Natchez businessman loses life in accidental drowning

Published 3:04 pm Monday, June 24, 2024

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NATCHEZ — Natchez businessman Michael Rinehart, 69, lost his life in an accidental drowning late Saturday evening on Lake St. John.

Concordia Parish authorities said Rinehart and his wife, Cheryl, had been on a late-night boat ride and were in the process of docking the boat when Mrs. Rinehart fell from the boat into the water. Rinehart entered the water to help his wife and drowned.

Mrs. Rinehart was able to make it out of the water but suffered a head injury and several lacerations. She is expected to recover.

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Teresa Burns of Natchez worked as Rinehart’s assistant for more than 20 years. Rinehart graduated from LSU with a degree in petroleum engineering.

“He was a kind and generous — very generous — and smart man. He would do anything for anybody. Over the years, we have had so many employees, and they would need something, and Mike would provide it,” Burns said

She said Rinehart grew up in Booneville before moving to Natchez after college graduation.

Burns said he operated an oilfield in Alabama, which he sold recently.

“He had started a new project here, in the Lake St. John area, actually,” she said.

“Mike loved anything that had to do with water. He liked to go deep-sea fishing. They also had a place on the Tchefuncte River in Mandeville. He has always been a boat person,” Burns said. “He did like to hunt at one time but stopped that when he got so busy with his business.”

Steve Skrivanos went to college with Rinehart and later became his business partner.

“I have known Mike since college, when we were both petroleum engineering students at LSU. Mike was then, and remained all his life, as kind and honorable as anyone I have ever met,” he said.

“We were business partners for decades, as we were involved in the South Carlton oil field located about 40 miles north of Mobile. Mike handled all of the field operations, where he was very well-organized and detail-oriented. More than once, I would visit Mike in the field and offer a suggestion or two. His response was, ‘Steve, we will all be much better off if you will stay in your ivory tower and direct your efforts in other areas.’ “ Skrivanos said.

“Mike and Cheryl were perfectly suited to each other, and they loved each other deeply. Mike once told me that, in his life, Cheryl was a gift from God, a remark that stays with me to this day,” he said. “Mike was a gentleman in every sense of the word and exuded respect and warmth to every person he met, regardless of their station in life. I will deeply miss him.”

Natchez Mayor Dan Gibson remembered Rinehart as someone who was always smiling and eager to help.

“Mike was a prince of a guy, so kind to everyone he met, always smiling and eager to help anyone he could,” Gibson said. “He loved his wife and family and was beloved by all who knew him. His loss comes as a shock to our community. He will be deeply missed. Our prayers are with Cheryl and their family.”