LESLIE CRISS: Sadly, Tupelo’s loss a big gain for Texas

By Leslie Criss

“A star falls from the sky and into your hands. Then it seeps through your veins and swims inside your blood and becomes every part of you. And then you have to put it back into the sky. And it’s the most painful thing you’ll ever have to do …”
– C. JoyBell C.

“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”
– A.A. Milne, “Winnie-the-Pooh”
A considerable number of Tupeloans said so-long to a friend last week. Thankfully, there was no death.
Still and yet, those of us who have loved – for however long – Eugenia Lagrone found not one reason to be happy about her up and moving to Sugarland, Texas.
It was a decision made by Lagrone in conjunction with her four adult children, and it was ultimately a decision made with her greatest well-being the goal.
Everyone understands. But understanding does not generate rejoicing.
I’d heard stories about Jeanne Lagrone long before I met her. The stories made me eager to know this character.
Both life-long Episcopalians, we finally met at All Saints’ church. And my admiration and respect for her blossomed, as did our friendship.
We shared a love of Vicksburg, both having called the city home at different times in our lives.
I learned of way-too-many-to-count kids who learned to swim in the Lagrone family pool; their teacher – the water-loving Jeanne.
I’d heard since I moved to town about the lady on the cusp of Highland Circle who each July 4 put on a parade for her neighborhood. It was multi-generational, with soon-to-be first-graders leading the Pledge of Allegiance and folks in various stages of adulthood assuming the roles of Lady Liberty and Uncle Sam.
The summer after I’d become the owner of a convertible, I was honored to be called upon to be a part of the parade, which has been a Tupelo tradition for more than two decades.
Each year, with only a few exceptions, Jeanne Lagrone has donned her majorette suit, grasped her baton and lead the way for neighbors of all sizes, all ages – on foot, on bicycle, in swings, in convertibles, beating drums, waving flags – to celebrate our independence.
It was something to see.
There are many who have known this Tupelo treasure much longer than I, and I’m certain each has his or her own favorite story.
Some I’d love to share, but I’ve made promises I’m bound to keep. But there is one …
The daughter of an Episcopal priest, a young Jeanne got home from school one afternoon in Vicksburg. She was hungry, but in the cupboards of the rectory’s kitchen she found no bread.
So, Jeanne went into the sacristy at Christ Church, found some Communion wafers and made mayonnaise sandwiches for a snack.
When her father discovered his daughter’s deed, there was punishment – but mercy – aplenty.
I’ve heard the stars at night are big and bright over in Texas.
But the ones over Tupelo will be just a little dimmer now that our friend has gone west.

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