Berlon Lee

Published 12:46 pm Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Berlon Lee, age 84 of Leetown, Mississippi passed away Sunday, March 11, 2018 at the State Veteran’s Retirement Home in Collins, Mississippi. He was a graduate of Pearl River Community College, class of 1954 and Mississippi College, class of 1956, majoring in business with a minor in church music. After completing his education, Mr. Lee enlisted in the US Army and served in Stuttgart, Germany. He was honorably discharged in 1958.

Upon returning home, Mr. Lee began his professional career as an employee with JC Penney Company and managed stores until 1972 in several locations, including Columbia, Mississippi; Laurel, Mississippi; Bogalusa, Louisiana; Gadsden, Alabama; and Memphis, Tennessee.

During these years, he served as Music Minister in various churches, including East Columbia Baptist Church, Glade Baptist Church in Laurel, Superior Avenue Baptist Church in Bogalusa, and finally North Columbia Baptist Church.

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In January of 1973, Mr. Lee opened the Columbia landmark, Berlon’s Friendly Store. He continued involvement in Berlon’s through the early 2000’s, even after retiring to his childhood community of Leetown, near Picayune, Mississippi.

Berlon was extremely active in the community. He was longtime song leader and twice President of the Columbia Lions Club, and song leader in the Picayune Noon Lions Club after retiring. He twice served as President of the Marion County Chamber of Commerce, and was on the board of directors for the Columbia Airport Authority and longtime deacon of First Baptist Church Columbia.

In 1980, Mr. Lee was a major force behind “Celebration South”, which brought Walter Payton, Conway Twitty, comedian Grady Nutt, and 51 Miss USA contestants to Columbia. In 1992, he was instrumental in forming Main Street Columbia, Inc. and in 1995, developed Triple B Lakes, a 70 acre bass lake in Hancock County, enjoyed by many for over two decades.

More recently, he served as the Hancock County representative on the Southern District Housing Authority Board of Directors and was a member of Lee’s Chapel Baptist Church.

Mr. Lee was influential in the formation of the PRCC Foundation, which has provided hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships to deserving students. He served on both the foundation and Board of Directors for many years. Mr. Lee was named Alumnus of the Year in 1991 and Distinguished Service Award in 2001.

But he was most proud of the fact that he put over 20, 000 miles on the bus, “Ole Pearlie”, while driving for Dobie Holden’s football team and other PRCC athletes.

His hobbies included flying, quartet singing, and playing guitar and piano.

Mr. Lee was preceded in death by his wife, Willa May Lee; daughter, Lori Evelyn Lee; parents, James “Jimmy” Lee and Effie Stockstill Lee; sister, Ella Ree Palmer; and brother, Alvin Buron Lee.

He is survived by two daughters, Bailey Lee of Columbia, South Carolina, and Cary (Justin) Cluck of Tucson, Arizona; two sons, Timothy D. Lee of Hattiesburg, Mississippi, and Dave (Mirian) Lee of Columbia; a sister, Nell (Dempsey) Lee of Leetown; and three grandchildren, Meredith Lee, Noah David Lee, and Jennings Cluck.

Visitation will be Wednesday, March 14, 2018 from 5:00 pm until 9:00 pm at Colonial Funeral Home in Columbia. Funeral services will be Thursday, March 15, 2018 at 11:00 am at the funeral home chapel where friends may visit from 10:00 am until service time. Dr. J. Roy McComb will officiate at the service and interment will follow at Lee’s Chapel Baptist Church Cemetery. Pallbearers will be Tom Porter, Louis Lee, Dennis McNelis, Donovan McComb, Brian Stewart, Chris Watts, and Guy Griffith.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Berlon Lee scholarship fund at PRCC Development Foundation, P.O. Box 5389, Poplarville, Mississippi 39470 with “Berlon Lee” in the memo.

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