With recent loss comes great responsibility

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 3, 2008

Bad news, they say, comes in threes.

For the Miss-Lou the bad news of the past few weeks has been in the death of three prominent community leaders, Fred Falkenheiner, David Blackburn and Faye Hudnall.

With newspapers, television and the Internet filled with examples of man’s inclination to demean, deride and destroy, Falkenheiner, Hudnall and Blackburn demonstrated the power of the goodness of human beings and the goodness of God.

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For those like me who are dismayed by the venomous words often left by commentors on our newspaper’s Web site, here are a few examples of the tributes to these three individuals left on natchezdemocrat.com in the past days.

On the news of Falkenheiner’s death commentor lieghking left this lasting tribute.

He wrote, “Farewell Mr. Fred. I know you are in a better place with no pain now. Thanks for all the many years you devoted to coaching baseball. I hope God grants you a beautifull baseball field to watch over. You are a fine man and you inspired me my entire life.”

Monday evening, Richard Burke left his thoughts about Blackburn’s enduring legacy.

He wrote, “It is rare to find a man who can influence a life the way that Dr. B influenced my life, but I know my story is not unique, he touched so many in such important ways. During my studies with him, he became to me like a father. When I went on to sing professionally in Europe, Dr. B’s teaching was there at the Wiener Staatsoper, Bayerischer Staatsoper, Spoleto, New York City Opera, San Francisco Opera, and yes, there in Natchez twice, once in Madama Butterfly and in I pagliacci and anywhere else I was fortunate enough to sing as he taught me to dream I could achieve. When I became a voice teacher, my students benefited from his legacy. … This afternoon, one of my former students had found out of Dr. B’s passing and called to console me. I told her she was part of Dr. B’s legacy and I expected her to pass it on.”

Thursday morning cdunnmurphy wrote about Hudnall’s calming and life-affirming spirit.

She wrote, “I remember the day that I thought my daughter Shannon was going to be born 12 weeks early. I remember Faye coming through the hospital door and her calming words that everything was going to be fine. I had heard it from my family and doctors with an underlining tone of ‘it’s not true.’ But when Faye said it, I knew that it would be true. I will think of Faye every Christmas when I bring out the Santa Cookie plate that she made for my children, Connor and Shannon who are now 15 and 11.”

These are but small examples of the lives Falkenheiner, Hudnall and Blackburn influenced and inspired.

Reading these and hearing other tributes throughout the community, I am struck by the void left by their deaths.

Their legacies reach far beyond the simple titles of police jury president, church deacon and music director. Their gifts were not bound by their job descriptions, as they dedicated themselves to serving others.

It is incumbent upon us, the generations who follow, to emulate these servant leaders and to be to those who follow us the empowerers and encouragers Falkenheiner, Hudnall and Blackburn were to us all.

Yes, our community has suffered a bit of bad news in the past few weeks with the passing of these three community leaders. The good news is that their legacies will last with us forever.

Ben Hillyer is the web editor of the Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3540 or by e-mail at ben.hillyer@natchezdemocrat.com.