In Memory

Celia Emmerich

Celia Emmerich

Celia Emmerich

Jackson

The invincible spirit of Celia Buntin Emmerich defeated her earthly constraints Thursday morning at her home. She collapsed suddenly from a presumed heart attack shortly after getting out of bed.

The previous day she had been smiling and in great spirits as friends and family stopped by to see her after she got out of the hospital. She spent time sitting on her porch and enjoying the first glimmers of spring.

Celia leaves behind a huge number of people whose lives she touched intimately and who will be grieving the loss of her youthful exuberance, which she kept until the end.

She leaves behind a son, John Wyatt Emmerich (Virginia Knight) of Jackson and a daughter, Melanie Ann Stringfellow (Steven) of Austin ,Texas. Tommy Hughes of Houston, Texas, was not a biological son, but in every other respect he was her beloved son. She leaves five grandchildren: Steven Jacob Stringfellow, Sarah Wyatt Stringfellow, John Oliver Emmerich III, Lawrence Tucker Emmerich and Ruth Olivia Emmerich. She leaves behind her sister Mary Frances Martin of Gulfport and her children Ernest Martin of Jackson and Celia Barrett of Gulfport. She also leaves a dearly beloved sister-in-law Fae Hardy of San Antonio, Texas, and her many children and grandchildren who were like a second family to Celia. She also leaves behind the entire Brock clan of Greenwood all of which she claimed as family. Donnie and Patty Brock were as steadfast, kind, loyal and fun as any friends could be and she loved than dearly for four decades of her life.

Celia was married to the late John Oliver Emmerich Jr. of McComb, Mississippi, for 44 years until his untimely death in 1995. She missed him every day. They traveled the world, hosted fabulous parties and enjoyed life fully. If anyone was full of the Holy Spirit, it was Celia, who never met a stranger and threw her energies into numerous personal and civic causes. Our loss is Jesus' gain.

Celia Emmerich founded Communities in Schools of Greenwood, a dropout prevention program that has saved hundreds of young lives and is still thriving. For her efforts, she was named Leflore County Citizen of the Year. She was an American history teacher for many years and received a masters degree in American history from John Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. Throughout her marriage, she was a partner to her husband John in his newspaper business, selling ads and writing wonderful human interest columns.

Celia Emmerich was born in Gulfport, Mississippi, May 18, 1931. She was a graduate of Gulfport High School where she was active in theatre and numerous other activities. She grew up sailing and loved to tell about her sails to Ship Island. She kept sailing all her life.

At Ole Miss she was a cheerleader and was "a force of nature" as a classmate recently described her. The list of men who had a college crush on Celia is long, but she picked John, whom she married in February 16, 1951 shortly before he was shipped off to fight in Korea.She taught school in Gulfport waiting his return. They then moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota, where John got a newspaper job and where their daughter Melanie was born.

They returned to McComb, Mississippi, to work on the family's McComb Enterprise-Journal, where John and Celia were instrumental in overcoming the racial violence of the early sixties. Celia was a true partner to John in every respect and they enjoyed long intellectual discussions on every subject under the sun.

John, Celia and their young family moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1963 where John was selected a Nieman Fellow at Harvard, the most prestigious journalism fellowship in the country. From there, they moved to Baltimore, Maryland, for two years and Houston, Texas, for eight years as John pursued a career as a big-city editor. In 1973, they bought the Commonwealth newspaper in Greenwood, Mississippi, where they lived until John's death in 1995. They built a beautiful home on the edge of Valley Hill overlooking the Delta. Many, many people can recall great parties at their home, particularly the tennis-and-pool parties and their annual Christmas party.

After John's death, Celia moved to San Antonio, Texas, for five years to be near her daughter Melanie and her beloved sister-in-law Fae Hardy. She moved to 108 Ashcot Circle in Jackson in 2007 to be near her son Wyatt's young children. She joined many social clubs, had hundreds of friends and threw the best Halloween Party in Jackson.

Celia was an amazing person who did amazing things, such as trek the Himalayans alone in her late 50s. She sailed the Maldives Island in her 60s. She loved France and spent many summer months in Paris and Provence. She spoke fluent French and Spanish. She was a great cook, a great writer and loved people. She was extremely active in the Greenwood Little Theatre and directed numerous play. Her "Man of La Mancha" and "Oliver" productions are still referred to with awe. She would help anybody in time of need. For years, she volunteered her time at the Leflore County Mental Health Center. She loved tennis and had a great drop shot that drove the young ladies mad. She was an accomplished equestrian and during their days in Houston, Texas, took the family on week-long trail rides leading up to the Houston Livestock Parade. She carted daughter Melanie to numerous horse shows where Melanie won award after award. She was a great mother to her children. As a grandmother, she had a special relationship with her grandson John. That tender, loving relationship allowed John to really blossom as an adolescent.

A lifelong liberal, the true embodiment of a bleeding heart, Celia and her conservative son set the all-time record for late-night political debates, some of which became spirited. The defining theme of her political philosophy was concern for those less fortunate than herself.No one could ask for a better wife, mother or friend. Everyone who knew Celia is grieving at their loss. She will be missed.

Visitation will be at Covenant Presbyterian Church in Jackson Monday March 5, 2012 at 2:00pm followed by the funeral service at 4:00pm. Burial will be 11:00am Tuesday at Hollywood Cemetery in McComb, MS. For online condolences and a video of Celia's life please go to www.wrightferguson.com.

If anyone is moved to make a memorial in her honor, please contact Linda Whittington, director of Communities in Schools, at 662-455-2864, 212 W. Washington St. Greenwood MS 38930.

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Published in Clarion Ledger from March 2 to March 5, 2012