Tom Cupit’s Creation: Retired minister plants a little bit of paradise in his Tupelo backyard

By Ginna Parsons/NEMS Daily Journal

Wherever Tom Cupit has lived, if he’s had the space, he’s had a garden.
Cupit and his wife of 65 years, Edna, moved to Tupelo in 1988 after he retired as a Methodist minister. Not long afterward, he set about starting a place to grow things.
“I’ve got that old white clay,” said Cupit, 89. “So I started hauling leaves to work into it – 200 bags of leaves. It’s about 12 inches deep now with good soil. We used to burn our leaves. We didn’t know.”
He knows now.
The Cupits’ whole backyard is a lush, green garden, filled with all manner of flowers and vegetables.
A check last week revealed corn, okra, crowder peas, purple hull peas, cucumbers, eggplant, yellow squash, zucchini, peanuts in the making, string beans, lima beans and 135 tomato plants.
Growing alongside the vegetables are a dozen varieties of zinnias plus gladiola, roses, dahlias, cannas, sunflowers, cosmos, clematis and portulaca.
“I grow the flowers and then Edna takes them everywhere – doctors, dentists, nursing homes, Sanctuary Hospice, the Wellness Center,” Cupit said. “We also deliver veggies. Last year, we gave away 300 bags of tomatoes. That’s my therapy. That’s my life.”
Cupit planted the whole garden himself. Rows of vegetables are neat, and a weed is hard to find. He has one whole area staked out for tomatoes, but that doesn’t mean you won’t find a tomato plant tucked here and there, at the end of a flower bed or even in the middle of one.
“My tomatoes are Whoppers,” he said. “I have them stuck everywhere. Some may get too much shade, but you never know until you try.”
Cupit does a lot of his gardening from a white plastic chair he can move around the yard.
“I sit down in my chair to pick,” he said. “I had hip surgeries so I don’t bend so well. I’m getting old and cutting back some. When you’re almost 90 years old, you don’t have a lot of energy left.”
‘On vacation’
Cupit grew up on a farm between Brookhaven and Natchez on the Homochitto River. But he didn’t choose the farming life. Instead, he became a Methodist minister and preached most of his career in South Mississippi, while Edna spent her career as a school teacher.
He will step in as a substitute at St. Luke United Methodist Church in Tupelo every now and again, though.
“But I don’t know how many people want to listen to an old man preach,” he said.
Cupit gets out in his garden in the mornings, before the heat comes on, with his little Chihuahua mix, Mindy, at his side.
“She worships the ground he walks on,” Edna said.
He picks and putters and pushes back leaves to see what’s growing underneath.
“I don’t have a plan,” Cupit said. “It’s not very organized. I just grow flowers and vegetables. I’ve spent a lot of money on flower seeds – wasted a lot, too. It’s trial and error. You just have to see what grows.”
Cupit also has 25 purple martin gourds hanging across the backyard, although sparrows have taken over some of the houses. Cupit doesn’t care, though. He puts up and plants enough for pets and pests alike.
“I do love it,” he said. “When I go out the back door, I’m on vacation.”
ginna.parsons@journalinc.com