Mourners came from near and far to pay respects and comfort family members of a man who had stood on their doorsteps and front porches to comfort them in times past.
Longtime DeSoto County Coroner Jeffery Pounders was memorialized and then laid to rest Saturday in a ceremony attended by a Mississippi State Supreme Court Justice, fellow coroners from across the state, former classmates and families whose lives were touched by Pounders, DeSoto County's longest-serving elected official at the time of his death on Dec. 17.
"He poured himself into his job," said the Rev. Rob White, pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Hernando, who officiated at the memorial service for Pounders, 63, who had served DeSoto County as its coroner for the past 34 years. "He was on call 24 hours a day and hardly took a vacation because he thought that he might be needed. He was as much a chaplain to this county as any of us pastors would want to be."
White, a Hernando native, talked about meeting Pounders for the first time after having moved away. He felt a strong hand on his shoulder and then Pounders introduced himself.
"Those hands represented kindness, love, compassion and endurance," White said. "Those hands held babies and grandbabies. Whenever this community was at its most lost, he held it together."
White said Pounders was so dedicated to his job, that when he was found at his home, he was still clutching a death report of an individual in his hands.
"He died doing what he loved," White said. "He gave so much hope to the people of this community."
Mississippi State Supreme Court Justice Robert (Bobby) Chamberlin said Pounders was the utmost professional in an occupation that involved far more than just pronouncing someone deceased.
"I've had the honor of serving as your state senator, circuit judge and now as a justice on the Mississippi Supreme Court — all of that service does not equal to one half of the service of Jeffery Pounders," Chamberlin said.
DeSoto County Tax Collector Joey Treadway paid his tribute to Pounders, showing touches of humor on a sad, dreary Saturday morning.
Treadway said some of the stories were better left to close friends, but the gist of his remarks were that despite a profession that involved solemnity and sadness, Pounders himself liked a good joke and enjoying a good laugh with his friends.
"If you knew Jeff, things were fun and entertaining," Treadway said. "When Jeff left us, he joined the giants. He was one of the best leaders that DeSoto County ever had."
Franklin County Coroner Percy Peeler made the four-hour drive from rural southwestern Mississippi to pay his own special tribute to Pounders. Peeler also serves as chaplain of the Mississippi Coroners-Medical Examiners Association.
Peeler played "Amazing Grace" on his flugelhorn, a instrument he had played since the sixth grade, and one that Pounders had requested to be played at his funeral should Pounders pass away.
Peeler spoke to Pounders professionalism on the job and his friendship.
"So many times in our lifetimes, we see people who do things for others," Peeler said. "We take them for granted."
Robert Lee Long is Community Editor for the DeSoto Times-Tribune. He may be contacted at email@example.com or at 662-429-6397, Ext. 252.