Apartment fire kills retired school teacher

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 14, 2002

Vicksburg firefighters head into the home of Elizabeth Ann Myers at Oakmont Manor apartments Wednesday night.(The Vicksburg Pos/C. TODD SHERMAN)

[03/14/02]A retired Vicksburg high school teacher and musician died Wednesday evening after her Cain Ridge Road town home caught fire while she was waiting for her ride to church.

Elizabeth Ann Myers, who taught English for many years at H.V. Cooper High School, Carr Central and Rosa Temple High School, was 80.

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She had been in her Oakmont Manor home, apparently waiting for friends Josie and Theo Williams to pick her up for the 6:30 p.m. service at St. Alban’s Episcopal Church in Bovina.

The Williamses, who found smoke pouring from windows upstairs where Myers’ bedroom was, and neighbor Charles Hill found the fire and tried to go inside, but were forced out by smoke and heat. Theo Williams and Hill both said they saw no flames.

Neighbors said Myers had waited in the parking lot of the 40-unit complex for about 5 minutes before returning to her apartment. She was smoking a cigarette during her wait, they said.

Assistant Fire Chief Rose Shaifer said Myers was pronounced dead at the scene, and Warren County Coroner John Thomason said her death would be ruled accidental, from smoke inhalation. Arson investigators were called to the scene as standard procedure in such a fire, officials said.

Myers, originally from Leland, grew up in Greenville and graduated from what is now Delta State University in Cleveland in 1943, friends said. She soon moved to Vicksburg and taught until 1986, friends said. She was one of the first white instructors at formerly all-black Rosa A. Temple, said Rector Bill Carlin of St. Alban’s Episcopal Church in Bovina, where Myers was a member and the organist. Myers also played the organ at Anshe Chesed Temple, Carlin said.

Myers never married, neighbors said, and left no relatives.

“St. Alban’s was her family,” fellow St. Alban’s member and longtime friend Harvey Smith said. She also sang in the church choir, coming to practice every Tuesday, Smith said.

Gwendy Stroud, a 1966 graduate of Cooper and a neighbor at Oakmont Manor, remembered Myers as a “real quiet, pleasant teacher. She seemed to keep to herself.”

Myers had also played piano for the Vicksburg Theatre Guild and on the Sprague when it was docked at City Front and home to the melodrama “Gold in the Hills,” neighbors said. “She would play background music,” a neighbor said.

She had not driven or had a car for about five years and had used taxis or ridden with friends, neighbors said.

“She had her own personal cab drivers she would call and ask for,” apartment manager Wynette McBeath said.

Myers had lived alone in her one-bedroom townhouse since shortly after the complex was built in 1968, neighbors said. She collected sheet music and had stacks of it in her home, Josie Williams said.

The fire was the worst co-owner Clyde Donnell could remember at the complex. “We’ve had just kitchen fires before,” he said. “We do keep the alarms checked properly, but sometimes that doesn’t do the job if something else happens.”

No damage was reported at other apartments in the complex.

Funeral arrangements were being handled by Fisher-Riles Funeral Home.