Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Sid Salter: McNeece was a 4th Generation Journalist & a Woman of Great Substance

My friend Lisa Denley McNeece would have made light of the cruel absurdity of her death on Sunday at her home in Bruce. Under singularly unexpected circumstances, she just died. She was a vibrant 56 years old.

 The doctor told the family he suspected a massive embolism or blood clot. Loved ones and first responders were unable to revive her despite heroic efforts. Lisa’s death slammed family and close friends like a runaway train and left all in her orbit scrambling to process how such a tragedy could envelop us.

It is not the first time that the Denley family of journalists and community newspaper publishers have been rocked by sudden and senseless death. Lisa’s grandfather, Yalobusha County native Sellers Vanhoozer Denley, founded The Calhoun County Journal in 1953 with his wife, Maggie Ellen Simpson Denley, and his young son, Gale Denley.

Sellers Denley grew up working in the The Coffeeville Courier newspaper purchased by his father, George Elias Denley, in 1910. In 1981, returning from an economic development meeting in Amory with other Bruce city fathers, Sellers Denley was killed in a car crash near Wren.

The accident rocked the Denley family. Their lives were dated by it and Gale Denley carried the emotional scars of that sudden separation for the rest of his life.

Gale Denley, also a native of Yalobusha County, like his dad began working as a child at The Coffeeville Courier. When the CCJ was founded in 1953, Gale worked there, too, and would spend the rest of his life associated with the family newspaper, for many years as a respected publisher.

He was elected president of the Mississippi Press Association in 1983 and was inducted into the MPA's Hall of Fame in 1996. Lisa, and later her husband Joel McNeece, would also serve as MPA presidents.

Denley served for a year on the journalism faculty at the University of Southern Mississippi. In 1963, he began his career on the journalism faculty at Ole Miss. He served as associate professor of journalism and director of the Student Media Center from 1963 until 1996. He supervised The Daily Mississippian student newspaper, the campus FM radio station, the campus television station and the Ole Miss yearbook.


In 2003, Ole Miss dedicated the S. Gale Denley Student Media Center in his honor. Denley died in 2008 from complications from injuries received in a near-fatal car accident in 1989.

Lisa worked with her grandfather and her father in The Journal as a youngster and later as an adult. She was a natural, learning the business from the ground up and watching and learning from her family not just the physical and mechanical skills of newspapering, but the toughness needed to deal with the public. Lisa’s smile was magnetic and ever-present, but there was a steel hand inside what was mostly a velvet glove. She learned at her father’s knee the true meaning of the retort to an unhappy reader: “I’m just so sorry that you feel that way.”

Gale Denley was my business partner in The Scott County Times and other ventures for some 20 years. We owned a Neshoba County Fair cabin together and our families spent that week together each year in close quarters for 30 years.

Lisa and sisters Celia and Deanna have been like sisters to me. Our children grew up together. We’ve carried each other through births, deaths, divorces, marriages, drama, disappointments and the joys of children and grandchildren best shared with friends who are like family. She sat with me often in Tupelo during my chemo treatments last year. Those visits meant the world to me. That was her way.

The last time I saw Lisa was at the funeral home in Water Valley last month. I sat with Lisa and her mother, Jo Ann Denley, during the funeral of our close friend and Neshoba County Fair neighbor M.B. “Snooky” Williams. Truth be told, we all laughed together more than we cried.

She sent me a text later that afternoon after Snooky’s funeral: “Thanks for saving us seats. It was a perfect service for him. Always so glad to spend time with you, no matter where.”

No line ever summed up a friendship more accurately. May God wrap her in perpetual blessings and her family in the peace that passes understanding.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

This is so sad and tragic. Prayers for her family, Sid and all who knew and loved her.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for giving us a week off from your usual tripe Sid.

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Trollfest '09

Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

Wrestling returns, except this time it will be a Battle Royal with Othor Cain, Ben Allen, Kim Wade, Haley Fisackerly, Alan Lange, and “Big Cat” Donna Ladd all in the ring at the same time. The Battle Royal will be in a steel cage, no time limit, no referee, and the losers must leave town. Marshand Crisler will be the honorary referee (as it gives him a title without actually having to do anything).


Meet KIM Waaaaaade at the Entergy Tent. For five pesos, Kim will sell you a chance to win a deed to a crack house on Ridgeway Street stuffed in the Howard Industries pinata. Don't worry if the pinata is beaten to shreds, as Mr. Wade has Jose, Emmanuel, and Carlos, all illegal immigrants, available as replacements for the it. Upon leaving the Entergy tent, fig leaves will be available in case Entergy literally takes everything you have as part of its Trollfest ticket price adjustment charge.

Donna Ladd of The Jackson Free Press will give several classes on learning how to write. Smearing, writing without factchecking, and reporting only one side of a story will be covered. A donation to pay their taxes will be accepted and she will be signing copies of their former federal tax liens. Ms. Ladd will give a dramatic reading of her two award-winning essays (They received The Jackson Free Press "Best Of" awards.) "Why everything is always about me" and "Why I cover murders better than anyone else in Jackson".

In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.


In order to help clean up the legal profession, Adam Kilgore of the Mississippi Bar will be giving away free, round-trip plane tickets to the North Pole where they keep their bar complaint forms (which are NOT available online). If you don't want to go to the North Pole, you can enjoy Brant Brantley's (of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance) free guided tours of the quicksand field over by High Street where all complaints against judges disappear. If for some reason you are unable to control yourself, never fear; Judge Houston Patton will operate his jail where no lawyers are needed or allowed as you just sit there for minutes... hours.... months...years until he decides he is tired of you sitting in his jail. Do not think Judge Patton is a bad judge however as he plans to serve free Mad Dog 20/20 to all inmates.

Trollfest '09 is a pet-friendly event as well. Feel free to bring your dog with you and do not worry if your pet gets hungry, as employees of the Jackson Zoo will be on hand to provide some of their animals as food when it gets to be feeding time for your little loved one.

Relax at the Fox News Tent. Since there are only three blonde reporters in Jackson (being blonde is a requirement for working at Fox News), Megan and Kathryn from WAPT and Wendy from WLBT will be on loan to Fox. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both and a torn-up Obama yard sign will entitle you to free drinks served by Megan, Wendy, and Kathryn. Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required. Just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '09 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.


Note: Security provided by INS.

Trollfest '07

Jackson Jambalaya is the home of Trollfest '07. Catch this great event which promises to leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Sonjay Poontang and his band headline the night with a special steel cage, no time limit "loser must leave town" bout between Alan Lange and "Big Cat"Donna Ladd following afterwards. Kamikaze will perform his new song F*** Bush, he's still a _____. Did I mention there was no referee? Dr. Heddy Matthias and Lori Gregory will face off in the undercard dueling with dangling participles and other um, devices. Robbie Bell will perform Her two latest songs: My Best Friends are in the Media and Mama's, Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be George Bell. Sid Salter of The Clarion-Ledger will host "Pin the Tail on the Trial Lawyer", sponsored by State Farm.

There will be a hugging booth where in exchange for your young son, Frank Melton will give you a loooong hug. Trollfest will have a dunking booth where Muhammed the terrorist will curse you to Allah as you try to hit a target that will drop him into a vat of pig grease. However, in the true spirit of Separate But Equal, Don Imus and someone from NE Jackson will also sit in the dunking booth for an equal amount of time. Tom Head will give a reading for two hours on why he can't figure out who the hell he is. Cliff Cargill will give lessons with his .80 caliber desert eagle, using Frank Melton photos as targets. Tackleberry will be on hand for an autograph session. KIM Waaaaaade will be passing out free titles and deeds to crackhouses formerly owned by The Wood Street Players.

If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

Note: Security provided by INS
.