February 15, 2014 7:00:31 PM
As Jeff Shepherd was pulling out of the parking lot of Columbus Inn and Suites Friday, he stopped his red Ford F-150, rolled down the window and shook his head. "You better be careful what you ask for," he said. "I told Lou Anne I wanted a red-hot Valentine, and I got this."
The red-hot Valentine Jeff was talking about was his just-finished lunch of Indian food at Tandoori Oven, Columbus' new Indian restaurant. The Shepherds were among a roomful of intrepid diners, many of them for the first time enjoying similar spicy Valentines.
The place has a nice down-home vibe. It's as though all the diners are sitting in the same living room, talking to one another.
Judging from the number of people returning to the buffet for seconds, most left satisfied, if not a little spiced.
Remembering Joe Ray
The death of longtime Dispatch photographer Joe Ray Roberson elicited emails from former staffers who worked with the storied photographer. Here are a couple of them reprinted with permission.
Hello, this is Mitch Lucas. ... I was a news reporter for the first year and a half I was at The Dispatch, then moved to sports when George Miller passed away, through the time I left in 1998.
Just wanted to compliment you and The Dispatch on the coverage of Joe Ray's death. It's amazing how impressionable (or not) people can be in this business. The Dispatch was my first "real" job, one that I remember as being among the best of my career. Joe Ray was such an important part of that. Although I wasn't a photographer, I appreciated his work and his ability to connect with literally everyone with which he came in contact.
I've been the sports editor here in Kilgore, Texas, since June, 2002. My oldest child -- Teresa Leigh, who was born there in Columbus during my second year at The Dispatch -- is now a senior here at KHS. She's ranked sixth in a class of about 260. I have two younger children: Jacob,13, and Ashtyn, 9. My sister (Jennifer Looney) still lives there in Columbus. We don't get back as often as I'd like, but being from Vernon, Ala., originally, Columbus just still feels like home to me. It's amazing how much I miss it.
Again, hat's off for the coverage of Joe Ray's passing. Ironically, with no knowledge of his death, I was just telling my children a "Joe Ray story" on Sunday afternoon. Time gets by so fast.
And this from Gregg Mayer, who covered crime and city politics for The Dispatch. Gregg is a lawyer in Jackson.
So sorry to hear about Joe Ray, Birney. He was such a great guy. He and I made more than a few stops at that Okolona store to get potato logs -- I remember he called them "jo jos" too, but I can't say I've spelled that right -- on our many trips to the federal courthouse in Oxford during the Chief Freshour trial.
Joe Ray leaves such an impression on people that just the other day, as the lawyers in our firm were having their photographs taken for the website, I mentioned Joe Ray's name to the two photographers working. Both of them knew him, immediately started recounting Joe Ray stories and, of course, mimicked the voice.
Hope you are well. I'm pleased to report my wife and I had our first child last November. Little Annabelle will be 3 months old this week and has already established her complete control over the household.
Neighbor Margo Bretz sent the following:
Thanks for the piece Monday about Joe Ray. He lived on the walking route so naturally we became friendly. So many people will miss him.
On Wednesday I happened to be changing planes in Chicago's Midway airport (after circling over a Lake Michigan covered with a beautiful mosaic of snow-covered ice floes). During my layover I passed a book store and there, front and center, was Deborah Johnson's novel "The Secret of Magic." It was thrilling to see the work of a friend and neighbor in such a far-away place. And get such prominent play.
Deborah's book is garnering enthusiastic reviews; many of them echo the sentiments of this Amazon reviewer: "Beautifully written, the author's voice resonates like warm honey. This book is so hard to put down and so easy to fall in love with."
Birney Imes III is the Editor and Publisher of The Dispatch.