Community lost heroes and some who could be

Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 24, 2009

This community took quite a punch in a terribly small span of time.

In less than two weeks, we lost two bright lights of this community’s future, a man who made it his life to lift those who had trouble lifting themselves and a police officer who went above and beyond his call and paid the ultimate sacrifice.

We saw the smiling faces of Tyler Daniel Smith, 4, and Hadyn Anderson Smith, 22 months, neither even old enough to enter kindergarten — the sons of a volunteer firefighter and grandsons of Ron Anderson, whose voice is synonymous with Vicksburg. The local radio host exudes constant optimism and, surely, Grandpa had the time of his life spoiling those young’uns.

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The young brothers died in a house fire early last Saturday morning.

Three days before, the driving force behind the creation and sustainability of the River City Rescue Mission, Doug Upchurch, died.

I wish I could say I knew Doug better than I did, for everyone who mentions his name has a flicker in their eye. Doug spent his life in the service of others, helping build the River City Rescue Mission into what it was intended to be.

I met Doug a few times, helped out on a Thanksgiving once at the mission and always admired his passion for others. I imagine Doug to be the kind of guy you see at a gathering and want to be close to him. That is where he was when he had a heart attack, at a blues club dancing the night away.

And Tom Wilson, the picture of the good cop — tough when he has to be, but kind and fair when it mattered most. He was no stranger to these pages, usually leading a suspect on the walk from jail to court. If bank doors were being dusted for fingerprints, the likelihood was Tom had the duster.

Just a few weeks ago when a photographer waited on a suspect to be led to court, Tom pulled up quickly, jumped out of his car and asked jokingly, “I didn’t miss my photo op, did I?”

Tom found his way into these pages because he was being Tom, always responding, always trying to find answers.

So it should come as no surprise that in the early morning hours one week ago, Tom Wilson heard a radio call from a dispatcher who could not make contact with an ambulance.

Tom, as might be expected, volunteered to check on the ambulance personnel.

He drove his cruiser through the humid Mississippi air, hit a standing pond of water on the roadbed and left us.

Wednesday, just before noon, eastbound interstate traffic ceased. The columns of lights crested the hill as motorcycles and police cruisers led a procession to the cemetery in tribute to Tom.

How sad it was to see him this time in a place with which he was so familiar — in the middle of it all.