Miss-Lou residents bade farewell to Welty

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 27, 2001

The much-loved and highly acclaimed Mississippi writer Eudora Welty was remembered in a funeral service that would have suited her perfectly.

&uot;It was very much a family kind of funeral,&uot; said Carolyn Vance Smith, who was among the 500 who attended the Thursday service at Galloway Memorial United Methodist Church in Jackson.

&uot;There were all sorts of people there with name recognition, people from coast to coast,&uot; Smith said. Still, many who came were friends with each other as well as with Miss Welty, she said.

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&uot;There were writers, people from Archives and History, ETV, so many others and people you would have known. Everyone was in tears but also glad to see each other.&uot;

Smith, as a former English instructor at Copiah-Lincoln Community College in Natchez and as founder of the Natchez Literary Celebration, had occasion to teach Welty works and to be associated with her through the celebration. Another mourner with Natchez roots attending the funeral was Josephine Haxton, who described the service as beautiful.

&uot;We were so lucky to have had her for so long. We will miss her,&uot; Haxton said.

As a writer, Haxton found Welty’s writing inspiring. &uot;I was not fortunate enough to be one of her intimate friends but we were friends and colleagues,&uot; she said. &uot;She taught me a lot about writing.&uot;

Haxton’s son, Ayres Haxton, a former state legislator from Natchez, also attended. &uot;Governor Winter was so inspiring. You could feel his love for Miss Welty,&uot; he said.

Winter was one of two speakers at the service in addition to the minister, the Rev. Sam O. Morris. Smith remembered one of the special comments made by the minister that was especially precise. &uot;He said that Miss Welty helped us to see life inside out.&uot;

Smith said Welty’s literary agent told that one of the famous writer’s most popular short stories, &uot;A Worn Path,&uot; was sent out 23 times before it finally was accepted.

&uot;The agent said so many wonderful things about her, calling her an unpretentious person and a great writer,&uot; Smith said.

Judy Wiggins, an English instructor at Co-Lin in Natchez, also attended the funeral and said afterwards her only regret was that she did not reach out and touch the coffin as it passed by close to her.

&uot;The service was beautiful,&uot; Wiggins said. &uot;It was uplifting. We laughed a lot at beautiful things.&uot;

Wiggins, like Smith, recalled a line from the minister’s eulogy. &uot;He said she was a meteor in the literary sky, and she was,&uot; Wiggins said.

&uot;She knew our foibles and loved human beings, and she helps us laugh at ourselves.&uot;

Natchez native Emily Smith Henderson, now living in Brookhaven, had met Welty on several occasions and had been to the writer’s home in 1994 during a filming there by Jackson’s ETV crew.

&uot;Her house was just as you would expect, with books everywhere, on every surface. And there were open books she was reading or using in some way.&uot;