Excerpt: "While [Jerry and Irene] presented a united, supportive face to the world, privately they …"
Jerry Stover was born December 3, 1966, in Abbeville, Mississippi. When he was a senior in high school, he started dating Irene Morrison, who was a year behind him in school. Her November 24 birthday made her almost exactly a year younger than him.
Soon after Irene's high school graduation, she and Jerry married and settled down in Abbeville.
Jerry had discovered his knack for retail sales while working at the local sporting goods store during high school, and he continued there full-time when he graduated. When Walmart came to Oxford, the store's owner decided to retire and close the business. He gave Jerry plenty of warning, so Jerry was able to get a new job at Walmart, which he started right after the store closed for good.
His conscientious attitude plus his sales ability and experience soon caught the attention of management, and he was offered a place in their management trainee program. He rapidly worked his way into a secure position in Merchandising.
Irene began working in a grocery store near Abbeville after high school graduation, but when she became pregnant with Andrea, she quit and remained a stay-at-home mother until Andrea was out of high school. When Andrea graduated, Irene found work at a supermarket as a cashier. She enjoyed the contact with customers and the extra money.
Andrea was Jerry's "Precious" from the day she was born, and his life and interests revolved around her. He happily went along when Andrea was old enough to audition for school and community productions. When Andrea and her mother were involved in long rehearsals or performances, he often prepared dinner for all of them.
Irene was not a stereotypical "stage mother." She never pushed her daughter to accomplish what she dreamed of for her. She wanted to see Andrea successful and happy with her own choices.
Jerry and Irene were delighted when Andrea decided to attend the University of Mississippi and live at home. They hoped their continued influence would quell the wild streak Andrea began showing in her teens.
When Andrea took a job with Oxtales after college, they were disappointed. The theatrical group had a reputation for staging outlandish, controversial productions that often included strong sexual content. Irene and Jerry soon learned that Oxtales' reputation was well deserved, as each of the productions Andrea was involved in seemed to cause more strife in the community than the last.
Their worst fears were realized when Oxtales staged "Snopes" and community awareness groups, who had never been fans of Oxtales productions, increased their protests. The groups began vigorously demonstrating against the theatrical company, especially targeting Andrea and her family.
Jerry and Irene's privacy was invaded, and their property vandalized. While they presented a united, supportive face to the world, privately they found the embarrassment difficult to endure. Then when Andrea was arrested and prosecuted, they were miserable.
When she was given the opportunity to plead to a lesser charge, Jerry begged Andrea to do it, but she refused. She welcomed the attention, saying a court trial would call attention to the "government's attempt to stifle freedom of expression." Jerry and Irene were frustrated and disappointed by her decision, but they kept it to themselves.
When Andrea was sent to jail, Jerry couldn't bring himself to visit her at first. The thought of his darling little girl being behind bars was impossible for him to accept. At the same time, he couldn't understand the person she had become and found it impossible to reconcile the two.
Irene began visiting Andrea as soon as she was permitted and kept it up at least once a week during the entire incarceration. She finally convinced Jerry that Andrea was the child he had always loved, even though he didn't agree with his daughter's actions. By the time Andrea was released, they had reconciled, and he welcomed her back home.
However, they all discovered that it wasn't easy for a 29-year-old independent woman to live with her parents. Andrea's lifestyle involved late night rehearsals and associating, again, with people her parents didn't approve of. All this, coupled with Andrea's reinstatement as artistic director of Oxtales, strained the relationship between parents and daughter.
Jerry and Irene's hope that Andrea would come to her senses and seek a less controversial position or even leave the Oxford area was not to be. Instead, Andrea plunged into staging a new production, "The Trees," which apparently would be as controversial as "Snopes" had been.
Once again, the community organizations and individuals that had so violently opposed "Snopes" were provoked and began even more zealous campaigns to shut down the production, Oxtales Theatre, and Andrea herself. The resumption of these strident protests centering on their daughter renewed Jerry and Irene's distress over the way Andrea was living her life and the way it was affecting theirs.
Even with all the upheaval, Jerry and Irene were shocked and devastated by the death of their only child and wonder if there was some way they could have prevented it.