William Sutcliffe Heaton, Jr. (1925-2018)

CLARKSDALE, MS – The man who had a hand in forming the first public cotton ginning operation in the Mississippi Delta and literally planted the idea for a farming enterprise that would become known nationwide passed away peacefully Saturday, July 7, 2018, at the age of 92.

And while Bill Heaton may be known for the Bobo Moseley Gin and Heaton Pecans, it was his love of life and family that sticks in the minds of his son and daughter.

“He loved life so much,” said his son, Cliff Heaton. “He loved to hunt, to fish. I can’t tell you how much time he spent with me and my sisters. It was us first, work second. That’s just the way he was. We were a very close family.”

Heaton said “that love of life” was exemplified in the days he spent quail hunting with his father or the hours Bill Heaton spent watching his daughters play tennis, the trip to Europe he and his wife took, or the time his father simply sat alone hunting for turkey.

“We were a very close-knit family,” said his daughter, Darrah Pierce. “Summertime, Daddy would come home for lunch every day and we’d have those wonderful lunches with the vegetables we grew in the garden and the catfish we caught. It was family.”

Born in Chicago, the son of the late William Sutcliffe Heaton, Sr., and Louise Bobo Moseley Heaton, William Sutcliffe Heaton, Jr., attended Clarksdale High School, where he excelled in academics and athletics.

Upon graduation from high school, he attended the University of Louisville under the Naval V-12 program and was assigned to the United States Naval Forces in the Pacific Fleet, where he briefly served as an officer during World War II. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Louisville in 1946

He continued his education at the University of Texas, majoring in cotton marketing. He then returned home to enter the family business with his grandfather, A.J. Moseley, and his great uncle, Charles G. Bobo.

Bill Heaton was a visionary. That was shown during his 20s when he and his great-uncle transformed Bobo Moseley Gin into the first public ginning operation in north Mississippi. During a time in which cotton farmers were transitioning from mule labor to tractor labor, Bill Heaton saw the growth potential in expanding cotton ginning services from nearby sharecroppers to farmers five, 10, 15 miles away.

“He basically transformed our little family gin from a 2- to 3-mile radius to a full-service gin that prided itself on service and taking care of our customers,” Cliff Heaton said.

Through the use of upgraded equipment, the Bobo Moseley Gin was able to process a farmer’s cotton better and faster than before.

“We would turn trailers around two or three times as fast as anyone else,” Cliff Heaton said. “That’s how we grew into the public ginning and we’ve just continued to grow since then. It’s a big business, there’s no question about it.”

During his business years, Bill Heaton not only ran Bobo Moseley Gin and Heaton Farms, but also served as a director of Delta Council, was an active member of the Coahoma County Chamber of Commerce, and was on the board and served as vice president of Delta Oil Mill and North Delta Compress for many years. He served on the executive committee of the Bank of Clarksdale and Union Planters Bank for over 25 years and was an active member of the National Cotton Council Bale Packaging Committee. He also enjoyed his membership in the Cotton Carnival, Osiris, the Clarksdale VFW and the Clarksdale Elks Club.

Pierce said one of the most important things he father valued was an education.

“Daddy always pushed the value of a good education, saying it can’t be measured,” said Pierce, who would gain a love of business from her father.

She recalled her teenage years, working in the accounting office at the cotton gin, learning calculations and numbers. It was where, she said, she got “fascinated by business.” At her father’s urging, Pierce would go on to graduate from Ole Miss with a business degree and later earn a master’s degree in business administration.

“We learned that farming is a business,” said Pierce, who is now the marketing manager for Farm Press. She called her father a pioneer in farming techniques.

“He researched, he did his homework and he was extremely smart,” she said.

While Heaton Pecans are now widely known, it was peaches that Bill Heaton first grew on 250 acres surrounding Lyon. The land was known then as the Bubba Moseley Peach Orchard and there was a peach stand right where Heaton Pecans is located now on Highway 61 North.

“Over time, Daddy began to realize he could buy peaches cheaper in Arkansas that he could grow them,” Cliff Heaton said.

Around 1961, Bill Heaton planted the first orchard of pecan trees that would grow to include 180 acres. Heaton Pecans has only continued to blossom through the years and the pecans are now sold at retail stands and via mail order and the business has expanded to include candied and cooked pecans.

“It all started with his idea and his vision to plant the pecan orchard,” said Cliff Heaton, who now oversees the Heaton Farms operation in addition to Bobo Moseley Gin.

It was also during his first years of farming when Bill Heaton met the love of his life, Elsie Darrah Wilsford, and they were married in 1952, making their home in Lyon, where Bill Heaton resided until his death.

Bill Heaton is survived by his son, William Cliff Heaton, and his wife, Chris; a daughter, Darrah Heaton Pierce, and her husband, Buddy; six grandchildren, Lyndsey Parker Sims, Preston Parker, Whitney Harrington Young, Cadey Heaton True, Ann Granville Heaton and Lucy Heaton; and eight great-grandchildren.

He was preceded in death by his wife of 60 years, Elsie Wilsford Heaton; his daughter, Betsy Heaton Harrington; and his grandson, William Cliff Heaton, Jr.

Funeral services were held Sunday, July 8, 2018, at the First United Methodist Church in Clarksdale. Interment was in Oakridge Cemetery.

Pierce said one lasting memory she’ll have of her father’s visitation and service was discovering the sheer number of people who had hand-written letters from her father offering congratulations, condolences or a simple thank you.

“They were so personal and everybody saved them. Everybody in this town has one of Daddy’s letters, some even two. How special is that? They keep them in their Bibles, in treasured places so that they’ll never get thrown away,” Pierce said.

“He was one of those men that come along every once in a while who garners respect from everyone,” she said. “He enjoyed people and helping any which way he could and he didn’t need to shout it to the world.”

Bill Heaton was involved in numerous civic and business organizations. He was an original founder of Lee Academy and served on its board of directors for many years. He was active in First Presbyterian Church for many years, serving several terms on the Board of Elders and the Board of Sessions. He later joined Lyon Methodist Church, where he was an active participant until his death.

Lyon mayor Woody Sawyer said Bill Heaton was “a steward for the town of Lyon.”

“His relatives were basically the founders of Lyon. He loved the town and would do anything that we needed help with. I can’t tell you how many things he’s done over the years, and he never asked for anything in return,” Sawyer said.

“He was just a Southern gentleman that everyone is going to miss,” Sawyer said. “He was a very, very smart, intelligent man. Every summer he provided jobs for high school kids, black and white. He didn’t see any color. He was very fair.”

Cliff Heaton said his father was one of the smartest men he’s ever known.

“He was a master of it all. He taught me virtually everything I know. He taught me how to handle good times and how to handle adversity. Those are the things I’ll always remember him for.”

Fred M. Hite (1943-2016)

Fred M. Hite

MORGANFIELD, Ky. – In a life that took him from the streets of Uniontown, Ky., to the jungles of Vietnam to towering construction projects along the Ohio River, and retirement days spent on the golf courses across the Southeastern United States, Fred Hite was as solid a man as the massive power plants he helped build, devoted as his love of family and favorite sports teams, and as strong as his legendary grip.

Frederick Maurice Hite, 72, of Morganfield, died Sunday, April 24, 2016, at St. Mary’s Hospital in Evansville, Ind.

Born Oct. 6, 1943, in Uniontown, the fifth child of Parvin and Bernadette Hite, he was named Frederick by the nuns of nearby St. Agnes Church in honor of Saint Frederick.

A 1961 graduate of St. Vincent Academy, Fred spent part of his early years working at his father’s gas station in Morganfield and later worked as a carry out/stock boy at the Sureway in Morganfield before a local judge offered the option of “go to jail or go into the Army.” As a member of the U.S. Army, Fred would spend part of the next four years along the Cambodian-Vietnamese border as part of the military’s communications surveillance team.  

Soon after returning from Vietnam, Fred was initiated in September 1967 into the Local Iron Workers 103, based in Evansville. During his time with the iron workers through the 1970s and ’80s, Fred worked on the construction of the St. Louis Arch and spent nine years as the assistant to the business manager. With a membership totaling 700 to 800 in a 40-county area over three states, Fred was involved in such construction projects as the Tennessee Valley Authority power plant in Paradise, Ky.; dams along the Ohio River in Uniontown, Newburgh, Ind., and Cannelton, Ind.; the Alcoa plant in Warrick County, Ind.; and the Anaconda smelter in Sebree, Ky.; as well as 18 power plants, including those in Sebree, Rockport, Ind., and Petersburg, Ind.

Fred was known as a master welder and one who “could weld anything but a broken heart and the crack of dawn.”

Fred also worked as a regional sales manager for CompuChem Laboratories.

He truly “bled blue” during basketball and football season, cheering on his beloved Kentucky Wildcats. That love was only rivaled in the spring by his devotion to the St. Louis Cardinals baseball club. A history and military buff, he was also a fan of TV westerns and “true” country musicians like Lefty Frizzell and Hank Williams.

In addition to his parents, Fred was also preceded in death by two brothers, Jerry and Ronald “Rock” Hite.

Survivors include two sons, Robbie Hite and wife Amy of Jackson, Tenn., and Ryan Hite of Dallas, Texas; two grandchildren, Tyler and Nathan Hite of Jackson; a brother Jim Hite and his wife Pat of Bullard, Texas; a sister Beverly Baczewski and her husband Victor of Summerfield, Fla.; and his companion of the past 15 years, Linda R. Banks of Morganfield, and her children Michael Banks, of Belmont, N.C., and Stacie Banks of Henderson, Ky.

A celebration of life service will be held at 10 a.m. Wednesday, April 27, 2016, at Whitsell Funeral Home in Morganfield. The Rev. Jerry Manning will officiate. Visitation will be 4-8 p.m. Tuesday and 9 a.m. until service time Wednesday at the funeral home. Burial will be in the West Kentucky Veterans Cemetery in Hopkinsville, Ky. Memorials can be made to the American Heart Association.

H. Shane Jones (1944-2020)

Shane Jones

DENVER, NC – Born on the side of a West Virginia mountain on a cold November day just before the end of World War II, Shane Jones spent the next 75 years overcoming obstacles. He did this through an overwhelming desire to succeed in all he did – exemplified by a loving family that eventually included four grandchildren, a career that carried him from a Blue Ridge coal mining town to across the globe, and in the hundreds of friends and associates who simply knew him as Shane. 

He carried that can-do spirit, coupled with his generosity, quick wit and knowledge of numbers and people, with him until his final breath on Wednesday, July 1, 2020, at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte. 

Born Nov. 17, 1944, in Jenkinjones, amidst the rolling hills and coal fields near Bluefield, W.Va., Shane was the fifth of six children born to Clyde and Verda Jones. He was named Harry S. Jones by his father, a coal miner, in honor of Harry S. Truman, the U.S. senator who became president six months later. When asked what the “S” stood for, Clyde chose “Shane” in honor of the title character from the western novel, one of the few books in their small West Virginia home. It’s fitting that Shane was the name people called him as he and the gunslinger shared similar beliefs in loyalty, hard work, fearlessness and never shirking one’s responsibilities.

After graduating from Bramwell (W.Va.) High School in 1962, Shane, over the next five years, hitchhiked each way from his West Virginia home to Bowling Green, Ky., where he attended Bowling Green College of Commerce and Western Kentucky University. Balancing a full schedule of classes and working “every job known on campus,” Shane graduated from WKU in 1967 with a bachelor’s degree in accounting and business management.

It was during his time at WKU that Shane met Janice “Jan” White, a co-ed from the corn fields of western Kentucky. The two married on Aug. 4, 1968, and Shane and Jan remained devoted to one another for the next 51 years.

After graduating, Shane started his career in Louisville, Ky., with the accounting firm of Humphrey-Robinson. At the same time, he spent six years serving with the Kentucky Army National Guard.

After receiving his CPA certification, Shane joined Vermont American Corporation in 1970 where he served as manager of internal audits in their Louisville office. In 1986, he was named general manager of the Vermont American Tool Company Distribution Center in Lincolnton, NC, and he moved his family to their present home on Lake Norman. After Vermont American was purchased by the Bosch Group in 1989, Shane served as the director of distribution/packaging for the Robert Bosch Tool Corporation in Lincolnton. 

In his position, Shane traveled the globe. He was generous with his advice and with his mentoring. He recognized talents in people and invested in their career advancement and educational programs.

A longtime member of Denver United Methodist Church, Shane served on several leadership teams at the church over the past 35 years. He enjoyed boating, golfing, collecting and restoring classic cars, and University of Kentucky Wildcat basketball. He loved his Diet Pepsi, Lance Toasty peanut butter crackers, deviled eggs and Keebler Pecan Sandies cookies.

Yet, his real passion was in caring for his family, longtime friends, neighbors in the Westport Peninsula community and business associates. One of his most generous gifts was donating a kidney to his brother, Jerry.

Shane is survived by his wife, Janice “Jan” White Jones; a son, Darrell Shane Jones and his wife, Sandy, of Mooresville, NC, and their four children, Loralei, Micah, Tasman and Mireille Jones.

When Darrell was born in 1978, the song “You Light Up My Life” was popular and, ever since that day, Darrell was always the light in his father’s eyes. That light and love grew with the birth of each of his four grandchildren, who lovingly called Shane “Grumpy, but not in the grumpy sort of way.”

Other survivors include a sister, Columbia McDonough and her husband, Tom, of Tazewell, Va.; a brother, Allen Jones and his wife, Nancy, of Atlanta; a sister-in-law, Donna Jones, of Asheboro, NC; two brothers-in-law, David Baker, of Falls Mills, Va., and Jerry White and his wife, Elizabeth, of Morganfield, Ky.; and several nieces and nephews.

In addition to his mother and father, Shane was preceded in death by two brothers, Denver and Jerry Jones; a sister, Jane Baker; and his father- and mother-in-law, Barbee and Marie White.

A celebration of life service will be held at a later date.

Due to Shane’s condition in recent years, Jan and Darrell wish to bring awareness to the brain disorder Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus (NPH) through the Shane Jones NPH Memorial Fund.

Memorial donations can also be made to Helping Funds, c/o: Denver United Methodist Church, 3910 Highway 16 North, P.O. Box 661, Denver, NC 28037.

Warlick Funeral Home in Lincolnton, NC, is in charge of the arrangements.