MERIGOLD, Miss. (AP) — Willie Seaberry, owner of Po’ Monkey’s juke joint in Bolivar County, has died.
Deputy Coroners Ted Ray and Murry Roark tell The Clarion-Ledger (http://on.thec-l.com/29Ch7BY) they found Seaberry late Thursday in his back bedroom at the lounge.
Roark said it appears he had a heart attack earlier this week. He was 75.
“He was supposed to open up last night,” Roark said Friday. “People were concerned and went there and opened the door and found him in the bed. He’d been there since Tuesday. Apparently sometime during the day Tuesday, he went back in his bedroom and went to sleep and didn’t wake back up.”
“He was an icon in the Delta and he will be dearly missed. He added a lot to our travel and tourism here and he was also just a really great guy. It’s not the same without him,” Cleveland Mayor Billy Nowell told The Bolivar Commercial (http://bit.ly/29XjVOC ).
Kellie Carr, director of Tourism for the Cleveland Chamber of Commerce, said Seaberry’s death was a loss for the entire Delta and the state.
“He really brought the place to life and gave it a personality. What was so wonderful about him was that he made everyone feel welcome. It didn’t matter if they were from Germany, Mississippi, or a local. In that building everyone was friends for a night even if they just saw each other that one time,” she said.
“He was such a kind man and a true Delta character. I think that that was so indicative of our area that we had this man full of life and personality. He’s going to be missed and there will never be another one like him.”
Po’ Monkey’s is located just west of the town of Merigold. The lounge, which opened in 1963, got its name from Seaberry’s nickname, which is Po’ Monkey.
According to a listing on the Mississippi Blues Trail website, the lounge “played an integral role in the development of the blues, offering a distinctly secular space for people to socialize, dance, and forget their everyday troubles.”
“Mr. Seaberry was a great friend to the Delta Center,” said Leigh Aylward with the Delta Center Culture and Learning. “We loved sharing his place with visitors from all over the country. We were actually headed to his place on a bus last night before we heard the horrible news. He will really be missed in this area and he will truly be missed by the Delta Center. He was such a great ambassador of the Delta and we loved all the time we had with him.”
Roark said he’s known Seaberry for about 50 years. “He always had a positive attitude. He never said anything bad about anyone. His friendship transcended racial and gender differences. You never heard a sour thing come out of his mouth against anyone. He was just such a good person. He was a simple man and he led a good simple life.”
Funeral arrangements are pending.