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FLOWOOD • BRANDON • PELAHATCHIE • PUCKETT • FLORENCE • RICHLAND • PEARL • STAR • PISGAH• RESERVOIR
Keeping the Faith
Demario Davis family
4 • FEBRUARY 2021
FROM OUR PUBLISHER
all a part of February and all laced together
with the love theme. No wonder I consider it
one of my favorite months of the year! It’s
hard to be sad that Christmas is over when
Valentine’s decorations quickly replace holiday
ornaments in the stores. And February 14th
isn’t just for couples–it’s a day for everyone to
tell someone they are loved.
It’s always one of the easier publications
for our staff to assemble due to the endless
love topics that touch our lives. You’ll enjoy
reading about our featured couples who were
sweethearts in high school and still are to
this day. And it’s always fun to talk to a group
of kids and get their perspective on things.
Find out what a few Pearl students have to
say about love.
Our team is excited about a new monthly
feature for this year–Neighborhood Eats. We
at Hometown Magazines will spotlight our
locally owned restaurants and hopefully help
to alleviate some of their stress and challenges
due to Covid. Each month we will go behind the
scenes and get an inside look at the owners,
their stories, and the great food they offer.
We hope this will encourage you to step up
your support for these hard-hit businesses.
If we make it a team effort, our hometown
can add some much needed revenue to the
restaurants we need and rely on.
Show a little extra love to someone this
February. It will bless the recipient and bring
you, the giver, a lot of February joy. “It is more
blessed to give than to receive.” Acts 20:35
IN THIS ISSUE
...see you around town.
Reader Spotlight 7
PUBLISHER & EDITOR
Tahya A. Dobbs
Kevin W. Dobbs
Mary Ann Kirby
The Way We Were 8
Hometown Family 22
Keeping the Faith 36
Hearts on Fire 42
High School Sweethearts 49
Neighborhood Eats 54
Time Coin 74
www.facebook.com/hometownrankinmagazine. For subscription information visit www.htmags.com or contact us at info@HTMags.com / 601.706.4059 / 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.
Hometown RANKIN • 5
6 • FEBRUARY 2021
Why did you decide to make Rankin County
It’s where most of my community has been
since college. Even though I went to school
in Jackson, I was really involved in church and
in the community in Rankin County. Shortly
after college, I married my wife and she’s grown
up in Rankin nearly her entire life. It was very
easy to make Rankin County home!
How long have you lived in Rankin County?
I have lived in here for nearly four years.
Tell us about your family.
My wife, Augusta, and I have been married for
over two years and we’re expecting twin girls in
April 2021. I work locally with Fellowship of
Christian Athletes as an area representative in
Rankin County and my wife teaches 6th grade
math at Pisgah Elementary School.
What is your favorite memory of living in
For me, it’s where I’ve started my adult life,
started my family, and now growing my family.
I would say one of my greatest memories has
been buying our home here and really making
it feel like we were officially a part of this
Where are your three favorite places to eat
in Rankin County?
I’d be lying if I didn’t say Chick-fil-A. They
know my name there! My wife and I frequent
El Sombrero in Flowood. And on date-nights,
we love to eat at Amerigo!
What are some fun things to do in Rankin
County on the weekends?
You can’t go wrong with a weekend on the
Rez in my opinion. I’m a nature guy, so I love
being outdoors and enjoying God’s creation.
It’s always fun to see a movie, bowl a couple
games at Fannin Lanes, or even axe throwing!
I never thought that would be a fun thing to
do–but it is!
Share some things you enjoy doing in your
I really love reading and writing. At any given
time, I could be doing either of those things.
Since my job requires a lot of my mental,
emotional, and spiritual strength, I find it
restful to do things in my spare time that get
me physically moving and doing something.
Anything from working out to working on
my father-in-law’s land, I find it can often be
therapeutic. I also love to cook and create in
the kitchen. My wife especially likes that
What are three things on your bucket list?
I for sure know I’d love to travel to the Holy
Land. It’s always been a dream of mine to be
able to see the places Jesus actually walked!
I’ve always thought it would be really neat to
write and publish a book. Lastly, because of my
love for cooking I’ve always thought it would
be really cool to open a restaurant one day.
Who is someone you admire and why?
I really admire my wife. She is an awesome
spouse to come home to, and watching her
these last few months carry our children has
been nothing short of amazing to see. I’ve
grown a deeper love for her just seeing that.
Despite how crazy our life can get, she is always
thinking of others and giving her best to what
she’s invested in. This year has been one of
the busiest and stressful we’ve had, and she
was awarded Teacher of the Year at Pisgah
Elementary! I’m ready to see her become
mom when these babies get here.
Where do you see yourself ten years from
We’ll still be here in Rankin County involved
in much of what we are now. I see a big future
ahead in my ministry role with FCA and my
wife wants to continue her career in education
What is your favorite childhood memory?
It may not be one single memory, but a
culmination of a bunch of different ones.
As a kid, I was a huge Ole Miss football fan.
My dad used to work the gate in the games
that was closest to the locker room. Some of
my greatest memories were interacting with
all those players as a kid as they would come
back and forth before and after games. I was
even fortunate enough to run into a few
Mannings every now and then!
If you could give us one encouraging quote,
what would it be?
“Pursue righteousness and a godly life, along
with faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness.”
1 Timothy 6:11. There is no “point of arrival”
in this life, only a constant pursuit; so it is
always important to stop frequently and make
sure that what we’re pursuing is worth it!
What is your favorite thing about
I love that it is a local snapshot of all the
places and people that make our community
so special. Hometown does a great job of
capturing the heartbeat of Rankin County
in every issue that I’ve read thus far!
Hometown RANKIN • 7
Christy & Jeff Walker
The arrangement couldn’t
have been better for seventh-grader
attending McLaurin Junior High
in Florence, Mississippi. Her
ninth-grade neighbor and good
friend Jeff, who lived just down
the road, would pick her up on
his way to school. Over the years
they grew to appreciate each
other’s obvious qualities.
According to Christy, Jeff was
“super cute, popular and just a
nice guy.” Jeff described Christy
as being “genuine.” There was no
pretense or putting on heirs in
his young friend.
It was the kind of friendship
where Christy could share her
broken heart over a relationship
and cry on Jeff’s shoulder. He
was a sounding board for many
of her youthful questions about
boyfriends and teen “growing
Christy was close enough to
comment on Jeff’s decisions and
give advice on girls he might be
dating. It was obvious that they
could refer to one another as a
It was the weekend he came
home as a sophomore at
Mississippi College that reshaped
their friendship. He asked Christy
if she would like to go to a movie.
She said, “Sure.” The best friend
relationship turned romantic for
the two of them. Jeff discovered
that he had found his future
mate. “She couldn’t get rid of
me,” he said in describing the
love of his life.
Christy remembers a high
sponsor who was married to the
high school coach. That lifestyle
was her paradigm, but she didn’t
realize how closely she would
Jeff admits wanting to
impress Christy and prove he
was the perfect match for her.
Majoring in architecture was
one of the ways he felt sure he
would impress her. Christy
laughs at that choice with her
recap, “I dated an architect but
married a coach!”
After a June graduation from
Mississippi College, Christy
became Mrs. Jeff Walker on
June 29, 1991. The wedding at
Wesleyanna United Methodist
church in Star and reception in
Christy’s backyard, is a standout
8 • FEBRUARY 2021
“If you’re lucky
enough to marry
your best friend,
marriage is just
memory, and the weather played
Taylor’s physicians, she would
at McLaurin High School where
relationship discussions, and I
a big part. “It was hot as blue
never walk or talk.
Jeff serves as athletic director,
remind the younger students
blazes,” according to their
Christy refused to accept that.
head baseball coach, and teaches
that hearts have to be broken a
Jeff described it best, “Mama was
Drivers’ Ed. (Christy recognizes
few times, but you have to fall in
Their first major challenge
not taking no for an answer.”
she’s living her dream.)
love with your person.”
came in their fourth year of
Today Taylor clocks in 14,000
As for the adjustments to
Jeff added the last marriage
marriage. Their first child,
steps a day in her job at McLaurin
being married to a coach, Christy
advice: “If you’re lucky enough
Taylor, was born, but Christy
Elementary School, and is an
admits it’s not all peaches and
to marry your best friend,
had a motherly instinct that
avid conversationalist, thanks to
cream, but as a family they accept
marriage is just a bonus.” He also
their daughter had some
“God’s goodness,” and parents’
the role. Balancing family time
added that his bride of thirty
underlying issues. Taylor didn’t
and friends’ unrelenting work
is a priority. “We’ve realized
years hadn’t changed. “She is still
walk until she was two, and the
what’s most important and what
as genuine as in the 7th grade,
couple continued to ask questions
The Walkers are also parents
we have to make important,”
but prettier than ever.” l
and seek help. When Taylor had
to recently wed Katherine, and
a seizure in the first grade, more
ninth-grade son, Anderson. With
In her counseling position,
in-depth tests gave them an
a master’s degree in counseling,
Christy listens and shares insight
accurate diagnosis. According to
Christy is employed as a counselor
with the students. “We have
Hometown RANKIN • 9
Help us help
© Copyright 2019 BankPlus.
Friends of Children’s Hospital
supports Batson Children’s Hospital,
part of University of Mississippi
Health Care, Mississippi’s
ONLY hospital designed for the care
and treatment of sick or injured children.
*NOTE: All donations subject
to change on an annual basis.
Friends of Children’s
The Friends Card cost $12 per year, 100% of which is
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10 • FEBRUARY 2021
Home is where you are loved, cared for,
and life is being lived. Home is HERE.
(601) – 664 – 1966
Hometown RANKIN • 11
12 • FEBRUARY 2021
Hometown RANKIN • 13
Grand Opening & Dedication / January 16
14 • FEBRUARY 2021
Brought to you by Hometown Magazines
Hometown RANKIN • 15
We Build Families.
149 Fountains Blvd, Madison, MS 833- POS-STEP (767-7837) postivestepsfertility.com
16 • FEBRUARY 2021
B A N K O F Y A Z O O
W E L C O M E S
V I C E P R E S I D E N T A N D L O A N O F F I C E R
Bank of Yazoo is pleased to announce that Misty Edwards
has joined its team as Vice President and Loan Officer and
will be located at the Bank’s Flowood branch in Rankin
County. Edwards, a native of Pelahatchie, has more than 20
years of banking experience in commercial and consumer
lending, retail services, operations, credit, and compliance
in the Jackson Metropolitan market.
"Misty brings a wealth of experience to our institution, and we are thrilled that she
has joined our Metro team. Her broad-based experience in banking, particularly in Rankin
County, allows her to provide valuable financial insight and solutions to our clients.
We also appreciate her ongoing desire to contribute to her community through civic service.
We are excited to see what the future holds for Misty at our Bank.”
B E N A L D R I D G E , C H I E F O P E R A T I N G O F F I C E R A N D M E T R O P R E S I D E N T
"I am pleased to join the Bank of Yazoo team where client relationships are nurtured and
valued. In this new position, I am excited to help develop and grow consumer and commercial
relationships in and around the community that has always meant so much to me.”
M I S T Y E D W A R D S , V I C E P R E S I D E N T A N D L O A N O F F I C E R
YAZOO CITY | FLORA | FLOWOOD | CROSSGATES
Hometown RANKIN • 17
• 2 ¼ tsp. active dry yeast
(1 standard packet)
• 1 cup warm milk
• ⅔ cup granulated sugar
• ½ cup unsalted butter, melted
• 2 eggs, lightly beaten
• 1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
• 4½ - 4¾ cups all purpose flour
In the bowl of your stand mixer
fitted with the dough hook, add
yeast, warm milk, and 1 Tbsp. of
measured out sugar. Stir lightly and
allow to sit for 10 minutes or until
foamy on top. Stir in remaining sugar,
melted butter, and beaten eggs until
combined. Add 3 cups of flour first
and then add one tablespoon at a
time until you have workable
dough. Place dough into a lightly
greased bowl and set into a
warm place to rise until
doubled, about one hour.
• 1 ½ cups strawberries, chopped
• ½ cup granulated sugar
• 1 Tbsp. cornstarch
• 1 Tbsp. water
• 1 Tbsp. cinnamon
• 1 Tbsp. granulated sugar
While the dough is rising, gather
your ingredients for the strawberry
filling. In a medium sizes saucepan,
add the strawberries and sugar. Stir
constantly for five minutes until they
start to release their juices. Mix corn
starch and water together and stir it
into the strawberry mixture. Allow
to thicken, about 5 minutes.
Remove from heat and allow the
strawberry filling to cool to room
temperature. Stir together the
cinnamon and sugar in a small bowl
and set aside for later.
Once the dough has risen, don’t
punch it down just yet. Flip the bowl
over and dump it out onto a lightly
floured surface. Pat it down lightly
to release the air inside and roll it
with a rolling pin into a very large
rectangle, about 1/4” thick. Spread
the strawberry filling on into an even
layer and sprinkle the cinnamon
sugar on top.
Roll the dough up very tightly
into a long log. Cut the log into 12
or 16 cinnamon rolls. 12 for a large
9x13 pan or 16 for two round 8”
baking pans (8 rolls in each). Grease
your pan of choice extremely well
and place cut cinnamon rolls into
At this point, BEFORE the
second rise you can choose to finish
the process the next morning. Just
place the pan of cinnamon rolls in
the refrigerator with a damp cloth
on top. In the morning, remove the
rolls from the refrigerator and place
them in a warm environment to do
their second rise. Once they are
puffy, they’re ready to bake!
Continue the recipe as normal.
Once rolls have done their second
rise, preheat the oven to 350 degrees
and arrange the rack into the center
of the oven. Bake cinnamon rolls for
20-25 minutes or until lightly
golden on top.
• 4 oz. cream cheese, softened
• ¼ cup unsalted butter,
• ½ cup granulated sugar
• 2 tsp. vanilla extract
• 1 pinch of salt
Beat cream cheese and butter
together until smooth with no
lumps. Add in sugar, vanilla and
optional pinch of salt and mix until
smooth and creamy. Spread a thin
layer of the frosting onto the warm
rolls just as they come out of the
oven so it seeps into all of the
crevices and then a heftier layer once
they have cooled down a bit.
18 • FEBRUARY 2021
Pico de Gallo
Chocolate Chip Scones
• 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
• 2 Tbsp. sugar
• ½ tsp. baking soda
• 2 tsp. baking powder
• ½ tsp. salt
• 1 cup buttermilk
• 1 egg
• ½ cup butter (unsalted, cold,
• 1 cup strawberries (washed and
• ½ cup chocolate chips
• ¼ cup flour (for dusting over your
Preheat oven to 400 F degrees. Line
a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, mix together the flour,
sugar, baking soda, baking powder
and salt. In the measuring cup used to
measure the buttermilk, whisk the
egg with the buttermilk.
Add cubed butter to flour mixture
and using two knives or a pastry
blender cut in the butter, until dough
is crumbly and resembles peas.
Add the buttermilk mixture to the
flour mixture and mix well using a
fork or wooden spoon.
Add strawberries and chocolate
chips to the dough and roughly mix
until well incorporated. Turn dough
over onto a floured surface, and form
into a round disk. Cut the into eight
Place the scones onto your baking
sheet. Brush with buttermilk and
sprinkle with a bit of sugar if
preferred. Bake for about 25 to 30
minutes or until golden brown.
• 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
• ½ tsp. baking powder
• ⅛ tsp. salt
• ¼ cup unsalted butter, softened
• 4 oz. cream cheese, softened
• ¾ cup sugar
• 1 egg
• 1 tsp. vanilla extract
• ¾ cup fresh strawberries, chopped
• 2 Tbsp. lemon juice
• 1-2 Tbsp. flour
• 5 oz. white chocolate, chopped
• Sanding sugar
Preheat the oven to 350 F and line
pans with parchment paper. Pour
fresh lemon juice over chopped
strawberries; drain after a few
minutes. Whisk together flour, salt
and baking powder and set aside.
Beat butter with sugar and cream
cheese until it’s light and fluffy.
Add egg and vanilla and mix well.
Gradually add flour mixture and mix
until well combined. Stir in chopped
Sprinkle strawberries with 1-2
tablespoon flour, toss them until all
strawberries are coated with thin layer
of flour and then stir them really
gently in the batter.
Drop heaping tablespoon of batter
onto pan leaving an inch space
Set the cookies in the refrigerator
for 5-10 minutes before baking.
Sprinkle with sanding sugar if you
want, but do not overdo it because
they are sweet enough.
Bake for 13-15 minutes (until the
edges become golden brown).
Let them cool a few minutes in the
pan than transfer them to a wire racks
to cool completely.
• 4 cups frozen strawberries
• 3 Tbsp. honey or agave nectar
• ½ cup plain yogurt
(non-fat or full fat)
• 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
Add ingredients to the bowl of a food
processor. Process until creamy, about
five minutes. Serve immediately or
transfer to an airtight container and
freeze for up to a month.
Strawberry Crumb Bars
• 1 cup sugar
• 1 tsp. baking powder
• ¼ tsp. salt
• 3 cups flour
• 1 cup cold butter, cut into pieces
• 1 egg, beaten
• 4 cups fresh strawberries, hulled
• ½ cup sugar
• 4 tsp. corn starch
Preheat oven to 375 F. Grease, or line
with foil, a 9x13 pan. In a medium
bowl, whisk together sugar, baking
powder, salt, and flour. Cut in the
butter using two knives or a pastry
blender, until pieces are no bigger
than pea sized. Stir in the egg to form
crumbly dough. Pat half of the dough
in an even layer in the prepared pan.
In a medium bowl, toss strawberries
with the sugar and corn starch, then
spread the mixture on top of the
dough in the pan. Crumble the
remaining dough evenly over the
strawberry layer. Bake 45-50
minutes, or until lightly browned.
Let cool before slicing and serving.
• 1 California avocado, halved,
seeded, peeled, and diced
• 1 cup diced strawberries
• 1/3 cup diced mango
• ½ jalapeno, seeded and minced
• 1/4 cup diced red onion
• 2 Tbsp. fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
• 1 tsp. honey, or more to taste
• Juice of 1 lime
• Kosher salt, to taste
In a large bowl, combine avocado,
strawberries, mango, jalapeno, onion,
cilantro, honey, lime juice, and salt, to
taste. Serve immediately.
Strawberry Sweet Tea
STRAWBERRY SIMPLE SYRUP
• 4 cups fresh or frozen strawberries
• 1½ cups water
• 1 ½ cups pure cane or coconut sugar
Add the strawberries, sugar, and water
to a saucepan and bring to a boil,
Lower the heat and simmer or 10-15
minutes. Let cool slightly then pour
the syrup through a fine mesh sieve
into a gallon pitcher. Discard the
• 3 Luzianne family size tea bags
• 3 cups water
• Strawberry simple syrup
Bring water to a boil, remove from
heat, drop in tea bags, and steep for
10-15 minutes. Pour tea into the
pitcher with the syrup and stir. Fill the
rest of the pitcher with cold water.
Chill completely then serve over ice
and/or freshly frozen strawberries.
Hometown RANKIN • 19
20 • FEBRUARY 2021
Hometown RANKIN • 21
22 • FEBRUARY 2021
Tell us about your family.
BRETT (37) I am an interventional cardiologist at Jackson Heart Clinic.
For hobbies, I enjoy coaching the kids’ sports teams and hanging out with them.
We went snow skiing for the first time last year, and I can’t wait to do that
again. We are also members of McLaurin Heights Baptist Church in Pearl.
SHARON (36) Stay-at-home mom, active in the schools with the PTA, and
has been named Parent of the Year twice at Pearl Schools.
COLSTON (13) Currently in 8th grade at Pearl Jr. High and has enjoyed
kicking on the football team, running cross country, and playing junior high
soccer as well as club soccer for BFC.
BRYNN (8) Currently in the third grade at Northside Elementary in Pearl.
She plays soccer for IFC and enjoys tumbling and riding the moped she got for
BRITTON (5) Currently attending the ECEC in Pearl. She played soccer for
the first time this past season and enjoys tagging along to cheer on her siblings
at their sporting events. She is also an avid Disney fan.
did you meet, and how long have
you been married?
We met in high school when I rode to school
with my family friend, Coby, who was a
friend of Brett’s, and they parked beside each
other in the school parking lot. Our first
New Years dating was the year of the new
millennium. We have been married 14 years.
Do you allow time to be with your
spouse for a date night?
Yes, we try to do a date night every now and
then when schedules allow. Our favorite is a
quick dinner, but we have taken a few short
trips–just the two of us. We are extremely
fortunate to have a lot of family around
willing to help out. And the kids enjoy
seeing their grandparents.
What brings you the greatest joy as a
BRETT For me, it’s watching the kids grow.
Everything from watching them participate
in sports and academics to interactions with
peers. But my greatest joy is when they ask
me for help.
Hometown RANKIN • 23
SHARON I enjoy making memories as a
family. Whether it is going on a trip or
sitting on the couch watching movies as
Who is the financial manager in your home?
As far as the day to day finances, Sharon
definitely pulls the weight. With big
decisions, it has always been a team effort.
We are fortunate to have similar beliefs
and typically see eye to eye on big things.
When your children were younger,
what was your discipline philosophy?
Well, this has definitely evolved over the
years. We have been progressively more lax
with each child as the years pass by!
What’s a quick go to meal that isn’t fast
food? And who does the cooking?
BRETT Sharon does the cooking in the
kitchen. I have scars from the last time I
tried to cook anything that wasn’t on the
grill. However, I did get a Green Egg two
years ago and enjoy grilling.
SHARON I definitely do most of the
cooking. Some of the easiest things all
agree on are breakfast food, homemade
fried rice, and steaks on the grill.
How long has Pearl been your home?
We both grew up in Pearl and both
graduated from Pearl High School. We
moved back to Pearl shortly after getting
married. Sharon was an assistant teacher
at Pearl for two years, and Brett is the
medical director. We moved to Flowood
two years ago, but the kids attend Pearl
Schools and we couldn’t imagine them
What do you see in your role as the greatest
benefit to your family?
BRETT Support. Lead by example in
regards to hard work, dedication and
applying yourself to achieve your goals.
SHARON Organization, peacekeeper,
stability, and shoulder to cry on. Being
able to stay home with the kids has
allowed me a lot of time to work on these.
What are some of your favorite things
about Rankin County?
Pride. Love the southern pride and
hospitality. Everywhere you go feels
How do you spend your summer breaks?
We usually take a beach trip. For the past
few years we have gone to the Beach Club
in Fort Morgan with friends. However,
most of the summer is spent following the
kids sporting events.
What accomplishments make you proud
during your time living in Pearl?
BRETT We won State in soccer my senior
year of high school and I was named to
the Pearl High School Hall of Fame.
More recently, Pearl won the football
state championship in 2017. At that time,
Colston was a ball boy for the team and
my cousin, Kyle, was the kicker. Last year,
Colston’s junior high cross country team
won the first ever state championship.
This year, Colston’s 8th grade football
team made it to the Little 6 Championship.
Brynn was Pirate of the Quarter
last year as well.
SHARON Being a member of the dance
team my senior year and being selected
as a homecoming maid. I’m proud to be
able to help at the school, and seeing the
Pearl School district consistently graded
as one of the top in Mississippi. I agree
with Brett on the kids’ accomplishments.
I have also enjoyed watching the city
grow–and getting to see the Mississippi
What drives you to have the job that you
BRETT One is the example that I set for
my kids. The other is the care that I am
able to provide. I am often able to care
for patients who are at their worst or most
critical and they trust me with their lives.
This is an enormous responsibility and
I am humbled to be in the position that
24 •• FEBRUARY 2021
SHARON Definitely the kids. My day, in and
out, is for them. I want to provide them a
stable home environment and the utmost
support and security. With Brett’s work and
call schedule, I am depended on, a lot, for day
to day activities, homework, and stability.
QUESTIONS FOR THE CHILDREN
What’s your favorite thing to do as a family?
COLSTON Watch LSU football with Dad
and family soccer games in the yard.
BRYNN Taking family trips and playing
with the dogs
BRITTON Going to Baskin Robbins to get
ice cream. And the family trips.
What’s your favorite restaurant?
BRITTON Waffle House
What’s your favorite TV show?
COLSTON Friday Night Tykes
BRITTON Doc McStuffins
Favorite memories of 2020:
COLSTON & BRETT We were fortunate
to attend the SEC championship game
with the family in Atlanta and the LSU–
Clemson National Championship game
in New Orleans. It was a once in a
lifetime season and experience.
BRYNN Going to the American Girl
doll store in Atlanta while Colston and
Dad went to the SEC championship
game. Also getting our new puppy, Arya,
on my birthday. She is a Goldendoodle.
BRITTON Playing in the snow when we
went snow skiing in Deer Valley, UT.
Hometown RANKIN • 25
26 • FEBRUARY 2021
CALL NOW: 601-401-3299
Hometown RANKIN • 27
Grand Opening & Dedication / January 22
28 • FEBRUARY 2021
Hometown RANKIN • 29
30 • FEBRUARY 2021
Hometown RANKIN • 31
32 • FEBRUARY 2021
Pearl Upper Elementary 4th Graders
What does love mean to you?
1 Ila Bolls
Spending time with my family.
Caring for one another.
When a family member says they love me,
it means they would do anything for me.
When you care for someone very much.
Family and friends coming together.
Love is something I can’t explain, but love is
powerful because my brother and sisters and I,
we have love.
Liking someone for how they are. Someone
who laughs with you and helps you when you
are feeling down.
Helping and caring for people.
You are there for someone.
Letting people know that they can count on you!
A strong friendship or connection. It means
to have the best connection with someone.
Love is what everyone has in their heart.
Caring and kindness.
Love means saying nice things.
Love is being nice and kind.
You will do anything for someone and
you always feel safe around them.
Love to me is happiness. It brings joy to people.
I love love because it helps me in life.
Love means family. You don’t need the same
blood to love each other.
Love means home.
When you really like someone and you want to
stay with them forever. When you see them you
get butterflies in your stomach.
Love is when you will do anything for someone
you care about, no matter what the circumstances
are. Love is the one thing that overcomes hate.
John Paul Acey
The best thing ever that you can have in life.
Having a family, and they love you.
And you love them back.
When someone cares about you.
Caring about people who care about you.
Good or bad when we have a problem
we could fix it.
Love is the best thing in my family.
Hometown RANKIN • 33
AND SO DO YOUR
34 • FEBRUARY 2021
Hometown RANKIN • 35
36 • FEBRUARY 2021
Keeping the Faith
They seem like a family that has it all.
Demario Davis is an NFL standout, a linebacker for the New Orleans Saints.
He has a beautiful wife, Tamela, who he met in college at Arkansas State University.
Together, the couple has four adorable children:
Bailey-Grace, Roman-Parker, Summer-Joy
and Carly-Faith. Born in 2019, it was Carly-Faith
who caused the Davises to rely on their faith
like never before.
Demario and Tamela both have a strong
Christian faith, which is something they
incorporate into their daily lives. The couple
met in a class they had together at Arkansas
State. “He was there on a football scholarship,
in his senior year,” says Tamela. “I was in my
first year of graduate school.” The couple
talked after class one day and realized they were
both from Mississippi. Demario graduated
from Brandon High School where he was a
three-sport athlete in football, basketball and
track. Tamela was from Walnut Grove. “We
realized that with band competitions and
other events, we were most likely in the same
place at the same time during high school,”
muses Tamela. We met in January 2011, got
engaged in December of that same year, and
married in July 2012.”
Because he red-shirted his freshman year,
Demario was able to play an additional year
of football at Arkansas State. “During his last
year there he started grad school, working
towards getting his master’s degree,” explains
Tamela. “Then he was selected to train for a
combine in New Jersey and was drafted in the
third round by the New York Jets.”
Hometown RANKIN • 37
“When she was born, Carly-Faith had a bit of a glare in her eyes.”
The couple moved to New Jersey and had
their first two children there before moving to
Ohio, where Demario played for the Cleveland
Browns. In 2018, they moved to New Orleans
when Demario was offered a position with the
New Orleans Saints. Carly-Faith was born in
New Orleans. The family, by all accounts, had it
all. But there was something about Carly-Faith
that had the couple a bit concerned.
“When she was born, Carly-Faith had a bit
of a glare in her eyes,” recalls Tamela. “Her eyes
were an unusual color, kind of greenish-gray.
But my family has a history of unusual eye color,
so that wasn’t very strange.” What was strange
was that glare, which was something that could
only be seen when Carly-Faith was in a certain
position, or in a certain light. Over the next few
months, her eye color got darker, and the glare
became more noticeable.
The couple went to their home in Nashville,
which is where they plan to eventually make
their permanent home. “Maybe the light there
was different, but it seemed more noticeable in
that house,” observed Tamela. Back in New
Orleans, the couple took the baby to their
pediatrician who said she would keep an eye
on it. They returned to Nashville, and a couple
of weeks passed. They noticed the glare more,
but because of COVID-19, unless it was an
emergency, they could not take her to the doctor
in Nashville. Then one day Carly-Faith was on
the floor and Demario and Tamela noticed an
orange-colored dot in her eye that looked like
a laser light. That was concerning enough for
their pediatrician in New Orleans to refer them
to a specialist at Vanderbilt in Nashville.
“Honestly, we thought we were ‘over
parenting’ a bit, and that they’d tell us it was
nothing,” says Tamela. With a new sitter at
home with the other three children, Demario
and Tamela thought they would be gone for a
short time. Instead, Tamela spent hours at
Vanderbilt with Carly-Faith, going from one
doctor to another while Demario had to stay
outside, as they would only let one parent in
due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Carly-Faith had an MRI, and the couple
was given the heartbreaking news that she had
a tumor behind her eye that was already in an
advanced stage. “She was already completely
blind in that eye,” says Tamela. “We were
told the tumor was a size typically found in
two-to-three-year-old children, but she was
only nine months old.”
Over the next few days, the couple
consulted with everyone they could. Demario’s
aunt is a researcher in Atlanta, and they had
38 • FEBRUARY 2021
“We put our trust in God.”
Carly-Faith’s chart sent to St. Jude’s there. The
question came down to whether the eye should
be removed or not. In the end, everyone they
spoke with held the doctor on their case at
Vanderbilt in high esteem, and they agreed on
his plan. “It was a lot to digest,” says Tamela.
“We put our trust in God, and we spoke to the
doctors at Vanderbilt about our faith. We
prayed over our doctors and we prayed the
cancer had not spread further. Believing in a
higher power and being saturated in faith
makes any journey different. I had to realize
the true power of God and believe all that was
happening was much bigger than me.”
Sometimes a valley is so low that it is hard
to believe there will ever be better times on the
other side. Tamela says family, friends and
teammates all stepped up to support her family
and to journey with them. Little Carly-Faith
may have lost an eye, but she has a prosthetic
that makes it hard to notice. She is walking and
talking and doing all a healthy 17-month-old
should be doing. “She had a rare form of eye
cancer, retinoblastoma, that required her to
have genetics testing done monthly,” explains
Tamela. “She had to be put under anesthesia to
monitor her eye socket and to check the other
eye for suspicious growths. She went through
that for months, but as of November, she has
been declared cancer-free! Doctors have told us
she is not at risk for any additional tumors. Our
daughter is healed!” Tamela says that although
Carly-Faith can only see with one eye, she will
thrive in life and her story will serve as an
inspiration to many people. “I see her future
being really bright. This is just the beginning.
She has so much more life to live, and I’m sure
there will be other things that will go along
with this story that will give her a tremendous
In addition to the great news about
Carly-Faith’s remission, Demario was recently
named the New Orleans’s Saints 2020 Man
of the Year and he is the team’s 2020 Walter
Payton Man of the Year nominee. According to
the Saints press release on Davis’ nomination,
“All of the 32 Walter Payton Man of the Year
team nominees will receive a donation of
$40,000 in their name to their charity of
choice. The winner of the Walter Payton NFL
Man of the Year award will receive a $250,000
donation to the charity of their choice. All
donations are courtesy of the NFL Foundation
Hometown RANKIN • 39
Your Eye Exam, Too!
It Is A BIG DEAL!
Scheduling a yearly comprehensive eye exam with
Jackson Eye Associates is easier than making your
weekly manicure appointment. It Is A Big Deal!
Call one of our three convenient locations to schedule your exam.
For sunglasses, prescription glasses, or contacts
visit JEA Optical today!
40 • FEBRUARY 2021
TURN YOUR HOPES OF HOMEOWNERSHIP
into a reality
MORTGAGE LOAN ORIGINATOR
EQUAL HOUSING LENDER
Hometown RANKIN • 41
42 • FEBRUARY 2021
Sparks flew for a local fireman
and nurse during a chance meeting
on the same ambulance years ago.
BJ and Emily met, became friends, and that
friendship blossomed into a heartfelt love story.
Hometown RANKIN • 43
44 • FEBRUARY 2021
PHOTOS: Firelenz Photography
Pearl Fire Department Lieutenant BJ Wells met Emily Ann Jones in
2013 while on call with American Medical Response. Emily is a
neonatal flight nurse at UMC and a neonatal nurse at Newborn
Associates. They fondly recall the night they met. At the time, BJ was working
as an EMT. He and Emily were on call together. While Emily was busy working
with a neonatal patient during transport, BJ remembered that it was storming very
badly that night. It was quite a treacherous drive because the ambulance was leaking,
causing him to struggle to see. Desperate to find something to clear the water to
get them to their destination safely, he asked Emily for anything to help.
Laughing, BJ said, “We really didn’t have much in the ambulance but she tossed
me a roll of paper towels.” Emily added, “I guess you could say we bonded over
that roll of paper towels that night.”
Busy with their healthcare and fireman duties, their paths crossed frequently
and they became good friends who were able to work with each other from time
to time. BJ recalls, “She is such a loyal person with a big heart and never meets a
stranger.” He added that his close friend and co-worker had a postcard that came
in the mail with Emily’s face on it. He joked to his buddy and said, “Get her
autograph for me, I’m going to marry her one day.”
Fast forward a few years—they agreed to go on a real date. Unfortunately,
Emily was already committed to move to North Carolina but did not want to
miss an opportunity to see where this may lead. After that first date, Emily knew
this was real and questioned her big move. She had already sold her house and had
to go. She said, “He is just so easy to love so I really felt like I had made a mistake
Determined not to let distance get in the way, they both agreed to give their
long-distance relationship a go. BJ said, “I knew that if we could make it work
long distance then we could make it work here.” A year later in 2019, Emily was
back in Mississippi and back to BJ.
Emily said, “The move and the long-distance relationship really showed me
who he was.” Excited for the future, Emily and BJ were happily back on the same
For Emily’s birthday this year, she and BJ had planned an exciting and
fun-filled trip to New York. She added, “We were so excited for this trip. We
even bought matching outfits and had so much planned to do but because of
Covid, we had to cancel.” Leaving their plans behind and their new outfits
hanging in the closet, they made back-up plans for her special day.
They planned to attend a simple cookout with her family instead. Knowing
the disappointment Emily felt from having to cancel the trip, BJ said, “I told her
she should go get her nails done and we’d dress up in our outfits anyway and go
to dinner!” Emily, concerned about being way overdressed to go eat burgers with
family, humored BJ and got all dressed up for her birthday. Little did she know
what BJ had in store for her.
After dinner, BJ sweetly asked Emily to walk outside and dance with him.
When she stepped outside, she was surrounded by twinkling lights and music
playing for them that he had already set up. BJ also made and displayed a poster
board with photos documenting special times throughout their relationship. As
they danced on her special day, BJ proposed to her asking if she
would be his forever. Overcome with emotion, Emily admits,
“It was so sweet and overwhelming. I feel like I almost blacked
out a little.” BJ, thinking ahead, had someone posted nearby
filming the entire scene for the happy couple.
BJ and Emily are eager to begin their life together. With
BJ’s 15 year old son, Brelynn Wells, by his side as his best man,
they plan to wed in 2021. After a trip to the mountains and a
larger honeymoon to come in the future, they plan to reside in
Rankin County together and will continue serving our
community as first responders.
Hometown RANKIN • 45
46 • FEBRUARY 2021
Hometown RANKIN • 47
48 • FEBRUARY 2021
here is something pretty incredible
about having experienced the tumultuous
few years between adolescence and
adulthood with the person you end up
marrying. You experienced so many firsts
together, and there is something really
special about that. You share many of the
same old friends. You grew up with your
in-laws about as much as you did with
your own parents. You share a hometown.
And class reunions are the bomb! And while
there are zillions of beautiful love stories
out there, all unique in their own ways,
there’s something really special about
marrying your high school sweetheart.
Hometown RANKIN • 49
Brad & Amanda Heath
GRENADA HIGH SCHOOL
Brad and Amanda met in 1993 as Algebra I classmates. As the
years passed, they continued to hang out with a mutual friend
group, but it wasn’t until 1995 that these two friends figured
out that there was more than friendship between them. They
have been a couple ever since. Miles of highway between
Mississippi State and Delta State separated them for five years,
but in December of 2002, the couple finally said, “I do.” Their
contrasting personalities keep them balanced. Brad is quiet
and a deep thinker where Amanda is outgoing and is always
ready to be the first to dress up for any themed occasion. Having
a foundation rooted in Christ, making time to get away and
reconnect with each other, and watching their three children
grow into amazing (and quite humorous) humans is how they
push through the ups and down of marriage.
Justin & Candice Ashley
RICHLAND HIGH SCHOOL
Justin and Candice were friends and classmates since early
childhood, and started dating when they were in the 9th grade
at Richland High School. They always knew they would get
married, and both wanted a big family. The pair married on
February 7th of 2004. Justin and Candice now have four active
boys, Kayne (13), Kruz (11), Kamp (9) and Kolt (5), and are
members of FBC Florence. Justin is the co-owner of Ashley
Hardwood Flooring and Candice serves as a family nurse
practitioner at Florence Family Clinic. The Ashley family spends
almost every night weeknight and weekend participating in
multiple sports – Justin with coaching and Candice cheering
on from the stands!
50 • FEBRUARY 2021
Justin & Jennifer Boykin
TAYLORSVILLE HIGH & PETAL HIGH
Justin and Jennifer Boykin met in January 1996 while
attending a music clinic. They went on their first date on
February 3, 1996, just one week after meeting. At the time,
Justin was a senior at Taylorsville High School and Jennifer
was a sophomore at Petal High School. Their connection was
instantaneous, and both knew, early in their relationship, that
they had met the love of their lives. Living an hour apart, they
only spoke to each other for a short time each day and spent
time together on the weekends. Despite the distance, they
dated throughout high school and college, and were married
on December 21, 2002. Justin and Jennifer celebrated their
18th wedding anniversary in December. They live in Pearl,
Mississippi, with their two children, Brady and Ally.
Chad & Diane Davis
PEARL HIGH SCHOOL
Chad and Diane Davis met in March of 1995, when they were
both attending Pearl High School, and married in April 2005.
They are the first to admit that although their relationship hasn’t
always been smooth, with perseverance and grace they have
been able to work through every obstacle. During the last five
years, their marriage has become stronger than ever. They
have two beautiful children, Kirsten who is 13 and Myles who is
11. Chad and Diane have grown so much over the years, since
their high school days, and are thankful that God choose them
to do life together.
Hometown RANKIN • 51
Matt & Torri Armstrong
BRANDON HIGH SCHOOL
Matt and Torri first met in middle school at a Brandon High
football game, and soon after, they developed feelings for each
other while riding rides at the Mississippi State Fair. Their
relationship continued to grow as they attended youth group
together at church, and they dated throughout most of high
school and while attending Mississippi State University. After
college, they moved back to Brandon. Matt attended physical
therapy school at the UMMC and Torri attended the Mississippi
College School of Law. Within two weeks of graduating from
their graduate programs, they were married by their youth
minister, Kevin Cooper, at First Baptist Church of Brandon.
After four fun years of working hard, travelling, and attending
numerous concerts and sporting events, God saw fit to send
them the best possible blessing – Anne Caroline Armstrong.
Roger & Linda Polk
FLORENCE HIGH SCHOOL
Fifty years ago, in 1971, best friends found love and sealed
it with a kiss! Roger and Linda met at age 15 as sophomores
at Florence High School. As classmates in several classes,
they quickly became great friends, and started dating at 16.
Their first outing was a double date with one of Roger’s best
friends and one of Linda’s best friends to the FHS football
game and the Mississippi State Fair. Roger and Linda were
married in September of 1974. Here they are 46 years later
with two sons, a daughter-in-love, and three beautiful
grandchildren, with another due this month. Life is a journey,
but it’s worth it when you love each other and are married to
your best friend!
52 • FEBRUARY 2021
Colby & Christy Roberts
BRANDON HIGH SCHOOL
Colby and Christy Roberts knew of each other all through
childhood because of church activities, and Christy’s mom
taught Colby in the third grade. It was not until August of 2007
that they started dating thanks to a mutual friend that told
Colby about Christy’s crush she had on him. This was at the
beginning of Colby’s senior year and Christy’s sophomore year
at Brandon High School. They went on to date at Mississippi
State University and then as Christy attended occupational
therapy school and Colby attended nursing school. Colby has
since returned to dental school. Colby and Christy got married
on December 13, 2014, and recently celebrated their 6th
wedding anniversary. They currently live in Brandon with
their baby girl, Laney, who turns one in February.
Conner Watson & Avery Harmon
Conner and Avery went to Jackson Prep together beginning in
the seventh grade, but their romantic relationship didn’t start
until their senior year when they were cast as the captain and
baroness in Prep’s production of The Sound of Music. They
started dating at the end of their senior year–after they had
both independently decided to attend college at Mississippi
State University. They dated throughout college as Avery
pursued a degree in architecture and Conner, a degree in
engineering. In July of 2020, after dating over four years,
Conner proposed, and they are currently planning their
wedding for June of 2021.
Hometown RANKIN • 53
As the pandemic continues to leave
its mark on businesses all across the nation,
no one has been bumped and bruised more
than local restaurants. With lots of indoor
dining offerings being closed for much
of the last ten months, many restaurants
rely solely on takeout and delivery
orders–and even when they are
open to a limited capacity, it’s very
challenging to make a profit.
Most restaurants in our area are
open and ready to see you! But if you’re
not ready to venture back out into the
restaurant scene, order takeout. One local
restaurant owner told us that, aside from
coming in, that’s the absolute best thing
you can do to help. But never underestimate
their need for our support. It not only
exhibits compassion, it, most
importantly, exhibits hope.
In the coming months, Hometown Rankin
will highlight locally owned restaurants in
a new feature we call Neighborhood Eats.
Please support this community of businesses.
It will take all of us doing our part to make
sure we all not only survive–but thrive.
54 • FEBRUARY 2021
When Steven Sahler wanted to open a restaurant, he went to his father
to see if he would help financially. “I expected him to say no, but instead he
asked me to tell him more about what I had planned.” Steven explained his
concept for a burger joint that would appeal to all ages. “I wanted it to be a
place where people could go on dates, but also a place where kids would be
welcomed.” His dad liked the idea and supported Steven’s restaurant.
He named his place Burgers and Blues and opened the doors to the
public in April 2010 in Centre Park, off County Line Road in Ridgeland.
When thinking of a name for his new restaurant, Steven immediately
thought of the blues. “Mississippi is known for the blues, and I imagined
blues music playing in the restaurant. Besides, burgers and blues just
naturally go together.”
The business took off, and over time, it evolved, with menu items
added, as well as a patio addition. “The patio was so popular, we put a
roof on it. People really liked what we were doing.”
Hometown RANKIN • 55
We get fresh
meat in three
times a week.
We also use
our own special
we know how
to cook it to get
the most flavor. ”
56 • FEBRUARY 2021
The original location recently closed
about the time a new location, Burgers Blues
Barbeque, opened in Brandon.
“I’m from Madison, but we played football
against Brandon, and I’ve always had a lot of
friends in Brandon,” Steven says. “Brandon
has always struck me as a family-oriented,
wholesome town, and it’s a great place to put
a restaurant.” The Brandon location will also
feature a patio area.
The restaurant’s menu is extensive,
centered on fresh hand-formed burgers. “We
use all fresh ingredients, nothing is frozen,” says
Steven. “We get fresh meat in three times a
week. We also use our own special seasoning,
and we know how to cook it to get the most
flavor.” Customers can build their own burger
or choose from one of the many specialty burgers
on the menu. There are also daily lunch blue
plate specials. “If someone doesn’t want a burger,
there’s plenty more to choose from on the menu,”
says Steven. “From chicken tenders to salads,
we have a wide variety of menu items to
Something new at Burgers and Blues will
be breakfast, served six days a week starting
February 1. All the basic breakfast items will
be served, as well as a hash brown/grits bowl,
fried egg and brisket waffle, chicken and
waffle and French toast. “Of course, we’ll
serve great coffee and juices as well,”
In addition to the restaurant, Burgers
and Blues has two food trucks and they do a
lot of catering. “We take the food trucks out to
events. We can handle really big crowds, and
we do a good job of it.”
Steven and his wife, Abby, live in Madison,
along with their four children, Landon (19),
Lane (13), Presleigh (12) and MaryCline (8).
Landon helps his dad out at the restaurant,
and Abby is also very involved with the
restaurant as well. The Sahler family is
fit and healthy. “We are a CrossFit family,”
Steven says. “We all participate to stay
healthy and for the love of it. Everyone
enjoys it.” The children are also involved
in various sports. The family attends the
Vertical Church in Gluckstadt where they
are all very involved. “I’m also involved
with a men’s movement called The Hangar,”
Steven says his priorities are faith first,
then family, then his business. “I am richly
blessed and looking forward to great things
in our new location in Brandon.” l
Hometown RANKIN • 57
58 • FEBRUARY 2021
LET US HELP YOU
GROW YOUR BUSINESS
WITH PEOPLE AND TECHNOLOGY THAT WORK FOR YOU.
MEMBER FDIC | EQUAL HOUSING LENDER
Hometown RANKIN • 59
Mississippi Emergency Management Agency
60 • FEBRUARY 2021
How many of us have lived in Rankin County our whole lives and not realized that our
state’s only state-wide emergency response agency is just down the street?
Mississippi Emergency Management Agency, is a hidden
gem, of sorts, in Rankin County, yet they provide essential and
vital services to our local area and state, as a whole.
We were able to talk with Malary White, the director of
external affairs at MEMA, and Kelly Richardson, a public information
officer at MEMA, to learn a little bit more about the
big-picture work that MEMA does, as well as the day-to-day
preparedness and recovery efforts that keep Mississippi and
her residents safe and strong.
Tell us a little bit about MEMA and why it’s integral to our state.
MEMA is essentially the state coordinating agency during
an emergency. We help manage all of the moving parts of all
different types of emergencies that many may not think about.
For example, in addition to handling natural emergency
disasters like Hurricane Zeta that recently came through our
state, we have also been managing the logistical operations of
COVID-19 in our state since the spring. While we are not FEMA,
we work hand-in-hand to make sure our state secures the
appropriate federal assistance to help us in our efforts.
Hometown RANKIN • 61
62 • FEBRUARY 2021
I think we would be remiss to discuss any of the emergencies
that 2020 has dealt our state without talking about COVID-19.
Tell us a little bit about how you help manage logistical
operations regarding the coronavirus.
It’s been a very busy year! One of the main objectives for
MEMA in handling COVID-19 was to appropriately secure
adequate numbers of needed PPE and make sure they get
distributed to first responders, front line workers, the elderly in
nursing homes, etc. So in addition to purchasing PPE, we store
it, we distribute it, and we work hand-in-hand with others like
the Mississippi National Guard and Mississippi State Department
of Health to help execute our distribution missions.
We are also proud to say that we have evolved and updated
our warehouse capacity – which is a safe, climate-controlled
space, where we have stockpiled additional PPE so that we are
prepared if we need it in the future. One thing people may not
realize, especially when addressing COVID-19, is the work that
MEMA has done to utilize our small businesses to meet PPE
supply demands. For example, we sourced a local mattress
company to make gowns and masks, we had a local distillery
making hand sanitizers, and we’ve worked really hard to keep
local businesses operating when it was very tough to do
business. It has shown and highlighted the many ways that
Mississippians are resilient and self-sufficient in more ways than
It seems like we have had an active tornado and hurricane
season during 2020, tell us a little bit about the work MEMA
does in natural disasters.
We’ve had a very, very active tornado and hurricane season
this year. In fact, this year has broken records in active natural
disaster for our area, with over nine federal disaster declarations
alone this year.
There’re a lot of moving parts that MEMA does in a natural
disaster event – such as coordinating with counties to make
sure they have the basic necessities they need, coordinating
with federal agencies and officials to request the assistance we
need, coordinating with distribution of supplies to MEMA and
out from MEMA into the areas that need it, proper messaging
and press conferences, fielding post-damage assessments,
distributing federal monies effectively and efficiently, and
making sure that tornado and hurricane shelters are ADA
compliant, just to name a few. These are required for each
We are often working on various past and future disasters at
one time. For example, currently we are working on various
facets of the Easter tornadoes, Hurricane Zeta, Hurricane
Katrina (believe it!), and the Mississippi backwater flooding. It is
nonstop. And as soon as you think you get a step ahead, you’re
not. We have to constantly be preparing for any upcoming
To learn more about MEMA, visit www.msema.org
Hometown RANKIN • 63
64 • FEBRUARY 2021
Hope and Guidance for
Mel Coxwell P.A.
A Family Law Firm
20 Eastgate Dr. Suite E
Brandon, MS 39042
Experience that Matters for a Brighter Tomorrow
Hometown RANKIN • 65
to First Responders
Why did you decide to be a policeman?
Growing up, I had several people in my family that were in law
enforcement. I felt a drawing towards law enforcement and truly
believed God opened many doors to the path of me becoming a
police officer. Being there for people who are in times of need is
How long have you been with the Florence
I’ve been with the Florence Police Department since 2017.
Tell us about your family.
My family is a big part of my life. I married my wife in 2019
and could not have made it as far as I have without her. She was
very supportive of my decision in getting into law enforcement.
I also have a dog named Dexter that loves go for rides in the
truck and sleep.
What is the toughest thing you have experienced
in your job?
To me, anything involving children can be tough.
Share some things you enjoy doing in your spare time.
I enjoy being outdoors, fishing, and spending time with family
FLORENCE POLICE DEPARTMENT
What’s on your bucket list?
My bucket list is simple but important to me. My ultimate goal
is to have a simple home on a large amount of land when I retire
and enjoy nature with my grandchildren.
Who is someone you admire and why?
I admire every first responder for Rankin County and the state
of Mississippi who put their lives on the line every day to protect
the great people of their communities.
66 • FEBRUARY 2021
If you could give one piece of advice to a young person,
what would it be?
Never take time for granted. Don’t wish to be older or grown because
you have no idea the responsibilities that come with growing up.
What is your favorite thing about the city of Florence?
My favorite thing is that it is my hometown. There is no better feeling
than to serve and protect the people I grew up around and have
associated with since grade school.
What is your favorite thing about Rankin County?
Rankin County can be considered one big family. My favorite part
would have to be the comradery and the support that I have seen
firsthand from surrounding police and fire agencies who are always
willing to help in times of need.
Hometown RANKIN • 67
Rediscover Joy With
Life Solutions That Work.
5611 Highway 80 East, Pearl MS • 601.939.6634 • crossroadscounselingms.com
68 • JANUARY 2021
Hometown RANKIN • 69
Inspired by the renowned young adult novel “Refugee”
by Alan Gratz, Lori Jones’s 8th grade English classes
spent a segment of their semester immersed into the
stories of individuals who have faced harrowing journeys
in search of refuge.
Seniors Julia Dyess, Jill Sullivan, Olivia Sallis, and Taylor
Philips attended the PL College One conference led by
church staff, Chip Henderson and Levi Lusko.
On the first Monday of 2021, East Campus students
showed up ready to learn this morning with bright
smiles and “Happy New Year” wishes all around.
6th graders took to the great outdoors to show off some
of their Maker Faire projects. Among many others,
students showcased their handmade crafts and
machinery, science projects.
Through the Little Explorers program led by Mrs. Jenny
Cummins, east campus preschoolers have become
true “little explorers,” learning how to do
a traditional Mexican hat dance!
Inspired by the Hartfield crest and #OneHartfield theme,
3rd graders created their own personal crests -
each student chose their own scripture verse and
action steps to guide them as they live out a
"One Hartfield" mentality.
Congratulations to Hawks wide receiver Brandon
Buckhaulter, who signed with The University of
Mississippi on National Signing Day, making
Hartfield football history as the first athlete to
early-enroll to a Division I football program.
Hartfield upper school’s end-of-semester Discipleship
Day was all about servanthood, and our students
showed up in a big way for their organizations,
delivering collections for several local ministries.
4th grade students continued their tradition of
assembling Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes
to be sent to children in under-served nations
as a sign of God’s love for all children.
Hartfield students enjoyed a rare Mississippi snow day!
Every week, the Hartfield worship team
does the good work of leading our upper school
students and staff in song and worship.
70 • FEBRUARY 2021
Pearl Public School District
Pearl Junior High School BETA Club along with Creative
Writing, Quest, Art and Creative Project classes made
cards of appreciation for the staff at MEA Clinic in Pearl,
Mississippi. After realizing the long hours and exposure
to individuals who are being tested for COVID-19,
students thought making cards was the least they could
do to say thank you to all the doctors, nurses and staff.
Hometown RANKIN • 71
Florence National Signing Day
Jessie Broadwater signs to play softball with Meridian Community College. Jessie
is pictured with her parents Curtis and Alyson.
Jessie is a 3 time All District catcher for the Lady Eagles.
Gabby Hoffman signs to play softball with Jones County Junior College.
Gabby is pictured with her parents Mark and Brecca Hoffman and her sister Emily.
Gabby is a 5 Time All District shortstop for the Lady Eagles.
Mattie Granberry signed to play softball at Meridian Community College.
Mattie is pictured with her parents Vince and Michelle Granberry and brother
Gunnar. Mattie is a 3 Time All District 2nd baseman for the Lady Eagles.
Austin Robinson recently signed a letter of intent to play baseball
for Hinds Community College in Raymond, MS.
Austin is the son of Angie and Chad Robinson.
Kade May recently signed a letter of intent to play baseball for Copiah-Lincoln
Community College in Wesson, MS. Kade is the son of Ed and Hollie May.
Cole Smith recently signed a letter of intent to play baseball for Hinds
Community College in Raymond, MS. He was on the All- District team as well as
the All-State team for the 2019 season. Cole is the son of Jennifer and Neil Smith.
72 • FEBRUARY 2021
Hometown RANKIN • 73
Words! Who can count them?
They’re everywhere – on signs, billboards, assembled
in books, letters, and reports. They spill from our lips
– often without forethought and merge with an
endless flow from tongues of every nation and tribe.
Some words are put to music to tell stories or reveal
happy or broken hearts. Other words are written in
love letters, intimate and saturated in romance.
It’s striking to me to realize the power in words.
A collection of the alphabet of innocent letters can
form words that build up and edify or they can
mutilate and destroy.
Words also have the power to lodge in our minds
– like a branding in our brain. Children learn quickly
to use words to communicate, but their words are
less likely to stick. Their memories are short, and their
hearts more forgiving.
It’s the teenage years when words become
weapons of survival. Sarcastic words grow in
popularity as individuals seek a rank in the “pecking”
order. Group laughter elevates the speaker while
singling out that individual to be the butt of the joke.
I find it interesting that my memory has “fogged”
over a lot of my childhood’s details, but one memory
is as fresh as the day it was made. A friend – I thought
– singled me out in a group and formed a series of
words that cut sharper than a dagger. There was no
outward sign of blood, but I learned that day that
hearts can bleed.
After the laughter died, life went back to the usual.
All was history, but I had learned the searing pain of
words and their ability to leave scars.
The most painful lessons are usually the best
learned. That brief experience has remained a witness
to me and a permanent reminder of the power of
words. I wish I could say that my own tongue was
tamed from that moment until now, but I can’t.
I still let it say things that are not edifying or kind.
A wise Proverb says, “Kind words are like honey
– sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.” Another
says, “Gentle words bring life and health; a deceitful
tongue crushes the spirit.”
Gentle, kind words are what we need.
There are enough scars.
74 • FEBRUARY 2021
Hometown RANKIN • 75
Great news at the
Heart of Rankin County.
Merit Health has expanded our heart care services with an interventional cath
lab at Merit Health River Oaks in Flowood. This is great news for Rankin county
and surrounding communities as we can diagnose and treat heart attack –
miles closer when minutes count.
If you are experiencing a medical emergency, call 911.