Lisa Purser: treasure ‘in an earthen vessel’
By Anna Coates
Lisa Purser, choir director at Hazlehurst United Methodist Church, talented singer and author extraordinaire, will soon be sharing her talents in a new venue. Husband Lance has accepted a promotion as General Manager of the Napa Auto Distribution Center in Sylvester, Georgia. Son Ryan, all four dogs and the swimming cat will move to Tifton, Georgia, in time for Ryan to start school. Tifton is located at the junction of I-75 and Hwy 82, not that far from Hazlehurst, Georgia.
Her Hazlehurst story began when she and Lance moved here 24 years ago. She had lived here for a year, more or less drifting in and out of groups but not finding anything which spoke to her talents and interests. One day she prayed to God that she wanted something meaningful to do. The next day she dropped by the local Methodist church on an errand and ran into the pastor, Booth Poole. He first asked her to sing the “Lords Prayer” a cappella, and though surprised, she agreed. His next sentence was, “Would you like to be our choir director?” Startled, she replied, “For how long?” He said, “Forever.”
Astonished at the request, Lisa, age 24, was really scared, but she wanted to do it because she knew it was an answer to her prayer. “I don’t know what I’m doing! I have never directed before!” ran through her mind, and she already knew she would be the youngest person in the group.
Nerves aside, she began the job October 1, 1990, and by Christmas she presented the choir in a cantata, “Carols of Christmas.” She found she loved what she was doing, and through the years her strength of personality and her vivacious leading of the choir and congregation endeared her to all. She found a career that has lasted 23 years with many signature successes. “Through major ups and downs in our lives here, I found the one thing I could count on was my church and choir family. They supported me no matter what. I will never forget my time or the people here.”
That’s the story of Lisa, the choir director. As many interviewers discover, I learned that there was much more to Lisa’s life story. Born and raised in Marks, Lisa is a Delta girl. Her folks were farmers until her Dad’s health caused them to lease out their land. One of their tenants was Barbie Bassett and her family.
When Dad got sick, Lisa at age eight took over the total care of the cows, horses, dogs, and chickens, continuing until she went to college. Her family raised huge gardens. One summer she planted a pea patch, picked peas by the bushel, and sold them to make money. Her younger sister, Angela, resisted all efforts at the outdoor duties. The responsibility placed on her at such an early age helped to mold her into the leader she is today.
Her musical talent was evident at an early age, for she could sing the “Do-Re-Mi” song from “Sound of Music” before she could even talk. At age twelve, she and two friends formed what she says is the first Karaoke band, “The Three Stars,” lip-synching at a lot of informal parties among her parents’ friends. (Incidentally she has a massive collection of 45 RPMS.)
At Delta Academy she was a member of the elite Delta Singers, a well known classical and contemporary singing group. Throughout her college years she sang with different bands as lead singer. She met Lance at Mississippi State, although at the time she was dating his roommate.
Lisa’s resume includes singing onstage with Rick Springfield (a happy accident), and appearing at countless community events. She is the artist of choice for weddings in this area.
Having received a degree in Business Management and Social Psychology from Mississippi State, Lisa has been an invaluable employee to several businesses, notably Mississippi State Employment Services and most recently, Office Manager of CME Pharmacy here in town.
The story is not done yet – there is the author, Leigh Ryan Lansing, which is Lisa’s pen name. Marks must be a lot like Hazlehurst, for she says the inspiration for her stories is based on the memories and experiences of many of the townspeople, fictionalized, of course.
Lisa began writing her first book when Ryan was six months old and it was finished by the time he was three. Named “Grave Deceptions,” the manuscript was submitted to many a publisher and rejected by all. Not to be deterred, Lisa decided to publish the book herself. It is now available on Amazon and other outlets in hard copy, and is on eBooks, Nook, and Kindle. Her second novel, “Enchanted Spirit,” followed, considerably easier to get on the market. She is working on two more.
This article won’t be complete without mentioning Lisa’s love of running and other physical activities. She posts regularly on Facebook, “things I see when I run.” She has taught aerobics and has really enjoyed her backyard swimming pool.
Lance, Lisa, and Ryan have already located a beautiful home on a lake in Tifton. They look forward to many pleasurable hours. Lisa is planning to take time off when they move to do more writing and to explore what Tifton has to offer.
We really can’t say “Goodbye” to this lady who is so full of vitality, personality, and talent. Lisa, we can say that we are blessed to have had you and your family for 23 years and wish for you many good years ahead. No doubt you will prove to be a blessing to those lucky Georgians. Vaya con Dios!