After giving a bit of Aaron Kline’s obituary yesterday, I was sent one of the finest obituaries ever, written by Harry Stamps’ daughter for her father, who passed away on March 9th. I don’t like thoughts of the finite nature of our times on this world, but every now and then — every now and then, and why does this have to be that most people have such a vanilla write-up, when lives are invariably colorful and lively and random and may we all pray, wonderful? — a life story is written that beautifully smacks of character and love:
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.”
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.
Another great one, which I’ve mentioned before, was written for Ann O’Brien, who so many of us knew or just knew of…she was also known as a really terrific jewelry artist:
ANN O’BRIEN 1951-2006
I have always wanted to write an obituary but I always thought it would be my own, not that of my friend Ann O’Brien, who died on July 1, 2006, twenty days shy of her 55th birthday. Her sister Betsy O’Brien told me I could make it long.
Ann O’Brien is now playing with my dead dogs, cats, her grandparents, Carmen and Leandre Marechal and Mary and William O’Brien, her Uncle Rene Marechal, her dear friend Elliot Snellings, other family members, my parents, friends, and total strangers, because that was the kind of person she was and still is.
Ann is survived by her wacky but loving husband, John Preble, and sons, Andrew and William Preble, of Abita Springs. She is also survived by her parents Alyce “the storyteller” and Charlie “God-Loves-You” O’Brien of Covington along with her sisters, Christine Lozes and her husband Bill and their children, Brian and Allison, of Covington, Betsy O’Brien of Washington D.C., brothers Michael O’Brien of Folsom and his children Wesley of New York and Chris of New Orleans, and David O’Brien and his wife Lillian and children Maegan and Sean, of Mandeville. She is further survived by her mother and father-in-law, Marie-Louise and Warren Preble, her brother-in law Warren Preble and his friend Lillian, Uncle Paul “Brother Elias” Marechal, and Uncles Willam and Edward O’Brien and their families. And oh-my-gosh so many friends, more friends than anyone I’ve ever known, at least two thousand six hundred and forty-nine of them, including myself, Francie Rich, and my husband John Hodge, and others who can’t be listed because they didn’t pay to have their names listed in this obituary.
Ann O’Brien was born on a really poor sharecropper’s farm in Oklahoma…skip that part, I’m saving that for my obituary. Ann graduated from St. Scholastica Academy in Covington and, as long-time SSA teacher Alyce O’Brien remembered her, she was a “pleasant child, with street smarts instead of book smarts.” Oh, I’m sorry, she was referring to Cathy Deano, not Ann. Ann studied painting and got her BFA at LSU before becoming the famous jeweler she is today. She was a president of the Louisiana Crafts Council, a member of the Rhino Gallery in New Orleans, the Mississippi Craftsmen’s Guild and a host of other organizations. Her work has appeared in national publications and has been exhibited in fine crafts shops around the country. As Ann perfected her craft she also perfected the craft of helping other artists sell their work. In addition to her own work and helping other artists, she has done extensive volunteer work with children. She also worked as an artist-in-residence in St. Tammany Parish schools and as a tutor at Mercy Family Center in Mandeville. She and her husband, John Preble, founded the UCM Museum in Abita Springs, where Ann loved leading the Push Mow Parade on her bicycle.
She traveled with her grandparents to Europe as a child and made yearly visits to Uncle Paul at the Trappist monastery near Atlanta and to Navarre Beach, Florida. Ann didn’t like to be alone and she never was and isn’t now.
Ann was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer earlier this year. She never liked going to doctors but ended up caring deeply for her doctors, Drs. Carinder, McCormick, Saux, Suarez, Groves, Seicshnaydre, Ehrensing, Bobrowski, and Torcson. Her hospital room was party central and the place to be. Ann’s illness turned out to be an incredible gift to her family and friends. Her room was always full of laughter, love and joy. Personally I’m not one for large group gatherings, but I loved going to see her in the hospital and at her parents’ house, where her mother would tell fabulous stories and I met old and new, all wonderful people who have enriched my life.
Whenever Ann called she would say, “Hi, this is Ann O’Brien,” as if her thin shaky voice and caller ID didn’t give her away. She didn’t like change, so dying is a major step for her. She laughed easily, could talk about anything to anyone and her only fault was that she never talked ugly about anyone. She is the epitome of a gentle soul even when she got mad at John Preble, which to know him is to get mad at him. She was kind and generous and we are still expecting great things from her.
Ann treasured the trees on her property in Abita Springs. She would often give us plants and trees and office supplies for Christmas gifts. Hurricane Katrina took most of her trees in Abita. Maybe she went to be with them. Many of us will think of Ann when we see camellias, azaleas, and trees.
One consolation of dying young is having a large funeral, and anyone who could figure out a way to sell tickets to Ann’s would be set up for life. John Hodge had a dream at the moment Ann died. Ann was driving a truck in Mexico then riding a bicycle with flowing skirts. He kept thinking, “doesn’t anyone know she is sick?” She fell off her bicycle and everyone “tackled” her with love. When it’s your turn to go, be sure to look for Ann if she’s not already at the entrance waiting for you…