Wedding gown one way Poppa Lee will be remembered

Woman keeps memory of her grandfather with her as wedding day approaches

jmitchell Journalism_JJuly 6, 2014 

HANCOCK COUNTY -- When Clarence "Poppa" Lee, Sr. walked down the hall and into his living room a week ago, his granddaughter Lindsey Lee was waiting for him next to his favorite recliner.

He opened his eyes wide and stared with his mouth open at Lindsey's ivory lace gown with a waist and neckline embellished by crystals.

When she asked him where he wanted to go to take pictures, her grandfather said, "No, this is your day."

But it wasn't Lindsey Lee's wedding day. She's getting married at Annunciation Catholic Church in Kiln in March, but Poppa Lee won't be able to watch her walk down the aisle.

He passed away from complications of stage four colon cancer Saturday. He was 78.

He was diagnosed in February of 2013. Lindsey Lee's fiancé, Jonathan Bounds, proposed on Easter and she wanted to make sure her Poppa saw her wedding dress.

"A little girl dreams of her wedding day, but she doesn't think she's going to have to do something like that," she said. "It makes me happy to know that after the wedding when I start sharing pictures and putting albums together that he'll be in there."

Clarence told her she looked beautiful and tied the back of her dress in place because it had yet to be altered.

"It means the world knowing that he approved and got to spend that moment with me," she said.

Clarence Lee, Sr. was known as "Poppa Lee" to friends, family and strangers.

He worked on the railroads for more than a decade, went to barber school and cut hair for many years. He then gave that up to be on his farm.

Decades at stable

He ran Poppa Lee's Riding Stables for 35 years. People would come from nearby and from other states to rent horses and ride on Poppa Lee's trails for the day.

"He would get up at daylight to feed and take care of the horses," Lindsey Lee said. "He would saddle the horses and bring customers lunch and wait at the stables until they came back."

After Katrina, Poppa Lee closed his business and focused in on another passion -- bailing hay.

Poppa Lee's grandson Bryant Compton, 24, said the farm was where his grandfather wanted to be.

"It was his happy place. He loved to be on that tractor," Compton said. "He loved to be in the hay fields. If he wasn't doing something on that farm, he wasn't happy."

Compton said he was 10 when he began working with Poppa Lee in the fields. He helped with hay, growing watermelons in the summer and tending the garden.

"It's where he taught me everything," Compton said. "I'd give anything to have one more of them days."

He did what he loved

Compton said Poppa Lee, who would become grumpy if he was inside for too long, was out in the fields days before he passed.

"He did exactly what he loved until the day he was gone," Compton said.

Poppa Lee passed away with his wife, Jean, by his side. Clarence and Jean lee were married for 59 years. They have 7 children, 18 grandchildren, 14 great-grandchildren and four more on the way.

Lindsey Lee said the community remembers Poppa Lee for his sense of humor, "His life was all about making people laugh."

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