Tuesday, April 9, 2013
A few days after my father's funeral, I stopped in to see Mimi Miller at The Historic Natchez Foundation. She told me she'd been too shy to get up in front of a crowd and tell one of her stories about my dad at the service, but if she had, one of the stories she'd have told was of the first time she met him.
"I was intrigued by him," she said.
My father had this -- je ne sais quoi -- charisma. He was handsome and self-assured.
It was at a party my parents were giving with another couple. Somehow the conversation turned to the question: What is your favorite thing to do?
Most people had the usual replies: traveling to Europe, watching football games, going to the lake with friends, dining out.
When it came my father's turn to reply, he didn't miss a beat: "Carpool."
People looked confused.
"Yes," he said. "Every morning I get to drive my children to school. I have them all to myself. Sometimes I pick them up in the afternoon and drive them home. It's my favorite thing to do, the best part of my day."
He didn't say anything about going out on the river, hunting....anything. His children were his favorite thing. The man who had every woman's eye on him wanted nothing more than to be with his children.
What a guy.
I only hope I lived up to what a child should be to her parent. He did his part, in spades.
Friday, March 29, 2013
It started off with a beautiful eulogy by my dear friend, Brent Bourland. After that, we all told some stories, remembered the wonderful times. It got downright silly at times, and after it was all over, we all agreed he would've approved.
For anyone who'd like to hear what kind of man Howard was, this is worth watching -- some of it sad, some of it amazing, and a whole lot of wicked funny.
Because my father's life was defined by his days on the Mississippi River, we ended it with a gorgeous a capella rendition of Old Man River. Enjoy.
Video created and produced by:
Bill Slatter Video Productions
423 Main Street
Natchez, Mississippi 39120
Thursday, March 14, 2013
William Howard Pritchartt, Jr., 86, died March 5, at 1 a.m. at Natchez Community Hospital after a brief illness.
Mr. Pritchartt was born April 14, 1926, at the Natchez Sanitorium and attended Natchez Schools.
At the age of 18, Pritchartt volunteered to join the army during World War II, where he served in intelligence and reconnaissance. He traveled to Europe on the Queen Mary and had many memories of his exploits overseas.
Pritchartt was an entrepreneur. Although he studied at the University of Mississippi, at Washington & Lee and at Amherst in preparation for his appointment at West Point, he left early to begin his career as a realtor and developer. With partners and friends Paul Green, George Guido, and Waldo Lambdin, he developed several subdivisions, including Broadmoor and Pineview Subdivisions, and the Trees. He also was involved in the development of Woodhaven next to Trinity Episcopal School and La Grange Subdivision near Liberty Road.
Pritchartt was instrumental in creating Trinity Episcopal School, visiting schools all across the country to learn about how to build a proper educational institution. He also donated the land and built the main building on Highway 61 South.
Pritchartt’s life was defined not only by his children but his love of the outdoors and, in particular, of the Mississippi River, where he spent his youth with friends rowing the river, camping on sandbars, hunting, fishing and enjoying all that nature had to offer. His love of the river was inspired by his father, who often took him and his friends on expeditions up and down the river.
His other great love was for his children with whom he spent nearly every weekend on the river in a cabin he built for that purpose. With them, he showed them the outdoor life: fishing, swimming, hunting, boating, and riding horses through the woods – an opportunity few children shared. He shared with them his time, his attention and his help, both emotionally and financially.
He will always be remembered for his kindness in mentoring other businessmen and entrepreneurs and his overwhelming love and concern for other creatures. Throughout his life he had numerous pets – cats, dogs, and chickens, and fed and protected the wild creatures that lived on his property near Kingston Road.
Wednesday, March 13, 2013
My father, Howard Pritchartt, Jr., volunteered for the army when he was 18 years old. He was in intelligence and reconnaissance in France and Germany. In preparation for his service, he was sent to Amherst, Massachussetts, where he made a name for himself as somewhat of a prankster.
He began drawing cartoons of the officers there and posting them secretly at night when no one was around, raising the ire of those portrayed. I think he was pretty darned good and may have missed his calling as a cartoonist.
|This is the only one not done at Amherst. On the back it reads, "Europe Jan 45 - Aug 46|
Tuesday, March 12, 2013
My father died on March 5. I invited my old friend Brent Bourland to give the eulogy. He'd known him for years, and seemed to have an innate understanding of my father's personality and character. They both seemed to share the same joy of life, love of the outdoors and grabbing life by the horns and enjoying the ride. And they both seem ageless, youth refusing to leave them be. This is the eulogy Brent gave, which was beautiful, heartfelt and eloquent. Thank you, Brent.
A MAN IN FULL, Howard Pritchartt was A MAN IN FULL.
As I look around, almost everyone in this room has had the good fortune to be a part of Natchez and its rich past and continuing history. But very few of us have had the great fortune to be the ultimate insider and also a dedicated and stubborn outsider. Howard Pritchartt chose that course. You could say that Howard was born a Natchez blueblood with Mississippi river mud in his soul.
Having been born into one of the "oldest" families in Natchez, Howard, as a boy, was welcome walking into the back door of Stanton Hall and then getting out of there as fast as he could to go look for adventure in the mud on the banks of his great friend the River.
Howard was comfortable with the powerful of Natchez, whom he loved to skewer with relish at every opportunity but he was really in his World with his many friends Under the Hill, like Joe Remondet and Steve Stevens, as well as George Guido, Johnny Ogden, Lucius Butts, Neville Marshall and a host of others I can’t recall off the top of my head. ....................
Howard kept his beloved boats tied to Steve's makeshift barge Under the Hill with its walkway made of old boards, oil drums and cables. How it stayed afloat and tied to the willow trees along the bank we'll never understand. Howard would grab Joe and Steve and any other handy river rat and head out for a day on the river, a bunch of overgrown Huck Finns, just glad to be alive. Howard was always alive, very, very alive. You could also count on a big fish fry of river blue cats when they got back. Life was good for Howard and his many friends, Howard made sure of that. Howard shared.
I can still see Howard walking in the unlocked back door to the President's Office of City Bank and Trust Company. Ethel would shout, "Leslie, Howard's here", (that was the intercom of the day) and Leslie Carpenter would shout, "Well, tell him to come on back", of course by that time Howard was already sitting down in front of the desk. Five minutes later a financial transaction would be struck on a handshake and paper work might or might not be done later. These were men of character, along with many others of their day, and they knew each other and they knew that they were good for their word.
Howard shared. Few people knew all the many quiet kindnesses that Howard made happen. If a man needed a handy job to feed his kids, Howard seemed to find one for him. If someone was behind on her rent, well, somehow it just got taken care of. If a kid needed a little help getting through school, Howard had a way of making that happen, most of the time without them ever knowing who or how. Howard Shared.
Howard was a protector and he could be fierce and he could intimidate when he needed to. Just try being a young man trying to get anywhere near one of his two daughters. I’m surprised either one of them ever got a date before they were 25 years old.
My first real memory of Howard was going to pick Elodie up at her house on Linton Avenue to take her to the King’s Ball. It was about dusk but Howard was in the yard watering the lawn, he didn’t speak when I walked by. When Elodie and I came back down the sidewalk, long dress and tux, Howard causally turned the water hose on us and made his feelings clearly known. That is my daughter and you watch it boy. (You might also add he laughed his ass off as he did it while we fumed) It was clear, Howard Pritchartt was not a man to be crossed. Howard would do whatever it took to protect what he loved most, his family.
A few years later on a hot, steamy summer day, a bunch of us were over at Howard’s place on old river. I wasn’t sure Howard was very pleased to have me there. After a while Howard said he needed help with a fishtrap out in the river and asked me to go out and check it. It was about 100 feet off the bank in about 4 feet of muddy water. I wasn’t crazy about the idea but it really wasn’t a request; it was more of an order. It was a test and we both knew it. Howard wanted to know what kind of a man you were. He already knew what kind he was. So out I went deeper and deeper over my waist. I got to the trap and got a grip on the big homemade fishtrap and lifted up out of the water to eye level. I was face to face with the biggest snake on the entire Mississippi river. It was just a water snake, and drowned, but big as an anaconda, especially face to face. Howard knew it was in there. I flunked the hell out of that test. You might say Howard and I had a little rocky start. But I think I really learned how to swim really fast that day.
Howard loved and pursued life with a passion, a fierce passion. Howard was fit and he made sure he stayed that way because that gave him the physical presence to pursue all of his life's many passions. When most men in their 60s, 70s or even 80s are taking it easy, winding down, looking for a rocking chair, not Howard. You were likely to find him on his side porch, drenched in sweat, on his Olympic bench press lifting more weights than a man in his twenties. Howard hated old age and he fought it. He fought it fiercely. No man will ever win that fight and Howard knew that but it didn’t keep him from fighting it at every turn. And he damn near won. After all Howard Pritchartt was A MAN IN FULL.
Delivered March 9, 2013 at the funeral of William Howard Pritchartt, Jr. by Brent Bourland.
Delivered March 9, 2013 at the funeral of William Howard Pritchartt, Jr. by Brent Bourland.
Monday, March 4, 2013
|My father built this boat, himself. I believe it was the first one he built. This photo was taken around 1947, I think.|
By William Howard Pritchartt, Jr.
English I, C-3
18 September circa 1943
Theme No. 1
Instructor: Mr. Read
There are many picturesque phases of American life, which basically have not been altered by the advance of progress during the last century. Among these is the life of a "shanty-boater"along the banks of the mighty Mississippi River. This broad, muddy, twisting stream has long been the theme for innumerable poems and songs, which still reflect the color and adventure of the antebellum steamboat days.
To me, the "Ol Man River" has always seemed a living thing, for among my first recollections are those of staring from the steep bluffs of Natchez out over the river and into the green haze of the Louisiana lowlands beyond. Consequently, as a growing boy many of my summer days were spent rowing for miles along the willow-covered banks, stripped to the waist, reveling in the calm and peaceful freedom which the river seemed to express.
Living along the banks of the Mississippi, usually within several miles of a town, are the staunch and sturdy "Shanty-Boaters," a tribe unto themselves. Their homes consist of shanties or small shacks built on small barges approximately fifteen by thirty feet, and are usually moored in some sheltered cove or eddy, safe from the wind and current.
Invariably, these humble dwellings are guarded by two or three hoarse-voiced mongrels, whose sole responsibility in life is to serenade any boat or stranger who approaches near enough to arouse canine suspicions.
The average male "Shanty-Boater" might well have stepped from the pages of a Stevenson pirate novel as far as appearances are concerned. Tanned to the texture of leather, grizzled whiskers, squinting eyes, tobacco-stained teeth, and muscular physique, this child of nature presents a startling picture. His sole means of support is matching his wits against those of the catfish, buffalo, garfish and turtles which infest the Mississippi, for every river man has a strong aversion to any type of confining work.
In the spring or other seasons when the fish are running plentiful and silver begins to jingle in the tattered pockets of the "Shanty-Boater," his greatest pleasure is to have a wild fling in some river saloon where soon the wine, women, and juke-box music have separated him from his hard-earned savings.
Then he returns to his boat, drunk, tired, a little rueful, (but happy in the knowledge that here on the river he is free from the bonds and responsibilities of modern civilization.)
Note from instructor: You're talking me into this as a profession.
Personally, I cannot for the life of me understand why he only got a B-minus.
Wednesday, February 13, 2013
Back to 1975
When I was a freshman at the University of Mississippi, I lived in New Dorm, at that time the largest dormitory on campus.
For those of you who aren't familiar with Ole Miss, it is rife with fraternities and sororities that have a chokehold on social life at school. I was a Delta Gamma pledge that first year, sans boyfriend. Even though I was in a sorority, I never felt like part of the crowd. I always felt a bit like an outsider.
I'll never forget stepping off the elevator on the lounge floor that Valentine's Day morning and having the scent of literally THOUSANDS of flowers hitting my senses. Every girl in that darned dorm must've gotten a bouquet of flowers...except, of course, for me.
All day girls would rush up to the desk that ran the width of the front of the dorm between the two sets of double doors out front, squealing with delight that their boyfriend had sent them flowers for Valentine's. It was a depressing cap on an already depressing day.
When I got back from my first class to find even more flowers and more screaming, ridiculous girls, I'd had it. I went up to my room and pulled out my new American Express card -- the one I'd gotten only for emergencies. Well, this was an emergency, wasn't it? I dialed the florist:
"I'd like to order some flowers, please."
"How much would you like to spend?"
"Hm...let's see. How about fifty....no. Make it seventy-five bucks."
In 1975 you could get a heckuva bouquet for $75.
"What would you like on the card?"
"To my darling, sweet beautiful Elodie from your secret admirer."
I left that stupid bouquet down in the lobby for two days and fielded all kinds of questions from my sorority sisters whose bouquets couldn't hold a candle to mine. It was glorious. Well, almost. I still hadn't really gotten anything from anyone.
It wasn't long before I realized that the reason I felt like such an outsider was because I wasn't the kind of girl who squeals out loud when some kid sends her flowers because it's Valentine's day and he's supposed to walk the walk. I wasn't the kind of girl who enjoys spending hours discussing what color material we were going to choose for our rush outfits the next year. Don't get me wrong; that's fine for some people, really fun stuff. Just not for me.
So I turned in my little anchor pin, put on a peasant skirt and joined the counterculture in Oxford, Mississippi, working at The Gin and The Hoka Theater, and enjoying it immensely.
If I had it to do over, I'd not have joined that sorority, but I gotta admit, I really did think it was a stroke of genius to buy those flowers and watch while those women chewed on the mystery of my secret admirer.
*In order to be truly Southern, I tried to find a photo of a heart-shaped red-velvet cake for this post, but alas, I couldn't. Hope you like the flower.
*Photograph by Elodie Pritchartt
Tuesday, January 8, 2013
At your cousin's wedding
your mother and her sisters
talked of husbands no longer there.
Their eyes whispered,
"Do not be so cautious,
for even love that lasts
They wore bangles
bought by men
they thought they would know
dresses made of silk
they would trade for one last
A diamond for a touch,
for one warm breath upon a face
lined by time.
A thousand recollections
floating in a champagne stem,
held in trembling hands
that once touched
skin and lips and
never thought about
Let us love, you and I,
while we have time
and life and each other,
and drink a toast