Hilda Jean Harrington passed away at Greenwood Leflore Hospital on Jan. 20, 2021, due to complications from COVID-19. Born Jan. 27, 1957, in Houston, Mississippi, Hilda was just one week from celebrating her 64th birthday.
Hilda was born with Down syndrome, and at that time there were few opportunities to help children with special needs. Her parents moved their family from Houston to Greenwood so that Hilda could attend the Little Red Schoolhouse, which provided services to special needs children. After the Little Red Schoolhouse burned, Hilda and most of her fellow students attended Beacon Harbor, where the residents and day students received wonderful care as well as occupational therapy. When her father retired from work in 1985, Hilda refused to attend Beacon Harbor anymore, saying she “retired, too.” She always got her way! Because of her parents’ dedication and determination to see that her needs were met, Hilda became the standard of “inclusion” before that term became the benchmark of every special needs program. She was not only included in every function she could attend; she was the center of them all. She was a member of the Rainbow Sunday school class at St. John’s United Methodist Church. At St. John’s, she also was the entertainment for several of the Mother’s Day dinners, donning her Elvis cape and glasses and singing along to some of her favorite Elvis Presley songs. Her final bow and her “Thank you very much!” were the hit of the evening.
Hilda’s birthday parties were always a highlight for many friends of all ages, and she always insisted that she was 14 years old. She especially loved her birthday parties at Webster’s, where sometimes Elvis impersonators gave special performances, and the genuine delight on her face as she opened her gifts filled the room with joy for all. Hilda also took great delight in her weekly trips to Annette Smith’s beauty parlor as well as her visits to Dr. Henry Flautt’s office, where the nurses and staff welcomed the happiness that emanated from her. Her ability to draw people in and to make them happy far offset the handicaps of her life. Hilda inspired five family friends to pursue degrees in special education and thus administer to the needs of numerous children with special needs.
Sometimes Hilda had difficulty pronouncing a person’s name, but that was no hindrance to her; she just simply gave that person a name she could pronounce or made a gesture that described that person. Everyone knew who she meant and answered accordingly. Her bedroom and “office” were a shrine to Elvis Presley and contained Elvis memorabilia that rivaled the gift shop at Graceland.
Hilda is proceeded in death by her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Hiller Gilfoy Harrington. She is survived by her brothers, Lewis Harrington (Barbara) of Savannah, Tennessee, and Ruble Harrington; a sister, Carolyn McAdams; her nieces, Stacy (Jared) Montegut, Lyn (Michael) McCool, Jeff (Tina) Harrington and Jonathan (Anna) Harrington; and 11 great-nieces and great-nephews.
The family wishes to thank her caregiver, Lillie Swims, and her nurses, Jett Araby, Sheri Shurden, Brenda Chandler, Katherine Taylor, Christy Huff and Johnny Walker.
Due to the COVID-19 restrictions, there will be no visitation. A private funeral service will be at 11:30 a.m. Saturday at Pleasant Grove Baptist Church in Woodland with the Rev. Billy Stonestreet presiding. Burial will be at the Pleasant Grove Cemetery following the service. Greenwood Delta Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.
Pallbearers will be her nephews, Jeff Harrington and Jonathan Harrington, and her great-nephews, Michael Montegut, Matthew Montegut, Graydon McCool and Lawes McCool. Honorary pallbearers will be Dr. Henry Flautt, Dr. Joe Assini and Dr. Jay Culpepper.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to Beacon Harbor, P.O. Box 701, Greenwood, MS 38935; St. John’s United Methodist Church, 1001 Grand Blvd., Greenwood, MS 38930; or to the charity of the donor’s choice.
Greenwood Delta Funeral Home (www.greenwooddeltafh.com) is in charge of arrangements.