Harrison County

Coast man had one of the most hilarious viral obituaries on the internet

He enjoyed buttermilk in a martini glass, garnished with cornbread. Not one to suffer cats, "Law and Order" or Martha Stewart gladly, he liked his women smart and his eggs deviled, and he eschewed fashion as we know it in favor of high-waisted shorts, basic T-shirts and a grass-stained Mississippi State University baseball cap.

In short, Harry Weathersby Stamps was an individual.

His hilarious obituary and the story behind it is still one of the most popular stories the Sun Herald has ever published online.

The obit was picked up across the world, from Australia to England's Daily Mail and GQ UK to ABC News' Diane Sawyer.

His request to end "The Devil's Time" also resulted in an official petition to Congress to end Daylight Saving Time. However, as of 2018, it has not yet been repealed.

At the time, his wife, Ann Stamps, said she was touched by the thousands of comments the family found on Facebook, Twitter, online obituary guest books and other online sources.

"I know this will all hit me later," she said, "but there couldn't be a grieving family in Mississippi that has had this much fun."

Full obituary

Here is Stamps' full obituary as it appeared in 2013 in the Sun Herald:

"Harry Weathersby Stamps, ladies' man, foodie, natty dresser, and accomplished traveler, died on Saturday, March 9, 2013.

Harry was locally sourcing his food years before chefs in California starting using cilantro and arugula (both of which he hated). For his signature bacon and tomato sandwich, he procured 100% all white Bunny Bread from Georgia, Blue Plate mayonnaise from New Orleans, Sauer's black pepper from Virginia, home grown tomatoes from outside Oxford, and Tennessee's Benton bacon from his bacon-of-the-month subscription. As a point of pride, he purported to remember every meal he had eaten in his 80 years of life.

The women in his life were numerous. He particularly fancied smart women. He loved his mom Wilma Hartzog (deceased), who with the help of her sisters and cousins in New Hebron reared Harry after his father Walter's death when Harry was 12. He worshipped his older sister Lynn Stamps Garner (deceased), a character in her own right, and her daughter Lynda Lightsey of Hattiesburg. He married his main squeeze Ann Moore, a home economics teacher, almost 50 years ago, with whom they had two girls Amanda Lewis of Dallas, and Alison of Starkville. He taught them to fish, to select a quality hammer, to love nature, and to just be thankful. He took great pride in stocking their tool boxes. One of his regrets was not seeing his girl, Hillary Clinton, elected President.

He had a life-long love affair with deviled eggs, Lane cakes, boiled peanuts, Vienna [Vi-e-na] sausages on saltines, his homemade canned fig preserves, pork chops, turnip greens, and buttermilk served in martini glasses garnished with cornbread.

He excelled at growing camellias, rebuilding houses after hurricanes, rocking, eradicating mole crickets from his front yard, composting pine needles, living within his means, outsmarting squirrels, never losing a game of competitive sickness, and reading any history book he could get his hands on. He loved to use his oversized "old man" remote control, which thankfully survived Hurricane Katrina, to flip between watching The Barefoot Contessa and anything on The History Channel. He took extreme pride in his two grandchildren Harper Lewis (8) and William Stamps Lewis (6) of Dallas for whom he would crow like a rooster on their phone calls. As a former government and sociology professor for Gulf Coast Community College, Harry was thoroughly interested in politics and religion and enjoyed watching politicians act like preachers and preachers act like politicians. He was fond of saying a phrase he coined "I am not running for political office or trying to get married" when he was "speaking the truth." He also took pride in his service during the Korean conflict, serving the rank of corporal--just like Napolean, as he would say.

Harry took fashion cues from no one. His signature every day look was all his: a plain pocketed T-shirt designed by the fashion house Fruit of the Loom, his black-label elastic waist shorts worn above the navel and sold exclusively at the Sam's on Highway 49, and a pair of old school Wallabees (who can even remember where he got those?) that were always paired with a grass-stained MSU baseball cap.

Harry traveled extensively. He only stayed in the finest quality AAA-rated campgrounds, his favorite being Indian Creek outside Cherokee, North Carolina. He always spent the extra money to upgrade to a creek view for his tent. Many years later he purchased a used pop-up camper for his family to travel in style, which spoiled his daughters for life.

He despised phonies, his 1969 Volvo (which he also loved), know-it-all Yankees, Southerners who used the words "veranda" and "porte cochere" to put on airs, eating grape leaves, Law and Order (all franchises), cats, and Martha Stewart. In reverse order. He particularly hated Day Light Saving Time, which he referred to as The Devil's Time. It is not lost on his family that he died the very day that he would have had to spring his clock forward. This can only be viewed as his final protest. Because of his irrational fear that his family would throw him a golf-themed funeral despite his hatred for the sport, his family will hold a private, family only service free of any type of "theme."

Visitation will be held at Bradford-O'Keefe Funeral Home, 15th Street, Gulfport on Monday, March 11, 2013 from 6-8 p.m. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that you make a donation to Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College (Jeff Davis Campus) for their library. Harry retired as Dean there and was very proud of his friends and the faculty. He taught thousands and thousands of Mississippians during his life. The family would also like to thank the Gulfport Railroad Center dialysis staff who took great care of him and his caretaker Jameka Stribling.

Finally, the family asks that in honor of Harry that you write your Congressman and ask for the repeal of Day Light Saving Time. Harry wanted everyone to get back on the Lord's Time."

Going viral

The Sun Herald delved into Stamps's backstory shortly after his rise to fame. Here is an excerpt from a story written in 2013:

South Mississippians who read it were treated to perhaps the most entertaining, warm and enlightening obituary seen in years. Through the obituary's loving humor, gentle candor and laugh-out-loud moments, those apparent few who never took a class taught by Stamps got to know him — and regret they didn't meet him in life.

The obituary went viral in the Twittersphere and on Facebook.

"He wouldn't know what going viral means. He would have thought that was a disease he contracted, which would have excited him to have another illness to lord over folks," daughter Amanda Lewis, who wrote the obituary, told the Sun Herald at the time. An attorney who lives in Dallas, she wrote it during the trip to Long Beach, where Stamps died at home, surrounded by his family.

"My sister, Alison, teaches English as a second language at MSU, and she edited it for me," she said. "He so was not a 'the trumpets of Heaven are blowing' sort. This is who my dad was.

"I kept thinking of things — there are a lot of things I just couldn't put in there — and I thought, 'Mama's not going to let me run that.' But she read it and said, 'That's him,' " Lewis said.

"Probably the best compliment I've gotten is that at least six people asked if he wrote it," she said.

Alison Stamps said her father's story is hard to summarize.

"It's hard to capture him in just one story," she said. "For all of us, he was like this."

She recalled vacations.

"Every vacation was about visiting historic sites. There was one year we went to Yorktown, Jamestown and Williamsburg; he always wanted us to learn something at the same time," she said. "He was one man in a family of strong women, but he appreciated it. His worst nightmare would be to have to go to an outlet mall while we shopped, but he would do it. If we went on vacation and did the historic spots, he would take us to the outlet mall for our shopping."

Stamps had been a kidney dialysis patient for a couple of years, Lewis said. "His health wasn't good."

That didn't stop the Southern gourmand in him. Boiled peanuts, pork chops, turnip greens, his own homemade canned figs, Vienna sausage on crackers, bacon-and-tomato sandwiches on Bunny Bread — Stamps' gastronomic interests read like a who's who of real-life Southern classics.

"After he was diagnosed with diabetes, he told me, 'Life's not worth living if I can't have butter on my sweet potatoes.' That pretty much summed up his point of view on things," Lewis said.

He grew up in New Hebron, Mississippi, where his father owned the Western Auto store and was mayor of the small town. When his father died when Stamps was 12, his aunts and cousins stepped in to help his mother, Wilma.

Stamps and his wife, Ann, married almost 50 years ago. He taught his two daughters practical things, like how to change flat tires, fish and choose a hammer.

He taught government and sociology at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College's Jefferson Davis campus.

"He was dean at JD for years. He started at the Pascagoula campus, then when they opened the JD campus, he taught there," Lewis said.

Friend and former JD colleague Wayne Catlett said Lewis's obit "pretty well captured the essence of Harry. It's almost as if Harry had written it. It's something he would have appreciated."

Catlett started teaching at JD in 1987 and worked with Stamps until Stamps' retirement in the mid-'90s.

"When I first started at JD, people would ask me, 'Have you met Harry Stamps?' I hadn't but once I did, I found out why they asked me. He definitely was one of a kind," he said.

"He always found humor in every situation. It was a great way to cope with life. Whatever it was, he managed to get through it by laughing at it and getting you to laugh," Catlett said.

Students loved Stamps, and the feeling was mutual, Catlett recalled.

"They referred to his class as the Stamps Comedy Hour," he said. "He was a brilliant teacher, incredibly interesting. And you know, I have never heard a student or anybody else say a bad thing about Harry. They all couldn't wait for his class."

Stamps was a skilled communicator and a "student of human nature," Catlett said. "He could see beneath the surface. He found a way to communicate with everybody, to talk with them and work with them.

"He was the most unpretentious man I ever met. He was unimpressed by pretense," he said.