JOHN L. PITTS: A life worth honoring




What can we do to keep the life of John Servati from becoming nothing more than yesterday’s news?

Servati, the University of Alabama swim athlete from Tupelo, was the lone fatality in storms that lashed Tuscaloosa County on Monday night.

That put John Servati’s name into this week’s headlines. But it’s his life, and how he lived it, that deserves to be celebrated now and into the future.

We learned so much about John Servati’s life this week – how he was once reluctant to become a swimmer, how swimming eventually set him on a path to college, the importance of his faith, how his leadership qualities touched the lives of those around him.

“John was a hero every day,” Alabama assistant coach James Barber told the Tuscaloosa News.

And, in his final gesture, he most likely saved the life of another – his girlfriend, as a basement wall collapsed in the storm.

In the process, his life and death became international news. All too often, though, today’s big news becomes tomorrow’s afterthought.

So how do we keep the spirit of John Servati alive in Tupelo?

Here’s my suggestion:

One of these days, the next John Servati is going to walk through the doors of the new Tupelo Aquatic Center. Maybe he or she will be nervous about getting into the water but will overcome that fear to dive in.

Maybe that’s the first act in a swimming career that leads to the SEC or even to the Olympics. Or maybe, like it did for my stepdaughters, it leads to a healthy respect for the water and all the hard work it takes to be the best you can be, no matter how talented you are.

Maybe that time in the pool provides the skills to, someday, save another life.

Let’s celebrate the life of John Servati by putting his name on the Tupelo Aquatic Center. Let’s invite all his teammates – from Tupelo and Alabama – to come share in that celebration. And on a wall there, let’s put some of the best stories written about his life, in hopes that they will inspire others to be heroes every day.

John L. Pitts ( is sports editor of the Journal. He shares his random thoughts on Twitter @JohnLPitts

Funeral plans

The funeral service for John Servati is scheduled for for 2 p.m. Saturday at Calvary Baptist Church in Tupelo. Visitation is Friday, 2-7 p.m., at the church.

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