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Stirguses to be honored by Vicksburg’s FCA

Jim and Ann Stirgus have spent their entire lives nourishing, teaching and caring for the youth of Vicksburg. Their work as educators helped shape a generation leaders.

Even in a lifetime of service, it is sometimes the smallest gestures that have the most lasting impact and resonate through the years though.

All these years later, the story is told like it happened just days before. Alonzo Stephens didn’t have anything to wear to prom.

“One day I said to him, Lonzo you going to the junior senior prom, ‘No, sir. I don’t have a suit to wear,’” Jim said. “I thought about that and I thought that’s not right. For a good kid, a good football player, to not go to the junior senior prom because he doesn’t have anybody to buy him a suit.”

For many teachers that would have been the end of the conversation. Jim was not most teachers though.

“I called him out of the room and took him down and bought him a shirt, a tie and suit so he could go to prom,” Jim said.

Stephens was one of the many lives the Stirguses touched over the years. Ann started as a teacher at Rosa A. Temple in 1958 and worked as a librarian in the school system from 1967 until her retirement in 2002. Jim worked as a teacher, principal and eventually superintendent.

They will be honored for their careers and impact on Vicksburg’s youth with the 2017 West Central District’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes Lifetime Achievement Award.

“No one I know in my lifetime has touched more people than these two,” Stephens, who serves as the local FCA representative, said. “They have always been there for this community. They love this community.

“I think this is a worthy award because it is a lifetime. It is not a year, two years, it is a whole life of achievement as Christians and as human beings.”

Their impact on the community can still be felt. In the last mayoral election, three of the candidates vying for the position were their former students including current mayor George Flaggs Jr.

“I have been a part of their family, under their leadership and under their guidance my entire life,” Flaggs said. “The Stirguses probably had more impact on my life than any other family in Vicksburg.”

Ann was Flaggs’ first grade teacher and Jim was his principal at Rosa A. Temple High School. 

“Mrs. Stirgus probably had more of a positive impact on me than anybody other than my mother. She was the one that first recognized my potential,” Flaggs said. “She not only taught me, she nourished me and also gave me great counsel along the way. I will always hold her up to the highest esteem.”

They had a similar impact on Stephens.

Beyond buying him a suit, Stephens said Jim was the first person to believe in him and tell him he could go to college by pursing football.

“I came up in poverty,” Stephens said. “They took me in as far as telling me what is right and what is wrong. I watched them and they were just mama and daddy to a lot of people.

“They ensured that we felt good about ourselves and always took care of us and always looked out for us. They taught us things we carried through life with us.”

They have been married for 64 years and have raised four of their own children. They also now have eight grandchildren. On May 13, they will be honored for their impact at an FCA banquet held at Wesley United Methodist Church in Vicksburg, but they never set out to be thanked or honored. They simply dedicated their lives to doing what they felt was right.

“I just love children and when they learn,” Jim said. “I don’t believe in this stuff about certain kids can’t learn. If you stay on them enough and show them enough appreciation and affection they will learn.”

Ann added, “It means a lot, because it is representing all the things I did when I was young and came to Vicksburg from Woodville. I was placed in a classroom with 45 children. I never have done anything to try to get recognition. Mine was always about the children I taught.”

The banquet will start at 2 p.m.