Much has been written and said about the passing of Stan Dearman last week and the majority has concerned his legacy as a legendary journalist and his involvement in bringing justice in the case of the horrific murders of three young men in 1964. All of which is absolutely earned and justified, probably even more than we can realize.

I would like to point out another side of Stan that not everyone may have witnessed or be aware of. That side is one where Stan not only married my mother and became her world and, she, his. Most people also know that fact. But he also became a second father to my sister and myself and, as far as he was concerned, we were his kids. I cannot even begin to acknowledge his impact on our lives over the years but, suffice it to say, it was immense.

Stan and I spent countless hours discussing various forms of music, although he really did not consider the type I perform to be “real” music. Every birthday for anyone in the family was acknowledged by a phone call with Stan performing “Happy Birthday” on his beloved Steinway. Once, on New Year’s Eve, we stayed up long past Mom’s bedtime to welcome in the New Year. Stan performed Auld Lang Syne over and over again in every style he could come up with, from Ragtime to Country to Blues to Swing to Jazz.

Life sometimes has odd turns of events. My little sister, Leslie, passed away in June of 1964 while we were residing in Akron, Ohio. Her funeral was held at McClain Hays in the old location where the Neshoba Democrat office is now. FBI agents were present investigating the murders of the Civil Rights workers. When Mom and Stan first married, Stan had an apartment over the office and that is where they lived for a time. It is a strange storyline considering Stan’s participation in the movement to reopen the case.

Stan loved all his grandchildren and great-grandchildren and, in turn, they all adored him. My son, Curtis, recently posted a video on Facebook showing Stan playing the piano with his then 11- month-old daughter, Amelia, in his lap. He always made certain that all the kids were exposed to music via his piano and to reading. Stan was a avid reader and wanted to instill that value in his grandkids.

Stan’s passing leaves us all with a great sense of loss and emptiness. He was certainly one-of-a-kind in all the best ways possible.

Leigh Barrett