By JB Clark
TUPELO – Wayne Vinson was three years old in 1952 when his father, a Hattiesburg police officer, was killed in the line of duty.
When the southwest Mississippi grocery store owner heard about the death of Tupelo Police Sgt. Gale Stauffer and the wounding of officer Joseph Maher, he felt compelled to do something. So he’s teaming up with the owner of Todd’s Big Star to ensure that the Stauffer and Maher families won’t have to worry about groceries anytime soon.
Vinson, owner of Piggly Wiggly in Summit, and Todd’s owner Bob Knight have started credit accounts at Todd’s for the two families. Together the two men’s donations total $20,800.
Vinson’s father, M.W. Vinson Jr., was shot and killed while responding to a Hattiesburg burglary in March 1952.
“The city of Hattiesburg has been good to me and set up a memorial fund for my brother and me to help us when we reached college age and I really appreciated it. But, as I got to thinking, I thought, ‘What do I remember the most? What was tough?’” Vinson said. “Let’s help these people where it’s real every day.”
That prompted him to contact Knight, whom he knew through business associations, and start a $10,400 line of credit to be split between the Stauffer and Maher families, hoping the money would pay for a year of groceries.
Knight was so moved by the offer he told Vinson he would match the amount and leave the lines of credit open to additional support by the community.
“I wanted to see if we could keep these families in groceries for years to come,” Knight said. “If you spend $400 a month on groceries, that’s a big chunk of anyone’s income.”
Vinson said he knows from experience the families will have plenty to worry about in the coming months and years.
“These people need to know one thing they don’t have to worry about is eating,” Vinson said.
Anyone who wants to contribute to the account set up for the families can do so by contacting the front desk at Todd’s Big Star or by mailing a donation to Todd’s Big Star at 1400 W. Main St.