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Water Valley – The Town That Cares


Third generation grocer Don Larson received the Braswell Hatcher Community Service Award at Monday night’s Chamber banquet. The award is presented annually, recognizing the recipient for their dedication and service to the community. Larson shared that the true recognition for service is deserved by the entire community, explaining how the love and support from people in Water Valley helped him beat cancer. He received a standing ovation when he returned to his seat.

WATER VALLEY – Third generation grocer Don Larson received the Braswell Hatcher Community Service Award during Monday night’s Chamber banquet. Larson’s accolades were lengthy, as he has served the community for decades  in countless roles. But for Larson, the night was about thanking a community that has provided so much for him. 

“Water Valley is a special place, there are a lot of servants in this community,” he told the crowd.

Starting with his school days, Larson shared details about teachers who not only were educators, but also mentors. Numerous educators – coach Jerry Holt, Tom Edwards, Hubert House, Percy Haywood and others – who taught their students how to stand up for what was right, for what they believed in. 

“They taught us how to do it in an honorable way, in a way you could be good citizens at the same time. They are the real heroes in this community, they are the ones who served this community, day after day after day,” Larson explained.

Larson explained how these values that were instilled into an entire community for generations played a vital role in a fight for his life after he was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer several years ago. 

“That will turn your world upside down. But I was fortunate that God put doctors, surgeons, oncologists in front of me and we made quick decisions,” he explained. 

He underwent three surgeries within a month, followed by several months of chemotherapy and months of radiation treatment in a battle for survival.

“But the most important part of that recovery, the biggest piece of the puzzle, was that God gave me the courage and strength to get up and come to work every day – to Main Street, the post office, or to go to the bank. To see all of y’all,” Larson said. “Smiling faces, caring faces, loving faces, to pat me on the back and ask me how I am doing.”

He received phone calls, cards and texts from people in the community and was on the prayer lists for every church in the area.  

“There were moments during that time that are etched in my memory that I will never, ever forget,” Larson continued. “I remember one morning when Lenora Woodard came up and gave me a big bear hug said, ‘Baby, it’s going to be all right.’ I remember getting a card from Mrs. Judy Sartain, after and reading it, I remember with great clarity thinking, I am going to beat this. I can do it.”

Another friend jotted down several Bible verses and gave them to him, a now weathered note that Larson pulled from his pocket during his comments. 

“I remember the first day I was scheduled for chemo that morning and I was up at the store early that morning, my staff said, ‘wait just a minute, we are going to pray for you before you leave,’” he continued as the memories continued to flow.

When he started losing his hair during the treatment, Mickey Howley offered advice on a razor that will keep a bald head slick. 

“I remember when Bill and Pati Warren came up and asked, ‘how are you doing, is there anything we can do for you.’ I got to thinking it wasn’t that many years ago, Bill, Mickey and Patti and I didn’t even know each other existed,” Larson said. “That is what Water Valley does to you, it brings people together in a whole lot of different ways, to serve each other.  It doesn’t matter who you are or where you are from. It doesn’t matter if you have been here 50 years, 20 years, 10 years or two months. If you have any kind of need or any kind of struggle, this town is here for you, to help you through it,” he continued.

“Once again, I am honored, I am flattered, and I so grateful for even being considered for this award. More importantly I am incredibly grateful to have been part of this community all of my life. I just hope I can continue to be part of it for many years to come,” Larson said in closing.

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