Hometown Rankin - February & March 2016

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volume 3 number 1

Feb/Mar 2016

storming the runway


Faith Hill Country


Best Desserts in

Rankin County


Miss Mississippi

Hannah Roberts

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4 • February/March 2016

publisher & Editor

Tahya A. Dobbs


Kevin W. Dobbs

Consulting Editor

Mary Ann Kirby

Account Executives

Alicia Adams

Rachel Lombardo

Contributing Writers

Camille Anding

Olivia Halverson

Mary Ann Kirby

Susan Marquez

Kerri Walker

staff Photographer

Othel Anding



Olivia Halverson



Alisha Floyd

Brenda McCall

Layout Design

Daniel Thomas - 3dt

Missy Donaldson - MAD Designs

• • •

You’ll have to agree–Valentine’s Day is the over-arching theme of February. So, with that fact

settled, we have assembled content in this issue that revolve around things we LOVE.

First are celebrities! We all are caught up in the glitz and glamour of the famous. Faith Hill and

Miss Mississippi Hannah Roberts are our own stars and you’ll LOVE reading about them.

We also have a surprise celebrity for you–the mayor of Puckett. His talent is cue stick artistry–

designing and creating pool cues that are sold worldwide. In fact, he’s one of 5 artisans in the world

that makes up this elite group of professionals.

Then there are our own hometown couples who share the beginning of their LOVE stories of

how they first met. You’ll also LOVE our featured desserts by local restaurants that make every

month sweeter.

This is a perfect opportunity to say that we LOVE our readers! You

guys give us such incredible feedback and we’re honored that you spend

your time with us. And last but certainly not least, we LOVE our

advertisers. Remember to thank them and show them some love by

sharing some hometown dollars with their businesses. Every one of us

play a vital role in their continued success.

Regardless of February’s frosty days and the brisk winds

of March, LOVE will always warm our hearts. We hope

you LOVE this new issue!



For subscription information

visit www.htmags.com

Contact us at info@HTMags.com


26 Eastgate Drive, Suite F

Brandon MS 39042

• • •

All rights reserved. No portion of Hometown Rankin

may be reproduced without written permission from

the publisher. The management of Hometown Rankin

is not responsible for opinions expressed by its

writers or editors. Hometown Rankin maintains the

unrestricted right to edit or refuse all submitted

material. All advertisements are subject to approval by

the publisher. The production of Hometown Rankin

is funded by advertising.

On the cover: Faith Hill

In this issue Favorite Things about Rankin County 8

A Mississippi Girl 12

How We Met 16

A Leap of Faith 22

Loving Lazarus 30

Best Desserts in Rankin County 40

I Love Us 46

A Cord of Three Strands 56

Storming the Runway 62

Espiritu Cues 66

Remaining Faithful 76

Hometown Rankin • 5

6 • February/March 2016

Rankin County

is one of the fastest growing counties in

Mississippi. So it should come as no surprise

that when we asked some of the locals to tell

us what their favorite things were about

living in Rankin County, the answers

were varied and heartfelt.

And we couldn’t have

said it better ourselves...

8 • February/March 2016

Voncille Anderson

The best thing about living in Rankin

County is its wonderful, small town

environment, which helps in raising

a family. Rankin County has an

outstanding school district. As a

nineteen-year Rankin County teacher

and parent of two RCSD students,

I know first-hand that our district

employs the best teachers and

administrators in the state. Rankin

County also has amazing sports

leagues and extracurricular programs

that engage our children physically

and mentally. We have incredible

coaches who volunteer and dedicate

their time to our children. I find comfort

in knowing that when my children go

outside to play, not only are they safe,

but I also have neighbors who are

concerned about their well-being.

I am proud to say that Rankin County

is my home.

Clay Parker

My favorite thing about living in Rankin

County is that each city is still able to

give you that small-town feeling.

I love working for and being a part

of a community that gives so much

support to our community’s first

responders police, fire and EMS.

Veronica Moore

What I enjoy and love about living in

Rankin County is that it’s reminiscent

of my childhood home. I love the

“country feel” of being removed from

the busy interstate and the leisure it

provides. It’s important to me for my

children to have a similar culture

passed to me from my grandparents.

Aggie Cunningham

What I enjoy the most about living in

Rankin County is the hometown feel

of a small town community. The

people are friendly, always willing to

help when needed, and very giving.

Scott Hill

We have made such great friendships

since moving to Rankin County in 2008.

We can’t imagine calling anywhere

else home.

Jamie Perry

What I love most about living in Rankin

County is the quiet, beautiful country

life with the convenience of being close

enough to the town of Pelahatchie and

Brandon for shopping! Pelahatchie is

a small town filled with so many great

businesses and people.

Allie Enis

Hard to pick just one favorite thing

about living in Rankin County, but I

would have to say my church family,

my close knit neighborhood friends

and the wonderful teachers my

children have been blessed with in

Brandon are at the top of my list.

Tina Rials

Just a few reasons I have loved living

in Rankin County my whole life are the

friendly folks, hometown pride and

convenience of the big city, but with

a small town feel.

Hometown Rankin • 9

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10 • February/March 2016

Overcoming Anger

Do you ever get angry?

Feel your anger gets out of control?

Can anger even be controlled?

What if you were told you didn’t even

have to get angry?

In the following interview, anger is the topic of

discussion between Jim Thorn of 103.9 WYAB

Radio and Dr. Perry Sanderford, a licensed

professional counselor at Crossroads

Counseling Center.

Jim Perry, everyone has found himself or herself getting

angry. From your perspective, how is anger defined?

Perry Anger is an emotion of the body that is designed

to reach a goal. Anger has an objective, it wants to

accomplish something.

Jim Is anger natural?

Perry I would say, yes. It is instinctive. We begin in

early infancy to use our body to get what we want.

Jim Are there any times when it’s healthy to be angry?

Perry We want to think that anger is good. For example,

the recent act of terror in Paris. Anger was our initial

reaction–one that we may think should accompany

the response to such a horrible act. But the truth is that

anger, itself, is not necessarily the most effective tool for

responding. We can and should respond decisively to

such horrific acts of violence, but most of the time the

anger, in itself, doesn’t really accomplish all that much.

What you can do with anger, though, can be just as

effective, or perhaps even more so, in solving

problems–even very large ones.

Jim How can we suppress the anger emotion that

bubbles up so quickly? For example, when we are on the

road someone unexpectedly pulls out in front of us.

Perry I don’t believe it’s possible to suppress anger

surging in the moment–simply because anger is a

trained and instinctive reaction of our body. To not

instinctively react in anger, we have to have something

in place internally before the incident occurs. Again, I

want to make it clear I am not saying that we do not act.

I am simply saying using anger is not necessarily the

most effective problem solver.

Jim Are you saying we can eliminate anger altogether

from our lives?

Perry Pretty much. But to do so, one has to have

confidence they have the ability to think and the ability

to respond purposefully to solve the problem. Without

that kind of confidence, we instinctively resort to anger.

For example, a spouse who feels disrespected or

controlled by an angry spouse often responds, in return,

with anger. The problem here is that we now have two

angry people–which, more often than not, creates an

even greater explosive situation. On the flip-side, when a

spouse is confident they can think and act appropriately

to the reality of the situation, they then are in a position

to respond with greater clarity and decisiveness.

Jim From a Christian perspective you mentioned

replacing anger with something else. Talk about anger

from a Christian perspective.

Perry Therein lies the very essence of Christianity.

Christians have a great confidence in the sufficiency of

God to provide for our every need. Christianity is not just

a label, it is “trusting in God”. If Jesus can be crucified,

placed in a grave, and then come back to life, then

Jesus can certainly be trusted to protect us in any given

situation. Confidence in Christ is what keeps us from

being angry. And by the way, we don’t have to win every

disagreement. In fact, Jesus said we can lose and still

win. Now that’s powerful.

Jim Often anger comes up because we defend our

perspective and what we think is right. But are you

saying that sometimes it’s best to kind of back away

even if we stand firmly on our position?

Perry I’m saying we can be powerful in the story. We

don’t have to be a doormat. But we can be more powerful

if we remain calm. We can think, and then if necessary,

express ourselves with confident actions. We are not

asking people to be stupid. You can distance yourself

from someone that wants to harm you. Don’t make

yourself available to somebody who attacks you. But at

the same time, you don’t necessarily have to respond

immediately with a fight. For Christians, there is a

greater force within us and we can trust Him.

Jim I would imagine that someone who gets angry

fairly regularly would take a little more time to re-program

in order to get back to the position that you are talking


Perry Getting angry regularly is a way of saying we

have programmed our body to use anger to problem-solve.

But we can ‘un-train’ ourselves, too. It requires confidence

and practice. It’s like jumping out of an airplane. You

believe the parachute is going to hold you up–but you

really don’t know until the ripcord is actually pulled.

You hope life will go better if you don’t respond in

anger, but you are not 100% sure until you try it. The

more you practice trusting God and not attempt to solve

problems with anger, the more confidence you build in

this process.

It’s a matter of learning how to do life in a way that works

better. But, you may insist you can do life better with

anger, and if so, then keep doing it. But my observance

in everyday life is that people not only accomplish very

little with anger, but they actually make the situation


Jim What would you recommend for someone that

struggles with anger?

Perry: Chronic anger means something in life is not

working. If something is not working, you don’t want to

keep doing it. A lot of people do, however. They go to

their grave using that same anger that has accomplished

very little. The definition of insanity is doing the same

thing over and over again expecting different results. If

anger is not working for you, consider doing something


However, you may not know what to do. If I know where

I want to go but am not sure how to get there, I use a

map plotting the pathway to the desired destination.

If you want to overcome anger but don’t know how,

then find someone who knows, and ask. A good Christian

counselor is actually a life-coach who can teach you

how not to be angry. Remember, lots of people say they

know the pathway to living well, but they may only be

guessing. Guessing, when in error, has its own negative


That’s why I think Christian counseling is the finest

source of information available to the world. Jesus was

the smartest human that ever lived. He knows how to

live well. This information has been proven reliable for

thousands of years or it would have died out by now.

A confident life in the pathway provided by Jesus Christ

is truly living well–even in overcoming anger.


For more information, please contact Dr. Perry Sanderford at Crossroads Christian Marriage & Family Counseling. 601-939-6634.

Hometown Rankin • 11

12 • February/March 2016

A Mississippi Girl

Hannah Camille Roberts was crowned Miss Mississippi in 2015

and went on to compete for the title of Miss America 2016 where she was named as first runner-up.

As a graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi, Hannah majored in biochemistry with a minor in biology.

After getting to know her here, we were quick to realize that she’s as smart as she is beautiful.

We are so proud of this Mississippi girl!

At what age did you first begin dreaming

of being Miss America?

I’ve watched Miss America every year since I was

a young girl and I have always looked up to those


Were you a regular in pageant competitions

growing up? If so, were you encouraged by

your results?

I truly did not compete in a lot of pageants as a

child. Other than Miss Mississippi, I have only

competed in Jr. Miss/Distinguished Young Woman.

Describe a typical day during your time

at the Miss America competition.

The days at Miss America typically included a

rehearsal time in the morning until mid-afternoon

and then a night event such as dinner.

Who did you consider to be your biggest

competitor in the talent division?

I definitely considered Miss Georgia, Betty

Cantrell, now Miss America, to be my biggest

competition. She has one of the best voices

I have ever heard in any pageant.

What kind of food did you eat at the

competition and was it all provided

by the pageant?

Our meals were all catered or provided by the

Miss America pageant and were selected by a

dietitian. I have never been a huge fan of dieting

or restricting food so I had everything from salad

to ice cream during those two weeks!

What was your most enjoyable part of the


The most enjoyable part of any pageant is meeting

other young women. I made so many friends at Miss

America and stay in touch with them all the time.

What is something you learned at the pageant

that most people would never know?

Many people assume that “pageant girls” are mean

or snobby. But through this organization, I have

learned that these women are real girls. They all

have struggles and they aren’t perfect, but they are

supportive and loving and want to make a

difference in the world.

What was the most difficult part of the

pageant competition?

The most difficult part was not being able to see

my family. My family arrived in Atlantic City very

early in the week, but I had very little time to

communicate with them and did not get to see

them until Tuesday night. We are a very tight-knit

group, so this was a struggle for me.

Give some pointers to other girls who aspire

to being Miss America.

Being competitive at Miss America is all about

preparation. If this is your dream, start preparing as

soon as you can. Whether it’s developing a talent,

creating a fitness plan, or learning about politics

and interview skills, starting early is a huge benefit.

Describe your interview with the judges.

My Miss America interview was the most difficult

10 minutes of my life! It’s set up like a press conference

and all types of questions are fired at random.

What was the one food on your “can’t eat

list” that you craved the most?

Although it may have been a good idea to have a

“can’t eat list,” I never made one. However, my

favorite “bad” food is Taco Bell all the way! I am

known for showing up to interview practice with

a take-out bag in one hand and my interview

notebook in the other.

Was there ever a time in the week that you

wished you were back home living your

normal life?

Absolutely not. Only one girl from Mississippi gets

to go to Miss America each year, and this year it was

me! There was not a single moment that I regretted

being there and I soaked up every second of it.

What is your favorite memory from the


Sunday night (crowning night) after the top 15

were announced. I was announced 14th and one

of my best friends, Miss Arkansas Loren McDaniel,

was announced 15th. I think I screamed louder

when her name was called than I did for my own.

I was very close to all of the girls that made it into

the Top 15 and we were all so excited for one

another. That is a moment I’ll never forget.

What are your goals for the future?

I will begin medical school at UMMC in August

and plan to specialize in pediatric reconstructive

plastic surgery. I hope to live in Jackson or Oxford

once I graduate.

Hometown Rankin • 13

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14 • February/March 2016

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Hometown Brandon • 15


We Met

Everyone has their

“How we met” story.

From meeting in the first grade,

to sharing classes in college,

to being set up by mutual friends,

everyone’s story is unique.

Here are just a few “How we met”

stories from some of our readers.

16 • February 2016

Julie & Donny Parker


Melissa & Scott Crawford


Donny and Julie sat beside each other in Mrs. Simpson’s

first grade class at Iuka Elementary School. Their friendship

developed through the tenth grade when Donny asked

Julie out on a date to see the movie, “Three Men and a

Little Lady” and dine at Taco Bell. Several more dates and

a few high school dances later, the couple graduated from

Iuka High School in 1992.

The Christmas before the two of them went to

Mississippi State, Donny proposed. Their engagement

lasted all through college until Julie finished her student

teaching. She said, “I finished student teaching on a

Thursday, graduated from Mississippi State on Friday,

and got married on Saturday.” Today, Donny and Julie

live in Brandon. They have three children: Benton, Anna

Scott, and Lila. This year, Donny and Julie will celebrate

their twenty-first wedding anniversary.

Scott and Melissa met in Hawaii in the summer of

1986. Scott was serving as a minister of youth intern at

First Southern Baptist Church of Pearl Harbor. That

summer, Melissa helped Scott with ministry activities for

the youth group. After that summer, they returned to their

homes. They wrote to each other and spoke on the phone

as often as they could. Melissa eventually asked Scott to fly

out to California to meet her family. That week Scott said,

“The Lord confirmed to both of us that he was calling us

to each other.”

Scott went back to New Orleans Baptist Theological

Seminary and finished his master’s degree. Melissa continued

with her college education at UCSB. She flew out to see

Scott graduate from NOBTS in December of 1990. Scott

proposed marriage to her that Christmas. To his delight,

Melissa said yes. After a long engagement with multiple

relocations for both Scott and Melissa, they ended up in

Las Vegas doing ministry together. They were married on

May 22, 1993 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Three children and

eighteen years later, Scott and Melissa moved their family

back to Scott’s hometown of Pearl. Scott has been the

pastor at First Baptist Church of Pearl since 2012, and

Melissa teaches at Park Place Christian Academy.

Hometown Rankin • 17

Judy & Barry Kirkpatrick


Heather & Ben Bryan


Barry was sent to Meridian Navel Air Station in 1961.

Upon arriving, one of his roommates set up a double date

for them. The roommate was going on the date with Judy

and arranged for Barry to be with one of Judy’s friends.

From the first minute they met, Barry knew he wanted to

get to know Judy better. A couple of days later, Barry found

out Judy was going to take her niece to the Meridian County

Fair. He made sure he was there. Barry said, “We had a

great time until we rode the Ferris wheel. After coming

down I threw up–not a very good impression to make.”

Barry did not have a car at that time so they didn’t go

out much until Christmas when he went home and bought

a 1957 Pontiac. When Barry returned after the holidays, he

ran into snow south of Butler, Alabama. The weather got

pretty bad, and a neighborly couple hosted Barry for the

night. The next day, Barry drove in over 8 inches of snow

on the roads. He went to Judy’s home, then called his duty

officer and said he couldn’t make it back to the base. Barry

spent another week at Judy’s parents’ home. They got

married June 29, 1962. In June, Barry and Judy will

celebrate their fifty-fourth wedding anniversary.

Ben and Heather spent their whole lives less than a mile

from each other. It wasn’t until they were ages 20 and 21

that the two actually met. Their college roommates were old

friends, and eventually Ben and Heather found themselves

in the same circle of friends. They started dating in the

spring of 2008. Heather said, “I remember calling my mom

after our first date to tell her I had just met the man I was

going to marry.”

Today Ben and Heather jokingly talk about how from

day one they were sure that marriage was in their future.

Ben and Heather both finished their degrees at Ole Miss

and moved home to join the real world. Ben proposed

the day after Thanksgiving, his favorite holiday, in 2009.

They were married July 10, 2010. Since then, Ben and

Heather’s family has expanded and they have two

wonderful children: Caroline born March 20, 2013 and

Josh born December 8, 2015.

The couple currently resides in Flowood. Ben works

at Morgan White Group as an accounting associate, and

Heather teaches at Norwest Rankin High School. The

Bryans are excited to raise their family in the same

community they both grew up in.

18 • February/March 2016

Juniper & Delwin Wallace


Whitney & Marcus Canoy


Juniper and Delwin met in August of 2002 while both

teaching in the art department at Brandon High School.

They ended up in the same group of friends where five of

them would go out to dinner once a month. Juniper would

often ask Delwin for help with big projects like painting

sets for the theater program. Their students would always

say to Juniper, “You and Mr. Wallace should date.” Sure

enough, by February of 2003, Delwin and Juniper started

dating. They were engaged in July of the same year but

decided to keep their engagement a secret.

When they came back to school after that summer, a

coworker grabbed Delwin’s hand to see if he was wearing

a wedding band. She suspected Delwin and Juniper had

eloped over the summer. Delwin said, “What are you

looking for?” He grabbed Juniper’s hand with the engagement

ring on it and said “This?”

Delwin and Juniper got married outside at the Mississippi

Ag Museum in June of 2004. About fifty students attended

the wedding as they were closely invested in Delwin and

Juniper’s relationship. Today, the Wallaces live in Flowood.

Delwin teaches art and Juniper teaches theater at Northwest

Rankin High School. They will celebrate their twelfth

wedding anniversary this year.

Marcus and Whitney were both students at Mississippi

College, but never actually met until Marcus’ friend stepped

in. He told Marcus that his girlfriend worked with a girl at

Ulmer’s Stride Rite named Whitney. They thought Marcus

and Whitney should meet. Marcus said, “I was a bit nervous

at the prospect of participating in a blind date for lots of

reasons. Still, we both agreed to a double date and I fell in

love at first sight.”

Twenty years later, Marcus and Whitney have remained

inseparable. They live in Puckett, where Marcus is the pastor

at Puckett Baptist Church and Whitney is a part-time

physical therapist at St. Dominic’s. Whitney is also a fulltime

mom to their three children, Kayleigh, Nolan, and Jase.

The couple just celebrated their eighteenth wedding

anniversary on January 3. That date is also special because

their cancer-surviving daughter turned 13 on the same day.

Marcus said, “No marriage is perfect, but God is, and we

know that God brought us together. He has blessed our

marriage and our family.”

Hometown Rankin • 19

20 • February/March 2016

Hometown Rankin • 21

A Leap



22 • February/March 2016

On December 19th, the Mississippi

Country Music Trail unveiled a trail

marker honoring Faith Hill at the

corner of Main and Mangum

Streets in Star, Mississippi.

As a young girl growing up in Star, Faith

found her passion for music and singing and

followed her heart to Nashville at the young age

of 19. She has now been a force of nature in the

entertainment industry for over two decades,

having achieved unprecedented success in the

worlds of country and pop music as one of the

top-selling and most-awarded female artists of

all time. Over the course of her career, she has

had fourteen #1 singles and multiple albums

topping both the Billboard Top 100 and

Country charts, with six multi- platinum studio

albums and selling more than 30 million albums

worldwide. She’s won five Grammy Awards,

twelve ACM Awards, four Billboard Music

Awards, four American

Music Awards, four

People’s Choice Awards

and three CMA Awards.

We had the chance

to ask Faith, and her

close-knit family, a few

questions and got a

peek of what it was

like for her growing

up in Star.

What is your favorite memory of growing up

in Star/Rankin County?

One of my fondest memories of growing up in Star was the

winter that Highway 49 froze over completely from a big

northeastern storm that fell down into the deep south in

the early ‘80s. Highway 49 and everything else was closed.

This is the day that Gaye McCann, now Gaye Knight, and

I would become best friends. We played all day on the

highway…sliding, falling, running, laughing, sliding, falling,

and laughing again and again.

What is the one thing you miss the most about

living in a small town?

Life in a small town is something everyone should have the

opportunity to experience at least once in a lifetime. Dreams

seem bigger when you come from a small town; although,

somehow they seem more obtainable because either you have

the support of friends and family, which gives you strength to

work hard and be successful or you have so much drive to get

out of the small town that it motivates you to work even harder.

I miss my family and I miss knowing every road and where

each one leads. There is power in that knowledge; the power

of knowing where you are going, as well as the power that

comes from the drive to get out of something so familiar and

discover what the world has to offer.

Is there a favorite tradition that you and your

family had growing up that has been carried

over to your family?

There are many things that I have

carried over to my family. Lots of

traditions–and most all of them are

related to food and faith. My

parents had the most incredible

vegetable garden. My brothers

and I had the chore of weeding,

shelling peas, butter beans–whatever

was required. I absolutely

hated it when I was growing up

and usually found an excuse to

not always be home when I

needed to help.

Hometown Rankin • 23

But once I moved away, I realized how valuable that garden

was to my parents and our family for so many reasons. After

my brothers and I moved into our own homes, my parents

worked the garden and would split the harvest evenly between

us siblings. There is no one that can cook green beans and butter

beans like Edna Perry. I do know the secret and I cook them for

my family but they just never seem to be as good as my moms.

When did you know that you wanted to be

a country singer?

I always knew I wanted to sing. Truthfully, there was never any

doubt whatsoever. I just never thought of doing anything else.

It was as if singing chose me. My soul was set on fire every

Sunday with music from the church. That music transformed

me to another place and still does to this very day. The soul of

those old gospel hymns just resonated in me from as far back

as I can remember. After seeing Elvis Presley in Jackson when

I was 12 years old, I knew there would be no other path I could

take but to sing. However, it wasn’t until high school that I

decided country music was the music I wanted to sing. Country

music was not as popular then as it is now, so without question,

I was in the minority when it came to this style of music.

Were your parents supportive of your decision

to move to Nashville?

My parents have always been supportive of all of their children.

They worked hard and instilled in us a strong work ethic that

my brothers and I share. We were taught that nothing comes

without hard work, to treat people with respect and dignity,

and never take one day for granted.

Education was important as well. I begged to move to Nashville

straight out of high school but my mom insisted I go to college

before making my final decision to move away. The fact that I

only attended college for one semester probably broke my mom’s

heart! And as a parent of three teenage daughters, with one in

college, one on the way to college, and another not far behind,

I can only, now, imagine the worry that I must have caused my

mom. However, my parents raised us in faith and I know that

they could not have survived what I put them through without

that faith and without lots of prayer.

24 • February/March 2016

If you could give one piece of advice or

encouragement to anyone with big dreams,

what would it be?

Do what you love. Find your passion in life and work hard

to make it happen. Nothing comes without hard work.

Be a good person and treat people with respect, always…

that is something that never goes out of style. Kindness is

a universal language and no matter how far you climb and

no matter how successful you become, always be humble

and kind.

You have represented Mississippi and your hometown

well. How did it make you feel to be honored with a

marker on the Mississippi Country Music Trail?

I am proud to be from the great state of Mississippi and I am

humbled to be included in a list of so many great artists that

came before me.

You have won numerous awards and accolades, but

what do you feel is your biggest accomplishment?

My biggest accomplishment in this life has been my children.

I thank God everyday for my family. I was born to sing but

I was raised to be mom. That is my greatest joy.

Hometown Rankin • 25


Wesley Perry

What is your favorite memory of living in Rankin County?

My family moved to Plantation Shores when I graduated high

school…1978…yes, I’m old! I can remember playing in Hwy. 49

one winter because there were no cars. The road was covered

with snow and we played in the highway.

Were you and your siblings close growing up?

Yes. I was eight when she came to us and our brother, Steve,

was six. Faith was adopted from birth. My parents named her

Faith, but I gave her the name Audrey. The name came from

a beautiful woman on a TV show. I think it was Big Valley–

and maybe it was Audra. But I named her Audrey after that

pretty lady on TV. So her name is Audrey Faith Perry.

Steve works for Faith now and lives in Franklin, Tennessee.

Is there a favorite tradition that you and your family

had growing up that has been carried over to your


We don’t have specific traditions or anything like that, but

what we do have is LOVE of family. We love people. My parents

love people, I love people, and my kids love people. We also are

helpers…we love to help others. We love to serve.

What is it like being the brother to one of the most

successful country music singers of all time?

Sometimes it’s great and other times it’s just another day. Faith

has always helped us. She helped with my kid’s college and she

helped with the funding to build our home. She gives me stuff

for the kids I teach and much, much more.

What is your favorite song that Faith sings?

My favorite is off of the “Breathe” CD–“There Will Come

a Day.”

26 • February/March 2016


Edna & Ted Perry

Otherwise known as G-Maw and G-Paw.

Answers were relayed to us by Wesley.

How long have you lived in Rankin County?

Since 1978

What is your favorite thing about living in a small town?

G-Paw said his favorite thing is getting to know all of the

people and then looking to see if he sees anyone that he knows

where ever he goes.

G-Maw said making close friends that are always there when

you need them.

Do all of your children have a musical side?

Yes. My youngest son, Steve Perry, took piano lessons and

Wesley plays a little guitar and sings from time to time.

(Funny fact interjected by Wesley - In my family we have many

folks with famous singer names…. Faith Hill, my brother Steve

Perry and my daughter Katie Perry, I’m the odd man out!)

When did you realize that Faith had the talent to sing?

When she was two, standing in a pew at church singing with the

hymnal upside down.

When she told you she wanted to move to Nashville

to pursue a country music career, what was your first


(Answered by Wesley) My mom said no. Said she got lost in

Jackson and she knew she wouldn’t be able to find her way

around a place such as Nashville. My dad has always given her

his support since the very beginning.

Do you remember where you were the first time you

heard Faith on the radio? What was your reaction?

Driving down Highway 49 headed home from work.

My mom’s reaction was, “Well, there she is on the radio.”

As a parent, how did it make you feel to see Faith

honored in such a special way with the marker on

the Mississippi Country Music Trail?

My dad said he was so proud. He never thought she would get

this big! My mom said she would have told your reporter that

she is proud of all of her children.

Hometown Rankin • 27

28 • February/March 2016

Hometown Rankin • 29

30 • February/March 2016

Mary Ann Kirby

couple of years ago, I was walking

back to my then-downtown office

from lunch and noticed a man up

ahead that clearly looked as if he had fallen

on hard times. He was leaning against the

wall watching as I approached and just as

I did, asked if I had a dollar to spare. Now

I knew he was going to ask me that but

what proceeded to come out of my mouth

was astonishing, even to me. I said, “I don’t

have a dollar. I even had to charge my lunch.”

And while I’m quite certain the guy doesn’t

take American Express or care, for that

matter, that I’d been faced with the grueling

decision between cash or credit, he still

managed a gracious nod as I passed him by.

I felt guilty–and ridiculous.

It got me to thinking, though, as I

continued on, what should I have said?

Better yet, what could I have done? It was

the second incident in as many weeks that

left me with the same question.

The week before, my son and I had made

a trip to Yazoo City to see my grandmother.

On the way there, I noticed an older man

standing alongside the highway trying to

fix his bicycle. His front wheel was lying on

the ground and there was a sign on the back

of his bike that said, “Broke and hungry.”

I instantly wished I’d known how to fix a

bicycle–but kept driving, nonetheless. I

mean, you never know about people, right?

Well three hours later on our way back,

we passed that same man now riding his

repaired bike down the shoulder of that

same highway having made it a good

distance from the original sighting. It was

as if God was giving me a second chance

to redeem myself. I told my son, “I wish

there was some way we could help him,”

and he said, “OK, but how?” And in the

time it took us to wrestle with what to do,

at 70 miles per hour, we had traveled

another half-mile down the road–still

not stopping. It weighed on me.

So that day, downtown, as I carried my

purse in the crook of my arm channeling

my inner Reese Witherspoon in Legally

Blonde, I once again failed the exercise

with which I was presented. The man on

the street was seemingly broke and in need

and I did nothing to help him. You know,

Lazarus was overlooked repeatedly and

look how that story ended.

How else could I have helped? A

sandwich and a bottle of water may have

done just the trick–just like the sandwich

and bottle of water I’d bought myself a

half-hour earlier. I mean, the fact that he’s

willing to suffer an existence of poverty

and begging rather than turn to a life of

crime suggests to me that he might actually

be of high moral character. I say that sort

of jokingly, of course. The point is, who are

we to judge? And what does that sandwich

cost in the grand scheme of things? Well,

based on the story of Lazarus, it could cost

me everything.

Regardless of how we act or think in

those situations, we could each do a little

more to help those who have a lot less.

And in reality, the “beggars” in our lives

are not limited to those penniless and on

street corners. We’re surrounded by people

starving emotionally, spiritually, and

socially–and how we feed them matters.

So as we embark upon a new year,

I’d like to offer a prayer for peace and

new beginnings. I pray that joy will fill

our days, peace will fill our hearts, and love

will fill our lives. I pray that we’ll be blessed

with all the good things God has to give

and that we will all live in love and truth

in 2016. n

Hometown Rankin • 31



Grand Re-Opening

January 14, 2016

Alan Miller, Jay Glenn, Tim Everett, Marshall Robinson

Micah & Jessica Sanford Ricky Chapman, Lawrence Taylor Mike Harrell, Leroy Wilson

Lisa Dutton, Lori McClendon Daniel Johnson, Jordan McAlpin Mayor Mark Scarborough, Mayor Butch Lee

32 • February/March 2016

Forrest Rhemann, Stanley Roberts

Bob Wedgeworth, Rob Martin, Richard Redfern, Pat Sullivan, Clay Burns

Terrance McEwen, Thomas Dudley, Collin Jones, Sandra Ray, Buddy Ham

John Gray, Chris Snow, Brandon Weems

Terri Wood, Todd Sanford, Barbara Adams

Melinda Quick, Laura Mayo, Cathey Winne

Scotty Gainey

Lee Ashley

Hometown Rankin • 33


2.5 x 1.75

Attitude Ability Awareness


The Boondocks is an all-inclusive training facility designed

for both men and women to learn safe gun handling and

defensive firearms training for multiple skill levels.

Monthly TWAW Chapter Meetings

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Education is Key

Enjoyment is Goal

Class Descriptions on Website


Sign up online for your class

Click on Class Title to receive class description/prices/etc.

11771 Highway 18 769-972-2382 Raymond, MS 39154

TWAW Shooting Chapter Clinton/Raymond MS


34 • February/March 2016

©2014 Ergon, Inc. All rights reserved.


Hometown Rankin • 35



& BoMikel Bilello

Mr. and Mrs. Jeffrey David Burrell of Brandon,

Mississippi announce the engagement of their

daughter, Madison LeighAnn Burrell, to Bo Mikel

Bilello, son of Mr. and Mrs. Donnie Paul Bilello of

Enterprise, Mississippi.

The bride-elect is the granddaughter of Mr.

Charles Harry Smith, Jr. and the late Mrs. Peggy

Joyce Smith of Pearl and Mrs. Doris Ellen Burrell

and the late Lonnie Buford Burrell, Sr. of Pearl.

Miss Burrell is a 2011 graduate of East Rankin

Academy and a 2015 graduate of Mississippi State

University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in

business administration. At State, she was a

member of Delta Gamma sorority, MSU Fashion

Board, Sigma Alpha Lambda honors society, and

Campus Activities Board. She is employed as a

sales consultant at Miskelly Furniture in Madison.

The prospective groom is the grandson of

Mr. and Mrs. Charles Wayne McLemore of

Enterprise and Ms. Mary Jane Talbot of Baton

Rouge, Louisiana and the late Mr. Donald

Salvatore Bilello of Thibodaux, Louisiana.

Mr. Bilello is a 2010 honor graduate of

Enterprise High School, where he was salutatorian.

He is a 2014 summa cum laude graduate of

Mississippi College, where he earned a bachelor’s

degree in biological sciences and was a member

of Phi Theta Kappa. He is now furthering his

education in the physical therapy program at

University of Mississippi Medical Center.

The couple will exchange vows on Saturday,

March 5, 2016 at six o’clock in the evening at

The Ice House Venue in Jackson, Mississippi

with a reception immediately following.

Upon returning from a honeymoon in St. Lucia,

the couple will reside in Brandon.

36 • February/March 2016



& JustinDavidTullos

Stephanie Brooke Slaughter and Justin David Tullos were united in

marriage October 3, 2015 at The Ivy Venue in Flowood, Mississippi.

The ceremony was officiated by Reverend Gary Knight and Reverend

David Slaughter.

The bride is the daughter of Rev. and Mrs. David Slaughter of Pelahatchie,

Mississippi. She is the granddaughter of Dr. Kenneth Slaughter and the late

Nancy Slaughter of Jackson, Mississippi and the late Mr. and Mrs. George

Welford of Waynesboro, Mississippi. The groom is the son of Mr. and Mrs.

Michael Tullos of Brandon, Mississippi. He is the grandson of Mr. and Mrs.

George Tullos of Brandon, Mississippi and Mr. and Mrs. Wade Morrison of

Byram, Mississippi.

Given in marriage by her father, the bride wore a gown of ivory taffeta

by Allure bridal. The strapless ball gown featured a sweetheart neckline

with ruching detail. The fitted bodice was accented at the waist by a belt

of Swarovski crystals, and a chapel length train completed the ensemble.

A cathedral-length illusion veil, adorned with matching crystal detailing,

accented the dress. Stephanie’s bouquet was a beautiful cascade of white

roses, freesia, ranunculus, and willow eucalyptus.

Attending Stephanie as her matron of honor was Mary Kate Partrige.

Additional attendants were dear friends Ashley Cocilova, Marion Patti,

Shanna Funcke, Rebecca Parker, and Nikki Raney. Each attendant carried

a hand-tied bouquet of red, white, and peach roses with eucalyptus leaves,

which complemented their eggplant, long chiffon dresses. Serving as flower

girls were Adalyn Roberts, Miriam Raney, and Lydia Raney. Attending Justin

as best man was Wil Mann. Groomsmen were John Murphy, Brett Boling,

Will Roberts, Daniel Barnett, and Zach Farrar.

To the bride and groom’s surprised delight, they exited the ceremony to

the song “Oh Happy Day” performed by a gospel quartet from Anderson

United Methodist Church.

Following the ceremony, the bride’s parents hosted a reception on the

grounds of The Ivy. Guests enjoyed hors d’oeuvres of traditional southern

fare provided by Wendy Putt of Fresh Cut Floral and Catering. Guests were

entertained by music and a photo-booth provided by Crowd Pleasers DJ

services. Her mother lovingly prepared the bride’s five tier almond cake.

Cakes by Iris prepared the groom’s two-tiered chocolate cake depicting his

love of hunting and Mississippi State. On the eve of the wedding, a dinner

was hosted by the parents of the groom at The Ivy.

After a honeymoon to St. Lucia, the couple is at home in Brandon,


Hometown Rankin • 37

Urology Associates

of Mississippi

Our physicians are highly skilled and experienced

in treating a wide array of urology conditions

Utilizing state of the art equipment and advanced treatment techniques,

each of our board certified urologists have specific areas of urological

expertise in addition to providing general urologic care to patients

all over the state of Mississippi.

Avinash C. Gulanikar, M.D. • Mark A. Condon, M.D. • Sujith K. Reddy, M.D.

Please visit us at our new location:

294 East Layfair Drive • Flowood, MS


38 • February/March 2016

Hometown Rankin • 39

40 • February/March 2016

Life is Short.

Eat Dessert First

Whether you have a passion for pastry or an utter devotion to chocolate,

every once in a while, it becomes necessary to satisfy your needs

with a sweet and indulgent treat. And when cravings call,

these go-to desserts are sure to satisfy.


Homemade New York Cheesecake

with candied red raspberry sauce will make you

re-think cheesecake. Creamy, light, and not-too-sweet,

creating a balance between sweetness and tanginess.

It’s a chef favorite!

Nothing Bundt Cakes

Chocolate Chocolate Chip

Chocolate bliss. This incredibly moist, decadent chocolate

cake is packed with chocolate chips and rich, home-baked

flavor that’s certain to earn sighs of delight.

Hometown Rankin • 41

The Alumni House Sports Bar & Grill

Peanut Butter & Chocolate Bread Pudding

drizzled with a caramel and chocolate sauce, topped

with house whipped cream and trail mix confetti.

Rich, dense and indulgent!

Table 100

bananas foster

Made with bananas, butter, brown sugar and

cinnamon, the bananas are flambéed tableside

and served over vanilla ice cream.

42 • February/March 2016


John Bellan, MD

J. Michael Bensler, MD

Alfredo Figueroa, MD

F. Earl Fyke, III, MD

William K. Harper, MD

W. Hampton Jones, III, MD

S. Todd Lawson, MD

Keith D. Thorne, MD

James L. Warnock, Jr. MD

H. Chris Waterer, III, MD


William J. Harris, III, MD

W. Stewart Horsley, MD

Daniel Ramirez, MD

Nurse Practitioners:

Misha Craven, ACNP-BC

Lynne C. Currie, FNP-BC

Lyndsey Dill, ACNP-AG

Mary Gordy, CFNP

Rachel Hearst, FNP-C

Adrianne Kelley, ANP-C

Susan Patterson, NP-C

Tonya Sweeney, MSN, ACNP-BC, CCDS

No hospital in Mississippi has been caring for

heart patients longer than Baptist.

Baptist brings together experienced cardiologists, cardiovascular

surgeons, nurse practitioners and clinicians to offer the most

comprehensive care in the region for patients with heart disease.

Find out more at mbhs.org/baptistheart. Trust your heart to

Baptist Heart.

501 Marshall Street

Jackson, MS 39202


Hometown Rankin • 43


assisted living

& memory care


call now to schedule a tour

(601) 345-2202

Every day of life is a blessing.

350 Town Center Way Flowood, MS 39232 blakeliving.com

please join us in welcoming

Anita Davis

as the new executive director

for the blake at flowood.

44 • February/March 2016

On Tuesday December 22, 2015, GEICO, The Wounded Warrior Project,

and Barnett’s Body shop of Flowood presented a car to wounded veteran

John Patterson and his wife Holley of Florence, Mississippi.

John was a member of the U.S Army and Mississippi National Guard.

He was wounded in combat and has had several surgeries to repair his hip.

John has a service dog named Tucker to help with PTSD.

GEICO partnered with Barnett’s Body Shop and several other local businesses

to provide the Patterson’s a much needed reliable mode of transportation.

Hometown Magazines thanks you for your service!

Hometown Rankin • 45

46 • February/March 2016

I Love Us...

Mary Ann Kirby

Ah, Valentine’s Day. My earliest thoughts of the beloved

celebration date back to the third grade and are of tiny die-cut cards

stating such simple messages like, “Some-bunny loves you” and,

“Will you be mine?” I can remember the importance of finding just

the right cards to give out, too. No way did I want anything too

mushy or anything. Picking out the card was serious business. They

would eventually be placed in individually decorated brown paper

sacks that were taped to the back of everyone’s little-person sized

desk. Love was so easy.

Years later, flowers and gigantic helium balloons were the

must-have order of the day, often delivered to the workplace. I was

never the recipient of such over-the-top deliveries and was even

admittedly a bit jealous of those who were. I mean, had they

somehow figured out a secret code to love that I hadn’t? And how

were you supposed to get those big ol’ things home anyway?

I eventually married in my early thirties. Prior to that time,

while I managed a couple of fairly decent relationships, I was mostly

single–a lot. I mean, there were easier things in life than trying to

find a nice guy, you know. Like nailing jelly to a tree. But it was

worth the wait. I would eventually find my perfect match and we

will celebrate 17 years of marriage this year. Yay!

So as I look through the thousands of cards at the store and

contemplate the message I want to convey, I’m struck by a simple

yet powerful thought. I love us.

In reality, the card I’m looking for should say, “Happy Valentine’s

Day. Who, in a million years, would have ever thought that I’d be

standing here for the umteenth time looking through this sea of red

and pink hearts? But, despite the fact that I get grumpy and have

unpredictable mood swings, you keep coming home–and I thank

you for that. And even though you’ve yet to develop the ability to

read my mind, I continue to love you anyway. We’ve made a pretty

darn fabulous kid that, with any luck, will think marriage is a good

thing after watching us. So, there’s that. Happy Valentine’s Day! I

love us.”

There need to be cards with those types of “real” messages.

Someone could make a fortune.

Relationships are hard. All relationships. And they take work.

Anything worth having, does. And while my husband and I have

certainly made a good run so far, we’ve definitely had our moments–

but we always manage to work through them. Eventually, we even

laugh it off. Laughter is about connection, and laughter and love go


So while I might not be one of those that gets $100 worth of

helium delivered to the front door, I will get a funny card from my

fella. It will likely still be in the store bag from which it was bought

along with one of my favorite Hollywood gossip-type magazines

and a box of little white powdered donuts. He knows they’re my

favorite and that means the world to me.

The truth is that love isn’t always perfect. It isn’t a fairytale or

a storybook and it doesn’t always come easy. Love is overcoming

obstacles, facing challenges, fighting to be together, holding on,

and never letting go.

It’s a short word that’s easy to spell, difficult to define, and

impossible to live without. Love is work, but most of all, love is

realizing that every hour, and every minute, and every second of

it was worth it–because you did it together.

Maybe more marriages would survive if people knew that

sometimes the “better” comes after the “worse.” And that’s ok.

A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, over and

over, with the same person. I’m thankful for my person. I really do

love us. ♥

Hometown Rankin • 47




30 th Anniversary Charity Ball

Saturday, February 27

6:00 PM

McClain Lodge


Entertainment provided by MEET THE PRESS

Silent Auction, themed packages and door prizes

$100 per couple (tickets may be purchased at the door)

Cocktail Attire

All printing donated by Dallas Printing



Don't miss our next

issue, April 2016!

Like us on Facebook


Say it sweeter.

Give them something to smile about this Valentine’s Day.

Jackson-Flowood • 163 Ridge Way, Suite E • (769) 243-7108


48 • February/March 2016

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Hometown Rankin • 49

Mother / Son

Night of Fun

January 16




50 • February/March 2016

Hometown Rankin • 51





Susan Marquez

William J. Harris, MD

William J. Harris’s fascination with the heart began

in early elementary school when he checked out a book

about heart surgery from the library. Always a tinkerer,

he was a detail person from an early age. “I always

liked doing things with my hands,” he said. “I built

models, and I loved books on how and why things work.

I would break things down to see how they worked,

then put them back together again.”

The Jackson native was born in Dallas and moved

to Jackson when he was four years old and attended

St. Richard’s School through the eighth grade. His

family moved into the Mill Creek subdivision near the

Reservoir in 1975, and Harris graduated high school at

Northwest Rankin. He went to college at Mississippi

State University, where he majored in bio-medical


“I chose my major because I thought it would be fun.

Only about four or five people from my class went on

to medical school.” Harris went to medical school at the

University of Mississippi, then completed an internship

and residency in general surgery at the University of

Alabama at Birmingham. He then completed a

fellowship and residency in cardiothoracic surgery at

the UAB before returning to Jackson.

“I didn’t have physicians in my family,” said Harris.

“But after wanting to be a priest, I decided around

the ninth grade that I wanted to go to medical school.

I suppose I’ve always felt a calling to help people.”

Harris credits his bio-medical engineering education

with giving him the skills to take a big problem and

break it down into small, fixable, problems. “That’s what

medicine is all about. Medicine is complicated–I like to

make sense of it.” The credit to his real interest in heart

surgery goes to Anthony Petro. “When I was a first

year med student, I got in contact with him, and he

invited me to come up and watch him do surgery. He

taught me detail things; like scrubbing hands before

surgery—there’s a sort of ritual to it. It got to where he

or his nurse would call me when they were doing

different procedures, and if I had time, I’d go scrub in

and observe.”

Today, Harris is chief of cardiovascular surgery at

Baptist Medical Center. While he does all types of heart

surgery, he has a special interest in mitral valve repair,

robotic cardiac surgery, minimally invasive heart valve

surgery, minimally invasive atrial fibrillation ablation,

treatment of varicose veins, venous reflux and spider

veins. “The best thing is to repair mitral valves, not

replace them. That requires both technical skill and

scientific knowledge. It has an artistic sort of bent to

it, which really appeals to me.”

Harris clearly remembers the first time he looked

down on someone’s chest. “A clamp was placed on

the aorta, and the heart and lungs were not moving.

It profoundly impacted me. From then on I was certain

of what I wanted to do.”

He has been at Baptist for 14 years now. “From a

professional side, my analytic personality finds

satisfaction in doing surgery. I get immediate feedback

on what I’ve done. It’s nice to know that what I’m doing

provides someone with immediate help. It’s also

gratifying to take someone who is extremely ill and do

something technically challenging. Organizing a team

to help you do something very difficult to provide a

good quality of life is rewarding. Doing surgery on

people creates a very personal relationship. It takes a

lot of trust for people to give up control to someone

they may not know very well. I spend a lot of time

away from work thinking about my patients.”

In his spare time, Harris enjoys spending time with

his family. He is married to wife, Cindy, and together

they have three children. “I also enjoy riding my bike

when I can, and playing guitar.” Harris has been playing

guitar since he was 13, and now plays for the show choir

at Jackson Prep, a gig he’s had for about ten years. n

Hometown Rankin • 53

HOME Sweet





*For qualified borrowers. Property must be owner occupied and located in the state

of Mississippi. Restrictions and limitations apply. Call for more details.

54 • February/March 2016

Call us to schedule

your next visit.

(601) 825-3368

Sarah Langston, DMD

14 Woodgate Drive

Brandon, Mississippi 39042


Hometown Rankin • 55

A cord

of three


is not





56 • February/March 2016

A Cord


3 Strands

Nestled into a corner of Florence,

Mississippi, is the home of Sam and

Peggy Simmons, two of the most

genuine and loving people I have

ever had the pleasure of meeting.

I was greeted at the door with a hug, smiles,

and excitement. It was an honor to be

welcomed into their home to hear how

their love story unfolded.

In August of 1950, Sam Simmons was

asked to escort three young ladies who were

bridesmaids at his friend’s wedding. One of

those bridesmaids was Peggy.

“That was our first meeting,” said Sam.

“We knew we liked each other, so the next

day after the wedding, I brought her back to

Florence–with the permission of her mother.

We got engaged in October.”

Sam was a senior at Mississippi State

University at the time. “After we got engaged,

I couldn’t stay away from her. I went to see

her on the weekends or she came to see me

in Starkville. It was a whirlwind. That’s when

I realized I couldn’t live without her,”

said Sam.

Sam and Peggy married on December

17, 1950, and recently celebrated their 65th

anniversary. They have six children, fourteen

grandchildren, and nine great grandchildren.

Sam and Peggy made their home in Florence

in the house that formerly belonged to

Peggy’s parents.

“It has been a good 65 years,” said Sam.

“Our marriage has been built, first of foremost,

on faith. We both have a strong faith in the

Lord Jesus Christ. Church and Sunday school

are very important to us. Our family and

children grew up in that environment.”

Sam offered advice to new married couples:

“The man needs to learn to say I’m sorry,

forgive me, and I love you. You’re always

going to have some friction, and it’s not bad

to have some pretty big fights because it’s so

much fun to make up.”

Peggy added her words of wisdom. “No

marriage is perfect. You are completely different

in personality from your spouse. We’re just all

different. When you realize that, you’re better

off because you learn to get along.”

“We never considered divorce, but we did

consider homicide a few times!” joked Sam.

“You have to realize that when you marry,

you’re not just marrying the one you love.

You’re marrying their family,” added Peggy.

“I realized that Sam was from a very nice family.

I was impressed with that because they were

all sweet, thoughtful, and kind. Sam has always

been sweet and thoughtful and kind to me.”

“Sam is just a good man. I think he’s a

keeper. He certainly did everything in the

world to try to make us happy and see to it

that I didn’t have to go to work. He made the

living for us. I don’t think I realized, until

later years, that I could have had no choice

but to go to work. I always appreciated that

and tried to count my blessings even though it

was very hard to stay at home and raise the

children. He always helped me in any way

that he could,” said Peggy.

Sam recalled, “I’ve heard Peggy make the

statement, ‘I didn’t do anything. I just stayed

at home.’ But she was working when I got up

in the morning—ironing and fixing lunches.

When I went to bed at night, she was still

working. So I don’t buy that she didn’t do

anything. She did a lot to raise six children, and

that was a lot harder than what I had to do.

We worked it out when we worked together.”

“We’ve enjoyed our children and

grandchildren as they’ve been born. They live

in different states. We always look forward to

seeing them,” said Peggy as Sam showed me a

family photo album.

“I think we are kindred spirits in agreement

about what’s important and what’s not

important,” said Sam. “Faith first, family

second, friends third, and then community.

I think those are some pretty good building


As Sam and Peggy said goodbye to me

with hugs and well wishes, I felt as if I was

already one of the family–after spending just

one hour with them. These two are a true

example of a marriage woven into the Lord. n

Hometown Rankin • 57

58 • February/March 2016

Hometown Rankin





Why did you decide to make Rankin

County your home?

We decided to make Brandon our home to be

closer to family. It’s centrally located for work, it’s

very safe, and is growing with lots of opportunities.

The school system was important, too. At the time

we moved to Brandon, our son was entering the

6th grade at Brandon Middle School. He is now a

senior at Brandon High School.

How long have you lived in Rankin County?

We moved to Brandon in August of 2009.

Tell us about your family.

I am married to David Gibbons and we have one

son, Hayden, who is 18-years old and is a senior at

Brandon High School. In December of 2014, one

of Hayden’s best friends asked to come live with us

and came to our home the week before Christmas.

We became licensed foster parents to a 19-year old

who is also a senior at Brandon High School. It’s

been very different adding another person to our

home, especially with Hayden having always been

an only child. Hayden and this young man have

been best friends since the 8th grade and we were

honored he wanted to come live with us. He loved

Brandon so much that he too wanted to come back

here and graduate from Brandon High School.

David and I will celebrate our 25th anniversary

in February. We were both reared in Jackson and

have lived in Memphis, Tupelo, and most recently,

Magee for 14 years prior to moving to Brandon.

We both are graduates of the University of

Southern Mississippi–David with an electrical

engineering degree and I with a Master of Social

Work. I’m a licensed clinical social worker.

Hayden plans to attend Ole Miss starting the

in fall of 2016. We have been members of First

Baptist Church of Brandon since 2009. We are

all very active in our church and community and

feel it is important to give back and support the

community in which we live.

What is your favorite memory of living in

Rankin County?

My favorite memory of living in Rankin County

was our very first Brandon Christmas parade in

December, 2009. It was very cold and about

halfway through the parade it began snowing!

We were at the parade with some friends and I

remember standing in the cold and the snow and

thinking, “I am home”. I just fell more in love

with the town. After the parade, we went to our

then-pastors Dr. Scott & Dacia Thomas’s home

and had cookies and hot cocoa and all the kids

played outside in the snow. It was just such a

special memory and we were made to feel so

welcomed like we were such a part of the

community. I will never forget it!

Where are your 3 favorite places to eat in

Rankin County?

Heart & Soul in Brandon, Table 100 in Flowood,

and Jerry’s Fish House in Florence.

What are some fun things to do in Rankin

County on the weekends?

Shopping! Rankin County has some great places

to shop…O! How Cute Gift Market, Heart of the

South, Apple Annie’s, the Outlet Mall, and

Dogwood Market Place. We also love to go to the

Brave’s games, especially on Friday nights for the

fireworks. Hayden loves High Heaven Trampoline

Park and he and friends love to go to Shiloh Park

and play ultimate Frisbee. We go to movies at

Tinseltown, Brandon High School football on

Friday nights, and anything water related at the


Share some things you enjoy doing in your

spare time.

I have a great girls group that tries to go to the

movies every Tuesday night. I love to go out to eat,

spending time with family and friends, and having

friends and family over to cook out. I also

volunteer a lot with the PTO at Brandon High

School and with the Rankin County Republican


What are three things on your bucket list?

I want to go to Australia, take an Alaskan cruise

and take a year and tour England, Italy, France and

Greece. I love to travel!

Who is someone you admire and why?

I admire our First Lady Deborah Bryant. Deborah

is so genuine, friendly, outgoing and personable.

She always has a smile on her face, makes everyone

feel welcomed and important, and she is a great

ambassador for our state and Rankin County.

She’s a great role model for young girls.

Where do you see yourself ten years from


I see myself still living in Rankin County, working,

and still enjoying being with family and friends.

I’m looking forward to seeing what the future

holds for my son. I feel Rankin County has given

him such a strong sense of community that should

serve him well in the future.

What is your favorite childhood memory?

I have a lot of favorite childhood memories. What

I mostly think about is how safe I felt growing up

and how much I loved being with my family. We

were always with family and cousins. We would all

pile into the family car and drive to the beach for

weekends. It was wild, loud and hectic! We

continue this tradition, even now, with Hayden

and still bring along cousins!

If you could give us one encouraging

quote, what would it be?

My favorite quote that I use all the time is,

“Live what you love, love what you do!”

What is your favorite thing about

Hometown Magazines?

My favorite thing about Hometown is that all the

community-based stories are even more interesting

because you get to learn about people you share the

community with. n

Hometown Rankin • 59

60 • February/March 2016

Worthy of Merit

Dr. Barry Moss

Chief Executive Officer, Merit Health Rankin

With an expansive career in health care administration, Barry Moss has a great

vision for Merit Health Rankin. We recently had a chance to ask Barry a few questions

about his life after coming to Rankin County and here's what he told us . . .

Q. What lead you to want to serve

as a hospital administrator?

A. I grew up in a health care family and saw the

significant role they were able to play to positively

impact the lives of others. I deeply value the opportunity

to work for an organization, which is an instrumental

part of the wellness of our community. In addition,

health care takes on such a team approach and I

really enjoy working in a team-based environment.

You never know when you may be able to help

someone in need.

Q. Since moving to Rankin County,

what are some things that you

particularly like?

A. It is a great county that pushes to reinvest for

long-term success and development. Rankin County

is an exceptional place of balance, with access to

progressive growth and innovation while maintaining

the relationships of the past. Also, we are fortunate to

have a wonderful partnership with Merit Health River

Oaks and Merit Health Woman’s Hospital that allows us

to serve our neighbors in a variety of settings and roles.

My family moved here with me from Hattiesburg and

we have been proud to call Mississippi our home for

the past several years. In Rankin County, we’ve been

especially pleased with the warm welcome we have

received from local residents. It feels as though our

family has just become part of an even bigger family.

Q. What are your hobbies, or

what do you enjoy doing when

you’re not at Merit Health?

A. One of the great things about Rankin County is

the endless high school sporting events to attend.

It is fun to see those student athletes playing out their

dreams by representing their schools and hometowns.

Q. What are your plans for Merit

Health Rankin?

A. Over the 60 years since the hospital opened,

Merit Health Rankin has provided quality access to

healthcare with physicians and support staff who live

in our neighborhoods. This community-centered

approach has worked very well for our hospital and

the other hospitals in the Merit Health network share

the same philosophy.

With that said, our goal at Merit Health Rankin is to

expand our services and medical specialties to serve

the needs of our local residents. For example, we just

opened a Merit Health Medical Group clinic onsite at

Merit Health Rankin with a nurse practitioner who

specializes in gerontology. This niche of care is crucial

for our area. Over the past year we also added an

orthopedic surgeon, gastroenterologist, neurosurgeon

and general surgeon to our staff.

Q. Where did you grow up and

what’s a favorite childhood


A. I was blessed to grow up in a small town called

Winfield, Alabama. In a small town you remember the

great friends and families, the summers on the lake,

and the relationships that last a lifetime.

Q. What impact would you like to

make on Rankin County?

A. I am honored to be part of this community and

Merit Health Rankin. We are proud to be part of the

Merit Health network and will do everything we can

to continue to provide patients with an excellent

experience during their stay. Merit Health Rankin is

blessed to be located here in Brandon and I am excited

about meeting and working with local leaders and

organizations to ensure Merit Health Rankin continues

to be a very active member of our Rankin County. n

Hometown Rankin • 61

62 • February/March 2016


the Runway

Susan Marquez

Too tall…Too skinny...Too beautiful? Avery Eaton never felt like she

fit in with her classmates when she was a child. “By the time she was in

the sixth grade, she was the tallest student in her class, even taller than

the teachers,” said Avery’s mother, Shelley Eaton. “She was a good

student, and very athletic but from the sixth grade on, it was difficult

for Avery. She was teased by other students and it hurt her deeply.”

While she was anything but an ugly duckling, Avery certainly grew

into a beautiful swan, gracing the runways of New York for Fashion

Week and more. Her height, physique and beauty caught the attention

of the right people in the right places at the right time, and now the

17-year-old is destined for a successful career as a major fashion model.

“People always told Avery that with her height, she should be a

model,” Shelley said. “She’s always loved fashion and had a strong

fashion sense from the time she was a toddler. She loves hair, makeup

and style.”

When she was 16, Avery got a job at W by Azwell, a women’s

clothing store in Dogwood shopping center. While there, she did all

the modeling for their Facebook and Instagram pages. “I liked it, and

thought I might want to pursue more modeling,” said Avery. “I couldn’t

find a modeling agency in Mississippi–there really wasn’t much

modeling in the state.” Instead, she went the fitness route, training for

her first fitness competition. She won the competition, and says that,

until this day, she is still obsessed with it.

“I was scouted by Jamie Ainsworth with JEA Models in Jackson,

and I went to a showcase in Oxford with agents from all over the world.

I signed with Funny Faces, a commercial agency, and was asked to come

to New York for a couple of months.” At age 17, Avery packed her bags

and moved into an apartment in New York with a couple of other girls

from the JEA agency.

Upon her arrival in New York, Avery went about setting up

appointments with modeling agencies. “I had to learn my way around,

learn how to use the subway, how to hail a cab,” she recalled. “I had never

been to a big city like New York, and it was pretty overwhelming.” But

the tenacious teen’s desire to succeed as a model superseded any fears

she may have had. She landed a contract with MSA Models. They flew

her to some auditions in Los Angeles and back to New York where she

began trying out for Fall Fashion Week. Almost immediately she

booked three shows.

At the Carmen Steffens show at Grand Central Station, Avery

shared the catwalk with two Victoria’s Secret models. “Those are the

models I look up to,” said Avery, who knew them all by name. “I walked

with Adriana Lima from Brazil and Toni Garrn from Germany.” Avery

walked in the number three spot behind the two super models.

Avery didn’t really know what to expect as she dipped her toes into

the world of high fashion modeling. “It’s a lot harder than I imagined!

I didn’t know it would be so competitive. There are girls who come

from all over the world to audition. It’s not as glamorous as it looks,

either. There were days when I had to cram five or more auditions into

one day. I was bouncing from Brooklyn to Manhattan and all over for

specific time slots. I had to arrive with my A-game, looking presentable.”

There have also been unexpected highlights to the business for

Avery as well. “My favorite thing is working with an amazing group

of creative people. From makeup to hair to the lighting and

photography, it is a collaborative effort to create a work of art.

I love being a part of it!”

While Avery wants to model as long as she is able, she does want to

go to college some day. “I’m not sure what I’ll study, but I think it will

be something to do with the fitness industry.” n

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64 • February/March 2016

Hometown Rankin • 65



A Hometown Man’s

Worldwide Craftsmanship

Kerri Walker

Rankin County is the home of Russ Espiritu, a world class

pool cue craftsman. Russ and his wife Carolyn reside in

Puckett, Mississippi, and Russ is serving his third term as

mayor of Puckett. The two built a shop adjacent to their

home where they work together to make Espiritu Cues.

The shop houses dozens of machines

and aisles of woods and animal skins

that are used to make the highly

collectible cues. Espiritu Cues are

intricately inlayed with many different

woods, colors, and materials. Russ has a

computerized system that can carve

designs into the cues with precision.

66 • February/March 2016

Hometown Rankin • 67

He uses only the finest materials to build

his pool cues including gold, sterling silver,

ivory, malachite, turquoise, opal, jade, pearl,

pau shell, snake skin, lizard skin, elephant

ear, and exotic woods such as bubinga,

macassar ebony, and redwood burl. Russ

has been featured in many publications

such as the Billiard Encyclopedia, The Blue

Book of Pool Cues, Billiard Digest, Pool &

Billiard, and various catalogues and calendars.

Russ began handcrafting pool cues as a

hobby in 1984. “I was in Texas playing pool.

I ran into a guy who was a pool hustler,

actually. We went to a cue shop in Houston.

He said, ‘These cues are really expensive.

Why don’t you make them, and I’ll sell

them,’” recalled Russ.

“When I came back to Mississippi, I told

Carolyn about it, and she thought I was

crazy. I went around to some wood working

places, and they didn’t have a clue how to

make cues. So I got a lathe–in fact it’s that

one right over there. It really wasn’t the

machine I needed though, but we still use

it for sanding. That was in late ’84. In 1991,

my wife and I decided to go full-time. We

took some pool cues to New Orleans and

showed them to a guy. He looked at them

and said they were pretty nice, but he

never ordered anything. We came back

home, and as soon as we walked in the

door, the phone was ringing. The guy

from New Orleans said he wanted to by

all the ones I had. We took the cues to

him, and when we got there, some other people

around New Orleans had already heard about

us. They came down there, too. So I’ve got him

and three or four other dealers there that carry

them. That’s where we started.”

Today, Russ has a two-year-long waiting list

of people who want his cues. “It doesn’t take

long to get the cue made, but you have to get

in line to get it made,” said Russ. “First you

make the wood round and drill a hole in it. It

takes a year to make one shaft. That’s not

working on it every day. We let it sit and then

turn it down some more. We have to let the

wood sit for a while before we turn it again or

it won’t stay straight. The wood’s fibers may try

to twist slightly. It has to be dry, and we turn it

down so many thousandths at a time so it stays

straight. That’s important. It’s a long process

that takes about five cuts over twelve months.

We have to stabilize the wood sometimes.

We’ll inject it with a dye sometimes. It’s for

hardening and appearance. We definitely

developed the process.”

“We have dealers all around the world,”

said Russ. “We don’t sell much in Mississippi,

but in Louisiana, it’s huge. The West Coast,

East Coast, Canada, Mexico, Hawaii, Japan,

China—everybody knows the name. Dealers

will order six or eight cues, and we’ll make up

whatever we want and send it to them. Then

they’ll re-sell it in Russia or Switzerland or

wherever they’re calling from.”

Russ and Carolyn travel the world for

pool tournaments and shows. “We only go

to big professional tournaments or national

68 • February/March 2016

tournaments,” said Russ. “We go to Las Vegas

once, Pennsylvania once, and Louisiana twice.

We just got back from Hawaii. If I go to Japan,

there may be a world championship. We have a

display and sell them at the tournaments. There

will be 10,000 pool players there. We’re at each

tournament for two weeks. People fly in to shows

from all over the world to buy these cues. They’re

collectors, so when your name gets with these

people, you can do pretty much anything.”

When Russ travels, he also buys exotic woods

and skins. “We get woods from all around the

world–South America, Australia, Hawaii. The

ebony comes out of Africa. We get wood from

a lot of Asian countries,” said Russ. “Most of the

wood is brought in from an importer. It’s usually a

musical instrument supplier. They dry it. I see them

at a show and tell them what I want and they

send it. We’re pretty picky about the types of

woods because that’s what makes a pool cue.”

Russ and Carolyn’s 17-year-old grandson

works part time in the shop running the inlay

machines, programming the computers, and

putting the designs into the cues. “I told him he

could have the shop when he’s ready,” said Russ.

Other than his grandson and one other part

time worker, Russ prefers to do the crafting

himself. “I have thought about expanding, but

everybody wants me to work on the cues. But

I’m getting my grandson into this a little. He

can do the programming on the computer for

sure. He’s smart. It’s not as easy as you think.”

“If you have a lot of people working for

you, they do more work for sure. But if you

don’t watch what they’re doing, they might not

be doing it right. It’s just a job to them. If they

don’t put it together right or don’t put enough

glue on something, it falls apart. The quality

goes down. So we just do it ourselves,” added


“We work seven days a week out here.

We never get caught up. We could work

24-hours a day, and I don’t think we’ll ever get

caught up. We’ve built this up, and we can’t

disappoint people. I have clients who would

buy all these cues right now if I had them

ready. Our clients count on us,” said Russ.

As he pulled a cue from a case, Russ said,

“This is one of the cues that the Rolling

Stones played with. I made some pool

cues when the Rolling Stones came to

Memphis. I sent them up there so they

could play with them. The deal was they

would sign my cues and send them back,

but they came back unsigned. Minnesota

Fats was a friend of mine, too. We know


Russ and Carolyn’s roots are set

deeply in Rankin County. “If we made

pool cues in Washington, D.C., for

example, we’d be selling really high

dollar stuff all the time. But Puckett is

our home.”

From craftsman to mayor to high

school golf coach, Russ strives for high

quality in each of his roles. “Our pool

cues are like art; they play well and

last forever.” n

Hometown Rankin • 69




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Insurance Associates

of Rankin County

Steven Wallace | 601-825-5242

1301 West Government Street, Suite 105

Brandon, Mississippi

70 • February/March 2016

19th Annual

Garden Extravaganza

Paula Pettis,

Prissy Pots Landscaping

Haley Barrett, MNLA

Looking for a great event to officially kick

off spring? We have just the event that will

make you want to get your hands dirty. Mark

your calendars for the 19th Annual Garden

Extravaganza (formerly the Jackson Garden &

Patio Show) on March 18th, 19th & 20th at the

Mississippi Trade Mart on the Fairgrounds. The

Mississippi Nursery and Landscape Association

(MNLA) is excited to bring so many vendors

together in one central location for all of your

garden and patio needs including flowers, trees,

landscape professionals, equipment, yard art,

ironwork, pottery, one of a kind bird houses,

garden accessories and much, much more.

Admission is only $6 per person. Children 15

and under get in free and, as always, there is

plenty of free parking.

The early bird gets the worm, or in our case

the tomato plant. The first 100 people through

the door on Friday and Sunday, and the first

200 people on Saturday will get a free tomato

plant, courtesy of Rivers Plant Farm and

Jackson Farms Nursery.

All three days will be filled with demonstrations

and seminars. Our exciting ‘how to’

demonstrations will be located on the showroom

floor and will include topics such as: Hot plants

for 2016, how to create the perfect mixed

containers, and much more. Since the Garden

Extravaganza is a family friendly event, we have

also added ‘make and take’ demonstrations to

the children’s activity area to teach kids fun

gardening skills. Ball Seed Company and BWI

Companies team up with MNLA to sponsor

this area.

March 18-20, 2016

MS Trade Mart

Jackson, MS

For a complete list of seminars and

demonstrations, please visit www.msnla.org. All

seminars and demonstrations are free with paid

admission. And while at the show, be sure to

register for fabulous door prizes donated from

our wonderful exhibitors.

As in year’s past, attendees will get the

opportunity to view several of central Mississippi’s

finest landscaper’s work in the outdoor living

spaces competition area. These outdoor living

spaces will be in the middle of the exhibit hall,

will serve as the focal point for this year’s show

and will give you great ideas on how to make

your outdoor space the best it can be. They will

incorporate a wide range of styles, from the

outdoor kitchen area, the secluded backyard

retreat, tranquil water features, family entertainment

areas, and lounge areas to watch your

favorite show or team. All of the landscape

professionals will be on hand to discuss how to

make your landscape dreams a reality.

Is your grass looking less than green? Is there

a fungus among us? Do you have mysterious

weeds? As always, the experts from Mississippi

State University Extension Service will be there

to answer any questions, provide information

and test soil for free.

Of course the real stars of the show are

always the flowers. You’ll find this year’s Mississippi

Medallion Award Winners, tropicals, ferns, trees,

shrubs, roses, bedding plants, vegetables, herbs

and so much more. Many of the garden centers

will have dish gardens, fairy gardens, beautiful

hanging baskets and gorgeous mixed containers

that are ready to brighten your porch for the


Not sure which plants that you need? We

will have plenty of people that can help you

with that. There will be numerous garden center

employees, landscapers, and MSU experts

available to help you out. Bring pictures of the

area or container that you are buying plants for

and know the amount of sunlight and shade

that the area receives. These are very important

things to know when shopping for plants.

And don’t worry about what to do with all

your purchases. There will be a customer

holding area available where you can in the

products that you buy and continue shopping

without having to carry your purchases around.

Once you are finished shopping, you can drive

around to the back and have your purchases

loaded in your vehicle. It’s like valet for your



Visit our web page www.msnla.org, find us

on Facebook, or call 601-919-8111 for more

information on the 2016 Garden Extravaganza.

Like us on Facebook for a chance to win tickets—

Mississippi Garden & Patio Shows!

Hometown Rankin • 71


d i x i e

n a t i o n a l

Livestock Show &

72 • February/March 2016

It’s that time of year again!

Time when cowboys and cowgirls from all over the

nation descend upon Mississippi’s capital city for the

annual Dixie National Livestock Show and Rodeo.

During the month of February, The Dixie National brings

with it a variety of programs and activities that take

place to educate, entertain, and engage participants and

onlookers alike. The 51st annual livestock show kicks off

January 30 and runs through February 23.

The Dixie National Rodeo is the largest professional

rodeo east of the Mississippi River. It is produced by

Smith, Harper, and Morgan Rodeo Company, hosted by

the Mississippi Fair Commission in Jackson, Mississippi,

and has been nominated as one of the Top 5 Large Indoor

Rodeos of The Year for the past five years. This award is

voted on by the cowboys in the Professional Rodeo

Cowboy Association (PRCA).

The rodeo kicks off February 11 and goes through

February 17 in the Mississippi Coliseum. Special

entertainers are featured each day of the rodeo and

include Easton Corbin, Maddie & Tae, John Anderson,

Joe Diffie, Frankie Ballard, 38 Special, and Tyler Farr.

Tickets may be purchased through Ticketmaster at the

coliseum box office.

The Dixie National Quarter Horse Show, the Southern

Classic, is the premier event of the Mississippi Quarter

Horse Association. Also held in February on the state

fairgrounds, it is the largest quarter horse show held

during a stock show in the nation.

The national exposure the quarter horse show

receives makes it a gathering place for the top horses

in the country and a field day for spectators. With

an average audience of over 4500, the Friday night

free-style reining is the most crowd pleasing class

and demonstrates the great physical ability of the

American Quarter Horse. The Southern Classic dates

are February 16-21.

The Dixie National Equine Expo, the largest equine

related trade show in the south, runs in conjunction with

the quarter horse show. It features everything imaginable

for the equine enthusiast. With over 65,000 sq. ft. of

shopping, the Equine Expo is located inside the

Mississippi Trade Mart on the fairgrounds. With vendors

from across the nation, the latest fashions, trends and

shopping will all be under one roof. It is one of the

largest equine tradeshows in the Southeast. The Equine

Expo is February 17-21.

Hometown Rankin • 73

First Baptist


Garage Sale

for International Missions

February 12-13, 2016

FBC Brandon’s College Street Gym

Preview Friday 6am-8am $5

Sale 8am-2pm Free Admission

Saturday 6am-2pm

74 • February/March 2016

Affordable Tuition

Flexible Schedules

• Day • Evening • Online

Programs & Options

• Academic classes guaranteed to


• Honors Program

• Career and technical programs

• Nursing Programs

• Dual Enrollment/Dual Credit

Earn college credit while in high school

• Adult Education

• Workforce Training

•Small Business Development Center

Rankin Campus

3805 Hwy. 80 East, Pearl

601.936.5552 | www.hindscc.edu

Hinds Community College offers equal education and employment opportunities and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, age, disability or veteran status in its programs

and activities. The following person has been designated to handle inquiries regarding the non-discrimination policies: Dr. Debra Mays-Jackson, Vice President for the Utica and Vicksburg-Warren Campuses and

Administrative Services, 34175 Hwy. 18, Utica, MS 39175; 601.885.7002.

Hometown Rankin • 75

76 • February/March 2016


FaithfulJill Dale

As a writer, I’ve written many stories and

articles on various subjects. I wrote procedure

manuals and procedure documents on web

applications and other application processes

for a few years. I then began writing for the

agent magazine that is distributed to the

agency force of Southern Farm Bureau Life

Insurance Company. I remember reading

trade magazines and hearing the stories

about the importance of life insurance and

what it means to a family. I would listen to

agents talk about delivering the death claim

check and how hard that was, but also the

relief and comfort it brought to a husband,

wife or mother or father. Never did I think

I would become the story I read about and

wrote about.

As I sat Sunday morning, two days after

my son died, I reflected on this and how life

has a weird way of playing out. I stared at a

blank document on my computer. I’ve never

been at a loss for words when it comes to

writing, but now I was. The hardest thing I

have ever written would be the obituary of

my 5 year old son, Campbell Grady Dale.

How would I condense his life, his impact

into a brief obituary? How do I tell the world

what an amazing, phenomenal boy Campbell

was? How do I tell people about his love for

his friends at the hospital, for his family, for

his twin sister and especially for his Father in

heaven…the one he trusted to take care of

him and heal him forever of his cancer?

What would I most want people to know

about the most amazing boy who called me

mom and David dad? I think it could be

summed up with this–he fought a brave

battle against a fierce enemy and the ultimate

Victor won, the One who wins every battle

against death, every, single time. Campbell

believed that God would heal him of his

cancer, and He did. He may not have healed

him in the way we wanted, but He healed

him according to His perfect will, His perfect

plan for Campbell’s life and for ours.

From the first day Campbell was diagnosed,

we laid him at our Father’s feet. We knew it

would take a miracle to heal him. The odds

were stacked against him, but we were ready

to fight. Our prayer was always that “Thy will

be done” whatever that may be. As we went

through the original treatment protocol

beginning in February 2014 of 54 weeks of

intense chemotherapy and 24 days of

radiation, we trusted God with each step,

with each decision that we made. When

Campbell’s cancer returned in April 2015,

we continued to trust Him and His plan for

his life. When we received the heartbreaking

news on August 17, 2015 that our doctors had

done everything that they could to heal him

here on earth, we continued to trust Him.

We always knew Campbell would be

healed, but now we knew that healing would

come in heaven and not here on earth. As

the words began to flow, so did the tears as

I reflected on what most would consider a

short life. His life may appear short to the

normal person, but the impact he had and

continues to have will be felt for years to

come. He lived the exact amount of time

God had ordained as He knit him together

in my womb…not a day more or a day less.

Hometown madison • 77

The following narrative tells the arduous

story of the Dale family’s journey with

cancer. Jill Dale made regular journal

entries about the journey on CaringBridge.

org. This includes excerpts of Jill’s posts as

compiled by Susan Marquez.

Snips and snails and puppy dog tails,

that’s what little boys are made of. Campbell

Dale was a normal little boy in every way.

Spirited. Curious. Exuberant. At least, until

he began having issues with constipation one

weekend. The series of events that followed

became a journey of heartbreak tempered

with faith and love.

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed,

for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you;

I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

– Isaiah 41:10

“My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made

perfect in weakness.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9

February 12, 2014 was a day the Dale

family will never forget, for that was the day

life as they knew it forever changed. “We had

not noticed anything abnormal over the

weekend,” his mom, Jill Dale, wrote on the

overview of the family’s CaringBridge site.

“Campbell had been constipated a little, but

nothing unusual. On Monday, February 10,

he went to school like normal.” Yet the

four-year-old still complained about being

constipated. An enema, a trip to the doctor,

and a couple of rounds of Miralax later,

Campbell’s temperature was climbing and

his belly was swollen. His doctor sent them

to a Radiology group to get an X-ray done.

When that came back inconclusive, a CT

scan revealed a mass in the boy’s abdomen.

“We were immediately sent to Blair E.

Batson Hospital for Children where we were

admitted at 5:30pm. After running more

tests on Thursday, we sat down with our

doctors and were told our son had a mass in

his belly that needed to be removed. It could be

anything from lymphoma, to neuroblastoma,

to a taratoma or rhabdomyosarcoma (at this

time rhabdo was toward the bottom of the

list).” On Friday, surgeons were able to remove

a 4 1/2 to 5 inch mass from his abdomen.

The mass was sent to a pathology lab and on

February 19, the family learned that Campbell

had been diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma,

a rare form of cancer of the tissue. “They were

able to remove all of his tumor, but of course,

there were what they call studs left. We were

scheduled immediately for a bone scan and

PET scan for Monday, Feb. 24th. On Tuesday

the 25th, a bone marrow aspiration was done

along with the placement of a chemo port.

The preliminary results from the bone scan

and PET scan came back favorable meaning

it had not spread to the bones or other organs.

That Tuesday at 5:00, we were told that our

son has Stage IV rhabdomyosarcoma and

they had found a spot in his bone marrow.”

Campbell’s parents, David and Jill, were

told the road before them would be difficult

and hard. “We didn’t want to know the success

rate, that didn’t matter to us,” Jill wrote. “All

that mattered was ‘Can we beat this?’” The

chemo regimen would be aggressive, radiation

would be needed and 54 weeks is what it will

take. “As I laid my head on the table and cried

more than I have in two weeks, I didn’t think

I would be able to walk out of the room. So

David and I looked at each other, signed the

papers to begin treatment and told the doctor

to do whatever needed to be done to save our

son. The one thing that stood out in my mind

was David telling the doctor we know the

Great Physician (Jehovah Rapha) can heal

Campbell, not doctors or medicine…HE

provides the means to do it. So we called our

family in to tell them. The road before us

might be difficult, but we were determined

not to lie down and give up. We were in the

fight of our lives and we were confident that

Campbell would beat this.”

The family resolved to bathe themselves

in scripture and pray continuously without


“But those who hope in the LORD will renew

their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles;

they will run and not grow weary, they will walk

and not be patient.” – Isaiah 40: 29-31

Campbell’s first chemotherapy treatment

began on Wednesday, February 26. All went

well. He actually slept through the first

treatment (he had been given some medicine

to calm him after a rough morning so he slept

all afternoon). The treatment started with

two drugs, Irinotecan and Vincristinem. The

Irinotecan was scheduled for five days straight.

Campbell’s twin sister, Avery (aka ‘’Shu”)

visited, and the children watched movies and

ate Chick-fil-A together. At the time, Jill was

reading a book, “The Red Sea Rules,” given

to hear by a woman at church. “I have found

so much wisdom and guidance in this book,”

Jill wrote. “Meditating on the truths in it has

brought so much peace: ‘So take a deep

breath and recall this deeper secret of the

Christian life: when you are in a difficult

place, realize that the Lord either placed you

there or allowed you to be there for reasons

perhaps known for now only to Himself.

The same God who led you in, will lead you

out.’ So we trust in this and we know that

HE will make a way. We don’t understand

why we are enduring this trial and may never

know while we are here on this earth, but we

know that the same God who paved the road

before us will walk beside us down this road

every step of the way. Mine and David’s

prayer throughout this entire journey is that

God will be glorified in everything. Don’t

worry about anything; instead pray about

everything and don’t forget to thank God for

His answers.”

78 • February/March 2016

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every

situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving,

present your requests to God.” – Philippians 4:6

On March 3, after 5 days of treatment,

Campbell was released to go home. “We

were all very thankful to be going home to

our familiar territory, routine, food, etc. “

Like most children, Campbell was a creature

of habit. He thrived in his own environment.

“We will return to the clinic for our post op

appointment at 8:40 Thursday morning and

then our first outpatient treatment will be at

12:30 on Thursday. We will continue to do

outpatient for treatment weeks two through

five, barring Campbell doesn’t get fever or

sick, which would put us back in the hospital.

David and I have decided that each day we

would find at least one thing to give God

praise for...we are thankful and blessed to get

the opportunity to do that each day of

treatment. Each morning, our prayer is that

Campbell’s side effects from treatment

would be minimum or NOT AT ALL.

We boldly pray for not at all. I am constantly

reminded to experience true joy in each and

every moment of the day and cherish the

time God gives me with my family.”

“I will extol the Lord at all times; HIS praise will

always be on my lips.” –Psalm 34:1

“Our bold prayer is that at six weeks,

when Campbell has his first evaluation, that

they will find no cancer. We know this is a

bold request, but our God is bigger than cancer

and we know HE hears each and every request

we offer up to HIM. Our other request is

that the side effects from the chemo will be

minimum or none at all. Thank you again for

all of your prayers, love and support. We are

praying without ceasing that Campbell will be

completely healed…his story is not finished.”

Throughout the treatment, Jill and David

sought moments of normalcy for their children.

About a month after he was diagnosed,

Campbell was able to return to Trinity

Preschool for a brief moment to enjoy Fairy

Tale Day. He dressed as a pirate, and his

twin sister, Avery, dressed as Rapunzel. A few

days later, Jill arranged a photo session with

photographer Allison Muirhead. “Our

friendship/relationship with Allison goes

back 7 years. She took our wedding pictures,

newborn pictures, first year pictures and many

other pictures since, of the twins and our family.

I knew there was no one else I wanted to take

these very special pictures and capture our

family as only she can. Because we don’t know

what the future holds for our family, we wanted

to have memories of what we were before


Radiation…such a scary word. “It’s one I

never thought I would speak of, especially

pertaining to my child.” A meeting with

doctors revealed that Campbell was

unfortunately not a candidate for the proton

therapy the family had hoped for. “Because

of the rare location of his Rhabdo (in the

abdomen) and the studs that were left from

surgery, the proton therapy will not work.

Without getting too detailed, proton therapy

hits the tumor (or cancer cells) with radiation.

Because Campbell’s cells are probably so

small, there is no way to know what to hit

and you can’t just hit thin air and hope you

are hitting the possible cancer cells remaining.

In his case, you can’t hope, you have to

know for certain that the radiation is hitting

what it is supposed to so that it won’t come

back. So, the only way to do that is to radiate

his entire abdomen.” The good news is the

radiation could be done at UMC. The bad

news would be the toll it would take on

Campbell. The side effects from radiation

will be worse since it is targeting his abdomen…

nausea, vomiting, intestinal issues (because

the intestines do not like radiation), etc. He

will be put to sleep every day for five days a

week for five weeks (because of his age and

the need to be completely still he has to be

put to sleep). He will also be receiving chemo

throughout radiation. We are scared, we are

nervous and we worry about the many side

effects to come. Secondary cancer is a big

one. We know that God provides the wisdom

and tools to the doctors to do their jobs so

we signed the papers once again and said do

whatever you have to in order to save his life

and give him a chance at living a long, full life.”

The toll on the entire family was hard.

“I’m tired, we are tired and my heart aches

for my four-year-old who doesn’t understand

why we keep doing all of this to him. I don’t

know if there has ever really been a time in

my life where I cried out to God that I was

so scared and I wasn’t sure I could keep

going. As much as I feel we are fighting an

uphill battle, HE reminded me that HE is

right there, fighting the battle with us. Oh

gosh how HE loves Campbell more than

I do…HE loves him so much I can’t even

fathom the depths of HIS love for him. So

I release it to HIM, I release Campbell to

HIM, trusting HIM to continue to carry us

through on this journey.”

“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD

is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the

earth. HE will not grow tired or weary, and HIS

understanding no one can fathom. HE gives strength

to the weary and increases the power of the weak.

Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men

stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD

will renew their strength. They will soar on wings

like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they

will walk and not be faint.” –Isaiah 40:28

“From the fullness of HIS grace we have all received

one blessing after another.” –John 1:16

By January, Campbell’s little body was

struggling from the effects of the radiation.

“I’m going to be honest (and David and I

have always said from day one of this journey,

we would never sugarcoat it to make it more

pleasant because honestly there aren’t a lot of

days I count as pleasant). November and

December were rough months for us.” It was

Hometown madison • 79

week 42, and the radiation had an adverse

effect on Campbell’s bladder, necessitating

the insertion of stents. During that procedure,

it was determined there were muted cancer

cells in Campbell’s bladder. “My emotions

have been all over the map lately and this fear

has taken hold of my heart and my life once

again. I would love to say that I have it all

together and all figured out and we are

managing well, but that’s a lie. I am scared

of what my son’s future looks like…what our

future as a family looks like. In the weeks

since, I have experienced a flood of emotions,

but through it all, I have felt God’s presence,

HIS Peace that surpasses all understanding

and daily gentle reminders that HE is still on

HIS throne, HE has Campbell, us, all of us, in

the palm of HIS Hand. And I’m reminded of

that great hymn, ‘It is Well With My Soul.’

I love the words and how comforting that

those words written so many years ago are

still so true, so relevant to my life, to all of

our lives today. I love Kristene DeMarco’s

(Bethel Music) worshipful rendition of it

and find myself listening to it daily.”

With nine weeks left of chemo, David and

Jill began to look forward to week number 54.

That’s when a scan would be performed to

determine if the cancer was in remission.

All along, family, friends, church members,

neighbors, co-workers and others pulled

together to feed the Dale family literally and

spiritually. The family was provided with meals,

cards, ‘happies’ and more which let them

know that they were not alone on their


“Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love,

that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.”

–Psalm 90:14

The final week of chemo came on week

51, one year into the journey that began with

Campbell’s diagnosis of cancer. Jill was

reflective in her CaringBridge post: “I think

about how this is definitely not how I

pictured my life, especially after having kids.

Through this year, I am learning to not take

life for granted, but to hold on to every

second and to make sure that I make every

day count for HIS Kingdom, as that is my

sole purpose here on earth: to be in so close

fellowship with HIM that HE reveals

HIMSELF to me. That I am open to what

HE is teaching me, showing me and that my

life will be a reflection of HIM and will draw

others to HIM, because that is what life is all

about, living a life that glorifies HIM so that

others will come to know HIM as their

Savior. What a huge responsibility, but what

a glorious, magnificent thing. I never would

have thought cancer would teach me so

much and bring me so far down that the only

way to rise up is reaching and grasping HIS

hand. That’s what we are doing, we grasp and

we hold on as tight as we can because I never

want HIM to let me go. To face a monster

like cancer without a Savior, well, I cannot

even imagine. People ask David and me how

we do it, but I really don’t think we do it. We

do the only thing we know, which is to pray

and trust that HE knows better than us what

is best for us and for Campbell. I don’t think

God makes people get cancer. It’s easy to

blame Him when something bad happens. I

think because of the sinful world we live in,

death, disease, immorality, etc. is a part of this

world. It makes us hope for something better,

a place where there will be no death, disease,

sin. What a magnificent thing, I mean can

you imagine living somewhere like that for all

eternity? That’s why I have hope, because

this life is not the end for me, for Campbell,

for all those who believe. A better place is

waiting and if Campbell gets there before

me, well what a glorious reunion that will be.

He can sit at Jesus’ feet and wait for me to

join him. No, I don’t want my child to die,

but no one does so I have to trust and believe

that God will heal him and he will live a long,

full, healthy life.”

In May, the Dale family prepared

themselves for twelve three-week rounds of

chemo, 36 weeks with no break in between.

Campbell’s cancer had returned. “People

always ask how we do this day in and day out.

The answer is I just don’t know. There are

days that I am a blubbering mess and other

days where I forget this reality and our life

feels a little “normal” whatever that is. I

remember vividly having a bad day almost 2

weeks ago, bad enough that I was hyperventilating

and I couldn’t control the tears, the

anger or the emotions. Thinking about all

these things and being mad at God and

being mad at the world and not understanding

why my son was suffering so much. David

came home that night and reassured me that

it was going to all be okay. He said no matter

what, we were going to be okay (it’s funny

how God puts two people together – we are

so different, but yet our strengths and

weaknesses cancel each other out…God knew

that when he brought us together nine years

ago). After spending much time in prayer

that Tuesday night and basically crying and

praying on my knees at the foot of my child’s

bed (although this has become a regular scene

for the past 15 months), the next morning

I felt this peace wash over me and it has been

with me ever since. I know that was and is

God saying trust ME, love ME, look to

ME…I’ve got this. I have carried you this far

and will continue to carry you until the end

when you join ME in Heaven. HE continues

to give me, give us, a peace that surpasses all

of our understanding, strength to endure and

hope for tomorrow. Chemo starts tomorrow

(Monday). We are ready to fight and win.

We don’t know what the next 36 weeks

looks like.”

80 • February/March 2016

“Yet I am always with you, you hold me by my right

hand. YOU guide me with your counsel, and

afterward you will take me into glory. Whom have I

in heaven but YOU? And earth has nothing I desire

but YOU. My flesh and my heart may fail, but GOD

is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

–Psalm 73:23-26

Those weeks were difficult for Campbell

and for his family. Jill went through all range

of emotions, including anger and helplessness.

“I don’t understand why these kids get

cancer, fight so hard and then lose the fight.

I think it is something I may always struggle

with (another question for that day when I

get to Heaven). I want more than anything

else in this world for my child to beat this

cancer. I know the odds are stacked against

him and there is literally nothing that neither

I nor David can do to change that. I want to

control the outcome. I want to control how

he responds to chemo. I want to control

every last part of it, and I can’t. I simply have

to let it go, lay it down at my Savior’s feet and

remember that Campbell is not mine. He is

only a gift to love and nurture and point him

to the One who loves him more than I do.

What a tall order, but what a gift we’ve been

given. More than anything else in this world,

I want him to know God, to know Christ as

we do, a loving Savior that died so that we

might live. But really, isn’t that what life is all

about for all of us?”

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have

peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take

heart! I have overcome the world.” –John 16:33

By mid September, Campbell was fading.

“I’ve cried many tears in the past few days,

knowing that Campbell is one day closer to

being HOME. He sat up in bed last night

and I was talking to him as he was drinking

his apple juice. I asked him if he was tired, he

nodded yes. I asked him if he was ready to go

home and he said yes. I then asked him if he

was ready to see Jesus. He nodded yes. I

hugged him tight and told him, not much

longer, and then told him that Jesus would

take care of him and told him to wait for us.

No one prepares you for this…there are

no classes, no book to walk you through

watching your child fight cancer and then

watching the cancer take over their body. I

don’t think there is any possible way to write

a book about it or tell someone how to do it.

You do it by experience and it’s an experience

I wish we never had. David and I look at each

other some days and feel like we are living in

this alternate universe or something. It’s just

a strange life we have these days. I think we

just go through the motions, just trying to

get through the day. There have been good

moments during the day with Campbell and

I cherish those. They are becoming few and

far between though. He’s tired and has slept

most of today. He’s on oxygen around the

clock and we have tried to keep him as

comfortable as possible with medication.

He knows he is loved so very much and we

kiss him and tell him that as much as we can.

I think what is scary to me is not having him

physically here to kiss and to touch. That’s

what scares me and it’s something I have

struggled with and have asked God many

times during the day to give me comfort and

peace in that.”

As difficult as the journey was, there were

blessings scattered all along the way for both

Campbell and his family. Several people with

the MSU alumni flew the family back and

forth to Starkville on Aug 25th so that

Campbell could be a Bulldog for a day.

“We are grateful to so many people,” wrote

Jill, “from the athletic department at MSU

(the basketball team, the baseball team, the

football team, Coach Mullen, Dak Prescott

and Scott Strickland), to Allison Muirhead

and John David Smith that captured so

many memories for us that day.” The

Make-A-Wish Foundation in Mississippi

helped with that, as well as granting

Campbell’s wish to go to Disney World.

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we

are wasting away yet inwardly we are being renewed

day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are

achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs

them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on

what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what

is unseen is eternal.” –2 Corinthians 4:16-18

On September 18, 2015, just 11 days shy

of his sixth birthday, Campbell Grady Dale

passed away. “We are heartbroken and

feeling an emptiness in our hearts because

our precious Campbell is no longer here with

us. We are rejoicing that he is now with his

Savior, the one that loves him more than we

can fathom or imagine. Oh to witness that

sweet, precious reunion when he ran into his

Daddy’s arms and to look upon HIS glorious

face and hear HIM say, “Well done my good

and faithful servant. Now come and rest.”

We look forward to the day when we will be

reunited and we can worship our Father

together at HIS feet.”

“I am the Lord who comforts HIS people and will

have compassion on HIS afflicted ones. You can

transcend your troubles because I am both powerful

and compassionate.” –Jesus Today by Sarah Young

“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and

the End,” says the Lord, “who is and who was and who

is to come, the Almighty.” –Revelations 1:8 n

Hometown madison • 81

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120 Alumni Drive • Oxford, Miss.



82 • February/March 2016

Serving our county

Sheriff Deputy Wade Spencer

rankin county sheriff's Department

How long have you been with the

Rankin County Sheriff’s Department?

Two and a half years.

What do you enjoy most about your

typical day?

Getting to work with the guys on my shift.

What is the toughest thing you have

experienced as a deputy?

Anytime someone loses a family member


What did it mean to you to be named

Deputy of the Year?

Rankin County probably has the best

group of deputies in the state, so to win

this award is definitely something that I will

never forget.

Tell us about your family.

I am married to Linsey Spencer. We have

three children, Stella (2 yrs. old) Brendan

(11 yrs. old) and Easton (2 months).

Share some things that you enjoy

in your spare time.

Watching football and playing with my kids.

What are three things on your

bucket list?

Hunting trip to Kansas, go to a baseball

game at Fenway Park, and take my

children to Disney World.

What do you consider your greatest

achievement/accomplishment and


The day I convinced my wife to marry me.

Being the wife of a law enforcement

officer is as hard as actually being one.

Who is someone you admire

and why?

My dad. He has been in law enforcement

for over 30 years and still loves every day

of it. He would give the shirt off of his back

for anyone that needs it.

What is your favorite holiday and why?

Thanksgiving. You get to see all of your

family, but you don’t have to buy anyone


What is your favorite childhood


Playing baseball.

What is the biggest mistake you

think young people make today?

Trying to grow up too early and too quickly.

If you could give one piece of advice

to a young person, what would it be?

Go to college. Life will be much easier if

you do.

What is most rewarding about

your job?

Whenever I’m able to make a positive

difference in someone’s life.

Where do you see yourself ten years

from now?

Working right here.

What’s your favorite thing about

Rankin County?

I’ve lived in other places around the state,

and I’ve never seen a place that respects

law enforcement quite like the citizens

here. I can’t tell you how many times,

since I’ve been here, that someone has

gone out of their way to thank law

enforcement for the job that they do.

Hometown Rankin • 83

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Join us for Happy Hour! Monday–Friday from 3 p.m. until 7 p.m.

Lunch & Dinner: Mon–Sat: 11:00 am–10:00 pm • Sun: 11:00 am–9:00 pm

Breakfast: 6:00-10:00 am, 7 days a week

Phone ahead: 601-939-5238 • www.alumnihousepearl.com

84 • February/March 2016


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Hometown Rankin • 85


rankin county Schools


Northwest Rankin Middle School, in partnership with parents

and community, is committed to providing all students with a

challenging, quality education. Recognizing the uniqueness of

each student, we will strive to produce lifelong learners who will

be successful citizens in a rapidly changing society.

With more than 850 students, each one is provided an

opportunity to learn and participate in educational classes and

extracurricular activities. NWRMS is an A-rated school with

some of the highest state test grades in RCSD.

“Student involvement is very important,” said Shea Taylor,

principal. “We want every student to be involved in something.”

Extracurricular activities include Cougar Choir, Jr. Beta Club,

Theater, Future Business Leaders of America, Fellowship of

Christian Athletes, Academic Team, Math Counts, Green Club,

Science Bowl, Yearbook, Writing Club, cheerleading, and dance

team and athletics.

This year NWRMS received a $3,000 grant from Mississippi

Department of Education for a community garden. Students will

be constructing and planting four raised beds. The project was

inspired by our summer reading book, “Counting by 7s,” written

by Holly Goldberg Sloan. “We are hoping the garden will be an

annual project that will teach students about healthy choices,” said

Alice Rainwater, vice principal.

As part of the RCSD initiative of 1:1 technology, NWRMS

started an eighth-grade tech team to assist students and teachers

with laptop technology. This 17-member team works ‘quick fixes’

that are needed and downloading software. By the 2017-2018

school year all students, grades 7-12, will have a their own laptop.

In December, students participated in an Hour of Code, a

global initiative to introduce students to basic computer coding

and introduce them to computer science.


Pisgah Elementary School is a rural kindergarten through sixth

grade school located off of Hwy. 43 in north Rankin County. The

school provides multiple opportunities for students to achieve

skills to thrive in the twenty-first century, to attend college, be

ready for the workplace, and be successful in the community.

Pisgah Elementary School has an open-door policy to

students, parents, and teachers, which creates a community spirit

of cooperation. Students and faculty are honored at different

events, as well as, parents and grandparents. These events are

highly attended and foster community participation.

Mrs. Michelle Land, a special education teacher, was recently

named PES Teacher of the Year. She works diligently to accelerate

learning for her students.

Mrs. Susan Williford, PES music teacher, received a grant

from Mississippi Professional Educators to begin a recorder club

for her fifth grade students.

Mrs. Misty Oster, Venture teacher, started the Jr. Beta Club

last year. We are excited to have 54 members inducted this year, and

these students participate in several community service projects.

The goal of PES is to provide a safe and secure climate for all

students who come to school to learn and succeed. A qualified,

experienced staff works together to assure that the students are

prepared to continue on their pathway to success through high

school graduation.

We are ready, we are respectful, we are responsible, and we are

the pride of Pisgah!

Follow us on Facebook or at www.rcsd.ms/pisgahes.

86 • February/March 2016


Hometown Hero Gives Hope

Puckett Elementary School fifth and sixth grade students

recently received words of wisdom from Dr. Tom Burnham when

he spoke to them about having goals for being college and career

ready. The idea of getting him to visit the students came from

reading about his recent recognition by Hinds Community

College as Alumni of the Year. It was in the interview that Dr.

Burnham shared about his own initial challenge in college; how

homesick he was when he first went to Hinds because he was

from Puckett, a small, close knit community.

In hearing his story, we knew our students at Puckett needed to

hear from one of their own about his journey through college and

the foundation it gave him for a successful career in education;

one he only had a glint in his eye about when he was their age.

Being a Puckett graduate, Dr. Burnham had an inspiring heart

to heart conversation with the fifth and sixth grade students

about how they can show the rest of the state and nation the

quality of students that are from Puckett and Rankin County

by setting goals and committing to them. He spoke about how

important having goals is and how committing to those goals

is what truly makes someone successful. During his visit, our

students heard about his personal journey, like what made him

stick to it during those years in college when he pumped gas at

nights and attended classes during the day. Our hometown hero

also shared with students that the best preparation for his success

was doing his best each day at everything he did. Dr. Burnham

challenged the students to re-read the Dr. Seuss book titled

Oh, the Places You’ll Go! and relate it to the importance of completing

college and believing in themselves to have the courage to go after

their life goals.

Our hometown hero gave much more than a speech. He gave



At Richland High School, we make it a priority to reward

deserving students. Our school has offered two major incentives

for students who have met the PBIS school standards thus far.

After the completion of the first nine weeks, RHS held a Perfect

Attendance Celebration for students who hadn’t missed a day of

school, nor had any sort of tardy or checkout.

El Ranchito, a local Mexican Restaurant and school sponsor,

joined efforts with the school and provided a lunch buffet for 147

students who qualified for the recognition. In addition to a

celebratory meal provided, numerous drawings for gift cards were

awarded to students. The student response was overwhelming,

and there was an outpouring of appreciation from students who

partook in the event. It goes without saying, there are several

students striving to keep their perfect attendance.

The largest reward for our students is Field Day, which is held

once a semester. The first one was held in early November on the

RHS football field and over 600 students were awarded. In

order for students to be eligible to attend, they must meet the

following expectations: Five or less absences, three or less tardies,

no F’s on their report card, and zero major discipline infractions.

While at Field Day, students were able to use their accumulated

PBIS tickets to purchase an array of food items or enter multiple

drawings. At the close of Field Day, the school held numerous

prize drawings for gifts such as, Dr. Dre’ Beats, two mini iPads,

t-shirts, and gift cards.

Submissions provided by local officials from each individual district and not to be considered editorial opinion.

Hometown Rankin • 87


rankin county Schools


The McLaurin High School Beta Club joined with McLaurin’s

JROTC and the Star Woman’s Club on November 11, 2015 to

host a Veteran’s Day Breakfast for the community.

The breakfast for local veterans and their families was a

student-initiated idea. This event was planned and coordinated by

a student committee that won a service project idea contest at the

Mississippi Fall Beta Leadership Summit in Biloxi. The students

were selected from all of the schools at the summit to present their

idea at the National Beta Club Convention in New Orleans in

June 2016. They were the only school from RCSD selected.

Over twenty local veterans attended the event and were honored

at the Veteran’s Day program hosted by the JROTC. The guest

speaker was LTC Danny Knight. Knight is a McLaurin graduate

who is a lead instructor in the McLaurin JROTC program. During

Knight’s address he stated that, “Most veterans do not expect great

rewards or accolades for their service. All they really expect is a

word of thanks or gratitude. Thank You, two words, eight simple

letters. We take these words for granted. We say it when someone

opens a door for us or helps us at a store. We say it so often it loses

its value. However, today, this Veteran’s Day I ask you to say it with

great meaning to a veteran that you know or come into contact

with. It means a great deal to know that the American people we

all chose to defend appreciate our service!”

Following the program, the veterans greeted every McLaurin

student as they left. Hugs and tears were accompanied by grateful

hearts and the students expressed their appreciation for their

dedicated service.

JROTC Awards this year: 1st, 2nd, 3rd place finish at the

Alcorn State University Magnolia Challenge Raider Competition

in DEC 2015; Superior Cadet Awards for 2015:

Keeley Wilkinson (12th grade) -Jonah Burroughs (11th grade)

-Victoria Sprayberry (10th grade) -Justin Coke (9th grade);

JROTC Program Accreditation Inspection-Honor Unit with

Distinction (November 2015)

Beta Awards this year: Junior and senior high Beta traveled to

Biloxi in the fall for the Fall Leadership Conference. During the

conference, both Beta clubs got to learn leadership skills and get

to know Betas from all over the state. Both groups received

distinguished leadership service awards at the conference. The

junior Betas presented a Backpack Buddy program in service

project completion and was selected to present at national

conference in New Orleans this summer.

The senior Betas presented a Veteran’s Day project and it, too,

was chosen to be presented this summer. Both groups qualified

McLaurin for Beta School of Distinction due to the tremendous

growth of our club membership.

JROTC Instructors – LTC Knight, SGM Fitts

Beta Sponsors – Kris Morris, D.C. Knight

88 • February/March 2016

Submissions provided by local officials from each individual district and not to be considered editorial opinion.


• 4-person Scramble

• Shotgun start - 1:00 pm


• 18 holes of golf with

cart and range balls

• Lunch

• Goodie Bag

Rankin County Chamber

Golf Classic

Thursday, March 17, 2016

The Refuge, Flowood


• Top 3 Teams

• Hole-In-One Chances

• Closest-to-the-Pin

• Longest Drive

• Door Prizes


To register your team or for more

information www.rankinchamber.com

call Rankin Chamber

office at 601-825-2268

Hometown Rankin • 89

Camille Anding

The Time Coin

Sally pulled out her sharpest red

crayon and rolled it between her

fingers as she contemplated her

teacher’s instructions to make a valentine.

The studious third grader couldn’t decide

where or how to begin. It wasn’t that Sally

didn’t understand the meaning of valentines,

but they certainly meant more than pink

construction paper and red glitter.

Some valentines were extravagant – like the ruby ring her dad had

given to her mother. It was the perfect color for Valentine’s Day and

surely pleased her mother. “We can’t afford this,” her mother kept saying,

but it was a perfect fit and dazzled in the light, like her mom’s smile.

Sally knew it must be a treasured and costly valentine. It was a special

lesson for Sally to learn. Love is extravagant.

When valentines can’t be extravagant, they can be creative. Sally loved

the story her mother told her about the time Sally’s parents were dating.

“We were in college and didn’t have any extra money. Your dad appeared

at my dorm with a large piece of cardboard – but he had attached all sorts

of candy to it in the shape of a giant heart. All my friends were envious

of his thoughtfulness and creativity.”

The classroom had grown quiet as all the

students were busy creating the perfect

valentine – all except Sally. She was still

pondering the “what kind” and “how” of her

valentine. She would always remember the

Valentine’s dinner her mom had served. There

was candlelight with their fine china, chicken

strips with valentine-red catsup, pink creamed

potatoes and homemade pink rolls with pink

lemonade. She even brought out strawberry cake for dessert. You could

never put a special valentine like that in an envelope or box. Sally so

wanted her valentine to be creative like her mom’s.

The years passed and time translated Sally into a mother with a

family of her own. Change hadn’t always been good. She was sorting

through her parents’ belongings with only their memories present.

She opened a box brimming with cards and letters. There in the midst

of her mother’s keepsakes was the valentine Sally had made as a third

grader. The pink heart was still edged in red glitter with Sally’s message:

I will love you forever and for always. Love, Sally.

Extravagant? No. Creative? Not really. A treasure? Most definitely.

Sally had given her most precious and inestimable wealth – her

forever love.

“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest

of these is love.” n

90 • February/March 2016

February 27th 7pm 11pm

Supporting the

UMMC Alliance

The Lake House

135 Madison Landing Circle

Ridgeland, MS

For more information: ummc-alliance@umc.edu

To purchase tickets: www.umc.edu/affluentaffair

Hometown Rankin • 91

Because there’s Merit

in faster care.

In a medical emergency, every minute matters. So, at Merit Health, you’ll

find faster care in the emergency room. We work diligently

to have you initially seen by a medical professional* in 30 minutes –

or less. And, with a team of dedicated medical specialists, we can provide a

lot more care, if you need it.

The 30-Minutes-Or-Less E.R. Service Pledge – at Merit Health.




River Oaks

River Region

*Medical professionals may include physicians, physician assistants and nurse practitioners.

92 • June 2015


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