Funeral services for retired Forest banker Donald Gray “Don” Triplett will be held Monday, June 19, 2023, at 11:00 a.m. at the Forest Presbyterian Church with Rev. Mark Smith officiating.
Visitation will be held at Forest Presbyterian Church at 9:30 prior to the beginning of the funeral. Ott & Lee Funeral Home in Forest is in charge of arrangements.
Triplett, 89, died peacefully at home in Forest on June 15, 2023, following an extended illness. He was a lifelong resident of Scott County.
Born on Sept. 8, 1933, Don maintained an abiding faith in his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. He was a lifelong and active member of the Forest Presbyterian Church.
His parents, Beaman and Mary Triplett recognized early in Don’s life that he was special in many ways, and they worked diligently to equip him with the means to achieve a happy and productive life. Remarkably, they did so despite the fact that Don would later be confirmed as the world’s first patient clinically diagnosed with autism.
Don’s redemptive, fascinating sojourn with his family and Mississippi hometown was chronicled in a book that was the 2017 Pulitzer Prize finalist for general nonfiction “In A Different Key: The Story of Autism” by John Donvan and Caren Zucker. A New York Times bestseller, the book gave rise to an award-winning documentary film with the same title.
The book and film tell the story of the search by Donvan and Zucker, both award-winning broadcast journalists, for the first person formally diagnosed with autism to explore whether that patient’s life held relevance for their own loved ones who also were diagnosed with autism.
Their search brought them to Forest to meet Don Triplett, who in 1943 became “Case No. 1” diagnosed by Johns Hopkins University professor and noted child psychiatrist Dr. Leo Kanner as having autism. Kanner examined and treated Don on three occasions in Baltimore, where Don’s mother and father took him seeking help and answers.
His father, Beaman Triplett, was a Yale-educated attorney in Forest who was killed in a Hwy. 35 automobile accident in 1980. His mother, the late Mary McCravey Triplett, was the daughter of the founder of the Bank of Forest, along with Major Millsaps who also founded Millsaps College. She would eventually become the first female member of the Board of Trustees of Belhaven University, her alma mater.
Don’s only sibling, Forest attorney Oliver Triplett, died in 2020 at the age of 81. Oliver facilitated the interactions between Don and the visiting journalists. Oliver was a strong positive force in his brother’s life.
The book and documentary film captured the remarkable life that Don lived in Forest - a nurturing, accepting community that knew Don was “different” but was mostly unaware of the clinical diagnosis or Triplett’s place in global psychological and medical history.
The revelations that Don extensively traveled the world – alone by his own choice – that he held a job in a bank that his family founded, and that he had a fairly robust and independent life offered promise to other families dealing with the unique realities of autism.
Many in Forest contributed their memories and experiences to the production of the book and film that told Don’s story – a fact that pleased him.
Don was a graduate of Forest High School, East Central Community College, and Millsaps College where he was a member of the Lambda Chi Alpha Fraternity. He was an avid golfer and loved his interaction with friends in his coffee club, fellow church members, and colleagues and customers at Bank of Forest.
Don was a member of the “Good News Singers Choir”. He had a love for music. He had a perfect pitch. He could tell you every note you played on the piano keys without looking.
Over the course of his life, Don assigned nicknames and numbers – which he fastidiously recalled and repeated – to many he encountered. Most of those friends proudly remember their “Don” numbers.
Survivors include his nephew, O.B. Triplett, his wife Ingrid Triplett and great-nephew, Beaman Triplett and great niece Olivia Triplett Harrell (Toby), and his sister-in-law Carolyn East Triplett.
He was preceded in death by his parents, his brother Oliver Beaman Triplett, and his nephew Cooper Triplett.
Pallbearers were Allen Breland, Noble Lee, Gene Walker, Bill Blossom, Troy Nettles, and Mervyn Slay.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Forest Presbyterian Church Building Fund, 337 East First Street, Forest, MS 39074.
OTT & LEE Funeral Home of Forest is honored to serve the Triplett family.