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Oxford plane crash victims remembered: Fareses, Pooles, Perrys

C.M. “Tad” Smith Coliseum has often been filled with shouts of joy or groans of defeat. But on Saturday, it was filled with tears — tears of heartbreak and mourning during a community memorial service for the six Oxford residents who lost their lives last weekend in a plane crash.

However, every once in a while, a few quiet laughs would break through the sadness, especially when Dr. Brant Kairit, friend to all three couples, spoke about each of the fallen and the things that made them special.

The service began at 10 a.m. Saturday. The University of Mississippi string quartet played quietly as about 3,000 people filled half of the coliseum.

Former Ole Miss chancellor Dan Jones welcomed everyone and thanked them for supporting the families of Drs. Jason and Lea Farese, Dr. Michael and Kim Perry and Dr. Austin and Angie Poole. The three local couples died when the Fareses’ plane crashed Aug. 14 near the Tuscaloosa Regional Airport in Alabama as they traveled back to Oxford after a dental conference in Florida.

“To the families, I bring words of compassion, comfort, love and appreciation for your loved ones, your parents, your children, members of your family,” Jones said at the service. “I bring these words from the Oxford community, the Ole Miss family and the University of Mississippi Medical Center, especially the school of dentistry, and all in Mississippi who mourn with you in this great loss … We are fortunate to have had your loved ones in our lives.”

Remembering

Kairit knew the three couples, going to school with some, becoming friends with others in more recent years. He shared stories about each one, from Austin Poole’s love of crawfish boils to his wife Angie’s caring and loving nature; to Michael Perry’s belief in hard work and aversion to stop signs, and his wife, Kim, known for her upbeat attitude and calm, comforting spirit; to Jason Farese’s temper on the golf course and being the teammate everyone wanted, and his wife, Lea, and her never-wavering love for her patients, her community and her children.

“I believe the Lord blesses us with humor as a coping mechanism to deal with sadness and tragedy here on Earth,” Kairit said. “I can assure you, these individuals, who enjoyed life so much, would want us to smile, and smile often and remember the great times we shared with them.

“As we go about our lives, please remember these six people for the passion they displayed for life, for the love they shared with their family and friends and their unending willingness to improve the lives of those around them.”

Clergy from the three families’ churches all participated in the service.

Grace Bible Church Pastor JD Shaw gave the opening prayer. The Rev. Eddie Rester of Oxford-University Methodist Church led everyone in the reading of Psalm 23, and Fr. Joe Tonos of St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church gave the benediction.

Dr. Walker Swaney sang “Amazing Grace,” early in the service and also “How Great Thou Art,” during the recessional.

John Green, friend to all three families, thanked the community for its overwhelming support.

“Our families have found comfort in your thoughts, your hugs, your smiles and notes that have been truly uplifting,” he said. “This community, the state of Mississippi and the entire nation have held our families in their arms, and we thank you.”