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Many thanks to all of Natchez

A lot of young people go to college and never return to Natchez because it’s a small town. My sister is included on that list, but even she has learned the beauty of growing up and living in Natchez, just as the rest of my family has in the past three months, but nobody more than I.

My name is Hunter McKeivier, and I was born and raised in Natchez until the sixth grade when my dad’s job moved us to Laurel, where I graduated high school and then went on to Southern Mississippi. By the time I graduated from college my parents had returned to Natchez, much to my mother’s delight and demand. So I returned too in search of a job in one of the most revered professions in a small town, a high school coach. And the hype was true (along with the highs and lows of being any kind of coach of any sport where the fans are passionate and devoted).

But it wasn’t until late this past summer when my young wife, Ashley, fell deathly ill, that I truly learned the extent of caring, compassion, giving and selflessness that is the beauty of living in a small town.

So this is my love letter and my thank you to the people of Natchez, Miss.

It simply can’t be an exhaustive list of the people and compassionate acts, because I am sure that even to this day I am not aware of all that was done for my little family but here goes:

First I have to thank my mother, Gail McKeivier, for taking such wonderful and dedicated care of my 1-year-old son, Cannon. You see, my mother is retired, and she has fully committed herself to this retirement. She has raised two children, seen them through college and watched them begin their own families, so she has earned every peaceful, relaxed day she enjoys. But when I was forced to move to Baton Rouge to wait by Ashley’s bedside, she instantly became the day-to-day parent to a very active 1-year-old.

As a retired school teacher who had worked at ACCS during her career, she even offered to substitute my classes for me. Luckily that was unnecessary since she soon got a rude reminder of the exhaustion that comes with constant child care. Of course, I also have to thank my Aunt Carol who helped my mom out since it was her house that was overrun with pacifiers, diapers, toys and the demanding cries of a toddler.

I guess even more credit goes to my mom for nagging my father to return to Natchez once he retired, because I’m sure it had a hand in my eventual return and my position as head baseball coach and a football coach at Adams County Christian School. Now I really have to thank the entire ACCS family, but especially David King and the board.

It is not easy to find a replacement teacher and coach at the beginning of a school year. But with all the worry and fear I had dealing with Ashley’s medical condition, I never had to worry about my job, and for that I am truly thankful. Looking at the abyss of medical bills that were likely to come our way, knowing my job was secure was one less thing. And it was a big thing.

Which leads me to the wonderful staff and co-workers of Ashley at Natchez Community Hospital who so selflessly gave their time to cover Ashley’s shifts so that she could keep her insurance during this uncertain time. And to all of the people who donated money, blood and offered to help in any way they could, I thank you all.

It wasn’t just the time and money and support that everyone gave, it was the acts of kindness and thoughtfulness that really touched my heart. They didn’t surprise me, knowing the people of Natchez, they just endeared them even more. Like during a cross-town rivalry when my Rebels played against the Green Wave of Cathedral, it became about more than a football game; it became about a community. Everyone from both sides of the field gave of themselves and appreciated the others for such charity, but no one more than my family.

While I realize this letter doesn’t begin to cover it all, it had to be said. And with Ashley on the mend and my family back together, this native son, this high school coach, this Natchezian and this extremely grateful man couldn’t go one more day without saying it. So, thank you Natchez.


Hunter McKeivier

Natchez resident