Wiggins Mourns Lost Mayor

he City of Wiggins lost more than a mayor; they lost a husband, a father, an uncle and a grandfather. The family, colleagues and several friends gathered in Blaylock Park on Friday afternoon for a brief public service celebrating his legacy. “They lost an absolutely great man,” Tommy Havard, Miles’ stepson said. “If you know Joel Miles for more than 10 minutes, you realized that he was an easy person to love and respect. Joel was a person who did not love for the benefit of himself but for the benefit of you.” Miles was born to Joe and Toxie Miles on April 26, 1953. He grew up in Stone County and was a respected business owner. He was elected to the Board of

Alderman in 2013. Miles successfully ran for Mayor the following term. Miles leaves behind his wife, Mary Miles, two sons, Jody and Justin Miles, and three step-children, Tommy Havard, Jarred Havard, and Madison Havard. Havard had nothing but praise for his step-father. “I have written countless things and thrown them away because nothing seemed adequate enough to express how much we loved Joel,” Havard said. But when Miles and his mother married, Havard said he was skeptical at first. He was protective of his mother and family, so he did not trust just anyone. Slowly but surely, Miles won Havard over. “It took me a minute to make up my mind about Joel. But it didn’t take long,” Havard said. Havard said amid a family meal or playing with grandchildren, Miles would often stop and ask, “Who would have ever thought?” Havard said he will never forget the first time their blended family came together for a meal. As Miles prayed, he broke down and shed tears of gratitude for his newly enlarged family. Havard said Miles was a blessing to his family for the past seven years. “As much as he loved his City, he loved his family more,” Havard said. “While all of you knew him as the mayor, we knew him as Joel. We knew him as Poppy.” After Havard sat down, he sobbed. Mary’s brother-in-law, Pastor Ricky Tanner, gave a short sermon and talked about Miles’ last minutes at Memorial Hospital in Gulfport. He believes Miles was a testament to his Faith in that moment. “If you want to know how a good man is supposed to live—how a Christian is supposed to live—look at his life,” Tanner said. Tanner said Miles had struggled through his stay in the hospital, but was trying to stay strong for friends and family. Tanner said they knew it would be Miles’ last day in the hospital. “We could see the electrical activity of his heart dropping,” Tanner said. As family gathered around his bed, Mary Miles sang his favorite hymn, “How Great Thou Art.” As she sang, Miles’ monitors joined in the chorus and the nurse on-call could not turn them off. “She was trying to silence those alarms to give us a moment of peace,” Tanner said. Finally, the nurse gave up and put her hands over her face. Tanner said he looked over and saw a nurse with tears in her eyes. “I don’t know her…I don’t what her problem was, but God dealt with it,” he said. “God allowed Joel to be there on that shift, in that place, at that time, to meet her needs.” At the end of the verse, the beeping monitors hushed. “As Mary finished the chorus, all electrical activity (on the monitors) had ceased,” Tanner said. The battle was over. His family realized Miles would not come home from the hospital with them. Tanner said he disagrees with that view. “He went home without us,” Tanner said. The funeral procession left the park, wrapping around the downtown perimeters before stopping at City Hall for a moment of silence. The City unfurled a large United States flag above the street. All other flags in the City limits were at half-mast in recognition of his death. The Wiggins Police Department escorted Miles to his eternal resting place in the Wiggins City Cemetery.