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FLOWOOD • BRANDON • PELAHATCHIE • PUCKETT • FLORENCE • RICHLAND • PEARL • STAR • PISGAH• RESERVOIR
2 • JUNE 2021
FROM OUR PUBLISHER
We will celebrate
fathers on June 20th,
and I can’t help but be
incredibly thankful for
the men God placed
in my life.
I had the privilege of growing up next
door to my mom’s parents and learned to walk
trying to get to their house. My grandfather
worked hard and loved his family. I’ll never
forget him allowing me to help him with things
around the house which I know increased
the time it took for that chore. But he was
kind and patient and loved me well.
My dad’s parents lived in Brookhaven
which was four hours south from where
we lived. I was their only granddaughter
with three grandsons in the mix. I definitely
received special treatment and had no
doubt that Papaw thought I was very special.
When I married Kevin thirty-one years ago,
I had no doubt he would be an incredible
dad to our children. He had loved kids in his
children’s and youth ministry through the
years, but when we had our own children,
that love went to another level. He’s been
an example for our children to follow in how
to walk with the Lord and love others. I love
doing life with him!
Then there’s MY dad, the one everyone
calls Daddy-O. The man has a work ethic
like no other, and still has more energy than
I do, even to this day. He has been a “picture
perfect” example of what it looks like to
spread joy wherever you go.
As Pastor Billy Graham once said, “A good
father is one of the most unsung, unpraised,
unnoticed, and yet one of the most valuable
assets in our society.” I think this quote is
more true now than ever. As we celebrate
Father’s Day this year, may we all be even
more intentional about encouraging the
fathers around us with prayer and kind words,
some of life’s most treasured gifts.
PUBLISHER & EDITOR
Mary Ann Kirby
IN THIS ISSUE
The Way We Were 6
Rankin County Courthouse 12
Circle of Red 18
Hometown Family 32
Strong Fathers Strong Families 37
Neighborhood Eats 46
Straight Shooter 50
Disney Vacation 58
Adventure Awaits 66
Time Coin 82
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 • 3
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4 • JUNE 2021
Hometown RANKIN • 5
Stacey & Glenn Ferreri
As we walked to the front door
of the Ferreri home, Winston,
the gray tabby, sat dozing at the
entrance, probably waiting for
the next open door to give him
entry. It only took one doorbell
ring for the inside welcoming
committee to greet us – three
barking, collared dogs. Then
through the glass panes, we saw
the man of the house walk
toward us while snapping his
finger and pointing the dogs to
their own space.
Just one hello and a brief
introduction identified Glenn
Ferreri as a friendly, warm Cajun
who still treasures fond memories
of growing up in New
Orleans. Mrs. Ferreri, Stacey,
was close behind Glenn, and
daughter, Gabrielle, joined the
introductions. “Gabbi is short
for Gabrielle,” Stacey explained,
“but Gabbi is what we call her.”
Glenn with a twinkle in his
eye for their only child, joked
that it was a perfect name for
her knack at carrying on
As we took our seats in the
living area, the family pets made
their way back in the room to be
near their masters. “These are all
rescue animals,” Stacey said as
she pulled Poppi into her lap. “It’s
the only kind of pets we’ve ever
gotten.” As the interview began,
one dog sat sentinel by Glenn;
another stretched out on the
cool, hardwood floor, and Poppi
napped undisturbed except for
an occasional stroke by Stacey.
The immediate feel of the Ferreri
dwelling was of warm hearts,
security, and contentment.
In 1983 Glenn joined the
Marine Corp after realizing a
college football scholarship
and college life were not for
him. College would have to
come later. In 1990 Glenn
had finished his military commitment
and moved to Clinton
and found work which eventually
led to his position as international
sales manager for Blue Bunny
ice cream. From there he was
employed as an international
Meanwhile, Stacey Smith, a
graduate of the University of
Southern Mississippi, was pursuing
her career as a corporate
paralegal in the Jackson area and
also as an adjunct, teaching
paralegal classes at Hinds
Community College. Mutual
friends introduced the two,
and they became good friends,
even double dating but with
different dates. They weren’t
aware at the time, but others
in their group felt Stacey and
Glenn made a perfect match.
Their first official date with
each other was to see the movie,
Clear and Present Danger. Glenn
asked her out for a second date,
and on the third date, the bells
and whistles rang. “I knew she
was the one,” he said, recalling
their romantic beginning. On
December 19, 1994, Glenn asked
Stacey to marry him. It was no
surprise that she said yes. Stacey
knew they had similar solid family
6 • JUNE 2021
“If we missed
church two or
three times in
a row, it showed
up in our home.”
backgrounds, the same values,
and they were both Catholics.
At ages thirty- four and thirty-six,
the two were mature and
had dated numerous people.
Marriage was a commitment
they were confident in making.
St. Peter’s in downtown
Jackson was the setting for
their wedding on October 28,
1995. “It was a huge wedding,”
Stacey said as she recalled the
grand celebration and reception
at the University Club.
The two are quick to share
that their marriage was God’s
will, and they also give Him
credit for giving them the perfect
child. After five years of marriage,
they were discussing the
possibility of adopting a Russian
child, but on Valentine’s Day of
2000, she heard the life-changing
word that she was pregnant.
“What were key elements in
your attractions to each other?” I
asked. Glenn didn’t wait to consider
his answer. “She wasn’t dependent,
wasn’t needy and never
complained – and of course she
was beautiful.” Stacey’s lap dog
was in a deep dog nap when she
said, “Glenn had a great work
ethic, was well-rounded, kind,
good to my family and really
cute – and I loved his voice. He
was the whole package.”
“What do you think makes a
marriage stick?” was a second
question. “Church!” Glenn answered
without hesitation as
Stacey nodded in agreement.
“If we missed church two or
three times in a row, it showed
up in our home.”
Stacey gave laughter as a
second “glue.” “We laugh all the
time,” she said. As for arguments,
Glenn said, “I usually
lost. I would take time to filter
through it while Stacey diluted
the argument with a shopping
trip.” The main disciplinarian?
Gabbi was quick to enter the
conversation with an answer she
knew from experience. “It was
Mama’s look – that’s all it usually
took.” She continued, “Both
parents were strict, but they
expected my best at all times.”
It was obvious that Gabbi has
honored their expectations.
From 1999 to 2010, Glenn
was a chief warrant officer in the
National Guard. From there he
began working with the Federal
Department of Commerce.
Retirement seemed enticing last
June when he made it official.
Then the pandemic instigated
another job offer as president of
Premier Guard USA, a surgical,
medical mask company in
Stacey holds her own impressive
resume. She’s worked with
governors, mayors, and other
political officials in fundraising
and as a strategist. Even with
busy workloads she’s been an
active volunteer, serving as
immediate past president of the
Greater Jackson Art Council,
president of Jackson Symphony
League and a sustainer in the
Junior League of Jackson. Her
expertise as a fundraising
consultant still keeps her busy
with various projects.
The couple keeps an apartment
in Starkville so they can be
a part of Gabbi’s college life.
After she graduates, they plan to
begin checking off travels on
their bucket list. The likelihood
of laughter and contentment
accompanying them is a sure bet.
Hometown RANKIN • 7
8 • JUNE 2021
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Hometown RANKIN • 9
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10 • JUNE 2021
Why did you decide to make Rankin County
I’ve been a Mississippian my entire life living and
having worked in Coahoma, Hinds, Madison, and
Rankin Counties. Rankin County drew me with it’s
friendly citizenry, excellent schools, close proximity
to healthcare, and outstanding public servicemen
and women. Rankin County is home.
How long have you lived in Rankin County?
I have called Rankin County home since June 2008.
It is hard to believe that 13 years have gone by so fast,
but it has been exciting to see the growth that has
Tell us about your family.
I’ve been married to my best friend, Elizabeth
Knight, for almost 17 years. She is a wonderful wife,
mother and teacher. She has served faithfully for 15
years in one of Rankin County’s public high schools.
Her commitment encourages me to be a better
teacher and person. We have two children, Carter,
age 12 and Colesie-Anne, age 7. Carter is an amazing
reader and loves to be helpful. He enjoys piano,
fishing, Scouts, and video games. Colesie-Anne
loves all animals and is ready for any kind of craft at
the drop of a hat. She is as smart as her brother and
has no problem getting her hands dirty. Second to
my Savior and Lord, Jesus, my family is the most
important to me.
What are three things on your bucket list?
I would love to visit all the major national parks,
learn to play the piano, and tour Jerusalem.
What is your favorite memory of living in
My favorite season of the year is winter. I like the
cold. The colder and icier the better. This past
winter my kids and I had a blast in the snow and ice
that got dumped on central Mississippi. I know
many lost power and had property damage, but we
wanted to make the best of a bad situation. We
played and played and played. I hope my children
will never forget the memories made.
Where are your three favorite places to eat
in Rankin County?
When we eat out it is so hard to choose. One,
because we are so hungry and two, there are so many
places to choose from. Our all-time favorite is
Fernando’s. The food and service are always top
notch. Two others that are always a treat and never
disappoint are Cerami’s and Osaka.
What are some fun things to do in Rankin
County on the weekends?
My kids and I love fishing and taking the canoe out
on our subdivision’s pond. Also, biking on one of the
many trails is as entertaining as it is good exercise. I
know that in the Flowood area there are miles and
miles of trails. The many parks in the county offer a
great place to walk and play.
Share some things you enjoy doing in your
I like to spend time with my family as mentioned
above, I enjoy playing the guitar and teaching music
to others. I have a great time at my local range, Two
Gun Tactical, working on my shooting skills. I help
with my son and daughter’s Scout troop and pack,
respectively. I help my friend and fellow archery
coach at the Mississippi Archery Academy.
Who is someone you admire and why?
I admire those who serve others and give of
themselves freely. I admire individuals who work
hard and are team players. I admire people who
tell the truth straight and don’t sugar coat the facts.
Where do you see yourself in ten years?
In ten years, I will have one child finishing college
and the other finishing high school. I see myself
wrapping up my final years as a teacher for
Rankin County School District, spending more
time serving at my church as worship pastor, and
enjoying my family and friends. I hope to be
living in the county on a small piece of land to
share with loved ones.
What is your favorite childhood memory?
I don’t know if I could pick one memory. I do
remember fondly the individual interactions with
my mom, dad, little sister, grandparents, friends,
and church leaders, etc. The relationships are what
are most important. I realize how blessed I am to
be loved and cared for by so many people.
If you could give us one encouraging quote,
what would it be?
Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its
ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life
believing that it is stupid. - Albert Einstein
What is your favorite thing about
I like that Hometown Magazine focuses on all of
the positive things taking place in Rankin County
and the support for local businesses. The magazine
is very well put together and there is always a wide
variety of material represented.
Hometown RANKIN • 11
It has been a long time coming, according to Rankin County Chancellor Hayden Roberts.
The new Rankin County courthouse is located at 201 North Street in Brandon. “It’s a state-of-the-art
building that houses both the chancery court and justice court, and it’s a big step up from what we
were working out of before this new building opened.”
12 • JUNE 2021
A New Era
The Rankin County Courthouse
Hometown RANKIN • 13
The historic Rankin County courthouse,
completed in 1925, was not ADA accessible
(Americans with Disabilities Act) and lacked
safety measures that are standard in courthouses
around the country. The chancery
court met in in a separate building that had
no elevator and could not be renovated to
add one. “It was also very small, so people
were crammed in there,” says Judge Hayden
Roberts. “It certainly wasn’t very COVIDfriendly.”
Judge Roberts says the old chancery court
building once housed a grocery store and
Mississippi Power & Light. “My courtroom
was in the old loading dock of the grocery
store. In my opinion, the county was pushed
up against the wall. A new courthouse was
needed, and laws stated that the courthouse
has to be near a jail.” Rankin County was
responsible for the new building. “I think the
idea has been batted around since 2013 or
2014. They started doing dirt work in 2017.”
The new state-of-the-art building,
located at 201 North Street in Brandon,
opened in July 2020. Court proceedings
were held for the first time on July 20. The
courthouse, coming in at a cost of about
$20 million, encompasses 55,000 square
feet. The contemporary federal-style
building was designed by JH&H Architects
of Flowood and was built by Chris Albritton
Construction of Laurel.
The chancery court has four courtrooms
and four judicial suites for the judges and
their staffs. “There is also space for guest
judges,” says Judge Roberts. “There is room
that allows for growth, and for more efficiency.
It’s a user-friendly space for both our litigants
and our witnesses.”
One of the biggest improvements,
according to Judge Roberts, is parking.
“Before we had very little parking, and now
we have a dedicated parking lot.”
Justice Court Judge Richard Redfern
says that with the volume they have in justice
court with misdemeanor and civil charges, a
new courthouse was inevitable. “We had no
14 • JUNE 2021
ADA access, no metal detectors, and very
little parking. Rankin County is one of the
wealthiest and fastest growing counties in
the state. This building was long overdue.
We have as many as 250 cases a day, and now
it is easier for us to serve the people in our
county. There are also more waiting rooms
and ‘neutral ground’ areas for mediation.
I’m glad we have it, and we should all be
thankful for it.”
Daniel Cross, who serves as a Rankin
County supervisor for District Two, says the
building’s design has allowed it to encompass
the justice court, chancery court, and chancery
clerk offices. “That is a lot of different purposes,
but it is designed for that. The old building
just was not set up to meet today’s needs.
This building will serve the people of
Rankin County well. We spent a lot of
money, and before we did, we went to
each agency and talked with them about
Chancery Clerk Larry Swales’s office is
in the building. All his court records are
stored in there. “Before, there was no file
room, and we have records dating back to
the early 1900s,” says Swales. He also says he
is very thankful for the building. “We have
waited a long time for this. I am thankful to
the board of supervisors, and to the citizens
of Rankin County. There are great improvements
here, including more parking and
more courtrooms. This will allow us to do
our work more efficiently and better serve
Judge Roberts says that he is proud of the
building. “When we have visiting dignitaries
or anyone who has business with the courts
to come to the building, they will look at the
new courthouse as an institution. It is a
symbol of sorts. The old one just did not
speak of formalism or project a serious
nature. This new building makes a strong
statement that this is a place of justice.”
Hometown RANKIN • 15
16 • JUNE 2021
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Hometown RANKIN • 17
The Metro Jackson American
Heart Association’s “Circle of Red”
is a passionate group of women
and men who have the influence
and resources to significantly impact
the health of Mississippians. A social
circle grounded in advocacy for
women’s health issues and fueled
by a passion to empower, educate,
and save lives, the Circle of Red is a
network that teaches women and
men to love their hearts and take
active steps to protect them. These
members are active ambassadors
and supporters of the American
Heart Association’s mission to be a
relentless force for a world of longer,
To become part of this dynamic
group, contact Katherine Byrd at
Go Red for Women Premier Sponsor
18 • JUNE 2021
Amanda Fontaine of Brandon serves as executive director for the
Mississippi Association of Broadcasters. Fontaine previously held the position of
director of the Mississippi Burn Foundation. She has volunteered with numerous
organizations in the Jackson area, including the Junior League of Jackson,
Rankin County Junior Auxiliary, the Association of Fundraising
Professionals, Rankin County YMCA, and the Rankin
County Chamber. She and her husband, Patrick,
have three children.
This year, Fontaine is serving as the 2021
Go Red For Women Circle of Red chair
for the Metro Jackson American Heart
Association (AHA). The Circle of Red,
a group of men and women who
use their influence to further the
mission of the AHA, meets yearround
and focuses primarily on the
Go Red For Women initiative, a
comprehensive platform designed
to increase women’s heart health
awareness and serve as a catalyst for
change to improve the lives of women,
globally. While nearly 80 percent of
cardiac events can be prevented, cardiovascular
disease is the leading cause of death
in women, claiming the lives of one in three
women. The American Heart Association believes
losing even one woman is too many.
“Women do a lot on a daily basis,” said Fontaine. “From working outside the
home, to managing all the things that go on inside the home, to often serving as
primary caretakers, we have a lot on our plates at all times. We have to stop and
remember that we must be our own health advocates. We must listen to our
bodies and make our overall health a priority. You can’t pour from an empty cup.”
This year, the Metro Jackson Go Red For Women Luncheon will be hosted as
a digital experience. It will be an opportunity to come together and take action
against heart disease in women while empowering guests to take charge of their
physical, mental and maternal health. Guests will learn about the efforts of the
American Heart Association during the last year as the work of the organization
moves forward to ensure longer, healthier lives for everyone in our communities.
The program will include educational opportunities, an inspiring story from a very
special little survivor, and a fun survivor fashion show. Registration is free and can
be completed at metrojacksongored.heart.org.
Hometown RANKIN • 19
Alissa Hebert Wallace
US Dept. of Veterans Affairs
Allison Muirhead Photography, LLC
Prime Care Nursing
Betsy Latham Brenda Hayes-Williams Brett Thompson-May
MS State Board of Nursing
The Fenelon Group
MS State Board of Nursing
Dr. Deborah Minor
Dr. Doty Jackson
MS Premier Plastic Surgery
Dr. Erica Bass
MS Premier Plastic Surgery
Dr. Joyce Wade-Hamme
Tri County Pulmonary & Sleep
Dr. Kellan Ashley
Dr. Kelly Wingerter
Dr. Loleta Kellum
Dr. Michael Maples
MS Baptist Medical Center
Dr. Myrna Alexander Nickens
Dr. Natasha Hardeman
Lakeland Premier Women's Clinic
Dr. Rishi Roy
MS Baptist Medical Center
Dr. Tamika Bradley
Jackson State University
MS State Board of Nursing
First Commercial Bank
Madison County Business League & Foundation
The Bridal Path
MS State Board of Nursing
Berkshire Hathaway Ann Prewitt Realty
20 • JUNE 2021
Speed Commercial Real Estate
Jennifer Boydston Johnson
The Law Offices of Roberts Bridges Boydston
Stonecypher Consulting, LLC
LaKeysha Greer Isaac
United States Magistrate Judge
Leigh Ann Ross
MS Dept. of Human Services
Foundation for the MidSouth
First Commercial Bank
MS State Board of Nursing
Barentt's Body Shop
MS State Board of Nursing
MS State Board of Nursing
MS State Board of Nursing
MS State Board of Nursing
MS State Board of Nursing
Hometown RANKIN • 21
22 • JUNE 2021
Hometown RANKIN • 23
Creamy Pineapple Pie
• 1 can (14 oz.) sweetened
• 1 can (8 oz.) crushed pineapple,
• ¼ c. lemon juice
• 1 carton (8 oz.) frozen whipped
• 1 graham cracker crust (9 in.)
Optional: Chopped toasted
macadamia nuts and additional
Combine milk, pineapple, and
lemon juice; fold in whipped
topping. Pour into prepared crust.
Refrigerate until serving. If desired,
serve with toasted macadamia nuts
and additional crushed pineapple.
Yields: 8 servings
Ice Cream Float
• 1 pt. strawberries, about 12
• 1 Tbsp. granulated or powdered
• 3 c. vanilla bean ice cream
• 1½ c. light lemonade
• Lemon or strawberry slices
Slice 6-8 of the strawberries and
place in a small pan over low heat.
Sprinkle strawberries with sugar and
stir occasionally until mixture comes
to a boil. Remove from heat and
transfer to a small glass bowl. Set
aside to cool. Place 2-3 scoops of
vanilla bean ice cream into a tall
glass, and pour half of the cooled
strawberry syrup over the ice cream.
Slice the remaining strawberries and
top the ice cream with the slices.
Fill the glass with lemonade and
enjoy! Yields 2 drinks
• 2 c. all-purpose flour,
spooned and leveled
• 1 Tbsp. sugar
• 1 Tbsp. baking powder
• ½ tsp. baking soda
• ½ tsp. kosher salt
• 1½ c. buttermilk
• 2 large eggs
• 4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
• 2 pt. vanilla ice cream, softened
• multicolored sprinkles
Whisk together flour, sugar, baking
powder, baking soda, and salt in a
bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk
together buttermilk, eggs, and
butter. Add buttermilk mixture to
flour mixture, and stir just until
incorporated. Heat a round waffle
iron and spoon a heaping half cup
of batter onto waffle iron and cook
until light golden brown, 5 to 6
minutes. Cool on wire rack. Spread
ice cream onto half of the waffles.
Sandwich with remaining waffles,
gently pushing ice cream out to the
edges. Coat edges in sprinkles.
Freeze until firm, 4 hours and up
to 2 days. Cut each waffle into
four triangles just before serving.
Yields 10 servings
24 • JUNE 2021
Rainbow Jell-O Popsicles
• 3 oz. Jell-O packets in the colors
of your choice
• 2 c. cool water for each Jell-O
Mix the first packet of Jell-O into two
cups of water. Pour a small amount of
Jell-O water into each Popsicle mold
– the amount will depend on how
many colors you decide to use. Place
the Popsicle mold in the freezer until
the Jell-O water is frozen. Repeats
steps 1-3, until your popsicle molds
• 3 Tbsp. butter, plus more for pan
• 1 (12 oz.) package mini
• 7 c. Golden Grahams cereal
• 3 Hershey’s milk chocolate bars,
broken into pieces
Grease a 9”x13” pan with butter. Melt
butter in a large pot over medium heat.
Add all but 1 cup of marshmallows
and stir until melted and smooth.
Remove from heat and quickly stir in
Golden Grahams until evenly coated.
Press into pan and top with chocolate
pieces and remaining marshmallows.
Heat broiler, and cook until
marshmallows are toasted (about 2
minutes). Let set at least 30 minutes
before slicing. Yields 20 servings
Frosty Watermelon Ice
• 1 tsp. unflavored gelatin
• 2 Tbsp. water
• 2 Tbsp. lime juice
• 2 Tbsp. honey
• 4 c. cubed, seedless watermelon
In a microwave-safe bowl, sprinkle
gelatin over water; let stand for 1
minute. Microwave on high for 40
seconds. Stir and let stand until
gelatin is completely dissolved, 1-2
minutes. Place lime juice, honey, and
gelatin mixture in a blender. Add
1-cup watermelon, cover, and process
until blended. Add remaining
watermelon, one cup at a time,
processing until smooth after each
addition. Transfer to a shallow dish;
freeze until almost firm. In a chilled
bowl, beat with an electric mixer is
bright pink. Divide among 4 serving
dishes; freeze, covered, until firm.
Remove from freezer 15-20 minutes
before serving. Yields 4 servings
Peanut Butter Popcorn Bars
• 10 c. popcorn, popped
• ½ c. sugar
• ½ c. light corn sugar
• ½ c. creamy peanut butter
• ½ tsp. vanilla extract
Place popcorn in a large bowl; set
aside. In a saucepan over medium
heat, bring sugar and corn syrup to a
boil, stirring constantly. Boil for one
minute. Remove from heat. Stir in
peanut butter and vanilla; mix well.
Pour over popcorn and stir until well
coated. Press into a buttered 9”x13”
pan. Cool slightly before cutting.
Peach Cobbler Ice Cream
• 3 c. whole milk
• 2 c. heavy cream
• ½ c. sugar
• ¼ tsp. kosher salt
• 1 vanilla bean
• 5 large egg yolks
• 1 refrigerated piecrust
• 1 tsp. cinnamon
• 1 tsp. sugar
• 2 c. fresh peaches, chopped
• 2 Tbsp. dark brown sugar
• 3 Tbsp. bourbon
Whisk together whole milk, heavy
cream, sugar, salt, and vanilla bean.
Cook over medium heat, stirring
often, 4 minutes, or until sugar
dissolves and mixture is hot.
Gradually whisk about 1 cup hot
milk mixture into yolks. Whisk yolk
mixture into remaining milk mixture.
Cook over medium heat, whisking
constantly, 8 to 10 minutes or until
mixture thickens and coats a spoon.
Pour through a fine wire-mesh
strainer into a bowl, discarding solids.
Cool completely. Chill 8 to 24 hours
or until very cold. Unroll refrigerated
piecrust on a baking sheet and sprinkle
with cinnamon sugar. Bake at 425
for 10 minutes. Cool and break into
½ inch pieces.
Mash together peaches, brown sugar,
and bourbon with a fork until smooth.
Fold piecrust and peach mixture into
prepared ice cream. Pour mixture into
bowl of an electric ice cream maker,
and process according to manufacturer’s
instructions. Freeze 1 hour before
serving. Store up to 1 week.
Snack Mix Squares
• 2½ c. halved pretzels sticks
• 2 c. Corn Chex
• 1½ c. M&M’s
• ½ c. butter
• ⅓ c. creamy peanut butter
• 5 c. mini marshmallows
In a large bowl, combine pretzels,
cereal, and M&M’s. In a large saucepan
over low heat, melt butter and peanut
butter. Add marshmallows; cook and
stir until marshmallows are melted
and mixture is smooth. Pour over
pretzels mixture; stir to coat. Press
into a greased 9”x13” pan. Cool until
firm, then cut into squares.
Hometown RANKIN • 25
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that always marches in lockstep toward a job well
done — wherever the job takes us next.
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26 • JUNE 2021
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Hometown RANKIN • 27
WE ALL HAVE STORIES. They’re on the sidewalks, in
the church pews, on the football fields, and in the porch
swings of the places that built us - our hometowns.
These towns are where we were raised, where we gather for
holidays, or, perhaps, where we chose to settle and create a life
for ourselves and our families. Our hometowns are the special
places and faces that make up our everyday lives. We all carry
them in our hearts, along with our stories, and we’re honored
to tell yours.
What do you love
about your hometown?
I love the atmosphere. There are so
many social events, restaurants, and
leisurely activities to enjoy with family
and friends. The school district is
astounding. Staff, teachers, and parents
work together in support of one
common goal: to ensure success for
all students. I love that my hometown
always feels like home. The safety
and security of family, neighbors,
and community presents a hometown
like no other.
I came from a small town, so Flowood
has definitely been an adjustment for
me, but I love my new hometown for so
many reasons! Even with the “bigger
city” feel and so many things to do and
see, it still makes you feel like you’re in
a small-town setting. When I think
about Flowood, it just feels like home.
I love the peace and the fun that comes
with living near the water! Whether you
want to take a walk down Northshore,
or spend a day on the boat with all your
friends, there is always a way to enjoy
the view. Even though more and more
people are moving to the reservoir area,
we still remain a close-knit community
and are happy to welcome new neighbors!
Growing up here, regardless if you
lived in Sandhill, Goshen Springs, or the
Pisgah area, everyone grew up together.
Families knew families. I love now that
it’s slowly expanding. The secret is out
about how nice and peaceful our area is.
I love the people. They are always ready
to lend a helping hand in a time of need.
They believe in God, country, family, and
southern hospitality. It’s one place you
don’t need to make an effort to fit in.
I’ve always felt a strong connection
to the town of Pelahatchie and the
people who live here. There really
is no other place like my hometown,
and I love that I’m able to contribute
as an educator and coach!
I love that my hometown is small,
providing a strong sense of community.
Puckett welcomes a unique culture with
its mom-and-pop stores, family-owned
businesses, and family physicians who
are all locals. I feel blessed to be one of
these locals, serving my community as
one of the administrators at Puckett
High School. As cliché as it may sound,
it’s comforting and reassuring when
everybody knows your name.
I love the sense of community.
No matter what, you can always rely on
the people you’ve known your entire life.
We love and support each other.
28 • JUNE 2021
Florence is a place that holds so many
fond memories from my childhood.
The years have changed the appearance,
but it still has a small-town feel.
I am glad that I now get to watch my
little girl grow up here and build
memories of her own.
Pearl is the type of town where when
you move into a new neighborhood,
people from around the corner stop by
to welcome you. If you’re ever going
through a tough time, you can be
assured that people in the community
will be more than willing to lend a
hand. The city of Pearl is family!
Hometown RANKIN • 29
30 • JUNE 2021
Hometown RANKIN • 31
32 • JUNE 2021
Tell us about your family.
Grant (47) is vice president of sales/business development for BSN Sports based
in Dallas, Texas. He loves to hunt, fish, and play golf. He is also a huge Mississippi
State fan! I’m Susanne (46) and I taught school for most of the last 20 years, but
I stayed home the last few, so I didn’t have to miss a ballgame my girls participated
in. I love to read. Karen Kingsbury is my favorite author. I enjoy taking pictures
of my girls and their teammates playing sports, and walking with a friend several
times a week for exercise. Mackenzie (21) is finishing her second soccer season at
Holmes CC in Ridgeland this semester and will transfer to Delta State University
in the fall to continue her soccer career. She is majoring in psychology. She is super
competitive and loves any and all sports! Bailey (20) will finish her time at Holmes
CC this semester as well. She also played soccer at Holmes, but tore her ACL in
2019, and decided not to play this year. She is majoring in elementary education
and loves to cook and hunt just like her dad! She will attend Mississippi State
University in the fall. Presley (14) will be in the 9th grade next fall at East Rankin.
She enjoys playing soccer and basketball. She loves all animals, especially her
8-year-old dog, Toby, a birthday present she begged for when she turned six!
How did you meet, and how long have you
We met in the third grade when Grant transferred
to East Rankin. Our first official date was his
16th birthday party in 1989, our sophomore year
of high school. We dated on and off thru college
and were married the year after we both graduated
from Mississippi State. We celebrated 24 years of
marriage in March with a thoughtful gift of three
baby chickens (Loretta, Dolly, and Reba) from our
Do you allow time to be with your spouse
for a date night?
We’ve never really set “date nights.” All three of
our girls have always had pretty busy schedules
with their after-school activities, so this wasn’t
always a realistic option when they were younger.
When we did have a free night, we were too tired
to go anywhere. We are blessed to have had two
Hometown RANKIN • 33
sets of grandparents close by who were always ready and willing to
help! I think we do a much better job now of carving out time for
dates because we obviously have more time with no small children
in the home. Thanks to COVID, we’ve spent lots of quality time
together this last year.
What brings you the greatest joy as a parent?
That’s an easy question. We have had a front row seat to watching
them grow and mature into the beautiful, kind, loving, thoughtful
young women they have become. They are all three so different,
but also alike in many ways. We love watching them compete, and
so do their grandparents! They are also at almost everything our
girls do. Backyard basketball games got pretty intense when they
were younger. All three of them have also played soccer since they
were very little.
Who is the financial manager in your home?
Grant manages the daily/monthly finances. All major decisions
are made together; however, the girls and I decided a long time ago
that any and all money spent on homecoming or prom dresses did
not fall into the category of major decisions.
When your children were younger,
what was your discipline philosophy?
We both grew up in homes with great parents who raised us
with similar family values, so we really never disagreed on how to
discipline them. I think our girls would say that we were pretty
strict. Of course, our older two say that we are much more lenient
with their younger sister. Teaching them to be kind and thoughtful
has been something that was really important to me.
What do you see in your role as the greatest benefit
to your family?
First of all, praying for them daily. Keeping up with the many
overlapping practice/game schedules and making sure we are all
in the right place on the right day. Making sure schoolwork was
always taken care of. Grant was always the one in the backyard
encouraging whatever kind of ball they wanted to play. He was
never easy on them just because they were girls.
How long has Pelahatchie been your home?
I grew up just south of Pelahatchie in the Shiloh community.
We moved back here from Brandon in 2007, when we built a
home on my grandparent’s farm.
What’s a quick go-to meal that isn’t fast food?
And who does the cooking?
I’ve always done most of the cooking (when we were actually
home and not headed to some sort of ballgame). Spaghetti or
poppyseed chicken has been a quick meal for us that we all like.
We were always on the road so much, we were spoiled to eating
out. Grant likes to grill, and since we’ve been home a lot more this
year, he’s done most of the cooking outside! I usually fix the sides.
What are some of your favorite things about
We love how safe the area is! We are beyond thankful for the
sheriff department and police department who work very hard
to make Rankin County a safe place to raise a family. We love
all the great restaurants that are available. Crossroads Grill in
Pelahatchie is a close go-to we all love!
How do you spend your summer breaks?
Most of our summer breaks for the last ten years or so have been
made up of one camp or practice after another. For many years
we traveled out of town with the older two playing soccer once or
twice a month, so we didn’t really go on many extra vacations those
years. When the older girls were in high school, we would go to
the beach with a few other families. We just had to plan around
practice schedules. Two years ago, the five of us went to Hawaii
for a week. This was something I had wanted to do as a family
for years and we had a ball!
What accomplishments make you proud
during your time living in Pelahatchie?
Although Grant sold his interest in the company a few years ago,
he partnered with Chip Thomas and Dan Boyce to begin a start
up insulation install company, Insul-Pro Plus. The company is
located in Pelahatchie and still thrives today. All of our girls played
soccer with BFC and won several state championships representing
Brandon well. Grant was honored to be able to coach all three of
our girls at some point. They won multiple state championships
together and have the matching rings to prove it!
What drives you to have the job that you have?
My girls motivate me to want to be a better person each day. Our
kids are watching us...how we treat our spouse, friends, or strangers.
Grant loves the opportunity he has thru his job to make each
student-athlete’s experience better. He has a passion for athletics
and truly has his dream job with BSN Sports.
34 • JUNE 2021
What’s your favorite thing
to do as a family?
MACKENZIE Going out to eat
after a ballgame. We talk about
everything that went on during
the games. Also, going to either
grandparents’ house to eat.
BAILEY Going on vacations and
fishing (we did lots of fishing last
year during COVID).
PRESLEY Going to the beach.
What your favorite
PRESLEY Firehouse Subs
What’s your favorite
MACKENZIE Grey’s Anatomy
BAILEY This is Us
PRESLEY This is Us
Hometown RANKIN • 35
TURN YOUR HOPES OF HOMEOWNERSHIP
INTO A REALITY
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36 • JUNE 2021
Father’s Day is a time in which we recognize fathers and father figures
and their contributions to their children, as well as society overall.
There are tremendous advantages that are afforded to children who have active,
involved fathers during childhood and adolescence.
We’re grateful for the father’s we meet on the following pages–
and for the contributions they’re making toward creating
the next generation of fathers to follow.
Hometown RANKIN • 37
38 • JUNE 2021
Investing Time Outdoors
Keith Polk has used his passion and love for
the outdoors to shape the lives of his sons and
other boys in his community. Keith recalls
always having a love for anything outdoors and
spending as much time as possible hunting and
fishing. He is now instilling that same love into
his three sons, Caleb (15), Collin (11), and Ben (4).
His passion for the outdoors dates back to
1986 when he spent time enjoying hunting with
his own father. Keith said, “I love watching the
boys enjoy the same things. It is very special
when we are back in my hometown [of
Prentiss] hunting in the same woods that I
grew up in.”
Keith admits that while hunting is a passion
of his, the quiet time spent in the woods has
given him opportunities for deep discussions
and life lessons with his boys. He said, “Hunting,
in general, teaches so much about life, disappointments,
and dealing with loss, especially
when you lose big game you have been chasing.
It’s also an opportunity to reflect on life and
gives us time to slow down and have deep talks,
even some that are hard to talk about in a
traditional setting. The stillness and time we
have together helps the boys open up and
allows me to be able to have some good
Caleb said, “Some of my most memorable
moments I have spent in creation with my dad.
He has taught me so much through hunting. I
don’t know what I’d do without it.” The bonds
that the Polk boys share are undeniable. The
lessons learned about hunting, life, and faith are
ones that they will carry throughout their lives.
Faith is a large part of the Polk home as well.
As members of Crossgates Baptist Church, they
strive to raise their boys with a deep Christian
background that serves others in their
community. But Keith not only pours into his
own sons but into a community of young boys
who have been abandoned by their own
fathers. He is proud to partner with the
Fathers in the Field Ministry.
The Fathers in the Field Ministry works
closely with churches and was established with
a deep conviction to answer God’s call to
defend the cause of the fatherless through the
provision of Godly mentoring fathers. The
mentors lead the boys outdoors where they
can connect with them one-on-one while
teaching them various outdoor activities.
Having sons in the same age ranges that
benefit most from this ministry, Keith has
become very passionate over the years to strive
to be a better father to his sons and a father
figure for boys who desperately need the
guidance of a loving male role model. Keith
admits, “The ministry has taught me so much
about myself. The first boy I mentored didn’t
go like I thought it would have and I ended up
learning so much myself. I saw the confidence
build in this young man and we still have an
incredible bond to this day.”
Strongly rooted in his faith, Keith is leading
his wife, Danielle, and their sons in their own
Christian teachings. He added, “The ministry’s
goal is to also take them (fatherless boys) to
the foot of the cross and come to Christ.” He
is teaching his own sons these same aspirations
while showing them to live Christ-like and be
a role model and friend to all.
Danielle, a teacher at StoneBridge Elementary,
also sees the need of this ministry and how it
has bonded her husband and sons. She said,
“I think there are so many life lessons learned
in the woods. My boys have learned about
disappointment, patience, respect for others, and
doing what’s right when no one is watching.”
She added, “I’ve seen Caleb grow in his
relationship with his brothers, his dad, and
Jesus through not only hunting but watching
his dad mentor others through Fathers in
Caleb added, “The most important life
lesson my dad has taught me is that you can
learn through failure. Whether you are
hunting or whatever you do, it’s easy to fail
but you can always learn and get better.”
Keith knows what a profound impact
having a positive male figure is to a young boy
growing up. He has been blessed to have had
the guidance of a loving father himself so he is
honored to be able to share his passion, the gift
of “investing time” outdoors, with his sons and
pouring into others to help create the next
generation of world changers.
Hometown RANKIN • 39
40 • JUNE 2021
On & Off the Field
“I have always believed the need to leave it
all on the field, be the best person you can be,
and use each day that God gives you.” Mozell
“Mo” Little Jr. has used his faith and positive
attitude to shape his children, on and off the
Mo admits that sports has always been a
major part of his family’s life. With him and
his wife, Kim, both active in sports and playing
ball growing up, it was certain their children
would be natural athletes as well. Mo said, “I
always taught our children to have a teamwork
mindset and know that it’s not always about you.”
Starting at a young age, the Little children,
Alyssia (19) and Mozell III (17), had a loving
and supportive father who not only helped
them achieve their goals on the field but used
that to teach them valuable life lessons. He
recalled, “They started in soccer and I remember
teaching them good sportsmanship, and to
help a fellow player, to always strive for their
personal best in every game and that personal
best for that day may not actually be their best.
It was important for them to be able to realize
that they had limitations and be mature enough
to say ‘hey coach, I’m not feeling the greatest
today but I will give you my best and prepare
hard and play hard.’”
Mo added, “In the game of sports and the
game of life, you will get knocked down. Life
is just a big game and you have to always work
hard and just give your best.”
As their children began to excel in their
own sports, Mo quickly realized that his desire
to be their dad was greater than his desire to
be their coach–so he helped to get them to
that next level. Both children decided to
change sports to one they both were passionate
about. Mo supported their decision and
watched them flourish and grow. He recalled,
“They made the decision and I saw a different
level of energy and focus because it was
something they wanted.”
As a father, Mo always watched for their
times of failure. He explained that he wanted
to see how his child would respond at that
moment of disappointment or anger when life
didn’t go their way. Mo said, “Its not about the
action but the reaction. That is where your
character is built. Your core values will show up
This work ethic Mo instilled in them came
from his own youth. Losing his father as a
young boy caused his mother to raise him and
his sister. He saw her work very hard to provide
for her family. That same hardworking mentality
shaped Mo’s young life and he strived to do the
same in his life to accomplish all that he wanted.
Carrying on this legacy, Mo taught his children
how to always work hard and strive to be their
best creating an unbreakable bond of love and
Mo’s son, Mozell, added, “Throughout my
life, my dad has always taught me that if I want
something to always go after it. For example,
I have a dream of making it as far as I can
with baseball and he has taught me that for
my dream to come true, I would have to work
for it.” Mozell plays baseball for Brandon High
School and has big dreams ahead while sister,
Alyssia is pursuing her own dreams while she
plays softball for Mississippi Gulf Coast
Mozell said, “I’m glad that he [my dad] has
taught me to work for what I want when it
comes to sports because if feeds into the rest of
my life.” He praised and thanked his father for
helping shape him into the young man he is
today by giving him the tools to work hard to
achieve all his dreams that would take him to
places he could have never imagined.
Alyssia concluded, “He not only enforced
hard work with sports, but he also encourages
this in school and in life. He has provided
confidence and never ending love–and for
that I am truly thankful.”
Mo prays that his children will always “use
the same effort and passion they have in sports
to give their all in everything they pursue and
to do what touches them in their life, whether
it be their mission, ministry, or job. If they do
that, everything will always fall into place.”
Hometown RANKIN • 41
42 • JUNE 2021
Seeing the Potential
Randy Easterling and son, Bailey, have a
knack for seeing the “diamond in the rough”
when looking for their next project. Randy has
a long history of loving all things cars, motors,
and generally things to “tinker on.”
From around the age of eight, Randy
learned to see the value in things and the value
of working hard by helping at his neighbor’s
small repair shop. Randy said, “I started
tinkering at a young age because we didn’t have
much so I had to learn to fix things up that
other people didn’t want or threw out because
they didn’t know how to fix it. Many times,
these items would just need a good cleaning
and then I’d sell them for a little money here
From there, Randy’s work ethic continued
to grow as did his love of cars. He recalled
sharing a love of racing with his son. He said,
“The dirt track was a huge part of our love for
cars and all things that go fast. I had Bailey at
the track when he was between 1-2 years old.”
It didn’t take long for Randy to earn the
reputation as the “car guy” and the neighbor
who could fix just about anything. As Bailey
grew older, he would always help his dad in the
shop and quickly developed the same passion.
Randy recalled, “We would work together and
he would start to ask questions. Over the years,
I taught him how to fix things up for himself.
We have the same eye for things now and can
see the potential. We enjoy and like to see the
finished product.” He added that there is so
much more value in working and creating
something by hand that you can’t feel just by
purchasing something sometimes.
Taking something that is seemingly
unwanted and seeing the beauty in it is a gift.
This gift requires much time and patience.
The time the Easterlings have spent together
over the years on their projects have bonded
them in a unique way over shoptalk and
spending countless hours working together.
They enjoy looking for their next project and
planning what they can do with it. Randy
joked, “We are always looking and bringing
things home.” Randy recalled that his wife
sometimes just laughs and pokes fun at them
because they are always into something.
A father and son share a special bond.
Randy said, “Being able to spend so much
time with Bailey over the years has been a
great blessing and bonding experience.”
Creating beautifully restored items, fixing
up cars or boats to flip, or enjoying races are
small in comparison to the valuable life lessons
and time spent with one another.
Randy added, “Time is a valuable commodity.
I hope Bailey takes these skills and uses them
to his advantage to bless himself, his family,
and to pass down to his children.”
Work ethic is very important to both
Easterlings. They pride themselves on being
very detail oriented and willing to learn new
things and get up and “hit the grind” every
single day. Randy said, “There is no shortcut
in life. You must plan your work and work
your plan. I hope I have taught Bailey to set
daily goals, whatever they may be, that he can
take to college and beyond.”
Randy has shown Bailey this work ethic
through his own actions over the years. He
has been able to not only hear it but witness
it firsthand shaping his young life. Bailey, a
2021 graduate of Brandon High School who
also has a side business along with the projects
with dad, has a bright future ahead of him.
Bailey said, “I have learned to see the
potential in every given situation. A lot of
times, if you can look past the first impression,
a little elbow grease goes a long way! My dad
learned from a young age that hard work and
determination will take you as far as you want
to go. The sky’s the limit!”
Hometown RANKIN • 43
44 • JUNE 2021
CALL NOW: 601-401-3299
Hometown RANKIN • 45
When she was just 13 years
old, Vania Martinez moved
from Mexico to the United
States with her family.
She never dreamed that one day she
would be a business owner. “I started
working as a server at El Potrillo in
Flowood when I was in high school,”
she says. It was there that she met the
man who would become her husband,
the restaurant’s owner, Jon Martinez.
Vania graduated from Brandon High School and attended Wesley
College, a Methodist college in Florence. She then transferred to Hinds
Community College. “Then I got married, had children, and the rest is
history,” she laughs. Throughout her marriage, Vania has worked at the
El Potrillo in Brandon, the first of seven restaurants her husband has opened
with his brothers. Last year, the restaurant was transferred to her name,
making her the full owner. Sadly, the Covid pandemic affected the restaurant
business overall last year, and El Potrillo in Brandon certainly had their
challenges. “I didn’t always have a full staff, but our wonderful customers were
so patient with us. We have many customers who eat lunch here every day,
and some people come every Saturday for the live music in the bar.”
The restaurant has been successful all these years, due to Vania’s management
and because of the staff. “I have a really awesome group of people
working at the restaurant,” she says. “Some of them have been working there
for many years, with a couple of people working there since we first opened
in 2007. Many of our regulars know our staff very well because they have
been there for so long.” Vania describes the food at El Potrillo as a mixture
of Mexican and TexMex. “Some of our dishes are authentic Mexican. It’s a
good variety, and our customers seem to love it!” Many of the people who
frequent the restaurant are Hispanic. “If they like the food, we feel like we
are doing something right,” Vania says. One of the more popular drinks on
the menu is the Painkiller Margarita. “I don’t drink, but I do know that it is
46 • JUNE 2021
A Taste of Mexico
Hometown RANKIN • 47
The live music in the bar has become quite popular
on Saturday nights. “Mike Mott has been playing here
for years, He plays popular music that everyone enjoys.”
Vania says Mike plays from 5pm to 9pm. “We are going
to add another band a couple of times a week as well.”
Jon and Vania live in the reservoir area of Brandon
with their two children, Santiago (11) and Azul (6).
When they aren’t working, Vania says they enjoy
hanging out with friends and entertaining at home. “As a
family, we love going to the movies. We also love to travel.”
The family travels to see relatives in Vania’s hometown of
Leon in the state of Guanajuato in Mexico. They always
enjoy going to the beach. “We went to the Dominican
Republic in 2019. I think it’s a good idea for our children
to be exposed to other cultures, often realizing how good
they have it here in Rankin County, Mississippi.”
The family is active in New Life Christian Fellowship
in Pearl. “My faith is very important to me,” stresses
Vania. “I grew up in church and that has shaped my life
in a positive way. I know I can go to the Lord for any
situation that may come my way. He is my strength.”
48 • JUNE 2021
Hometown RANKIN • 49
50 • JUNE 2021
Evan Teten, a sixth grader at Discovery Christian School in
Florence, was the top elementary shooter in the division 1A-4A
All-State archery tournament, and placed 2nd overall last year.
This is quite an accomplishment given his age, and the fact that he had only been shooting for
one year. But this accomplishment goes from impressive to phenomenal when you learn that Evan
was born without his right hand and actually pulls the bowstring back and shoots with his mouth.
Wes and Wendi Teten of Florence were ecstatic when they discovered they were expecting a baby boy in 2008.
They were already parents to daughter Olivia, and had visions of ball games, hunting, fishing, and all the adventure
that having a son can bring. The day of his birth brought all of those dreams crashing down around them when they
discovered that he was missing his right hand. Evan was born in January 2008 with Amniotic Band Syndrome, a
rare birth defect in which bands of tissue inside the sac of fluid that surrounds a baby in the womb tangle around
Hometown RANKIN • 51
52 • JUNE 2021
the baby’s body causing injury. This condition is usually
diagnosed during a prenatal ultrasound, giving the parents
time to prepare themselves before birth. In Evan’s case,
however, the diagnosis was missed and was quite a shock
to his parents.
“Initially, we were devastated,” explained Wendi, “It was
just such a shock to us, and we were worried about what his
future held.” Wendi admits that she really struggled the
first year of Evan’s life, mourning her expectations of what
“normal” would look like for her son. But she continually
prayed over him and eventually found some Facebook
support groups where other moms whose children shared
similar conditions helped her see that Evan could not only
survive this challenge, but could thrive with only one hand.
“We decided early on that we would not let him feel sorry
for himself,” said Wendi. “We don’t even call it a disability.
We call it a limb difference. He is not disabled at all. He
can do anything and everything other kids can do, he just
has to do it in a different way.”
Sometimes figuring out that “different way” was
incredibly frustrating for Evan and his parents. “There were
times I would see him struggle to learn how to do something
new, and I mean, really struggle, but I never let him see me
upset about it. Of course as a mom, it broke my heart to
seem him struggle or hurting or to watch as he had to fight
for what came easy to other kids. But if I was upset, I would
go in another room to process those emotions, and would
come back out when I was ready to encourage him to keep
working. We always told him to get back up and try again.
Keep trying until you figure out what works.”
That strategy has paid off immensely as Evan now
successfully plays many sports, plays guitar, and even rides
dirt bikes with his younger brother, Drew. He uses a special
prosthetic for a few select activities. His dirt bike prosthetic
is specifically designed to release if he loses control or has
an accident, so he is not trapped in a dangerous situation.
However, he mostly just makes due with his “little arm” as
his family calls it. The prosthetics feel heavy and bulky and
he has learned to accomplish daily tasks without one. And
while archery may seem like one of those tasks that Evan
would require a prosthetic, Evan simply learned to shoot
without his right arm entirely.
About two years ago, Wes Teten saw some videos
online of one-handed archers shooting the way Evan has
learned to shoot–with his mouth. He showed the videos
to Evan and they got excited to try something new. Wes
designed all the mouthpieces that Evan uses to pull back
his bowstring and, simply through trial and error, they
eventually came up with a design that was a perfect fit.
Evan then joined the Discovery Christian School archery
team, where he is a student and Wendi is the head of
school. Coach Dennis Adams, the owner and head coach
of Mississippi Archery Academy is also the head archery
coach at Discovery Christian School. Coach Adams has
worked with Evan from the beginning and taught him to
“pick his spot” and aim just like all the rest of his archery
students. Coach Adams believes that archery is the most
inclusive sport there is because it doesn’t take special
athletic ability or skill to be good. It only takes practice,
and Evan has been successful because he loves the sport
and works hard at what he does. Evan loves archery so much
that he is beginning to train in Olympic style shooting
and hopes to compete in archery professionally one day.
It is obvious that Wes and Wendi’s strategy of raising
Even to not feel sorry for himself has been successful. Evan
is a happy, confident kid with a big heart and a great attitude.
Clearly, there is no bitterness or self-pity regarding his limb
difference, and he has figured out that God allowed this
in his life for a reason. Some people have even tried to tell
Evan that one day in Heaven he will be “fixed” and will
have both his hands. But Wendi insists that is the wrong
way to look at it. “That implies that something is wrong
with him,” she explained, “And that really isn’t the case.
He’s perfect just the way he is. He can do anything he puts
his mind to.” Evan even says that he likes his “little arm”
so much that he hopes God lets him keep it in Heaven.
Although COVID-19 changed the way archery
competitions were held this school year, Evan and his DCS
archery team were still able to compete and they achieved
some incredible awards in spite of all the challenges and
changes from the pandemic. The DCS elementary
archery team won first place overall in the South State
tournament and second overall in the state tournament.
Individually, Evan received overall high score, top male
archer, and overall top archer because he had the highest
combined scores for both tournaments.
Hometown RANKIN • 53
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The unforeseen and unfortunate Covid-19
pandemic caused many to hunker down and
go into a self-imposed quarantine for several
months in 2020. Travel all but stopped while
planned vacations were canceled. As the
pandemic progressed, measures were established
and proven to provide for the safety of
people as they ventured back into the world.
Face masks, hand sanitizer, and social distancing
became the norm.
For the McDaniel family of Brandon, it was
uncertain if their much-anticipated trip to
Disney World would happen in 2020. “We
made plans to go for Thanksgiving,” says Jay
McDaniel. “It was our sixth trip to Disney.”
Jay and his wife, Carly, have been taking their
children to Disney World since they were just
out of strollers.
The McDaniels love the “happiest place on
Earth.” Disney has always been their go-to
vacation destination. “We’ve gone other places
as well, but we usually plan a Disney trip about
every couple of years.” When the Florida theme
park re-opened last fall, the McDaniels decided
it would be safe to go.
“It was great,” says Jay. “We usually go in the
off-season anyway because it is not as crowded.
Our travel agent had gone a couple of weeks
before us and she told us that with the park’s
reduced occupancy, it was great.”
The family traveled to Orlando by car and
arrived the Friday before Thanksgiving, staying
through Wednesday. “We stayed on-site at the
Pop Century,” Jay says. He explained that the
Disney resorts are moderate, deluxe or value.
“We’ve always stayed in a moderate resort, but
our travel agent convinced us to try the Pop
Century, which is considered a value resort.
It has a new skyliner attached to the hotel that
takes guests directly to the park. We found it
to be a great property, and a really nice resort.”
Jay was impressed with the safety precautions
taken at the park. “Everyone had their
temperature taken upon entering the park.
Masks were required at all times unless guests
were eating, drinking, or sitting, and there
were hand-sanitizing stations everywhere.”
The social distancing aspect worked in their
favor as well. “It made the lines look a lot
longer, but they really moved much quicker.”
Some of the features they typically enjoy
were absent this trip. “There were not many
live shows, which we enjoy, but we’ve seen
them all, so that was fine. And there weren’t
as many character visits, but that’s not as
important to my kids anymore.” Jay says his
children, Avery (16) and Jake (14) are at the
age that what they most want to do is ride and
eat, which is what the family did during most
of their trip.
The McDaniels were joined on the trip by
Jay’s brother, his wife, and their nine-year-old
son as well as his parents. “It was nice to spend
time with them, and to feel ‘normal’ again.”
Hometown RANKIN • 59
You Can Trust
5611 Highway 80 East, Pearl • 601.939.6634 • crossroadscounselingms.com
60 • JUNE 2021
MISSISSIPPI REPRODUCTIVE MEDICINE/PARADIGM
2500 Lakeland Dr., Flowood, MS
EYE CARE PROFESSIONALS
240 Belle Meade Pointe, Flowood, MS
Dr. Randy Hines
Dr. Marty Gebhart
Dr. Kirk Jeffreys
Dr. Farrah Newman
Dr. Lee Jones
Dr. Tina Sorey
TWO NEW DESIGN BUILD PROJECTS LOCATED IN FLOWOOD, MS, BY BENSON COMPANIES
Hometown RANKIN • 61
to First Responders
RICHLAND POLICE DEPARTMENT
What started like a typical day for Coty Hamilton,
narcotics investigator for Richland PD, ended
with a fiery crash that almost cost him his life.
Coty has considered himself to be “extremely blessed and honored”
to serve his community for many years. Many children dream of
becoming a police officer. Coty made that dream a reality. Born and
raised in Richland, he is the son of a firefighter and had always been
interested and fascinated in both areas of public service throughout
At Richland High School, Coty was active in sports throughout his
youth and while in school. There, he also met Wendy, a young lady
who stole his heart and would later become his wife. He was slated to
play baseball at Holmes Community College when he got the call to
become a dispatcher. Coty immediately changed courses to pursue his
dream. From there he went on to attend the police academy and has
been a part of the Richland PD since 2006.
Coty married his high school sweetheart and together they have
two sons, Bentley (9) and Bryson (6).
Coty has experienced an impressive career during his time as an
officer. He prides himself and his department for being able to help
keep drugs off the streets. He said, “One of the most rewarding parts
of my job is when I have a person or a family member of someone I
have pulled over and arrested for drug possession to see me later and
tell me how I saved their life and got them back on track.”
Unfortunately, oftentimes a component of those arrests includes
dangerous police pursuits. They are a common occurrence in an
On the day of his accident, Coty attempted to stop a motorcycle
traveling at a high rate of speed through town. The driver decided to
flee, and a chase ensued. Coty followed the individual for several
miles. Two additional units joined in the chase.
Coty made a split-second decision to pass the other officers to
attempt to reach the suspect. Rounding a turn too fast caused him to
lose control and slam into a large pine tree. His patrol car burst into
flames with Coty trapped inside. With only seconds to spare, fellow
officer Trey Walker was part of the pursuit and sprang into action to
rescue Coty. Unfortunately, Coty was severely injured, and his car
was too mangled for Walker to get him out by himself. Coty recalled,
“After the accident, Trey told me that nothing he did worked. I was
62 • JUNE 2021
not budging. He told me that no matter what, he wasn’t leaving me
and wouldn’t give up trying to rescue me.” Luckily, former Richland
PD Officer Jason Goad, who happens to leave near the site of the
wreck, was in the right place at the right time. Together, they were
able to retrieve Coty from the burning wreckage as the fire raged
Coty said, “If it had been any longer, I would not have made it.
We all have each other’s backs and they both risked their lives to save
mine without hesitation.” This brotherhood meant life or death for Coty.
Wendy recalled, “I heard sirens and didn’t think anything of it.
I think we both had gotten complacent thinking ‘Oh it’ll never happen
to us.’ It wasn’t until I got a phone call [shortly after the crash] that I
knew something was bad wrong.”
Wendy, fearing for her beloved husband and for their precious
children, raced to be with Coty. He had suffered a multitude of injuries
including a traumatic brain injury, fractured spine, broken femur, an
open ankle dislocation, and broken tibia and fibula bones. But Coty
was alive and was about to discover and show everyone how much
fight he had left in him to not only survive but to overcome his
condition. Coty said, “I have my boys who expect me to come to their
games and a wife that needs me to return home and a community
that needs me to serve them again.”
Wendy, who is an orthopedic nurse, understood the extent of
his injuries. She said, “I see patients with his injuries, and I know
the amount of pain they are in. But he never complains. It amazes
me at the amount of strength he has and how determined he is.”
With six surgeries behind him and one more to go, Coty is well on
his way to returning to the career and community he loves. That same
community has shown him and his family an enormous amount of
love throughout this difficult time by hosting various benefits in his
honor. His police family has also taken care of him and supported
him. Coty said, “Someone has come by or called every single day
making sure I had a ride, or brought food, offered money, prayed for
us, really anything we have needed. Our community has been there.
The support has been overwhelming.”
He added, “I have always wanted to be in the middle of everything.
This has made me have to take a step back and live each day a little
differently. Things can really change in the blink of an eye.” Coty is
eager to get back to serving the community he loves so much and
giving back all that has been given to him in the last few months.
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“It’s a crazy story,” Susannah Ash commented, before
telling about her seven-member family’s adventures. David
(40), Susannah (38), Solomon (13), Finley (10), Chapel (8),
Sumner (7) and Jude (3), live a life filled with adventure.
They initially thought they would be having fun vacations,
but quickly learned that they were adopting a new lifestyle.
In 2015, David and Susannah Ash entertained their
dream of “RVing.” David Ash was working for a local law
firm. He had the opportunity to go into practice with a
partner. During this time, the family sold their home in
Fondren, and decided to rent space in Susannah’s mother’s
home while they decided what the next step would be. They
placed all of their items in storage and spent the next year
coming up with a plan.
David Ash had been dreaming of traveling in an RV
for years. He said his wife gave him just the “call to action”
he needed to make this dream a reality. She said, “Quit
dreaming about it, and do something about it.” Within a
week of that statement, Mr. Ash was putting a down
payment on a 36-foot camper in Alabama. Within a week
of that purchase, he was flying to Ohio to purchase a diesel
Ford Excursion. The next week, the camper was furnished
and supplies were purchased for the family to spend a month
in Florida. This whirlwind experience all came together in
June of 2017. Susannah commented on that first adventure,
“If it could go wrong, it went wrong. If it could break, it
broke. We laughed the whole time.”
Hometown RANKIN • 67
They came back from that trip and parked
the camper. The family did not buy this
camper to use as a home. However, the trips
kept getting longer and the breaks kept getting
shorter. When they were in Mississippi on a
break, they decided to park the RV by the
reservoir. They moved in for what they
thought was a weekend, and never moved out.
After two years in the camper, they pulled
everything out of storage, and sold it all. The
beauty of the camper was the simplicity. David
stated, “Our kids function so much better with
The family was in Chattanooga, Tennessee,
when the lockdowns began in March of 2020.
They thought it would be best if they came
home. However, by August, the family realized,
“We have our own house on wheels, we can
self-contain. We are going on a trip.” The Ash
family was having a custom six-door truck built
in South Dakota. They began their adventure
by heading there to check on the truck’s
progress. The trip continued to North Dakota,
Montana, Idaho, Utah, and back home.
A typical day in the Ash home looks similar
to what it would look like in any home. David
works regular, but flexible hours, Monday
through Friday as an attorney handling
commercial transactions. He has his own firm,
but still has to seek new clients, and head up a
team and staff. During this time, Susannah
homeschools the five children. They spend
part of the day doing regular school work, then
spend the afternoons exploring. They love to
learn the history and geography of the places
they are staying.
The Ash family recently upgraded their
vehicles. The old ones, affectionately named
Whimsy (camper) and Fred (Excursion), were
traded in for their new truck, (Dakota) and
camper (yet to be named). They are looking
forward to their longest adventure yet; a
one-to-two year tour of the east coast,
beginning in Maine.
David Ash shared one of his favorite things
about living this lifestyle, “We have friends all
over the country. I knew I’d love the hiking
and the adventure. I was surprised at all of the
people we’ve met. There are some amazing
people on this planet.” Susannah added that
her goal in life was to “be with her people.”
That goal is being met.“We love to be together
as a family.”
The family came up with a three-point
Live life on adventure.
Engage the people we encounter.
Inspire others to do the same.
When you have “your people,” it doesn’t
matter what is going on in the world.
Adventure still awaits.
Follow their adventures on Facebook and
Instagram at Our Wandering Canvas.
68 • JUNE 2021
Hometown RANKIN • 69
Support our Small Businesses
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Sunset Bar & Barstools
Callaway’s Yard & Garden Center / Gluckstadt
Apple Annie’s / Flowood and Madison
Chapman’s Florist / Pearl
Carhartt Hats & Wallets
Rankin County Co-Op / Brandon
Hand-crafted Hickory Carving Board
Maui Jim Dragon’s Teeth Polarized Sunglasses
Rick’s Pro Truck / Flowood, Pearl, Madison
Hometown RANKIN • 71
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Shop local in Rankin County.
Daly Recliner by Catnapper
T&D Furniture / Pearl
Lakeland Yard & Garden / Flowood
Dad’s Summer Threads
The Wilander / Brandon
STIHL Leaf Blower
Frederick’s Sales and Service / Brandon
Hometown RANKIN • 73
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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 • 75
May 18 / The Vault
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Hometown RANKIN • 77
Your Heart Soar?
Art! Kristen Mosal
Due to a year that has been overly
transient because of the COVID-19
pandemic, our special teachers have
spent the majority of the year in the
classrooms with the students. Oakdale’s
music teacher, Ms. Stover, has gone
above and beyond to ensure that our
students are still engaged in the arts
despite staying in the classroom. She
has spent this year focusing more on
visual arts across grades K-6. Ms. Stover
says her favorite thing about this new
focus this year has been “watching the
individual personalities come out in their
art and watching them make peace with
making mistakes.” She has seen the
students become more patient with
themselves and appreciate that mistakes
are a normal process in art. A favorite
project of Mrs. Stover’s and the students
this year has been weaving blankets for
carboard animals they created. In fact,
the project has already been requested
to repeat next year by some students.
When you walk down our halls, it is hard
not to be captivated by the beautiful
mural of wings outside of her classroom.
She orchestrated for each student to
show their personality on a feather and
turned it into a masterpiece. Ms. Stover
is looking forward to integrating visual
and performing arts in the 2021-2022
school year. “Both have so much to teach
our students and I’m really looking
forward to getting to enjoy both,” says
Ms. Stover. Oakdale Elementary is
extremely thankful to have Ms. Stover
teach art to our students in a year that
needs a little touch of beauty. She truly
is an asset to our school, district, and
community. It is evident that she is
passionate about her job and she puts
her all in taking the students of Oakdale
Elementary from Great to BEST!
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Pearl Public School District
Students in Ms. Claudia Zynosky-Sharpling’s class have been learning about zoo animals
in celebration of the letter Zz.
Coach Calhoun with Move To Learn visited kindergarteners and first-graders at Pearl
Lower Elementary. Move to Learn is designed to help teachers raise student fitness
levels and, in turn, raise student achievement.
Students in Mrs. Peacock’s second grade class at Northside Elementary have been
learning about Laura Ingalls Wilder. They have been reading the book Who Was Laura
Ingalls Wilder? and many of Wilder’s books.
Pearl Upper Elementary students donated over 1600 items to fill care bags for the
homeless. Quest students worked together to assemble and load the care bags for
Gateway Rescue Mission.
Sixth-grade art students at Pearl Junior High School partnered with the Children’s of
Mississippi Hospital to create 3D human-sized sculptures of imagination friend monster
drawings by patients.
The Pearl High School National Honor Society teamed up with Mississippi Blood
Services to host a blood drive at Pearl High School. Blood donations were open to
students and faculty members.
Hometown RANKIN • 79
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While Othel and our youngest grands
were screaming and squealing on the
Hulk roller coaster, news of the possible,
deadly pandemic began to headline the
news in March of 2020.
We had barely gotten home with our Mickey ears when
we heard that the pandemic had closed Disney World.
Our son, Eli, called us from Tennessee a few days later
and said his good friend, much younger than Othel and
me, had almost died from COVID. He described it as
trying to breathe through a wet sock lodged in his throat.
Our son’s demand: Stay Home!
And we did for about three weeks. We ordered
groceries to be delivered, rationed our toilet paper,
and went to church via live stream.
Then we realized that life was going on, regardless
of COVID, and we were in the “winter” of our years.
Othel said, “Enough – if we perish, we perish, but I don’t
want to die in my recliner.”
So we hooked our truck to our camper and for the
remainder of 2020, we used our home as a restocking
station for breaks between our travels.
At first we tried local campsites. Roosevelt is about
twenty minutes away, but the campfires and peace in
the woods seemed a remote distance from COVID.
Why not try a little further camp? We visited Meaher
Park in Mobile in May, followed by a visit to Tishomingo
Park. On one of our hiking shortcuts there, the trail just
disappeared. The only reassurance I
felt while we wandered through the
undergrowth was the confidence that COVID couldn’t
find us there!
The beach at Destin called us next, along with other
family members. The waves rolled rhythmically, undisturbed
by the growing numbers of COVID cases.
June held a camping trip to Townsend, Tennessee,
in the mountains. The four grands said the water was too
cold for COVID, so they tubed the river while Othel and
I absorbed the beauty and peace of God’s creation.
We made our longest trek of the year out West and
saw sights of vast lands, skies, rivers, mountains, and rocks
that my vocabulary could never describe. In fact, their
presence removed all thoughts of COVID, but back home
and in the large and small cities the virus was raging.
Travel and camping continued in our fall – brilliant
colors at Roosevelt and in the Smokies. For Christmas
we celebrated at home with our entire family. COVID
had attacked a few family members but with slight
However, the list grew of friends and acquaintances
that COVID killed. The virus was like a sinister game of
Russian roulette – there was no way to predict the next
We were spared, only by God’s grace, but are well
aware that God numbers all our days. We can only thank
and praise Him for each breath He gives
and each mile He allows us to travel.
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