Sad day in Mississippi


Yesterday I got the saddest call I’ve ever received.  My friend Marie had a catch in her throat as she asked “Have you heard?”

I’d heard that same catch two years ago when she called to tell us our friend Gary had died.  I knew what was coming was going to be bad so I braced myself for the saddest news I’ve heard since I lost my  mother..

Robert Harrell, an indescribable man and a friend to everyone he ever met,  died Monday after a car accident in our hometown of West Point, Mississippi.  There was some question if he had suffered some sort of medical episode which caused the wreck.. I don’t know the details and this is not an obituary, just a few thoughts on a remarkable man who had a positive impact on so many lives.


Robert and Caroline in front of one of his many attractions at Robert’s World.

I’ve written about Robert many times and he has a whole chapter in my book “Love Laughter and Losing my Keys.”  He was an inspiration and a role model on how to live a life full of vitality and unbridled joy.  In fact, I never saw him without a huge grin on his face and he possessed that endearing quality that made everyone he met feel like the most important person on earth.

Robert was brilliant – seriously, I think of him as West Point’s Leonardo  da Vinci because he had a curiosity about everything – he had many interests and pursued them tirelessly never considering that anything was impossible.

He was to be our guide when we walk the Appalachian Trail because he’s done it – reminds me to stop putting off our dreams before its too late.  Our dream of walking the trail no longer holds such promise of a first-rate adventure without Robert along to keep us entertained.

My favorite memory was one sultry July afternoon when Robert drove Daddy and me in his golf cart out into the woods surrounding his house to show off what I’ve begun thinking of as “Robert’s World”.  He kept up a  running dialog of fascinating tidbits of trivia – explaining the length of a furlong and what the abbreviation “cc” means on a prescription bottle – important stuff like that.

The legendary Robert Harrell was giving us a tour of what amounts to an amusement park. At least it was an amusement to Harrell, its owner and developer, who built a small community in the woods surrounding his Old Waverly Road home.

As long as I can remember I’ve been the recipient and distributor of “Robert Harrell stories,” some so far-etched I couldn’t believe they were true. If you had the good fortune to grow up in Clay County Mississippi it was practically a requirement to carry in your head a couple of Robert Harrell stories to pull whenever a conversation hit a lull.

My thoughts and prayers are with his wife of a gazillion years, Caroline, and all their children.  I remember when they were teenagers and Robert would come to the First Presbyterian Church with Caroline.  I would jockey for a seat behind them so I could observe and dream of the day I would find my own Robert. Unfortunately it hasn’t happened yet because there is no other Robert.

So long old friend.  You may be gone but your memory will live on in the hearts and minds of all who were lucky enough to know you.  Save us a seat up there.

23 thoughts on “Sad day in Mississippi

  1. Robert was at Church Sunday with that wonderful smile, he never met a stranger. He will be missed by all who knew him and we have so many fond memories of him. God bless his family!!

  2. We are all so blessed to have our wonderful memories of Robert Harrell! Thank you God for putting him in our lives. He was a joy to all. Will see you again Robert. Boy can you emagine what’s going on in heaven right now! Ms Fanny, James, Kitty and all that gone on before! May you rest in peace Robert. Jim and Curt sure will miss your visits.

  3. Robert was a precious man with an infectious smile that would brighten one’s day under any circumstances. He will truly be missed. God’s blessings to Caroline and all his wonderful family.

  4. I’ll never forget at the funeral for Roger Hill who died way too young (and so did Robert…many good years left and I thought he’d be one to live to 100+!), Robert remarked that he would always tell people him loved them before it was too late and he smiled that trademark smile. What a legacy for all of us…a life to be celebrated!!!

  5. What a wonderful tribute to a great man! He will be missed by so many. Prayers and love to his family and friends.

  6. Eloise – whatnice thought – there’s a party going on up there like never before. If I get to be with that bunch, death no longer seems something to dread. I hope West Point has a corner where we can get together on a regular basis.

  7. Words cannot express how I am feeling right now. He was (oh my God, using past tense) such a sweet, kind, generous, loving man….he always had a smile and kind word. Oh goodness, he will be sorely missed here in West Point. But we are blessed that he lives on through his children….My thoughts and prayers go out to the family especially Ms. Caroline. Bless her heart!!

  8. As I sit here, with tears streaming down my cheeks, I cannot begin to say how saddened I am.

    Robert and Caroline have been friends of ours, Duke’s and mine, for many years. Duke grew up and went to school with them. We had fun times with them and memories so precious.

    Robert ALWAYS had a huge smile on his face. Robert was kind, jovial, and fun to be around, no matter the circumstances. A friend to all.

    Robert will be missed more than imaginable. Keep smiling dear friend.

  9. Mr. Harrell was truly an honorable man and was loved and respected by many. Kindness should have been his middle name and I’ve never known him to be any other way. I haven’t seen him in awhile, but I can remember that wonderful smile he always exhibited.
    My thoughts and prayers are with Caroline and the family.

  10. Robert made everyone feel good. The smile was the best part, but kisses were good, too. One felt loved in his presence. And one had FUN in his presence. Remember the good times!

  11. Emily~What a wonderful tribute to a wonderful man!
    Robert definitely never met a stranger and he always had a big smile on his face. John and I enjoyed their friendship for years in West Point since Roger and Frances dated and our son, Jonathan was friends with Bob and Bryan.
    He and Caroline have remained our long distance friends for over 33 years since we left West Point to move to Arkansas. We always looked forward to their precious family Christmas Booklet filled with family photos. We were as shocked as everyone else to receive word of him leaving us all here on earth. But we know Heaven is a brighter place now with Robert there. Our hearts just hurt so badly for Caroline and the kids and grandkids.

  12. Robert my friend you will be missed. Some of my fondest memories of you was when Old Waverly Golf Club first opened. You, Tommy Briggs, Howard Dedeaux and I played a lot of golf and it will always be some of the best memories I will cherish until we meet again. GOD BLESS YOUR FAMILY.

  13. Everyone who knew him is heartsick and sad today. But I find myself smiling, even giggling a little, thinking of things he said and did over the years. Smiling through the tears I shed for all of us who will never quit missing him. What a wonderful family he left behind… and prayers for every one of you.

  14. Robert Harrell was an incredible man!!! My husband always called him Pearly because of his white teeth!!. I didn’t know him as well as Ricky does but the times I was around him, Oh My, he made me feel so increibly welcome!!! Such a genuine man!!! I burst into tears and I have not seen him in years but he made an impact on my life!!!

  15. Robert harreld was an icon of this community! No one could think of being sad around him. Did not really know him but seeing him always made my heart sing! May we all try to spread the joy and energy he showed! Caroline is a pillow of stength and such a royal person. She possesses such grace and poise and my heart breaks for her. God bless all of the family and friends, esp. Caroline!

  16. I was sad to learn of the death of Robert Harrell. Our families shared ‘Mildred’ in The early years and I always heard the names of Robert, Caroline and their children. We shared a place called home, our sweet place of upbringing. I am grateful for his life reportedly well lived and loved. May Peace come to all who mourn.

  17. So sad to hear this piece of news,God Bless Caroline and the Children and the extended Families.Gene White.

  18. Caroline and family, we are so so sorry to hear this sad news. Our thoughts and prayers are with you during this trying time and will remain with you as you go thru your next weeks and months.

  19. Emily, I am so very sorry to hear of the loss of your friend. That is tragic to lose him in a car accident. I pray for his wife and his children. And I also pray for everyone whose life he touched. God bless all of you! He sounds like he was an outstanding person!

  20. A wonderful man that will be greatly missed. This is a wonderful tribute post to him, very well done. To his family, my deepest sympathy. For the many he called family, the many he called friends, and the many lives he touched even unknowingly, he was a blessing to them all.

  21. Robert was a dear friend to anyone he met. He had an infectious smile that showed his inward beauty. Sending sympathy to his dear family in their loss.

    Brenda Cordle Adams
    Hilton Head Island, SC

  22. Wonderful article about Robeet who will be so missed, but what an interestingl life and funny stories that we can remember about him. Thanks for writing !

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