If the world seems quieter today, there’s a reason.
Gary Lynn Risher passed away Sept. 15, 2022, at Lackey Convalescence Home in Forest, Mississippi. He died from complications of multiple myeloma. His family and friends were by his side faithfully, especially in the final weeks of his life. He was 81 years old.
Even into the beginning of the last week of his life, his voice could have been heard from the sidelines, over the band and out to a quarterback on the 20-yard line.
He always stood when he heard Willie Nelson singing Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain, as he believed it should be our country’s national anthem. He loved to go but was always in a hurry to get back home. In his later years, he visited 15 major league baseball stadiums and was trying to get to them all. He served in the National Guard and the Army Reserves, retiring at the rank of E8. He was a patriotic fellow all the way around. He was also a faithful member of Gideons International and Forest Baptist Church, where he served as a deacon, Sunday School teacher, as a member of the Good News Singers and in many other capacities.
Gary was born July 2, 1941, in Jackson, Mississippi. Growing up, he was not the best student or athlete, but his relentless enthusiasm and remarkable stubborn streak went a long way in paving a path of success. After he graduated from Forest High School, he went to East Central Junior College to play football. Early in his second year at East Central, he went with friends to watch a girls’ volleyball game. Minutes into the game, he pointed to a tall brunette on the volleyball court and said to his friends, “See that girl right there? I’m going to marry her.”
And he did.
In the years that followed, he often said, “Marrying Nelda Greer was the best day’s work I ever did.” He loved her fiercely for the next 60 years — and she loved him back. She cooked him ham and egg pie, homemade biscuits and chicken and dumplings on demand.
After time at East Central, he went on to play football at Mississippi College, where he earned a degree in science and physical education and began to coach football, a career that would define much of the rest of his life.
His coaching career began at Peeples Junior High in Jackson in 1965 and ended in 2013 at East Central Community College. Between Peeples and East Central, his career included coaching stints at Hickory, Forest, Sebastopol High, Northwest Rankin High, Morton High, Byram High, Newton County Academy, St. Joseph Catholic School, and East Rankin Academy.
At Forest, his record, as head coach, was 78-26-1. He was not a fan of ties – said it was like kissing his sister. He credited his success with divine intervention, good players and good assistant coaches. Risher’s Bearcats won conference championships and bowl games. He was named coach of the year and Mississippi All-Star coach.
He was an attentive (and demanding) father to his children. He never missed a game, a tennis match or a choir performance. He organized camp outs, picnics, road trips, field days, birthday parties and more. In return, he expected an unrelenting work ethic from anyone fortunate enough to fall under his umbrella of love. He expected folks to show up and do their part.
He was a father figure to many. He was affectionate with his students and players. He used his booming voice to yell to most anyone he saw, “Come over here and hug my neck.” Many former players and students recall that he was the first man to shower affection on them. One former student said, "Every time I saw him, he made me feel like a million bucks. How many people in your life make you feel that way?"
Gary Risher was preceded in death by his parents, Lydia Myrene Henderson Turman and Maben Brooks Risher, his brother David Ray Risher and his sister Victoria Turman Adkins.
He is survived by his wife of 59 years, Nelda Greer Risher, his children, Jan Risher (Julio Naudin) Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Robin Risher (Tracy) Louisville, Mississippi; and Rusty Risher (Stephanie) Olive Branch, Mississippi. His grandchildren, Casey Quick (Taylor) Union, Mississippi; Jake Risher (Alex) Warren, Ohio; Greer Naudin Tampa, Florida; Garet Buck Risher (Andrea) Camp Lejeune, North Carolina; Piper Naudin, Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Will Risher, Sam Risher, Henry Risher, Olive Branch, Mississippi. His great-grandchildren, Tripp, Brenlynn and Tucker Quick, Union, Mississippi; Oak Risher, Warren, Ohio; and Josephine Joy Risher, Camp Lejeune. He is also survived by aunts, uncles, cousins and numerous nieces and nephews.
Visitation will be from 5 to 8 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 17 at Ott and Lee Funeral Home in Forest, Mississippi. A second visitation will be from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 18 in the Family Life Center at Forest Baptist Church. The funeral will be at 4 p.m. at Forest Baptist Church, with a family-only graveside service at Eastern Cemetery.
Immediately following the funeral, the family invites friends to gather at the Gatewood Gallery in downtown Forest to share stories and smiles. The Risher family encourages those wishing to remember him to make contributions in his memory to Gideons or to the Gary Risher Bearcat Fund which will provide for students to participate in extracurricular activities in the Forest School District. (Make checks payable to Forest Municipal School District, 325 Cleveland Street, Forest, MS 39074.)
OTT & LEE Funeral Home of Forest is honored to serve the Risher family.
OTT & LEE Funeral Home (601) 469-3412