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Natchez man says Children’s Home changed his life

Bill Stahlman came to the Natchez Children’s Home in 1985 with his six siblings after his parents died in a car crash. The home no longer houses children, but continues to serve them through a variety of services. (Ben Hillyer / The Natchez Democrat)

Bill Stahlman came to the Natchez Children’s Home in 1985 with his six siblings after his parents died in a car crash. The home no longer houses children, but continues to serve them through a variety of services. (Ben Hillyer / The Natchez Democrat)

NATCHEZ — At age 12, life for Bill Stahlman and his six siblings turned upside down.

Stahlman moved into the Natchez Protestant Home, which is now the Natchez Children’s Home, in 1985 after his parents were killed in a car crash.

With anger and angst in his heart, Stahlman said the move was difficult. However, with ample help from staff and volunteers, those emotions soon subsided.

“If it weren’t for the children’s home, there’s no telling where I would have ended up,” said Stahlman, whose last name before adoption was Loyed.

Jacque Stahlman, an avid volunteer at the home when Bill and his siblings arrived, quickly became a mother figure to Bill, who lived in the home for a year and a half.

“Moving into the home, it was definitely a lot to get used to. But, (the volunteers) had our best interests in mind,” Bill said.

And although Bill moved out of the home in 1987, and at age 14 was officially adopted by Jacque, he credits much of his success to the home.

Every Sunday, Bill, who is now married with four children, meets with his adoptive mother for lunch.

“She didn’t have to take me in, but she did,” Bill said. “And for that, I will forever be thankful for her.”

Bringing Bill into her home was a decision Jacque said changed her life.

“I wasn’t able to have children of my own and I never married — so my family became whole when I adopted Bill,” said Jacque, who has also mothered several other children who used to live at the home. “I took care of them, and now they’re taking care of me.”

With recent health complications, Jacque said she isn’t as involved as would like to be with the home. Seeing Bill, and other children she’s cared for, is what keeps her going, she said.

And whenever Bill finds the time to step away from his busy schedule, he likes to drive by the home to see Nancy Hungerford, the home’s executive director, and pay his respects to a place that altered his life for the better.

“I can tie everything back to the Children’s Home,” said Bill, who now works as assistant manager at Stine Lumber Co. “Without them, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”