By Jack Gurner
WATER VALLEY – Water Valley lost a good friend last week and I lost a good neighbor.
Thomas S. “Tommy” Swearengen died Wednesday, Feb. 11. He was best known in recent times as Alderman of Ward 3. His obituary is in the obituary section of this website and is posted below this story.
Tommy Swearengen had lived next door on Dupuy Street since I can’t remember when. He and Betty Ruth were the very best of neighbors since they first took over the house just up the hill. But, it didn’t take long for them to become the very best of friends as well.
At the funeral this past weekend, Rev. Randy Bain said he didn’t know anyone who could make him laugh harder. Neither did I.
It took cancer to occasionally steal the smile from Tommy’s face. But, even the evil disease couldn’t get him down completely. He was still cracking wise right up to the end.
When I started work at the Herald, I was afraid that my coverage of the city board might interfere with our friendship. But, I don’t believe it ever did. I think he always had the best interests of the city in mind.
Tommy pushed hard during his first term to clean up some eyesores in the city and he believed the zoning ordinances would help. I couldn’t turn him down when he asked me to serve on the planning commission.
Tommy and I agreed from the beginning that we wouldn’t discuss city matters that weren’t public record. Since we were close, I didn’t want anyone to think he was a source.
He might disagree with you, but he would always listen to what you had to say. It probably wouldn’t change his opinion, but you felt that he was interested in yours.
I’ve been to enough visitations and funerals to know when people turn out because they feel obligated. That wasn’t the case Friday night as folks stood in line for much more than an hour to pay their respects. Just about everyone had a story about Tommy to share. And, there were lots of smiles mixed with the tears.
He shared with his neighbors and friends the produce from their garden and the crappie he loved to catch. Tommy often took a batch of fish to Rev. Bain as an insurance policy. “So the preacher will say something nice about me,” he said with a grin.”
“I told Tommy he was going to have to bring me a lot more crappie,” Rev. Bain joked Saturday.
Jessie and I will miss our good friend, Tommy. So will Water Valley.
Thomas S. Swearengen
WATER VALLEY – Thomas S. “Tommy” Swearengen, 72, of Water Valley, died Wednesday, February 11, 2009, in Yalobusha General Hospital.
The funeral service was held in Water Valley First Baptist Church on Saturday, February 14, at ten o’clock in the morning, with Dr. Randy Bain officiating. Anita McGehee sang and with Mrs. Lecia Bain as the accompanist. Burial followed in Oak Hill Cemetery in Water Valley, with Melvin Ford, Baxter Jones, Hal Hughes, Bob Tyler, Joe Lowe, Jack Gurner, Dr. Paul Odom, and Dalton Rogers as pallbearers. Honorary pallbearers were, Mary Lou Jones, Barbara Hughes, Dale Tyler, Cecil Ford, Jessie Gurner, Erv Odom, Dot Knox, Larry Bell, Butch Hayles and Dr. Odom’s Sunday School Class. National Funeral Home of Grenada had charge of arrangements.
Born December 16, 1936 in Tillatoba, Mr. Swearengen was a son of the late Thomas and Louise Swearengen. He was a member of Water Valley First Baptist Church. Mr. Swearengen was a Navy veteran. He was a retired business owner and real estate investor. Mr. Swearengen had served as an alderman for the City of Water Valley for the past seven years. An avid fisherman and hunter, he enjoyed the outdoors very much and was a member of the Rocky Point Hunting Club. In addition to his parents, he was preceded in death by a brother, Robert Earl Swearengen.
Survivors include his wife of 53 years, Betty Ruth McCulley Swearengen of Water Valley; a daughter, Sherry Gray (Donald) of Water Valley; a son, Steve Swearengen (Brenda) of Nesbit; six grandchildren; Austin Gray, Lee Gray, Conner Gray, Jessica Pool, Heather McCraw, and Zack McGraw; and three great-grandchildren; a brother, Larry Swearengen of Madison; and one sister, Genora Holloway of Water Valley.