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Vances embrace community, volunteerism

Ralph and Mary Douglas Vance are not only involved in the community, but they also bring the community home with them.

The Vances moved from Jackson to Oxford almost four years ago and they give back in every way they can, whether it is volunteering for various nonprofits or opening up their home for the nonprofits to have large gatherings.

Ralph taught at the University Mississippi Medical Center for 44 years and is an oncologist by trade. He’s currently professor emeritus of medicine and will retire in June. Mary Douglas, who goes by Douglas, is retired after teaching music at St. Andrew’s Episcopal School.

“We love Oxford. We have died and gone to heaven. The people have been so warm and friendly,” Douglas said.

She said getting involved in St. Peter’s Episcopal Church and singing in the church choir helped the 70-year-old couple get to know people and served as a springboard to getting involved in the community.

Now Ralph serves on the Oxford Film Festival board of directors, on the Friends of the J.D. Williams Library, is involved with United Way of Oxford and Lafayette County and serves in the vestry at church. Douglas is on the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council board of directors and is involved with the Cedar Oaks Guild.

They’re both members of the University Museum, Thacker Mountain and other local agencies.

“Those kind of things are so important to be involved with,” Douglas said. “And the Ford Center — we love the arts as well, and sports. Oxford just has everything to offer.”

“It’s an unusual place,” Ralph said. “To be this size and have the quality…. We have trouble narrowing down what we are going to do. There are usually two or three options for an evening.”

More than a handful of times, a gathering at their house was one of those options. The Vances have hosted several church gatherings, opened up the house for an event to honor three authors that donated their works to the University of Mississippi, and said yes to both YAC and the Oxford Film Festival for parties.

“We built this house,” Douglas said. “We made what we wanted it to look like and we wanted a big room and a large outdoor area as well so it lends itself to big groups, and we’ve had several big parties.”

They’ve fit more than 100 people in their home on Old Taylor Road and are happy to do it.

“The community, especially Oxford is so giving. We get much more back than we give,” Ralph said. “The people of Oxford are just warm-hearted, trustworthy and inspiring.”

Why did the couple target Oxford as a retirement destination?

“Two reasons,” Ralph said. “One, it’s a great place to be. We both enjoyed being here 100 years ago when we were students. Two, our daughter lives in Senatobia at the Baddour Center, so it’s only 40 minutes from here.”

Their visits prior to retirement also cinched the deal. They took advantage of a condo they purchased for their son on Hathorn Road while he was attending Ole Miss.

“As we started to think about retiring, it seemed like a real good thing to do,” Douglas said. “It’s probably been one of the best decisions.”

“We never looked back,” Ralph said. “Every day is a great happening.”

They’ve reconnected with old college friends and met new people who have retired to Oxford from all over the world and are involved in the community.

“It’s one of those things too, I just look back and think you’ve been here starting your fourth year, but it seems like you just got here,” Douglas said. “Time goes fast when you’re having fun.”