance of a life lived with the ones you love over any material possession was only handicapped by his territorial attachment to the remote control of his Sonos music.

Chris enjoyed cross dressing, a well-made fire, and mashed potatoes with lots of butter. His regrets were few, but include eating a rotisserie hot dog from an unmemorable convenience store in the summer of 1986.

Of all the people he touched, both willing and unwilling, his most proud achievement in life was marrying his wife Emily Ayer Connors who supported him in all his glory during his heyday, and lovingly supported him physically during their last days together.

Absolut vodka and Simply Orange companies are devastated by the loss of Connors. A “Celebration of Life” will be held during Happy Hour (4 p.m.) at York Harbor Inn on Monday, December 19.

In lieu of flowers, please pay open bar tab or donate to Connors’ water safety fund at http://www.thechrisconnorsfund.com.

DOWNS, Ruth Spence 12/3/27-11/9/16

Ruth Spence Wingate Downs died at her residence in West Point on November 9, 2016, a day which she had earlier described as a “great day” on a recorded message to her son. In fact, almost every day of her 88 years was great and her life’s work made great days for others.

Ruth was born at home in rural Baker County Georgia on December 3, 1927. She grew up during the Depression years in a family of farmers and teachers who instilled in her general principles of fairness which guided her life—a deep love and respect for all people and a commitment to a quality public education for every child. Ruth attended Huntingdon College then transferred to the University of Georgia where she received a degree in Home Economics in 1949. At UGA, she served as president of the Chi Omega Fraternity and was tapped for Mortar Board in recognition of her campus leadership.

At a young age she suffered two devastating losses. At 16 she lost her 21 year-old brother “Buddy” in WWII. In college, her fiance Joe Mundy was killed in a tragic bus accident while on his way to visit her in Athens. The memory of these two special people evoked strong emotion throughout her lifetime.

On July 15, 1950, Ruth married Donald Joseph Downs—a UGA cheerleader with a degree in Journalism. For 61 years he shared her love of laughter, music, adventure and mischief—both were avid Georgia Bulldog fans. They started out editing and operating the Hogansville Herald then moved to West Point where Don worked in public relations and Ruth delivered four children in four and one-half years! While raising her children, Ruth taught Sunday school, directed Bible School, and served as PTA President, Girl Scout leader and (her most difficult assignment) Cub Scout den mother. She welcomed all kinds of pets in her home—even a few snakes. Her summer plan involved loading children, hers and others, into her Volkswagen van and hauling them down to the Shawmut pool for swim practice followed by a trip to the library for summer reading. She and Don organized and coached a girls’ basketball team at the elementary school level. That team later became the first varsity girls’ team at West Point High. Ruth was a long time member and chairperson of the West Point School Board. She was elected State President of the Georgia School Boards Association. She served on Governor Carl Sanders’ Georgia Commission to Study the Status of Women in the 1960s and Governor George Busbee’s State Task Force for the Improvement of Public Education. She was a member of the Delta Kappa Gamma Society of Professional Women Educators.

While her children were in college, Ruth went to LaGrange and West Point public housing to teach consumer education and sewing classes through the Troup Technical School. For several years she was Director of the West Point Child Development Center where she took a special interest in teaching the children and the teachers to swim. Many of these children remained life-long friends of hers. In 2010, a Black History program in West Point honored Ruth and Don for their part in forming a human relations group composed of like-minded black and white couples promoting understanding and paving the way for a more peaceful desegregation of West Point. She loved attending services at Bethlehem Baptist especially on Emancipation Proclamation Day and Martin Luther King, Jr. Sunday.

Caring for others was her joy. Her mother, her mother’s sisters, her husband’s uncle all lived in her home through the years prompting Don to nickname their home “Methuselah Manor.” She served as guardian and cared for her friend Miss Adelaide Veazey until her death. When the time came for Ruth to accept care “she was not a fan.” She remained fiercely independent to the end. Ruth loved to dance. If there was music playing, she was moving to the beat and encouraging all around her to join in the fun. A favorite memory of hers was a magical night when she attended a state dinner at the Truman White House and danced the night away with a young congressman from South Carolina. Two and one half weeks before her death, Ruth attended her granddaughter’s wedding where she was showered with love and affection from her entire family. At that grand celebration she danced for the last time. Ruth lived in the moment. She was never too rushed to cut short a good conversation. She was vibrant and demonstrative, and her blue eyes twinkled with enthusiasm. The word “hate” was not in her vocabulary. She much preferred the phrase “not my favorite.” She was a sympathetic listener who was fascinated and moved by the life stories of others. She remembered people’s names and they remembered her. Her relationships with family, friends and strangers alike were filled with a sense of honor and respect. Until the last day of her life her family sought her counsel. She inspired them to tackle the sometimes impossible tasks of working, parenting and giving back to their communities. She challenged them to lead by example. She was a very proud mother, grandmother and great grandmother.

She was preceded in death by her husband Donald Joseph Downs; parents Ruth Spence and Harry Lynnwood Wingate; brothers William Ransom, James Cochran “Buddy”, and Harry Lynnwood Wingate, Jr.; a sister Verna Lucille; her mother’s sisters Misses Susie, Emily Toy, and Dorothy Virginia Spence; and her special friend Reginald “Book” Gilliam. Four children survive including: Joseph R. Downs, III, MD and his wife Debra Ammons Downs, Margaret Downs Schaufler, MD and her husband Eugene Michael Schaufler, MD, Fulton Superior Court Judge Doris Louise Downs and her husband Stephen Clayton Andrews, JD, and Mr. James Wingate Downs. Eleven grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren survive including: William Wingate Downs, JD and his wife Jennifer, M. Div and their children Dexter Barrett and Beatrice Lane; Mrs. Emily Spence Downs Davis, EdS and her husband Michael and daughters Alyse Catherine and Corinne Donnelly; Laura Ellen Downs Beaulieu, PhD and her husband David and daughter Sylvia Jane; Mr. Benjamin Adam Schaufler and his wife Denali Lord; Mr. Christopher Graham Schaufler; Margaret Ann Schaufler, JD; Elizabeth Curry Andrews, MA and her husband Dustin Olsen; Ms. Jessica Foster Andrews; Mr. Patrick Spence Downs and his wife Whitney and daughters Kennedy James and Eloise Grace; Ms. Caitlin Louise Downs; and Ms. Eleanor Opal Downs. A valued friend and devoted caregiver Ms. Marie “Susie” Buckner also survives.

The public is invited to a Memorial Service planned for Sunday, November 27, at 3:00 PM at the First Baptist Church of West Point. Family visitation is planned at the church during the hours before and after the service.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Ruth Spence Wingate Downs Scholarship Fund, which provides funding for need-based students selected from Troup County, Georgia. Checks should be made payable to the “University of Georgia Foundation,” earmarked for the RSW Downs Scholarship Fund, and sent to the University of Georgia Foundation, 394 South Milledge Avenue, Athens, Ga. 30602, to the Fuller Center for Housing, or to Habitat for Humanity.

Published in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Nov. 23, 2016

Remembering Betsy Bloomingdale, Who Reigned Over Los Angeles Society and Influenced a First Lady
Bloomingdale loved fashion, decorating, and entertaining, and heavily influenced close friend Nancy Reagan’s style

by Bob Colacello | Vanity Fair
July 20, 2016

Betsy Bloomingdale, the long-reigning queen of Los Angeles society, died Tuesday at 93, from complications of a heart condition, at her home in Holmby Hills. A tall, striking figure with a flair for fashion, decorating, and entertaining, she was the embodiment of the phrase “a class act.” Her effervescent personality and seemingly Pollyanna approach to life belied an iron determination and a strong perfectionist streak.

Frequently referred to in the press as “the First Friend” because of her close friendship with Nancy Reagan, which went back to the late 1950s, she was a major influence on the First Lady’s style. Her late husband, Alfred Bloomingdale, an heir to the New York department-store fortune and co-founder of the Diners Club, was among the group of tycoons known as the “Kitchen Cabinet,” who supported Ronald Reagan’s political career from his first campaign for the California governorship in 1966.

Over the years, the Bloomingdales hosted the Reagans and their inner circle (including Walter and Lee Annenberg, Justin and Jane Dart, and Earle and Marion Jorgensen) in their stately Billy Haines-designed house on Delfern Drive off Sunset Boulevard. When I interviewed her in 1998 for this magazine, she recalled a dinner she gave for the First Couple in 1985: “Ronnie told funny stories, and some not so funny, about Iran and Iraq, for example.”

Like many great hostesses of her era, Betsy kept notebooks meticulously recording the guest lists, seating arrangements, table settings, menus, wines, flowers, and her outfits so that guests would never dine on the same dishes or see her in the same Galanos, Dior, Trigere, or Carolina Herrera on the next occasion. Her signature first course was caviar and smoked salmon in an half and avocado, topped with a dab of crème fraîche. The centerpieces of roses and dahlias usually came from her cutting garden, which she spent many hours cultivating. Coffee and cordials were served in the expansive living room, where a forest of white orchids in Chinese pots graced the baby grand piano.

She was born Betty Lee Newling on August 2, 1922, in Los Angeles to Australian émigré parents Vera and Dr. Russell Lee Newling—her father was a Harvard-educated orthodontist. An only child, Betsy attended the exclusive Marlborough School in Hancock Park; shortly after graduating, she was a bridesmaid at Gloria Vanderbilt’s first wedding, to Hollywood agent Pat di Cicco. In 1946, Betsy married Alfred Bloomingdale, who had come out West to produce movies, and in short order she converted him, as he often said, “from a Jewish Democrat to a Catholic Republican.” They had three children: Geoffrey, Lisa Bell, and Robert. Betsy was first named to the International Best-Dressed List in 1964; she was elevated to its Hall of Fame in 1970. When Alfred died of cancer in 1982, amidst a tabloid scandal after his mistress went public, it was Betsy’s faith that sustained her. As one friend remembers, “She held her head high and went to Mass every morning.” An active philanthropist, her major causes were The Colleagues, which funded homes for unwed mothers; the new Los Angeles Cathedral; and the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.

I first met Betsy in the 1970s in New York, at the April in Paris Ball, an annual gala in support of Franco-American relations. I was there with my then-boss, Andy Warhol, who, when introduced to Betsy, blurted out, “I didn’t think there really was a Betsy Bloomingdale.” Her response: “I didn’t think there really was an Andy Warhol.” We invited her to lunch at the Factory, and she turned up the next day with Jerry Zipkin, the Park Avenue bachelor whom was the great pal of hers and Nancy Reagan’s. From then on, whenever I was in Los Angeles I would check in with Betsy and she would ask me to lunch or dinner; other guests might include Prince Rupert Lowenstein, Connie Wald, Joan Collins, Merv Griffin, Lynn Wyatt, Wendy Stark, and LACMA director Michael Govan with his wife, Katherine Ross. After leaving the White House, Nancy Reagan, who didn’t entertain at her house in Bel-Air due to the former president’s failing health, was a constant presence.

For the past two decades, I was always delighted to find myself seated next to Betsy atVanity Fair’s Oscar dinner. In recent years, she was accompanied by her constant companion, the writer Burt Boyar. I remember her telling me at one party that she had taken two of her grandchildren, then in their early 20s, to a Richard Prince opening at the Gagosian Gallery in Beverly Hills. “I told them, ‘It doesn’t matter if you understand the art,’” she said. “’You have to see it because it’s part of your time.’”

David Gordon Christensen

David Gordon Christensen, 72, of West Valley City, passed away July 24, 2016 surrounded by those he loved after complications resulting from a stroke.

David was born May 19, 1944, in Columbia Mississippi to Hugh Wilford and Nelda Lee White Christensen. David grew up in Bountiful, Utah and is the oldest of 7 children. David learned how to work by spending his summers working the farm with his cousins in Mississippi. As a young man, David served an LDS mission in Scotland where his love of travel, world history, and culture began.

David married Cheryl Dee Nordfors in 1965 in Salt Lake City, Utah and they had six children together.  In 1986 he married Peggy Amsler, and gained another son.

David had a lifelong love of learning, and even more, loved to share his knowledge with others.  He attended Bountiful High School, the University of Utah, and graduated from the University of Missouri at Kansas City Dental School in 1970.

Dr. Christensen practiced dentistry in Salt Lake City for 43 years, retiring in 2015, much to the dismay of many lifelong patients.  His long-time assistant and friend, Diane, managed not only the office, but also worked to keep Dave in line.

David loved his country and was a patriot.  He joined the US Army Reserves in 1968 and was stationed in Vietnam from 1970 – 1972.   He served in the 143rd Medical Company where he proudly deployed with the US Army to 4 continents.  He later had the honor of Commanding the 143rd.  His awards and decorations include the Legion of Merit from the Secretary of the Army, the Bronze Star with V Device, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Army Commendation Medal with 3 Oak Leaf Clusters, the Army Achievement Medal with 2 Oak Leaf Clusters, and the Army Reserve Achievement Medal with a Silver Oak Leaf Cluster.  David retired from the US Army in 2004 at the rank of Colonel.

Dave had a sense of adventure and an excitement for life’s adrenaline, which led him to the things he loved.  Hiking, camping, mountaineering, marathon running, photography, and scuba diving filled many years of his life.  More recently he traveled the world on cruise ships, listened to audio books, and cooked with Peggy, whom he adored.  He loved history & culture, the National Parks, Ed Abbey, Top Gear, and Rabbie Burns.  He did not love the current state of politics and we are certain he is thrilled he’ll not have to vote in the coming election.

David had a quick wit and was a quick study in everything he did.  He was passionate, and impulsively tried all this world has to offer at least once (collecting all the gear along the way), always wanting to share the best things in life with those he loved.  He also found joy in volunteering at the Lee Kay gun range where he spent thousands of hours.

David is survived by his loving and patient wife, Peggy, their dog Winkie, seven children: Susan (John) Longman, Trisha (John) Gulledge, Richard (Holly) Smith, Erin (Jeffrey) Fuller, Rob (Angel) Christensen, Meghan (Tyler) Webb, and Jared (Jennifer) Christensen, 19 grandchildren, his mother Nelda Christensen, in-laws Fritz and Melba Amsler, siblings Dale (Brent), Don (Cheri), Dean (Sandra), Janet (Scott) Lunt, Ruby (Marcus) Lunt, Dwight (Kris), his sister-in law and brother in-law, numerous nieces, nephews, and cousins, as well as traveling buddies and friends.  Dave was preceded in death by his father Hugh, his aunts, uncles, and brother-in law.

A military service will be held Friday, July 29, 2016 at 10:00 am at the Post Chapel in Fort Douglas located at 120 South Fort Douglas Boulevard in Salt Lake City, Utah.  In lieu of flowers, Dave would instead like you to spend time with a loved one, learn something new, or find an adventure.  Rabbie Burns wrote “Nature’s law, That man was made to mourn.” and mourn you we do this day.

Reed, Cynthia Robin

December 2, 2015

The last remaining fan of scrapple has passed away. Cynthia Robin “Don’t call me Cynthia” Reed, 65 physically, 25 mentally, of Palmyra, VA, passed away Thanksgiving day after what experts are calling, “six and a half decades of pure awesomeness.”

Known for her infectious smile, a lightning-fast bingo dauber, and creating weird snacks for her children and grandchildren (ice cream cone filled with peanut butter and raisins, anyone?), Robin never met a stranger (which made “stranger danger” a hard concept to grasp as we were growing up). It could be argued she was Facebook before Facebook, cute kitten videos included. She’d even been known to talk about the folks on her soap opera, All My Children, as if they were part of the family. Recently retired from Fluvanna County Public Schools Technology Department (did they know she couldn’t operate the satellite dish remote at home?), Robin held a slew of jobs over the years ranging from figurine painting (Santa figurine, anyone?) and house cleaning to working at DuPont, driving a school bus, and caring for special education students as a classroom aide.

In what she’d describe as “no big deal,” Robin casually fought cancer over the last three decades without even seeming to break a sweat. Though she’d rather us focus on the important things she loved: her grandchildren (even with poopy diapers), the beach, lima beans, a cold beer (or two), Donna Summer’s greatest hits on a long car ride, dirty jokes, and acquiring old junk from other people (“antiqueing”). Married to Hollywood hunk Robert Redford (ok, maybe not married, but if this was Facebook, we’d at least say “it’s complicated with”), Robin married twice before, but always had a place for Mr. Redford’s birthday on the family calendar (third time’s a charm, right?).

Survived by Mr. Redford, Robin is also survived by her two older (maybe slightly wiser) brothers, Ronald Reyburn and his wife, Judith, of Amherst, Va., and Terrence Reyburn and his wife, Sandra, of Irondale, Ala.; two almost-normal daughters (blame the aforementioned peanut butter and raisin ice cream cones), Molly and Kelly Reed of Palmyra; three grandchildren, Caleb, Dylan, and Edie, and a multitude of extended family, cats, friends, fellow troublemakers, bunco and bingo partners, cats, classmates, co-workers, cats, and cats.

In true Robin fashion, she pre-arranged her funeral. She asked that we celebrate, share memories, and for the love of all things, not wear black and get all serious. So, we’ll be celebrating Robin at Thacker Brothers Lake Monticello Funeral Home, 138 Heritage Dr, Palmyra, VA 22963, this Thursday, December 3, 2015, from 6 until 8 p.m. with a family-night style gathering. No formal speeches or agenda, just a gathering of all those who loved Robin Reed. The family will be dressed casually, so you should be too. We mean it. Wear jeans, people.

In lieu of flowers, Molly and Kelly ask you to consider making a donation to Stop Hunger Now (stophungernow.org). Our condolences to the folks who make scrapple; you had a good run while it lasted. Family and friends may share memories and photos at www.thackerbrothers.com.

Dr. M. R. Ghanta
June 16, 1950 – August 21, 2015

Dr. M. R. Ghanta, 66, of Oakdale, Louisiana, passed away on August 21, 2015. Dr. Ghanta was a devoted husband, dedicated father, loving grandfather, and caring physician whose greatest pleasures were his family, his patients, world travel, gardening, and charity.

Dr. Ghanta was born June 16, 1950 in Andhra Pradesh, India to Mukunda Subbarao and Saraswathi Ghanta. He graduated at the top of his class from Kurnool Medical School in 1974. He immigrated to the United States and completed an internship at Detroit Macomb Hospital in 1976 and residency in pediatrics at Pontiac Affiliated Hospitals in 1978.

Dr. Ghanta then established a family practice in Oakdale in 1978 and has cared for thousands of children and adult patients. He served as Chief of Staff of Oakdale Community Hospital and Medical Director of Allen Oaks Nursing Home and Harbor Hospice. Dr. Ghanta took special pride in joy in caring for people from all walks of life in the Oakdale community.

Dr. Ghanta frequently spoke of his philosophy of life: “Work Hard. Live Right.” He embodied this in all aspects of his life, serving as a role-model to his friends and family.

Dr. Ghanta is survived by his wife of 42 years, Prabhavathi; his son and daughter-in-law Ravi and Sharmila Ghanta and grandsons Avighna Ram and Ashvin Krishna Ghanta of Charlottesville, VA; and his son Rajesh Ghanta of Houston, TX. He also is survived by 6 brothers and 1 sister.

A memorial service celebrating the life of Dr. M. R. Ghanta will be held on Wednesday, August 26th at 10AM at the Rush Funeral Home located at 113 South 11th Street, Oakdale, La 71463.

Friends may call at the Rush Funeral Home on Tuesday, August 25, 2015 from 4:00 p.m. until 9:00 p.m.

William Freddie McCullough

BLOOMINGDALE – The man. The myth. The legend. Men wanted to be him and women wanted to be with him. William Freddie McCullough died on September 11, 2013. Freddie loved deep fried Southern food smothered in Cane Syrup, fishing at Santee Cooper Lake, Little Debbie Cakes, Two and a Half Men, beautiful women, Reeses Cups and Jim Beam. Not necessarily in that order. He hated vegetables and hypocrites. Not necessarily in that order. He was a master craftsman who single -handedly built his beautiful house from the ground up. Freddie was also great at growing fruit trees, grilling chicken and ribs, popping wheelies on his Harley at 50 mph, making everyone feel appreciated and hitting Coke bottles at thirty yards with his 45. When it came to floor covering, Freddie was one of the best in the business. And he loved doing it. Freddie loved to tell stories. And you could be sure 50% of every story was true. You just never knew which 50%. Marshall Matt Dillon, Ben Cartwright and Charlie Harper were his TV heroes. And he was the hero for his six children: Mark, Shain, Clint, Brandice, Ashley and Thomas. Freddie adored the ladies. And they adored him. There isn’t enough space here to list all of the women from Freddie’s past. There isn’t enough space in the Bloomingdale phone book. A few of the more colorful ones were Momma Margie, Crazy Pam, Big Tittie Wanda, Spacy Stacy and Sweet Melissa (he explained that nickname had nothing to do with her attitude). He attracted more women than a shoe sale at Macy’s. He got married when he was 18, but it didn’t last. Freddie was no quitter, however, so he gave it a shot two more times. It didn’t work out with any of the wives, but he managed to stay friends with them and their parents. In between his many adventures, Freddie appeared in several films including The Ordeal of Dr. Mudd, A Time for Miracles, The Conspirator, Double Wide Blues and Pretty Fishes. When Freddie took off for that pool party in the sky, he left behind his sons Mark McCullough, Shain McCullough and his wife Amy, Clint McCullough and his wife Desiree, and Thomas McCullough and his wife Candice; and his daughters Brandice Chambers and her husband Michael, Ashley Cooler and her husband Justin; his brothers Jimmie and Eddie McCullough; and his girlfriend Lisa Hopkins; and seven delightful grandkids. Freddie was killed when he rushed into a burning orphanage to save a group of adorable children. Or maybe not. We all know how he liked to tell stories. Savannah Morning News September 14, 2013 Please sign our Obituary Guest Book at savannnahnow.com/obituaries.

Published in Savannah Morning News on September 14, 2013

DOWNS, Don (1923-2011)
DON DOWNS – Renaissance man, dies at 87

Donald Joseph Downs, an Irish tenor, died at his residence in West Point, Ga. on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, 2011, at the age of 87. He is survived by his wife of 60 years, Ruth Wingate Downs, four children, 11 grandchildren and 5 great grandchildren.

During his 35 years with the West Point Manufacturing Company and later versions of the company, Mr. Downs first edited the WestPointer, a company magazine chronicling news about the employees of The West Point Co. and their families. Later he developed the field of public relations, coordinating media relations for the company and special projects such as the opening of the Lanier Carter Mills. He was awarded the prestigious Order of the Phoenix Award from the University of Georgia (the school’s highest individual award for career achievements) for his pioneering work in the field of public relations.

He was born July 21, 1923, in LaSalle, Illinois. He was the only child of his mother, the late Doris Donnelly Downs Parkin, his father, the late Joseph Rogers Downs, II, his stepmother, the late Louise Taylor Downs, and his stepfather, the late William Hildreth Parkin. Don’s early life revolved around the Todd School in Woodstock, Illinois which he fondly called “Todd for the Odd.” Don was a boarding student and acted in high school theatrical productions directed by Orson Welles who also attended Todd. Don sang in the Todd Alumni Chorus at the Chicago premier of Citizen Kane. He later worked as a cowboy near the famous Blue Holes of Wyoming, playing the piano and singing at the Rustic Pine Tavern in Dubois, Wyoming. He enjoyed holidays with his Donnelly grandparents on Sawyer Avenue in Chicago, and summers with his Downs grandparents on their family farm near Dresden, Ohio.

He earned a Bachelors Degree in Journalism from the University of Georgia in 1948, and at the time of his death, Don was the oldest surviving male cheerleader of the University of Georgia, cheering Georgia’s national championship team in the Sugar Bowl in 1946. He helped restart the Sigma Chi Fraternity chapter at the University of Georgia after WW II. He also boxed as a sparring partner for the UGA boxing team.

On July 15, 1950, in Pelham, Ga., he married Ruth Spence Wingate. He edited newspapers in LaGrange and Hogansville before moving to West Point in 1953. Don and Ruth had four children in four and a half years. “It was a planned family,” Don said. “It was just a poor plan.” Don sang in the choir of the West Point Presbyterian Church where he also taught adult Sunday School. He coached children in swimming and basketball; he learned to pilot small planes and enjoyed flying; he taught water skiing and he navigated the Chattahoochee from Columbus to the Gulf of Mexico on several occasions with family and friends. Don served on the West Point School Board; he chaired the West Point Housing Authority Board. He served as longtime editor of the Yarnspinner, the newsletter for the West Point Rotary Club and he was recognized as a Paul Harris Fellow. He served as a member of the Lanier Hospital Auxiliary Board.

During the civil rights struggles of the 1960’s, Don and Ruth Downs helped organize a Human Relations Forum allowing blacks and whites to meet and discuss common goals. The Downs received the Martin Luther King Jr. Award in West Point on Emancipation Proclamation Day in 2003 and were honored at West Point’s Black History Celebration in 2010, for their civil rights work.

With his unusual brand of humor and lightheartedness, he made friends everywhere; he took great pictures; he grew roses; he wore interesting hats; he gardened and he cultivated friendships with his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren who were his biggest fans.

“Make my obituary interesting,” Don said, asking only that it boast that he learned to dance from Orson Welles’ wife, “not Rita Hayworth but Orson’s first wife.” Mr. Downs and his family appreciate the efforts of many healthcare workers during the final four years of dialysis.

Survivors also include his four children, Dr. Joseph R. Downs, III and his wife Debra, Dr. Margaret Downs Schaufler and her husband Dr. Eugene Schaufler, Judge Doris Louise Downs and her husband Stephen Andrews and Mr. James Wingate Downs. Eleven grandchildren and five great grandchildren survive, including Mr. William Wingate Downs and wife Jennifer and children Dexter Barrett and Beatrice Lane, Ms. Emily Downs Davis and husband Michael and daughters Alyse Catherine and Corinne Donnelly, Dr. Laura Ellen Downs Beaulieu and husband David, Mr. Benjamin Adam Schaufler, Mr. Christopher Graham Schaufler, Ms. Margaret Ann Schaufler, Ms. Elizabeth Curry Andrews, Ms. Jessica Foster Andrews, Mr. Patrick Spence Downs and wife Whitney and daughter Kennedy James, Ms. Caitlin Louise Downs and Ms. Eleanor Opal Downs.

A memorial service is planned for 4 p.m. March 20, 2011, at the West Point Presbyterian Church preceded by a family visitation at the church fellowship hall at 3 p.m. In lieu of flowers donations can be made to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation in memory of Mr. Downs. jdrf.org or (800) 533-CURE (2873). Please visit our website http://www.mccarthyfuneralhomeinc.com for online condolences. Services have been entrusted to McCarthy Funeral Home, 1200 2nd Avenue, West Point, Georgia.

Published in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Mar. 19, 2011

A son of the South
Famed columnist dies at 47 following fourth heart surgery

By Charles Seabrook,Tom Bennett
Staff WRITERS

Toward the end, Lewis Grizzard, knowing his chances of seeing another springtime in his beloved Georgia were slim, still made people laugh.

Even his doctors.

They recounted Sunday that in a tense moment last week, after they had explained to Grizzard that he had less than a 50-50 chance of surviving his fourth open-heart surgery, he responded:

“When’s the next bus to Albuquerque?”

Grizzard, whose thrice-weekly syndicated humor column made hundreds of thousands of readers laugh, died Sunday morning at Emory University Hospital in an intensive care unit after a life-support system was removed. He was 47.

Death came from massive brain damage, apparently caused by an obstruction that broke off from his aorta before or during surgery and lodged in an artery that fed oxygenated blood to his brain.

His body will be on public view at the McKoon Funeral Home in Newnan from 3-9 p.m. today. A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Tuesday at the Moreland Methodist Church, the church he called “so dear to my childhood.”

He married there for the first time (at age 19) in 1966 to Nancy Jones. He married for the fourth time four days ago (to Dedra Kyle) in the hospital where he died.

He once said he wanted “somebody, preferably Willie Nelson,” to sing his favorite hymn, “Precious Memories,” at his funeral. His body, however, will be cremated, and the ashes buried next to his mother’s grave in Moreland.

His mother, Christine Word Atkinson, died in 1989 after a long illness. In many poignant columns and books, Grizzard wrote with near reverence of the former first-grade schoolteacher.

“Mama taught me that an education was necessary for a fuller life,” he wrote. “She taught me an appreciation of the language. She taught a love of words, of how they should be used and how they can fill a creative soul with a passion and lead it to a life’s work.”

The Washington Post wrote: “He compares every woman to his mother, who spoiled him rotten.”

But he reserved some of his most moving columns for his father, Lewis Grizzard Sr., a highly decorated veteran of World War II and the Korean War who died in 1970 of a stroke.

Grizzard said that after his father returned from the Korean War, he was a changed man. “He began to bender-drink heavily. He couldn’t handle the family finances and borrowed large sums of money. He eventually left the army, or the army left him.

“My mother could no longer cope with my father’s problems and had a 6-year-old on her hands. She moved us to her parents’ home and eventually divorced my father.”

Jim Minter, a former Atlanta Journal-Constitution editor and one of Grizzard’s closest friends, said “one of Lewis’s worries . . . was that he didn’t measure up to his dad.”

Grizzard said his book about his father, “Daddy Was a Pistol and I’m a Son of a Gun,” was his favorite.

Humor to the hilt

In large part, his family roots were responsible for making Grizzard a fiercely proud Southerner. His 20 books and syndicated columns in the Journal-Constitution and 450 other newspapers played redneck humor to the hilt. He took special delight in attacking Yankees, liberal politicians, draft evaders and feminists.

Many readers, instead of laughing at his wit, became enraged. Some called him a racist, a label Grizzard vehemently denied.

Divorced three times, Grizzard wrote that women’s activities should be limited to rubbing his back, hugging his neck, baking pies, frying chicken and washing his clothes.

“He’s pricked some people once considered off-limits to pricking,” Minter said. “He [was] absolutely the best of anyone I know at walking up to the edge of bad taste without being in bad taste.”

Pat Conroy, another best-selling Southern author whose novels often decried racism and other problems of the South, once suggested that Grizzard represented mostly what was wrong with the South.

Conroy wrote that he “loathed” the South that Grizzard revered.

Grizzard, who loathed neckties, once acknowledged in a television interview that “I’m not a modern man.” Many of his friends said he was born two centuries too late.

Grizzard poked fun at his record of marital problems and his greatest phobia – flying in airplanes. Whenever possible, he preferred to travel by car or bus.

A favorite target was Georgia Tech, the football rival of his alma mater, the University of Georgia. Grizzard was a fixture at Sanford Stadium on the Georgia campus on Saturday afternoons when his beloved football Dawgs played at home.

Former Georgia head football coach Vince Dooley, whose team won the national championship in 1980 with running great Herschel Walker, was one of Grizzard’s closest friends. Dooley’s successor, Ray Goff, was at the hospital Sunday when Grizzard died.

Grizzard left the university needing one course to graduate. Years later, UGA gave it to him and awarded him a journalism degree.

Popular on lecture circuit 

Grizzard was a popular figure on the lecture circuit, commanding up to $20,000 a speech. He occasionally appeared on television, including guest spots on “The Tonight Show,” “Designing Women” and “Larry King Live.”

The columns, books and personal appearances made him wealthy, but Grizzard yearned to be taken seriously as a writer.

“I wish one time in my life I could do what other writers do . . . get me a villa in Spain and go there to write a book,” he said in a 1992 magazine interview. “I’d like to know what I could do if I really had the time to spend on writing a book, with no columns or shows to do at the same time.”

Lewis McDonald Grizzard Jr. was born Oct. 20, 1946, at Fort Benning, Ga.

After his mother divorced his father, she returned to Moreland and remarried. The young Grizzard grew up there and went to Moreland Elementary. He graduated from high school in nearby Newnan in 1964.

As a UGA freshman, he was a summertime feature writer for the Newnan Times-Herald. That September, he joined the 2-month-old Athens Daily News.

Newspaper ‘boy wonder’ 

He became a “boy wonder” of the newspaper business. He was named sports editor of the Athens newspaper at 19, and, at 21, became sports editor of The Atlanta Journal. He became an assistant city editor of The Journal in 1975, but left after a short stint to free-lance for Sports Illustrated and other publications.

Later that year, however, he joined the sports department of the Chicago Sun-Times, and that October was named executive sports editor.

But Grizzard disliked Chicago intensely, especially its bitter winters. Last year, when he was facing his third open-heart operation, which almost killed him, he said the surgery would be about as pleasant as “having to move back to Chicago.”

In April 1977, pining for Georgia, Grizzard phoned his old friend and mentor, Minter, then The Constitution’s managing editor. Minter said he was thinking of hiring a sports columnist.

“Hire me!” Grizzard said, and Minter did. The column began in The Constitution’s sports section.

In February 1978, the newspaper announced that Grizzard’s column would move over to the news section. Veteran reporters at the newspaper speculated that Grizzard might fall flat on his face because he lacked experience in news.

Column caught on

But his columns caught on like wildfire. They became the talk of Atlanta, and then the South. He was syndicated to other papers by King Features.

Decrying computers, he pounded out his columns on a vintage Royal manual typewriter, and phoned them in to his assistant, Gerrie Ferris – “Wanda Fribish” in his columns.

The fictional characters from his childhood, so familiar to his readers, began to emerge: Weyman C. Wannamaker Jr., Kathy Sue Loudermilk and Cordie Mae Poovey.

His move into book-writing became a Southern publishing event. Peachtree Publishers of Atlanta distributed his first book, the 1979 collection of his columns titled “Kathy Sue Loudermilk, I Love You,” and it sold 75,000 copies the first week.

His second book, “Elvis Is Dead And I Don’t Feel So Good Myself,” made The New York Times best-seller list. He was annually the region’s best-selling author.

He chronicled his newspaper career in a book that also summed up his feelings about the South: “If I Ever Get Back to Georgia, I’m Gonna Nail My Feet to the Ground.”

At the time of his death, he was planning his 21st book – about dogs, especially his Labrador retriever, Catfish, who died five months ago.

Stage and album

Grizzard added concert stage appearances in 1985. A favorite closing line: “Life is like a dog-sled team; if you ain’t the lead dog, the scenery never changes.”

That same year he released a comedy album, “On the Road With Lewis Grizzard – I’ve Seen England, I’ve Seen France, I’ve Seen Miss America Without Her Underpants.”

Most readers, however, knew him through his newspaper columns.

As his fame spread, he let readers and audiences in on the details of a playboy lifestyle he had adopted. In one column, the onetime country boy from Moreland described how he had shot the rapids on a river in Idaho; in another, how he had spent the day sunning himself on the Cote d’Azur in the south of France – and taking note of the topless swimsuit attire.

Some of his newspaper colleagues were models for some of the characters. Journal-Constitution reporter Bill Robinson, his longtime friend, became Billy Bob Bailey, the world’s most obnoxious Alabama fan.

He wrote about things he liked – home-grown tomatoes, Moon Pies, doughnuts and especially barbecue – and things he disliked: buttermilk, fishing, computers, electric typewriters, Dom DeLuise and TV evangelists.

Columnists are fair game for every cause and complaint, and Grizzard frequently gave the space to them – a hit-and-run victim, a couple whose home had been burglarized.

But more commonly he wrote about his passions: trains, patriotism, pickup trucks, cowboys, his dog Catfish and country music.

The trivialities of his life filled the column: He couldn’t build or repair anything. At age 7 he wanted to be Roy Rogers. His mother made him bathe. No one could cook eggs over medium-well the way his mother could.

Commentary and criticism

But he also ventured into social commentary, sometimes drawing sharp criticism.

When some friends who had been rafting on the Chattahoochee River found themselves in the midst of a gay raft race, Grizzard wrote that people “have a right to float down the river without having to see a sex show, gay or otherwise. If sex had been meant to be an outdoor activity, we would never have been given motel rooms.” Gays blasted the column as unfair.

But he frustrated his conservative readers, too, when he supported abortion and gun control. Of the latter, he wrote: “The National Rifle Association [members] are bullet brains. I’d like to see the animals armed.”

After his 1993 heart surgery, Grizzard took a softer tone in his columns, writing appreciatively of his recovery and his relationship with Dedra.

Mainly, he loved life, and it showed, said his friends. Grizzard said one of his big worries was that “somewhere there is a great party going on, and I’m missing it.”

HIS BOOKS

The Encyclopedia of Southern Culture called Lewis Grizzard “the Faulkner of the common man.” Here’s a list of his books:

“Kathy Sue Loudermilk, I Love You,” 1979.

“Elvis Is Dead and I Don’t Feel So Good Myself” and “Won’t You Come Home, Billy Bob Bailey?,” 1980.

`Don’t Sit Under the Grits Tree With Anyone Else But Me,” 1981.

“They Tore Out My Heart and Stomped That Sucker Flat,” about his first open-heart surgery, 1982.

“If Love Were Oil, I’d Be About a Quart Low,” 1983.

“Shoot Low Boys, They’re Ridin’ Shetland Ponies,” 1985.

“My Daddy Was a Pistol and I’m a Son of a Gun” and “When My Love Returns From the Ladies Room, Will I Be Too Old to Care?,” 1987.

“Don’t Bend Over in the Garden, Granny, You Know Them ‘Taters Got Eyes,” 1988.

“Chili Dawgs Always Bark at Night” and “Lewis Grizzard on Fear of Flying,” 1989.

“If I Ever Get Back to Georgia, I’m Gonna Nail My Feet to the Ground,” “Advice to Newly Wed . . . & the Newly Divorced” and “Does a Wild Bear Chip in the Woods?,” about golf, 1990.

“You Can’t Put No Boogie-Woogie on the King of Rock and Roll,” “Don’t Forget to Call Your Mama, I Wish I Could Call Mine,” and “Heapin’ Helping of True Grizzard: Down Home Again With Lewis Grizzard,” 1991.
“I Haven’t Understood Anything Since 1962: And Other Nekkid Truths,” 1992.

“I Took a Lickin’ and Kept on Tickin’ and Now I Believe in Miracles,” 1993.

Source: Books on File, 1992-93
© The Atlanta Journal – Constitution

***
Originally published November 28, 1993 in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Reprinted Monday, March 21, 1994:

Catfish, the black Lab, has up and died

By Lewis Grizzard
STAFF

My dog Catfish, the black Lab, died Thanksgiving night.

The vet said his heart gave out.

Down in the country, they would have said, “Lewis’s dog up and died.” He would have been 12 had he lived until January.

Catfish had a good life. He slept indoors. Mostly he ate what I ate. We shared our last meal Tuesday evening in our living room in front of the television.

We had a Wendy’s double cheeseburger and some chili.

Catfish was a gift from my friends Barbara and Vince Dooley. Vince, of course, is the athletic director at the University of Georgia. Barbara is a noted speaker and author.

I named him driving back to Atlanta from Athens where I had picked him up at the Dooleys’ home. I don’t know why I named him what I named him. He was all curled up in a blanket on my back seat. And I looked at him and it just came out. I called him: “Catfish.”

I swear he raised up from the blanket and acknowledged. Then he severely fouled the blanket and my back seat.

A powerful set of jaws 

He was a most destructive animal the first three years of his life.

He chewed things. He chewed books. He chewed shoes.

“I said to Catfish, ‘Heel,’ ” I used to offer from behind the dais, “and he went to my closet and chewed up my best pair of Guccis.”

Catfish chewed television remote control devices. Batteries and all.

He chewed my glasses. Five pairs of them.

One day, when he was still a puppy, he got out of the house without my knowledge. The doorbell rang. It was a young man who said, “I hit your dog with my car, but I think he’s OK.”

He was. He had a small cut on his head and he was frightened, but he was otherwise unhurt.

“I came around the corner,” the young man explained, “and he was in the road chewing on something. I hit my brakes the second I saw him.”

“Could you tell what he was chewing on?” I asked.

“I know this sounds crazy,” the young man answered, “but I think it was a beer bottle.”

Catfish stopped chewing while I still had a house. Barely.

Known far and wide

He was a celebrity, Catfish. I spoke recently in Michigan.

Afterwards a lady came up to me and said, “I was real disappointed with your speech. You didn’t mention Catfish.”

Catfish used to get his own mail. Just the other day the manufacturer of a new brand of dog food called “Country Gold,” with none other than George Jones’s picture on the package, sent Catfish a sample of its new product. For the record, he stil preferred cheeseburgers and chili.

Catfish was once grand marshal of the Scottsboro, Ala., annual Catfish Festival. He was on television and got to ride in the front seat of a police car with its siren on.

He was a patient, good-natured dog, too. Jordan, who is 5, has been pulling his ears since she was 2. She even tried to ride him at times. He abided with nary a growl.

Oh, that face and those eyes. What he could do to me with that face and those eyes. He would perch himself next to me on the sofa in the living room and look at me.

And love and loyalty would pour out with that look, and as long as I had that, there was very little the human race could do to harm my self- esteem.

Good dogs don’t love bad people.

He was smart. He was fun. And he loved to ride in cars. There were times he was all that I had.

And now he has up and died. My own heart, or what is left of it, is breaking.

 

Obituary for Harry Stamps

Harry Weathersby Stamps, ladies’ man, foodie, natty dresser, and accomplished traveler, died on Saturday, March 9, 2013.
Harry was locally sourcing his food years before chefs in California starting using cilantro and arugula (both of which he hated). For his signature bacon and tomato sandwich, he procured 100% all white Bunny Bread from Georgia, Blue Plate mayonnaise from New Orleans, Sauer’s black pepper from Virginia, home grown tomatoes from outside Oxford, and Tennessee’s Benton bacon from his bacon-of-the-month subscription. As a point of pride, he purported to remember every meal he had eaten in his 80 years of life.
The women in his life were numerous. He particularly fancied smart women. He loved his mom Wilma Hartzog (deceased), who with the help of her sisters and cousins in New Hebron reared Harry after his father Walter’s death when Harry was 12. He worshipped his older sister Lynn Stamps Garner (deceased), a character in her own right, and her daughter Lynda Lightsey of Hattiesburg. He married his main squeeze Ann Moore, a home economics teacher, almost 50 years ago, with whom they had two girls Amanda Lewis of Dallas, and Alison of Starkville. He taught them to fish, to select a quality hammer, to love nature, and to just be thankful. He took great pride in stocking their tool boxes. One of his regrets was not seeing his girl, Hillary Clinton, elected President.
He had a life-long love affair with deviled eggs, Lane cakes, boiled peanuts, Vienna [Vi-e-na] sausages on saltines, his homemade canned fig preserves, pork chops, turnip greens, and buttermilk served in martini glasses garnished with cornbread.
He excelled at growing camellias, rebuilding houses after hurricanes, rocking, eradicating mole crickets from his front yard, composting pine needles, living within his means, outsmarting squirrels, never losing a game of competitive sickness, and reading any history book he could get his hands on. He loved to use his oversized “old man” remote control, which thankfully survived Hurricane Katrina, to flip between watching The Barefoot Contessa and anything on The History Channel. He took extreme pride in his two grandchildren Harper Lewis (8) and William Stamps Lewis (6) of Dallas for whom he would crow like a rooster on their phone calls. As a former government and sociology professor for Gulf Coast Community College, Harry was thoroughly interested in politics and religion and enjoyed watching politicians act like preachers and preachers act like politicians. He was fond of saying a phrase he coined “I am not running for political office or trying to get married” when he was “speaking the truth.” He also took pride in his service during the Korean conflict, serving the rank of corporal–just like Napolean, as he would say.
Harry took fashion cues from no one. His signature every day look was all his: a plain pocketed T-shirt designed by the fashion house Fruit of the Loom, his black-label elastic waist shorts worn above the navel and sold exclusively at the Sam’s on Highway 49, and a pair of old school Wallabees (who can even remember where he got those?) that were always paired with a grass-stained MSU baseball cap.
Harry traveled extensively. He only stayed in the finest quality AAA-rated campgrounds, his favorite being Indian Creek outside Cherokee, North Carolina. He always spent the extra money to upgrade to a creek view for his tent. Many years later he purchased a used pop-up camper for his family to travel in style, which spoiled his daughters for life.
He despised phonies, his 1969 Volvo (which he also loved), know-it-all Yankees, Southerners who used the words “veranda” and “porte cochere” to put on airs, eating grape leaves, Law and Order (all franchises), cats, and Martha Stewart. In reverse order. He particularly hated Day Light Saving Time, which he referred to as The Devil’s Time. It is not lost on his family that he died the very day that he would have had to spring his clock forward. This can only be viewed as his final protest.
Because of his irrational fear that his family would throw him a golf-themed funeral despite his hatred for the sport, his family will hold a private, family only service free of any type of “theme.” Visitation will be held at Bradford-O’Keefe Funeral Home, 15th Street, Gulfport on Monday, March 11, 2013 from 6-8 p.m.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that you make a donation to Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College (Jeff Davis Campus) for their library. Harry retired as Dean there and was very proud of his friends and the faculty. He taught thousands and thousands of Mississippians during his life. The family would also like to thank the Gulfport Railroad Center dialysis staff who took great care of him and his caretaker Jameka Stribling.
Finally, the family asks that in honor of Harry that you write your Congressman and ask for the repeal of Day Light Saving Time. Harry wanted everyone to get back on the Lord’s Time.

Antonia W. “Toni” Larroux

Bay St. Louis, MS

Waffle House lost a loyal customer on April 30, 2013. Antonia W. “Toni” Larroux died after a battle with multiple illnesses: lupus, rickets, scurvy, kidney disease and feline leukemia. She had previously conquered polio as a child contributing to her unusually petite ankles and the nickname “polio legs” given to her by her ex-husband, Jean F. Larroux, Jr. It should not be difficult to imagine the multiple reasons for their divorce 35+ years ago. Two children resulted from that marriage: Hayden Hoffman and Jean F. Larroux, III. Due to multiple, anonymous Mother’s Day cards which arrived each May, the children suspect there were other siblings but that has never been verified.

She is survived by the two confirmed, aforementioned children. Her favorite child, Jean III, eloped in college and married Kim Fulford who dearly loved Toni. They gave Toni three grandchildren: Jean IV, Ann Elizabeth and Hannah Grace. Toni often remarked that her son, Jean III, was “just like his father,” her ex-husband, Jean Jr., a statement that haunts her son to this day.

Hayden Hoffman married Stephen Hoffman of Charleston, WV. They reside in Bay St. Louis and carry the Larroux family torch forward through each and every Happy Hour, Mardi Gras and cocktail party. Steve’s quiet demeanor has provided ballast to an otherwise unstable family. They have two children: Charlie and Helen (the ‘well-behaved’ child Toni’s daughter, Hayden deserved to raise.)

Toni had four sisters: Patty the elder, Kitty the cook, Lisa the lawyer and Piji…the…piji. The sisters dearly loved Toni; spoke often and as one family photo proved, all preferred Clairol blonde in a box #47. They inherited their unique sense of humor from their father, Paul “P. Marvelous” White. He gave nicknames to all the girls such as “tittle mouse”, “kittycat”, “bouder bounce”, “spooker mcdougle” and “poodle pump.”

Toni previously served on the board of the Hancock County Library Foundation. Ironically, the only correspondence she has received from the library since her resignation has been overdue notices for several overdue books (a true statement.) Between ICU, dialysis and physical therapy she selfishly refused to make the time to return them. Her last words were, “tell them that the check is in the mail…” Toni retired from GE Plastics after Hurricane Katrina in 2007. She would undoubtedly cherish the thought of having the former smoking room named in her honor.

Any sendoff for Toni would not be complete without mentioning her lifelong buddy Myrtle Jane Wingo Haas and her adopted daughters Liz & Laura. She considered Aaron Burrell to be a distant grandson (not distant enough) and had the ability with family pets to usher them toward heaven at an unrivaled pace. Her favorite activity was sipping hot tea on her back porch with friends seated around her porch ensemble from Dollar General (again, not kidding.) This will be sold to the highest bidder at her garage ‘estate’ sale. Any gifts in her honor should be made to the Hancock County Library Foundation (to the overdue book fund.)

Visitation will be held at Edmond Fahey Funeral Home in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi on Saturday, May 4th at 9:30 a.m. Her memorial service will begin at 11:00 a.m. (another true statement.) It will be led by Rev. Curt Moore of Orlando, Florida, a questionable choice for any spiritual event, but one the family felt would be appropriate due to the fact that every time Toni heard Curt preach she prayed for Jesus to return at that very moment.

On a last but serious note, the woman who loved life and taught her children to ‘laugh at the days to come’ is now safely in the arms of Jesus and dancing at the wedding feast of the Lamb. She will be missed as a mother, friend and grandmother. Anyone wearing black will not be admitted to the memorial. She is not dead. She is alive.

Edmond Fahey Funeral Home is in charge of the arrangements.

Published on NYTimes.com from May 3 to May 4, 2013

 

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