In 1992, my wife and I moved to Hattiesburg, a young married couple looking to put down roots and start a family. We visited a few churches and one afternoon, I heard a knock on my apartment door and met Dick Allison, the new pastor at University Baptist Church.
He radiated genuine warmth and kindness without a hint of phoniness or self-righteousness.
He talked about his life, raised and educated in Kentucky and then began a lifelong Baptist ministry in churches in Tennessee and Kentucky.
We laughed often on that first visit, so hard that we had tears rolling down our faces.
Dick, I knew immediately, was a good man without pretense, self-deprecating, modest, and humble.
He had deep wisdom and not the slightest arrogance. Dick’s wife of 40 plus years at that time was named Jane, and they had been high school sweethearts.
Yes, they proudly bragged that they were the real “Dick and Jane.”
Both were totally invested in Christian ministry. She was a leader in many women’s programs serving the poor and disadvantaged.
He regularly met with prisoners to pray and offered time and money to countless persons who had nowhere else to turn.
Dick and Jane lived the Christian life to the fullest. I admired and loved them deeply, and they gave me hope and comfort in the proposition that agape love can be achieved through dedication and devotion to others.
Dick and Jane became ambassadors for Hattiesburg, participating in numerous civic organizations and regularly performing in local theater.
They both loved to sing and dance and act.
Dick retired from preaching and worked as a chaplain at Forrest General Hospital.
He and Jane bragged about their adopted home wherever they went, and they became “Mom and Dad” for many of us.
Well into their 80s, they became first-time grandparents and moved back to Kentucky a few years back to be close to their son, daughter-in-law and grandson.
The last time I spoke to Dick before he became gravely ill, he called to ask about the health of my son, who had been suffering from a serious illness.
I visited him one final time shortly before his death, and experienced a precious moment watching Dick and Jane holding hands at their nursing home, something they did often throughout their long friendship and marriage.
Jane battled Parkinson’s for many years but outlived her husband, dying peacefully this week. They both told me they did not fear death, only fearing leaving the other behind.
Today, they are reunited, holding hands in heaven, singing their hearts out, bound in eternal peace.
To my heroes, I say, “I love you, Dick and Jane.”
Clark Hicks is a civil litigation attorney, Hattiesburg resident and member of University Baptist Church. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.