When Elaine Dundy came to Tupelo in 1981 to begin research on her ground breaking book Elvis & Gladys, I had no idea what an impact she would have on my life for the next 27 years. We became very dear friends, sharing both happy times and times of turmoil. We always rallied to the other's need at the time.
I cannot express the depth of the gifts she gave me. I use the plural form because there were so many: none of which were monetary. Elaine saw in me the person I could be. The person I could not see. And with her guiding hand, I became that person. I have been blessed with many mentors in my life, but none as crucial as she. Her unwaivering faith in my abilities never ceased to astound me. How could someone so intelligent and talented seek and value my opinion as she did. Her value of me increased my value of me. The most precious gift one can give to another.
The lessons taught and learned were as valuable as any offered in the halls of higher education. She opened my eyes and more importantly, opened my mind. I was reared in a very closed minded family: A good, hard working, Christian values, family. But one of little knowledge or desire of the more sophisticated ways of the world. Although I was smothered in love, that same love often smothered my quest for seeking, knowing and doing. It was a well meaning smothering, but a smothering nonetheless.
As was her nature, she continues to give in death just as she did in life by establishing the Elaine Dundy & Roy Turner Endowment for the Arts. I am honored that she chose to so name it, allowing me to share in her giving spirit.
The endowment is for the cultural and artistic enrichment of the people of North East Mississippi and particularly of Tupelo. Elaine was inspired by Elvis' talent: A talent that manifest itself at a very early age. A talent coupled with a determination and a mother's encouragement that is so typical of a Southern Mother.In the spirit of the 10 year old boy who stepped onto the stage at the Mississippi=Alabama Fair and Dairy Show in October 1945 and sang Old Shep a`capella and the memory of the author who was the first of many to take a serious look at the life and career of a boy named Elvis, we launch the Elaine Dundy & Roy Turner Endowment for the Arts. Our first project is to put a silver screen back into the Lyric Theater, where Elvis watched movies as a child so that future generations can see the classic movies of the past the way they were intended to be viewed.
We will be awarding scholarships annually to young people pursing the various fields in the arts as well a supporting local artistic and cultural events.
For more information or to apply for a grant contact CREATE Foundation at their website.
Elaine, thank you for a wonderful journey. Your presence and spirit are still with me...
Elaine & Roy in 1987.
Elaine & Roy in 2007
Mine and Debbie's last visit with Elaine, February 2008.