Sunday I had just finished the 18th hole at the Oxford Country Club which was holding an MGA state tournament when news traveled that three families who were personal friends had died in a plane crash. The world felt like it was coming to an end as I sat in the parking lot stunned and saddened.
These were not just your ordinary families in the Oxford community. All three families were leaders in our community that have done so many wonderful things for our city and Ole Miss. The three families included Dr. Michael and Kim Perry, Dr. Jason and Dr. Lea Farese and lastly Dr. Austin and Angie Poole. If the tragedy of losing three first-class married couples were not enough, they left behind 11 beautiful children.
The news landed like a ton of bricks. Many probably are not aware, as I do not share my personal matters with many, but my father was also killed in a private plane crash when I was 12 years old; oddly enough on a Sunday, too. I remember how I felt when we got the call from the coast guard that his plane had crashed into the Gulf of Mexico. Life spun for me for so many years, and to be honest, the pain still has not left. Now I sit here pained at the thought of how such tragedy is going to affect the kids these couples leave behind. I only lost my father. These three lost both of their parents. It's truly a pain that is almost unbearable to think about.
Dr. Michael Perry is a Periodontist in Oxford and Southaven. I first met him around 15 years back when he did some work on a tooth of mine. He was highly recommended and there's nobody better in the business. When I went home from his office I took a nap. I was awoken by a phone call and it was Michael asking me how I was feeling. I told my wife that I had never had a doctor that I didn't personally know actually call me to check up on how I was doing. But that was Michael. Old school with a smile that you couldn't wipe off his face. That was the beginning of our relationship.
Michael did more that just fix teeth in the Oxford community. He formed, funded and started the Forward Rebels campaign, which was the start of a new beginning for Ole Miss sports. Who knows what would have happened if Dr. Perry had not taken the bull by the horns and tried to bring change to this great university. It doesn't end there. Michael also single-handily funded and started the Oxford-Lafayette Sportsplex on Highway 7 which hosts two incredible youth organizations in soccer and baseball. The Mississippi Flood have become one of the premier soccer organizations in Mississippi. The Yalubusha Giants is a baseball program that grew from just a trio of teams to over a dozen after he built the Sportsplex. The Giants have become Mississippi's shinning star in travel baseball. They have won back-to-back USSSA World Series the past two years. No other travel team in this state has ever won one before. None of this would have happened if it were not for Michael Perry.
Gone are the days of driving up to the Sportsplex and seeing Michael on his lawnmower mowing all of the fields all by himself. It's heartbreaking, to say the least.
Jason Farese played college baseball at Vandy and comes from one of the biggest Ole Miss families around. He was also the head baseball coach for the 10-year old Giants travel league baseball team. He was known as one of the most fierce competitors around. Intense, hard working but most of all, the best teaching coach I've seen in youth sports. My son is on the 9-year old Giants team, but whenever I needed a pointer to help my son Taylor, I went to Jason. He knew more about the game of baseball than I ever will or claim to know. His wife, Lea, was also a dentist and they started Fasese Family Dentistry. Both were known as the top dentists in our community, but like the Perrys, they gave so much more than just fixing teeth. They gave so much to the community and to Ole Miss by helping the children and people in Lafayette Country and beyond.
The third family, Angie and Austin Poole, were a fixture in the left field community at Swayze even before such a community was formed. Angie was a Tri-Delta while I was in college. She dated a Pike fraternity brother of mine. She was a gorgeous bastion of light. You never saw her without a smile as wide as Texas. She was the sweetest girl I knew in college. There were no cliques with her. She accepted everyone. And when she became an adult and mother of five she never changed. Angie took the kids in at the Wells Gate community and kids from everywhere camped out at her house day after day. Her husband, Austin, was one of the biggest Ole Miss fans you will ever meet. He lived and died in left field with each pitch. Always reminded me of myself except he was able to let the losses go much better. He was also a dentist in Clarksdale. There's not a person I've ever met that have ever said a bad word about Angie and Austin Poole. They lived life how it was meant to be lived. They accepted all people into their lives and treated everyone like family.
The hurt in Oxford is obvious. Sunday at the golf tournament people from everywhere just quit in the middle of the round when they heard the news. Cars are lined up around Grand Oaks and Wells Gate neighborhoods like it's a football event. The pain is unbearable for most, including myself as I get choked up typing this, but as I sit here all I can think about is that they have all left their legacies in Oxford and Ole Miss.
We all one day hope we can say the same. They might be gone but they will never be forgotten. And most importantly to their 11 children, just watch, they will make their mark as well in this special place we call Oxford and Ole Miss.
Yancy Porter is the recruiting analyst for the Ole Miss Spirit and he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org