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Loss of dad leaves void in heart

Most of us have a mentor, a hero, or someone that we look up to in life. For me, that person has been my father, Jesse Pittman Phillips.

My father went to a better place on Sunday at the age of 84. My dad was a very proud man who cared so much about the Lafayette, Oxford and University communities. He was a successful businessman and had the foresight of someone who knew the potential of this community.

Dad grew up in Holcomb and was the youngest child of six brothers and one sister. His parents were sharecroppers and his father ran an ice route to make money on the side. Dad was taught at an early age a true work ethic. One of the stories in particular that he told has always stuck with me. My dad would often hitchhike from Goodman where Holmes Community College was located, to Jackson to sell blood to help pay for his school.

He would graduate from Holmes Community College and later would attend Ole Miss where he met my mom and his wife of 62 years, Jeanette Collier.

My dad always cared about his appearance and the way he handled himself. His quality of life over the last three years was horrendous and finally left him a quadriplegic without the ability to talk. No one should ever have to suffer like he did in the last year, but his will to live defied all logic.

Both of my parents have always had the strongest Christian faith. Dad was deeply involved in First Baptist Church, serving as a deacon for many years and as the chairman of several building committees. Members of First Baptist have been so kind to both of my parents with their visits and cards of support.

Dad believed in giving back to his community by volunteering and also making sure that people were treated equally. His involvement during the integration of our local school systems was instrumental to making that transition happen without disruption. He was also involved with the Chamber of Commerce as a member and past president and was directly involved in helping found the Economic Development Foundation.

Many of my fondest memories of my Dad come from our time in the garden and from working together for so many years at the EAGLE. Dad was a man who demanded the most from his employees and was someone who earned people’s respect. I didn’t always agree with him, but I know he achieved so much in his 84 years and leaves a legacy with his contributions to our community.

Many days for lunch, we would head to the Beacon restaurant. Here we could talk about things away from the office, and about work that needed to be done in the garden. There were many times I didn’t want to go help in the garden, but I realized how many sacrifices Dad made in his life for his family and it was the least I could do since the garden was his only hobby.

Over the last two years, many wonderful people have helped take care of my parents. There are too many to name, but I appreciate all of them. I also appreciate the support members of our community have shown our family.

My brother Andy and I will miss our dad greatly. Our parents have always been so loved by Andy, our late brother, Dan and me. It has only been a short time and the void in my heart is immense as I realize he is gone.

I know that my Dad isn’t hurting any more, and he is with so many members of his family in heaven. I’m also sure that Dan was waiting on him to welcome him to his new home.

Tim Phillips is publisher of The Oxford EAGLE. Contact him at tim.phillips@oxfordeagle.com.