If Charline Martin McGraw had lived to be 100 years old, I'd probably still feel like she was taken from us too soon.
That's certainly how I felt when I heard the news that she passed away at her home this week at age 79.
She has been such a great friend to me and my family and so involved in countless positive community activities that it still doesn't seem real to me that she is gone.
On the other hand, if Charline McGraw had only lived to be 50 years old, she would have gotten more out of life than many people do with much more time.
She was a woman who understood what's really important in life, and the thing that was most important in her life was love.
She loved her family
In our thousands of conversations over the years, I don't remember her ever failing to mention someone in her family. From sharing happy memories of her late husband Hugh or proudly sharing an update on one of her children or grandchildren, she was always eager to talk about her family.
She liked to brag on my family too. She'd always have kind things to say about Jamie and the kids, and it was clear that she was actually keeping up with what they were doing and not just making small talk. She also liked to share memories of my late father, which meant a lot to me, and I think she knew that.
She loved her friends
That's another way of saying she loved everyone because Charline McGraw had close friends from all walks of life throughout this community. In fact, I think that's why she was such an effective leader in the community. She had a natural ability to build strong relationships with people because she was such a sincerely caring person. There was nothing phony about her.
She loved Yazoo
Our community has more than its share of challenges and problems. When friends who live in places with less challenges and problems ask me why I like Yazoo so much, I always tell them that the people who live here is what makes Yazoo so special.
If one of those friends had asked me for an example of those kind of people, Charline McGraw would have likely been the first person to come to mind. She was a champion of this community. I couldn't possibly list all of the things she was involved with, and she never sought any recognition for any of it.
She took the most pride in the Yazoo County Fair, and all of the McGraw family should be proud of that. There's no better county fair anywhere in Mississippi for sure, and I doubt there's a better one anywhere in the world. Everyone knows how much fun our fair is and what a great value it is, but a lot of people, including some of our local elected officials, don't realize the positive impact it has on our local economy. The number of people from other counties who come here to spend money and enjoy our wonderful county fair continues to grow every year.
There are reasons why the Yazoo County Fair is so much better than all the other county fairs around the state, and the number one reason is the involvement of Charline McGraw and her family. They built the relationships required to keep the event so strong for so many years. It is by far the biggest event going on in our community each year, and it's in good hands because her family remains the backbone of the event with her son Martin leading the way.
She loved us all
Mrs. Charline was one of the most encouraging people to me with my work for this newspaper, and she was equally supportive of our family in our personal lives. When she realized that my wife Jamie likes to wear vintage clothing, she gave Jamie some of her old things. This wasn't some ragged hand-me-downs, but some very nice clothing that had been well cared for. Best of all, she shared the stories of each item.
During this week since she passed away I've learned that we are not alone.
So many people have told me that they feel the same way about Mrs. Charline as my family does.
So many people have said that she made them feel special because of the interest she took in their lives and how she celebrated their success and tried to lift them up when they were down.
I've made a personal commitment this week to try to honor her memory by trying to do a better job of exhibiting the qualities that made Charline McGraw so special, and I challenge you to do the same.
The world could be a much darker place without Charline McGraw in it, but it doesn't have to be if those of us who loved her would strive to be more like her.