Services for Joe Street Covington, MD will be held Monday, December 21, 2020, at 11:00 am at the Robert Barham Family Funeral Home with Dr. Tom Sikes presiding. Visitation will precede the services at 10:00 am. Covid-19 protocols will be observed throughout the services.
Dr. Covington passed away Thursday, December 17, 2020, at Jeff Anderson Regional Hospital. He was born in Meridian, Mississippi, on September 25, 1921, to Joseph Albert Covington and Lola Street Covington.
He graduated from Meridian High School in 1939 and then attended Ole Miss for one year before transferring to the University of Alabama where he studied engineering.
After the events of Pearl Harbor in December 1941, he volunteered for military service in the Army-Air Force. He was sent to officer training in Texas and was trained as a navigator in a B-17 Flying Fortress bomber. Lieutenant Covington successfully completed 36 missions over Germany and Austria during World War II until his plane was shot down May 29, 1944, over what is currently northern Austria. Being one of only four to survive, he was able to parachute out of the plane and was quickly captured by the local Austrian militia. In the book Through the Eye of the Needle, Dr. Covington contributed his description of these events saying the locals wanted to execute the surviving captured American airmen, but a German Sargent in the German Army shouted down the locals claiming the Americans were Prisoners of War and were his prisoners under his control; therefore, preventing them from being killed. He was sent to multiple prison camps; however, he ultimately ended up in the German camp of Stalag Luft III, the prison that was made famous by the movie the “Great Escape”. After arriving at that prison camp two weeks after the escape, he described that period as being the most difficult time in prison. Stalag Luft III was ultimately liberated by General George S. Patton in April of 1945.
After World War II, Dr. Covington returned to the University of Alabama to study law. He had completed a year of Law School when he decided to pursue medicine instead. He enrolled in pre-med at the University of Mississippi. He was later accepted into the Ole Miss Medical School in Oxford. Although he had considerable hardships in war and in prison camp, he did not feel any bitterness towards Germany. During his second year of medical school at Ole Miss, he met Gisela Sauerberg, Ole Miss’s first German exchange student. They married in January of 1950, and during the next sixty years they enjoyed many trips back to Germany together where he became very close to many of her friends.
Following his two years of medical school at Ole Miss, Dr. Covington was accepted into Northwestern University Medical School in Chicago where he earned his medical degree. After completing his residency in Internal Medicine at Charity Hospital in New Orleans, he and Gisela moved back to his hometown of Meridian in 1956. He loved practicing medicine in Meridian and was frequently affectionately referred to as “Dr. Joe”. In the early 1970′s the Internal Medicine Group of Dr. Fleming, Dr. Carter, Dr. Brown, and himself was formed which served Meridian for many years. He also later served as the Medical Director of the King’s Daughters and Sons Nursing Home for many years.
Dr. Covington’s life was long, productive, healthy, and happy. He was extremely loyal to the things he loved. He called his wife, Gisela, the “love of his life” and was married to her for 60 years before her passing in 2010.
Dr. Covington felt passionate towards classical music and enjoyed singing and playing the clarinet. He played the clarinet in the Meridian High School Band, the Ole Miss Marching Band, and the Alabama marching band. During his time in prison camp, he was instrumental in forming a choral group of officers who performed Christmas music for their fellow prisoners. He was a member of the choir at First Presbyterian Church and later at Trinity Presbyterian Church as well as some local bands for many years. He also enjoyed being a part of the Meridian Symphony Orchestra and Chorus and served two terms as the President of the Meridian Symphony Orchestra from 1979 to 1981. He continued to enjoy the performances by the Meridian Symphony until right before his death.
Dr. Covington was involved in many local activities during his lifetime but was particularly loyal to the Meridian Rotary Club as he was a member for over 60 years. Similarly, he was a founding member of the Phil Hardin Foundation in 1964 and served until 2015.
He is preceded in death by his parents, Joseph Albert Covington and Lola Street Covington, and his brother, Albert Armistead Covington. Also preceding him in death were his first cousin and lifelong buddy, Johnny Dear, his walking/running partner of 50 years, Gene Damon, and his childhood friend, George Sparks.
Dr. Covington leaves behind his three sons and their families, Dr. Roger (Lesley) Covington of Winchester, Virginia, Stephen (Nell) Covington, and Andrew (Diana) Covington of Meridian, eight grandchildren, Benn, Anna, Catherine, Wade, Ryan, Callie, Julie, Richard, and three great grandchildren, Dean, Molly, and Marie.
The family would like to express their extreme gratitude to the staff of Aldersgate Retirement Community and also to his private sitters for their loving care during his final years.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the Meridian Symphony Orchestra or to a charity of your choice.
Robert Barham Family Funeral Home 6300 Hwy 39 North Meridian, MS 39305 PH:601-693-8482 Fax:601-693-8721