Rita Howell Column

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 16, 2009

Rita Howell

McCullar friends, kin remember ‘enormous heart’

As a teenager, Tripp McCullar didn’t have a garage band. He had a living room band.

Lynn McCullar was the kind of mom who shoved aside her parlor furniture to install mirrored tiles and a stage, facilitating her son’s passion for music.

And when the band practiced, Lynn served pizza to the parents and neighborhood kids gathered to enjoy the music.

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Lynn’s generous spirit is being remembered this week by the many people who were on the receiving end.

Lynn died suddenly in her home on Eureka Street last Sunday morning. She was 61.

“We’ve lost another under-appreciated asset to our community,” Rupert commented.

Not that she let on if she ever felt under-appreciated.

Her close friend Pat Miller reminded me that Lynn didn’t desire accolades for herself, though she worked tirelessly for a multitude of causes and interests throughout her life.

Lynn was a writer at heart, from her days as editor of the Blue and Gold at South Panola High School in 1965 to jump-starting a newspaper in Drew, the Delta town where she moved in 1997, to contributing to the Bolivar Commercial, the Delta Business Journal, The Panolian, and other publications.

Whether written or spoken, her words were kind and encouraging; her purpose, to inspire.

Always, she was complimentary of Hunt Howell, late publisher of The Panolian, who had given her encouragement early on when she took on the responsibility of editing the high school newspaper. He had followed with interest her journalistic endeavors at Ole Miss and later in life, whenever she was involved in a writing project.

Lynn had realized at some point that a degree in education would be more practical for her than one in journalism, so she switched her major. She had a successful career as a teacher, but she never lost her love of writing.

She used those skills in recent years in the Drew Leader to promote that small town, and worked to establish a Main Street program while she lived there.

“Lynn germinated the seed that started the revitalization of Drew,” a friend there said.

Lynn’s talents were not limited to writing. There are many who can attest to her skills as a decorator, and to the generous way she shared that talent throughout the community.

“When she came back from Drew she helped us decorate for the Steak and Steak Banquet,” Boys and Girls Club executive director Belinda Morris recalled this week. “The first year, she did it all herself. In later years, she wasn’t able to do it, but she let us borrow her things. She was a sweetheart.”

Though her health didn’t allow her to be as active in the community as she once was, even in recent weeks she’d met more than once to help plan a fund-raiser for the Panola County Cancer Relief Organiztion, her friend Judy Russell told me.

“She was helping me get ready to do a womanless beauty pageant,” Russell said.

Through the years they’d been volunteers together as “band mamas” and later as line dance instructors.

Lynn also tutored untold students, Russell said.

In addition, she worked for years restoring her family home, “Lynnwood,” in rural Panola County, near Courtland. Now it’s a legacy for Tripp and his family.

I’ve attempted this week to catalog some of her accomplishments as a writer, decorator and community servant. I’ve given up on compiling a complete list, but I did find that she was a member of the Junior Auxiliary, Garden Clubs in Drew and Batesville, the Drew Culture Club, Main Street organizations in Drew and Batesville.

And she was named “Businesswoman of the Year in Community Development” by the Delta Business Journal.

How’s that for an accolade?

“Lynn poured the entirety of her enormous heart into everything and everyone around her,” Tripp wrote.

How’s that for an accomplishment?