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V91<br />

123<br />

M A D I S O N R I D G E L A N D F L O R A C A N T O N G L U C K S T A D T<br />

2013 • 2023<br />

hometown magazines

2 • JANUARY 2023


Ten years! That’s Hometown’s liftoff place for the year 2023.<br />

It’s a milestone I never thought about reaching when I first<br />

considered pursuing this dream. In fact, it was all such a new adventure<br />

for me that I can’t even remember considering how long and into what<br />

year this might take us. Yet here we are-meeting new people every day,<br />

learning and sharing people’s stories, making new advertiser friendships,<br />

and staying in the positive lane of life.<br />

Our hometowns are filled with people of all ages who have and are<br />

aspiring to share their talents and goodwill in their communities and<br />

beyond. We have the challenging but rewarding task of finding those<br />

special individuals and sharing their stories along with pictures.<br />

With the new additions to our family this year, I have returned to my<br />

children’s collection of books to read to our grandchildren. If I turn to<br />

a page where I show a burst of enthusiasm, there’s usually a little<br />

bystander that says, “Let me see, let me see!”<br />

As publisher of our magazines, I see myself pulling from a catalogue<br />

of gifted and interesting people in our neighborhoods to highlight them<br />

and their images and hear our readers say, “Let me see, let me see!”<br />

We continue to express great gratitude to the Father, our readers,<br />

and our essential advertisers for nine years of Hometown Magazines.<br />

The number 10 makes me smile. It’s the promise of making more new<br />

friends and spotlighting individuals, groups and services that continue<br />

to make our hometown the place we love to call “home!”<br />



Tahya Dobbs<br />

CFO<br />

Kevin Dobbs<br />


Mary Ann Kirby<br />


Reader Spotlight 5<br />

Kids Who Care 16<br />

Hometown Family 8<br />

Iron Sharpens Iron 12<br />

MCEDA Vision Celebration 14<br />

Kids Who Care 16<br />

A Print-Worthy Pursuit 26<br />

Remaining Faithful 30<br />

Willie Ruth 40<br />

The Time Coin 98<br />

...see you around town.<br />



Caroline Hodges<br />



Alisha Floyd<br />



Lexie Ownby<br />


Nikki Robison<br />


Daniel Thomas<br />

3dt<br />

STAFF<br />


Othel Anding<br />

STAFF<br />


Debby Francis<br />

www.facebook.com/hometownmadisonmagazine. For subscription information visit www.htmags.com or contact us at info@HTMags.com / 601.706.4059 / 200 Felicity Street / Brandon, MS 39042<br />

All rights reserved. No portion of Hometown Madison may be reproduced without written permission from the publisher. The management of Hometown Madison is not responsible for opinions expressed by its writers or editors.<br />

Hometown Madison maintains the unrestricted right to edit or refuse all submitted material. All advertisements are subject to approval by the publisher. The production of Hometown Madison is funded by advertising.<br />

Hometown MADISON • 3

4 • JANUARY 2023

READER<br />


Ellis<br />

WISE<br />

Why did you make Madison your home?<br />

Madison has always been my home. After graduating<br />

from college in May 2022, I went back and forth as to<br />

where I wanted to move next. I felt like I had to move<br />

off to a big city. And I almost did just that, but<br />

something weighed on my heart telling me to go back<br />

home to Madison. Madison has always had a safe,<br />

comforting feeling to it. Now being back and feeling<br />

like I can be a part of the next generation to help the<br />

community keep flourishing has been great.<br />

How long have you lived in Madison County?<br />

Born and raised. Left for four years to attend college at<br />

Mississippi State University—Hail State!<br />

Tell us about your family.<br />

Family to me is one of the most important things to<br />

have in life. It’s not just described by last names or<br />

blood. My family, of course, starts with my parents.<br />

My mom Jacqueline who is the epitome of someone<br />

with hard work ethic, determination, and passion in<br />

whatever she does. My dad JB who has always taught<br />

me to be confident and not harp on others’ opinions<br />

about oneself. My stepmom Whitney who has shown<br />

me love extends beyond biology. My brother Joel<br />

who always pushed me to stick up for myself. My<br />

grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins have all shaped<br />

me into the person I am today. My friends are my<br />

family; I wouldn’t make it without them. And last,<br />

but by no means least, my fur-babies. My dog Beau<br />

who I treat like my literal child. He is the best thing to<br />

come home to everyday. My dad’s dog, Kenny Rogers<br />

(yes you read that right) who is the wildest but best<br />

thing when I go and visit him.<br />

What is your favorite memory of living in<br />

Madison?<br />

When Chapel of the Cross puts on A Day in the<br />

Country. If you have never been, I highly recommend<br />

it! I can remember going to it every year as a child.<br />

It is always a day outside full of fun, food, music, arts,<br />

and games for children. It’s always a favorite of mine.<br />

Where are your three favorite places to eat<br />

in Madison?<br />

Hokkiado, El Ranchito, and Angelos (the fried mac<br />

and cheese bites will change your life).<br />

What are some fun things to do in Madison<br />

County on the weekends?<br />

I love fashion and design, so shopping is always my<br />

first go to on the weekends. I love cooking out with<br />

my friends and family while watching sports games on<br />

the tv.<br />

Share some things you enjoy doing in your<br />

spare time.<br />

If it is a Saturday in the fall, you will find me watching<br />

football. I can’t remember a Saturday as a little girl<br />

where my dad and I weren’t watching a game together.<br />

It is something we have always bonded over. One of<br />

my most favorite things to do is attend football games<br />

at Davis Wade Stadium. I also enjoy getting swept<br />

away in romance and thriller novels or binge watching<br />

a Netflix period piece (I’m a big history buff ).<br />

Spending time listening to live music and going to<br />

concerts always make me happy.<br />

What are three things on your bucket list?<br />

How can I name only three things? I have an<br />

adventurous spirit and love learning and seeing<br />

different cultures so there are many things on my<br />

bucket list. If I must name only three, my top ones<br />

would be, travel to Africa and sleep under the stars on<br />

a safari and see an elephant (my all-time favorite<br />

animal) in their natural habitat. Second, I want to<br />

travel around Italy with my mom and eat delicious<br />

pasta, relax under the sun on the Amalfi coast, and see<br />

all their historic wine vineyards. Last but certainly not<br />

least, I would like to get involved with an organization<br />

where you might spend a summer helping families in<br />

countries in Central America. Central America holds<br />

a special place in my heart being my grandfather has<br />

lived in El Salvador for over 40 years now, so I’ve<br />

traveled down there many times.<br />

Who is someone you admire and why?<br />

Someone I admire is my grandmother, June, who<br />

passed away six years ago. She is and always will be<br />

held at the utmost of my admiration. She lived most of<br />

her life sick with lupus, but you never would have<br />

known that by just meeting her. She was always doing<br />

for others while keeping a big smile on her face. When<br />

I think about her I’m reminded to remain selfless<br />

because she always did.<br />

Where do you see yourself ten years<br />

from now?<br />

I don’t know where I see myself in ten days let alone<br />

ten years! I live everyday as it comes. I’m a go with the<br />

flow kind of girl. All I can say is that in 10 years I hope<br />

I am happy, traveling and doing what I love. My dad<br />

has always said if you love what you do, you never work<br />

a day in your life!<br />

If you could give us one encouraging quote,<br />

what would it be?<br />

“If you lack motivation: A day reflects a life” One of<br />

my professors told our class this on the first day and it<br />

has stuck with me ever since.<br />

Hometown MADISON • 5

6 • JANUARY 2023




601.957.3753 • KOESTLERPRIME.COM<br />


Hometown MADISON • 7

8 • JANUARY 2023

The<br />

Johnsons<br />

Tell us about your family.<br />

The Johnson family is made up of Jon David (30), Madelyne<br />

(31), Coy (5), Ella Rae (2), and Anne Walker (3 months). They<br />

love spending time together as a family, and that time primarily<br />

revolves around being outdoors. This family deeply values the<br />

tradition of hunting, and can typically be found relishing in the<br />

opportunities Mississippi offers during the spring and fall. In<br />

summer months, you’ll find them cooking out with friends and<br />

frequenting Pickwick Lake where they enjoy being on the<br />

water.<br />

Tell us briefly how you and your spouse met, and how long<br />

you’ve been married.<br />

Jon David and Madelyne both attended Mississippi State<br />

University where they first met. Jon David came from a small<br />

town in West Tennessee, and Madelyne was from Flowood.<br />

Mutual friendships led them together in Starkville, and they<br />

have been happily married for seven years.<br />

Hometown MADISON • 9

Do you allow time to be with your spouse for a date night?<br />

Jon David says one of the many keys to a good marriage is to never<br />

stop dating. Free-time isn’t around every corner with three young<br />

children and a busy career, but they find a way to carve out time to<br />

enjoy one another as often as possible.<br />

What brings you the greatest joy as a parent?<br />

Watching their children learn and grow as individuals brings<br />

them great joy. The little things like watching them learn to<br />

communicate, walk, say a prayer, brush their teeth, etc. is very<br />

special to experience. They also love seeing the honesty, imagination,<br />

and the simple joys a child finds in mundane daily life. It is a<br />

constant reminder to not overlook the simplicities and little<br />

blessings in their own lives.<br />

Who is the financial manager in your home? Please elaborate.<br />

When it comes to personal finances for the Johnson family,<br />

Madelyne inks the checks to keep the lights on and manages the<br />

daily responsibilities, but Jon David keeps an eye on the balance<br />

sheet and manages their savings. They’re both adamant that<br />

saving is a monthly bill, and large purchases are discussed in<br />

advance.<br />

When your children were younger, what was your discipline<br />

philosophy?<br />

The Johnsons take Proverbs 13:24 seriously. They believe in the<br />

wooden spoon and the belt! Good behavior is rewarded and poor<br />

behavior is punished then corrected in the Johnson household. It<br />

is important to them to never discipline in a reactionary or public<br />

manner, but always make discipline teachable moments and<br />

ensure their children understand that it is an act of love.<br />

What do you see in your role as the greatest benefit to your<br />

family?<br />

Jon David believes his greatest role is to be a godly husband and<br />

father, and to provide and to lead. Madelyne believes her greatest<br />

role is to be a godly wife and mother, and to love and to teach.<br />

What’s a quick go to meal that isn’t fast food? And who does<br />

the cooking?<br />

Madelyne does the cooking and Jon David says she does it well!<br />

The family’s favorite quick go to meal that no child is protesting is<br />

Madelyne’s skillet lasagna.<br />

How long has Madison been your home?<br />

Madison has been home for the Johnson’s since 2018.<br />

What are some of your favorite things about Madison County?<br />

The Johnsons say, “What’s not to love about Madison County? It<br />

is full of good people, businesses, churches, eateries, schools, and it<br />

is safe and beautiful!”<br />

How do you spend your summer breaks?<br />

Summer doesn’t bring much of a break to the Johnson household,<br />

but they do their best to find a back porch and a grill or a lake on<br />

the weekends!<br />

What accomplishments make you proud during your time<br />

living in Madison?<br />

The Johnson’s are both very proud of the quality of friendships<br />

they’ve made in their tenure thus far in Madison. Professionally,<br />

Jon David is proud of the reputation he’s built as a veterinarian<br />

and member of this community, and Madelyne is proud of the<br />

impact that a service she helped create has at families’ dinner<br />

tables across this community.<br />

What drives you to have the job that you have?<br />

And what do you do for a living?<br />

Jon David is a veterinarian. There’s a long list of why he loves the<br />

career he chose, but he mentioned a few for us. He enjoys the<br />

diversity of medicine and the daily challenges that diversity<br />

brings. It is a career that is heavily rooted in being a part of a<br />

community, which he deeply cherishes. Most of all, he loves what<br />

pets do for all of our families, and he is grateful to be a part of<br />

ensuring that we can all experience that joy to the fullest.<br />

Madelyne co-owns a monthly recipe subscription business named<br />

“The Menu Mamas, LLC”. She has always delighted in cooking,<br />

and cherished siting down around a table with family at the end of<br />

each day. She finds fulfillment in that what she helps create are<br />

realistically simple, mostly healthy, family friendly meals and<br />

more importantly that Menu Mama recipes help create more<br />

memories around a family’s dinner table.<br />


What’s your favorite thing to do as a family?<br />

Coy Go to deer camp and to the beach.<br />

Ella Rae Play!<br />

Anne Walker No response! (3 months old)<br />

What your favorite restaurant?<br />

Coy Sonic<br />

Ella Rae Chick-fil-A<br />

What’s your favorite TV show?<br />

Coy Madagascar<br />

Ella Rae Mickey Mouse<br />

10 • JANUARY 2023

Hometown MADISON • 11

Alexander Nazario<br />


In the United States, a vast majority of<br />

people that we encounter have no idea that<br />

modern-day slavery is happening in our own<br />

backyard.<br />

It was during a gathering of like-minded<br />

individuals that changed my life forever when<br />

our conversation steered towards things we<br />

could do to help the local community. All our<br />

wheels started turning and we immediately<br />

began to research what we believed was the<br />

largest problem that our community and state<br />

were facing. As our focus landed between<br />

recovery or human trafficking intervention, we<br />

realized that human trafficking was an area in<br />

which the state of Mississippi has limited<br />

resources. We encountered numerous safe<br />

houses and programs for recovery, but there<br />

were limited programs for survivors of human<br />

trafficking and human trafficking awareness.<br />

At that time, Mississippi rated #2 in the U.S.<br />

with the most cases of human trafficking – as<br />

of now, we rate #1.<br />

Shortly after this conversation, I went to<br />

Mexico. It was there in Mexico that I was able<br />

to become very hands-on and interact with<br />

many human trafficking survivors. We even<br />

connected with a team in Texas that works<br />

with survivors of human trafficking. After<br />

returning to the United States, I had a burning<br />

desire to help more survivors of human<br />

trafficking. I was not able to sleep at night<br />

because I could not stop thinking about those<br />

survivors and the terrible conditions they have<br />

been through. I was waking up in a warm bed<br />

every day while someone out there was being<br />

abused, and that put a burden on my heart.<br />

I immediately knew I had to do something,<br />

and that is how Iron Sharpens Iron came to<br />

be. Iron Sharpens Iron partnered up with<br />

Senda De Vida in Mexico. This partnership has<br />

allowed us to provide so much help and<br />

guidance to many survivors of human<br />

trafficking. Iron Sharpens Iron has been able to<br />

accommodate many survivors’ needs by<br />

providing a safe place for participants and<br />

sustaining their basic needs. We also assist in<br />

relocation efforts, with local and out-of-state<br />

agencies that can accommodate survivors.<br />

Since our partnership with Senda De Vida in<br />

Mexico, we have been in direct contact with<br />

approximately 7,900 survivors from several<br />

countries.<br />

The main purpose of Iron Sharpens Iron<br />

is to train, restore, and assist in the healing<br />

process of survivors of human trafficking.<br />

We would not be able to make this possible<br />

without utilizing sources and programs within<br />

our community and partnering together with<br />

other organizations that also have common<br />

views in the fight against modern-day slavery.<br />

Celebrate Recovery, Beautiful Deliverance,<br />

Senda de Vida, Impact Youth Program, The<br />

Pointe Church, The MS District Pentecostal<br />

Church of God, and Elevate Church are some<br />

great resources and organizations that fight<br />

to end human trafficking and help spread<br />

awareness every day in this state.<br />

12 • JANUARY 2023

It is important for us to keep raising<br />

awareness every day of human trafficking in<br />

the state of Mississippi. Teams in Louisiana,<br />

Texas, and Florida that we partner with and<br />

work with have a higher awareness rate than<br />

in our own state, and that is something worth<br />

fighting for to make a change and an impact.<br />

Iron Sharpens Iron also focuses internationally,<br />

and we focus on 13 countries which<br />

include Cuba, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico,<br />

Nicaragua, El Salvador, Haiti, Venezuela,<br />

Colombia, Peru, Brazil, Belarus, and Russia.<br />

We also focus on the Mexico border, with a<br />

presence in Texas. We also have volunteers<br />

that help us raise awareness about Iron<br />

Sharpens Iron and the fight against human<br />

trafficking in Texas, Louisiana, and in Florida.<br />

Our programs include “Impact Summer<br />

Camp,” where the participants can spend a<br />

week outside their environment to heal from<br />

their trauma and have the chance to enjoy<br />

what it is like to be a kid again. We provide<br />

meals, games, and worship. After the week is<br />

over, we give them an opportunity to stay<br />

connected throughout the year with monthly<br />

meetings and activities until they meet again<br />

the following summer. The camp forms<br />

long-lasting friends and a support group. We<br />

want to ensure the participants of the summer<br />

camp that they are not alone.<br />

The fight to stop human trafficking is a<br />

hard fight, but solely a fight that is from the<br />

Lord, given the fact that Beautiful Deliverance,<br />

Celebrate Recovery, and SWAG ministries are<br />

100% volunteer based. Approximately<br />

two-thirds of our program’s participants have<br />

experienced some form of human trafficking,<br />

which just shows how real modern-day<br />

slavery is in today’s world. Participants<br />

experience healing from any hurt, habit, and<br />

hang up, aiming to fulfill the neuroplasticity<br />

healing. We offer services to over 350 individuals<br />

a month, with a meal at each meeting, and<br />

worship. Following worship, Iron Sharpens<br />

Iron participants break out into classes.<br />

Our intent for the following years is to<br />

bring the fight to our backyard and make sure<br />

the human trafficking ranking in Mississippi<br />

drops below #1 in the United States. By raising<br />

awareness and training to the local community,<br />

NGO, local schools, and businesses, with<br />

the intent to prevent and identify potential<br />

new victims, we can help fight to stop end<br />

human trafficking.<br />

All of the efforts of Iron Sharpens Iron<br />

have been funded by CEO, Alexander<br />

Nazario’s retirement check, and our team is<br />

formed of volunteers that have a burning<br />

desire to help others and they love to see the<br />

restoration of others.<br />

Visit our Website @ www.isiron.org<br />

Hometown MADISON • 13

2022 MCEDA<br />

Vision Celebration<br />

f C ON O M I C<br />

Madison<br />

O f V f l O p<br />

M p1u1<br />

Au 1 Ha R 1 1 r<br />

October 18<br />

The Country Club of Jackson<br />

Visionary Leadership Award<br />

MCEDA Executive Director Joey Deason,<br />

Clint Herring with Kerioth,<br />

MCBL&F Chairman Ray Balentine<br />

Vision Award<br />

MCEDA Executive Director Joey Deason,<br />

Nissan North America - Canton VP Manufacturing David Sliger,<br />

MCBL&F Chairman Ray Balentine<br />

2022-2023 Chairman<br />

Incoming Chairman Superintendent Charlotte Seals,<br />

Madison County Schools, MCBL&F Chairman Ray Balentine<br />

Young Professional Award<br />

MCBL&F Chairman Ray Balentine, Hank Waterer<br />

14 • JANUARY 2023

Hometown MADISON • 15

16 • JANUARY 2023


Macy Gladden<br />

Mistie Desper<br />




If I can just make one person have a better<br />

day, that makes me happy,” said Macy Gladden,<br />

6th grader at Madison Ridgeland Academy.<br />

Macy’s heart for serving others began at an<br />

early age. Her mother, Whitney, recalled Macy<br />

always being her “little helper.” During a family<br />

trip to New Orleans, when Macy was just seven<br />

years old, she and brother Tucker were deeply<br />

impacted by the homeless crisis in the city. She<br />

remembered, “For Macy, it just hurt her little<br />

heart and she asked what they could do to help<br />

them.”<br />

Their mission began. The family, along with<br />

dad, Lee, began calling local ministries to see<br />

what they could do to begin helping others in<br />

need. Settling on We Will Go Ministries,<br />

Macy’s impressive list of selfless service projects<br />

began. Macy and Tucker turned to social media<br />

to help spread the word and the donations began<br />

pouring in. The Provision Project, a charitable<br />

organization started in 2017 by the siblings, was<br />

born.<br />

“Macy is such an unselfish person and has<br />

no fears. She is always so willing to put in the<br />

legwork and I’ve just put the wheels under her to<br />

help her flourish,” said Whitney.<br />

The list of services and acts of kindness<br />

Macy has accomplished at her young age is not<br />

only impressive but inspiring to all who know<br />

her.<br />

Each year at Thanksgiving, Christmas, and<br />

during school breaks, Macy helps God’s Haven<br />

Ministries make and distribute sack lunches to<br />

children out of school that only have access to<br />

meals from the school system. She also helps<br />

with other food based organizations, Central<br />

Pantry and Extra Table.<br />

Macy also helps with Shower Power to provide<br />

lunches and necessities to Jackson’s homeless<br />

population. She has helped collect backpacks<br />

and led a drive that provided 100 cans of insect<br />

repellent for those in need.<br />

The needs of animals have also been a top<br />

priority for Macy. She admitted, “I absolutely<br />

love animals and would love to be a vet one day.”<br />

Not only does the Gladden family foster a dog<br />

from Mississippi Therapy Animals full time,<br />

Macy also volunteers on site and hopes to<br />

become certified as a therapy animal handler for<br />

the organization.<br />

Macy’s teachers have taken notice of her<br />

many efforts over the years. Kristin Reynolds,<br />

5th grade teacher, said, “Macy is always looking<br />

for ways to serve her community. She has such a<br />

big heart for those less fortunate that she is. She<br />

uses so much of what she has been blessed with<br />

to bless others.”<br />

She encourages her peers and friends to get<br />

involved anyway they can. At MRA, Macy is a<br />

cheerleader, on the volleyball team, as well as<br />

part of the student council. As the 6th grade<br />

representative for the student council body, she<br />

organizes fundraisers and various school events.<br />

She also has a successful YouTube channel<br />

where she posts as often as she can.<br />

“Having a student like Macy among our<br />

student body plays a huge role in setting a<br />

standard of excellence in every area. Macy is<br />

talented, gifted, and confident. She sets a great<br />

example for her peers. She has world of<br />

potential, and we can’t wait to see the Lord’s<br />

plan for her unfold before our eyes,” said Ben<br />

Haindel, middle school principal.<br />

Whitney emphasized, “We can all find<br />

success in lifting others up and we really all<br />

could be one tragedy or disaster away from needing<br />

help ourselves. Macy is an old soul who is an<br />

inspiration to so many. If we all do a little,<br />

together we can do a lot.”<br />

Macy’s current project is the adoption of<br />

three “angels” for Christmas. She said, “I really<br />

just love helping others and I hope I can<br />

somehow make a difference in someone’s life<br />

and just make their day better.”<br />

Hometown MADISON • 17

18 • JANUARY 2023

Hometown MADISON • 19

Where Public Meets Private<br />

Coming Together for The Betterment of All<br />

The Madison County Business League & Foundation is a private, stakeholder-based support<br />

organization that works with business owners and decision makers to discuss topics that<br />

affect economic development. Together, we continue to build upon the economic development<br />

infrastructure of Madison County. We recognize and salute the industry and businesses for the<br />

contribution they make towards our quality of life.<br />

135 Mississippi Parkway, Canton, MS 39046 | 601.707.3303<br />

madisoncountybusinessleague.com<br />


20 • JANUARY 2023

It’s better to give<br />

AND receive!<br />

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Madison Welch Farms<br />

1944 Main Street, Madison<br />

Hometown MADISON • 21

SALUTE<br />

to First Responders<br />

Why did you decide to be a policeman?<br />

When I was just a youngster, I had two career choices I wanted<br />

to pursue. The first being a professional football player and the<br />

second being a police officer. Once I realized I lacked the size<br />

and talent to play in the NFL, I switch to Plan B.<br />

How long have you been with the Ridgeland Police Department?<br />

I joined the department in February of 1996. February 2023 will mark<br />

27 years with the department.<br />

Tell us about your family.<br />

I am married. My wife and I have five daughters and one son. We are<br />

the proud grandparents of seven grandchildren and will welcome our<br />

eighth in just a few days.<br />

What is the toughest thing you have experienced in your job?<br />

The realization of just how bad humans can treat one another.<br />

I have been involved with some pretty awful incidents. To see how<br />

some have no regard for the life of another has been difficult for me<br />

to digest.<br />

Share some things you enjoy doing in your spare time.<br />

I consider myself a BBQ enthusiast. I love smoking and grilling<br />

on my many grills and smokers. I also enjoy tinkering with my old<br />

vehicles; I have a few projects that I would like to restore once I retire.<br />

I enjoy spending time with my family, my wife, and I enjoy going to<br />

the movies or just relaxing with our doggies at home. We enjoy the<br />

time we get to spend with our grandchildren as well.<br />

Assistant Chief<br />

Tony<br />



What are three things on your bucket list?<br />

1. Visit Hawaii<br />

2. Visit the Grand Canyon<br />

3. Visit my hometown in Germany. I am an Army brat. I was born in<br />

Germany and have not had an opportunity to return since my family<br />

left in 1979.<br />

Who is someone you admire and why?<br />

My parents. My father is from Louisiana and my mother is from<br />

Mississippi. My father instilled in me his spirit for adventure.<br />

I followed his example, joined the Army at an early age, and have<br />

served for the past thirty-five years. My mother instilled in me<br />

her work ethic. She used to tell me if you are only going to half-do<br />

something, do not do it at all. This stuck with me throughout my<br />

adult life. They are the reason I am the person I am today.<br />

22 • JANUARY 2023

If you could give one piece of advice to a young person, what<br />

would it be?<br />

Know your worth. Do not settle for less than what you fell you<br />

deserve. Hold yourself to a higher standard and be accountable for<br />

your actions. Be the positive example for others to follow.<br />

What is your favorite thing about the City of Ridgeland?<br />

The people, and the support we receive. Our community enthusiastically<br />

supports our department. From Mayor Gene McGee, and the<br />

board of aldermen, to the business leaders and citizens, we have the<br />

luxury of working for a city that stands behind its public servants.<br />

For that, I am truly grateful.<br />

Hometown MADISON • 23


Full<br />

Merit Health Rankin<br />

Rogers Dabbs Chevrolet<br />

Half<br />

Benson Construction<br />

Callaway’s<br />

Citizen’s National Bank<br />

Community Bank<br />

Dixie National Rodeo (MS Fair)<br />

Habitat for Humanity<br />

Jackson Prep<br />

JEA<br />

Keesler Federal<br />

MS Epoxy Dream Garages<br />

Watkins Roofing<br />

Quarter<br />

Apple Annie’s<br />

Bank Plus/ Ridgeland<br />

BWW<br />

Madison County Business League<br />

Madison Marketplace<br />

McCool Estate Sales<br />

Pure Air Consultants<br />

The Children’s Clinic

2013 • 2023<br />

hometown magazines<br />

It is so hard to believe we’re beginning our<br />

tenth year of publishing at Hometown Magazines!<br />

In honor of celebrating our ten years, we decided to reminisce on past<br />

stories and publications and re-issue some of our staff’s favorite articles.<br />

We hope you all have a great and happy New Year.<br />

Thank you for helping us celebrate 10 years of Hometown Magazines!<br />

Hometown MADISON • 25

26 • JANUARY 2023 Updated from January 2016

volume 5 number 2<br />

April 2018<br />





Addy Gone Farming<br />

____________________<br />

Welcome to Waterton<br />

____________________<br />


5<br />

5<br />


Rankin<br />

Hometown<br />

V 7 # 10<br />

11.20<br />



FLORA<br />

V81 CANTON<br />

Restored<br />

122 GLUCKSTADT<br />


A Print-Worthy Pursuit<br />

Mary Ann Kirby<br />

A better name for this story may be “The Power of<br />

Serendipity” the definition of which means to find<br />

amazing things that you weren’t necessarily looking for.<br />

That’s what I found in Tahya Dobbs when God brought<br />

us together to form what has been an amazing working<br />

relationship, and better yet, an even better friendship.<br />


V85<br />

521<br />


V86<br />

621<br />

V99<br />

1022<br />

Hometown MADISON • 27


Debby Francis, Nikki Robison, Daniel Thomas, Tahya Dobbs, Lexie Ownby,<br />

Mary Ann Kirby, Alisha Floyd, Kevin Dobbs, Caroline Hodges<br />

2016 Staff: Alisha Floyd, Brenda McCall, Daniel Thomas,<br />

Rachael Lombardo, Mary Ann Kirby, Tahya Dobbs, Kevin Dobbs<br />

28 • JANUARY 2023 Updated from January 2016

The story of how she and I met is, indeed,<br />

serendipitous. In the fall of 2013, I had left my<br />

very corporate management position with a<br />

popular local magazine and had gone home to be a<br />

full-time mom. It was a bittersweet move in that I<br />

absolutely adored the magazine business along with<br />

the creative process, but corporate media had become<br />

extremely challenging and sometimes their vision and<br />

mine didn’t always align. I wanted to expand and they<br />

wanted to downsize. Bottom lines and budget cuts<br />

always won out.<br />

I could have ended my professional life then and<br />

there and felt as though I had accomplished pretty<br />

much everything I’d wanted. I’d had a successful career<br />

in broadcast and print media sales and management<br />

and felt like I was going out on a high note. The holidays<br />

were approaching and I proceeded to spend my first<br />

stress-free break at home with my husband and<br />

then-ten-year-old son. I was relaxed and present in a<br />

way that I hadn’t been in years’ past when precious<br />

allotted vacations days were being rationed out until<br />

the very end of the calendar year.<br />

The holidays came and went and my son had<br />

started back to school. I was beginning to settle into<br />

my “new” routine and operating at a completely<br />

different pace—and I liked it. One day I was out<br />

running some errands and got a call from one of my<br />

favorite former long-time clients. Noel Daniels called<br />

to tell me, “There’s a gal out here with this new<br />

magazine and I think you two need to meet. She’s a<br />

real go-getter and really has a good thing here. You<br />

could probably help her. It’s called Hometown<br />

Brandon. Can I give her your number?”<br />

The irony was that just a couple of days earlier I’d<br />

noticed a new Facebook page that had been launched<br />

called Hometown Brandon Magazine. It had grown to<br />

over 2,500 likes within the first several hours of being<br />

created and how I happened to stumble upon it, out<br />

of all the things posted on Facebook, only God<br />

knows—but I did. And to be honest, it made me ache<br />

for the business I so loved. I told Noel to absolutely<br />

share my number.<br />

A couple of hours later my phone rang. “Mary Ann,<br />

this is Tahya Dobbs. Noel Daniels gave me your<br />

number so I hope you don’t mind that I called. Is this<br />

a good time?” That was in the spring of 2014.<br />

She was incredibly easy to talk to and we hit it off<br />

immediately in that very first call. It turns out that<br />

Tahya had recently had a career change, too. For years,<br />

she had been a homemaker and raised children—not<br />

just her own three, but four more from the foster<br />

system, as well. Her husband had a life in ministry and<br />

together they had hearts for the Lord and made lives<br />

of service to the church. She carpooled and catered<br />

and taught Sunday school. She was busy raising<br />

children and having a house full was fulfilling to her—<br />

but God had more to come.<br />

Once her kids were all in school, Tahya decided to<br />

explore her options outside of the home. She eventually<br />

took a job with the City of Brandon mayor’s office and<br />

fell in love immediately with all they did to promote<br />

Brandon. She said, “I couldn’t believe I was getting<br />

paid to actually promote the city! It was such a joy and<br />

I made countless friends and connections while doing<br />

it. We created events and partnered closely with our<br />

local merchants. It was truly a dream job.”<br />

That’s where the seed for the magazine got planted.<br />

Tahya recalls, “I’ll never forget one day when one of<br />

the ladies from the Brandon Garden Club came into<br />

our office with a stack of Desoto County publications<br />

and wanted to know what it would take for the City of<br />

Brandon to have its own magazine.” That’s when the<br />

bug bit. She went home that day and told her husband<br />

that she was going to do a magazine.<br />

“I literally felt convicted,” she went on to say.<br />

“I left my job at the mayor’s office and set up camp on<br />

my kitchen table as publisher of a yet-to-be-named<br />

publication. And while I knew nothing about the<br />

magazine business, I definitely knew what I wanted to<br />

do with it. I wanted to promote good things. I wanted<br />

to tell people’s stories—stories about our businesses<br />

and neighbors and give them a real presence.<br />

“I went to Hederman Brothers, a locally owned<br />

and operated printer, and they gave me the name of a<br />

freelance graphic designer that may be able to help me.<br />

Daniel Thomas and I met at McAlister’s in Brandon<br />

where I assured him I knew absolutely nothing about<br />

publishing but had already sold some ads and knew<br />

what stories would be in the first issue. I needed<br />

someone to lay it out and he quickly assured me he<br />

could do it.<br />

“The magazine would be beautifully designed and<br />

made with high quality paper and would spotlight the<br />

people in our community that make it the wonderful<br />

place that it is. I confided with Jamie Wier, a local<br />

architect-friend, about my idea and he suggested I<br />

name it something that could work in the event we<br />

ever decided to expand. Expand. Crazy, huh? That’s<br />

how we came up with the name Hometown.”<br />

In July of 2013, Tahya’s parents retired and moved<br />

from North Mississippi where they had raised their<br />

own family. They wanted to be close to kids and<br />

grand-kids and decided to make Brandon their home.<br />

It was a mere three months later that Tahya would<br />

need both a writer and a photographer to help launch<br />

her new business. Tahya’s mom, Camille, had written<br />

for newspapers for over twenty years and her dad,<br />

Othel, was a professional photographer. Once again<br />

God was orchestrating His plan and revealing each<br />

piece of His extraordinary puzzle.<br />

The community welcomed her and her new<br />

venture with open arms. All those contacts she’d made<br />

while working for the City were vital as she started<br />

knocking on doors and asking for support. People<br />

were blown away just a few weeks later when she came<br />

back to deliver her very first issue of Hometown<br />

Brandon Magazine. The quality surpassed all<br />

expectations and she’d managed to capture the very<br />

essence of their beautiful community and the people<br />

that make it special.<br />

Since then, Hometown has expanded. She and her<br />

husband Kevin added Hometown Clinton, Hometown<br />

Rankin, and Hometown Madison. They publish chamber<br />

guides for area chambers of commerce and are now<br />

embarking on their tenth year of publishing.<br />

They’ve moved off of the kitchen table and into<br />

an office space and it now takes a staff of ten to meet<br />

the demands of their ever-growing business. It’s been<br />

a remarkable homegrown success story that I’ve been<br />

blessed to witness, firsthand. And not only does she<br />

allow me to tinker with the magazines, once again<br />

doing what I love, but she’s become one of my dearest<br />

friends.<br />

But make no mistake, Tahya doesn’t take a bit of<br />

their success for granted. She and Kevin continue to<br />

honor God at every turn and believe deeply that “to<br />

whom much is given, much is required.” Much of the<br />

content that they publish is boldly faith-based and<br />

serves as a reflection of their core values—both in their<br />

lives at home and in their businesses.<br />

She goes on to say, “It never occurred to me that I<br />

could possibly fail. Thankfully, I didn’t know enough<br />

to know what all could go wrong. But I felt strongly<br />

that God was showing me favor and I owed it to Him<br />

to give it everything I had. I had to have faith. So,<br />

that’s what I did.<br />

“It’s been really incredible. I can’t believe how far<br />

we’ve come—and how much I’ve grown, personally.<br />

And nothing gives me greater satisfaction than having<br />

a business owner that has supported me and entrusted<br />

me with their advertising dollars call and say, ‘Tahya, it<br />

worked.’” n<br />

Hometown MADISON • 29

30 • JANUARY 2023 Originally published February 2016

Remaining<br />

FaithfulJill Dale<br />

As a writer, I’ve written many stories and<br />

articles on various subjects. I wrote procedure<br />

manuals and procedure documents on web<br />

applications and other application processes<br />

for a few years. I then began writing for the<br />

agent magazine that is distributed to the<br />

agency force of Southern Farm Bureau Life<br />

Insurance Company. I remember reading<br />

trade magazines and hearing the stories<br />

about the importance of life insurance and<br />

what it means to a family. I would listen to<br />

agents talk about delivering the death claim<br />

check and how hard that was, but also the<br />

relief and comfort it brought to a husband,<br />

wife or mother or father. Never did I think<br />

I would become the story I read about and<br />

wrote about.<br />

As I sat Sunday morning, two days after<br />

my son died, I reflected on this and how life<br />

has a weird way of playing out. I stared at a<br />

blank document on my computer. I’ve never<br />

been at a loss for words when it comes to<br />

writing, but now I was. The hardest thing I<br />

have ever written would be the obituary of<br />

my 5 year old son, Campbell Grady Dale.<br />

How would I condense his life, his impact<br />

into a brief obituary? How do I tell the world<br />

what an amazing, phenomenal boy Campbell<br />

was? How do I tell people about his love for<br />

his friends at the hospital, for his family, for<br />

his twin sister and especially for his Father in<br />

heaven…the one he trusted to take care of<br />

him and heal him forever of his cancer?<br />

What would I most want people to know<br />

about the most amazing boy who called me<br />

mom and David dad? I think it could be<br />

summed up with this–he fought a brave<br />

battle against a fierce enemy and the ultimate<br />

Victor won, the One who wins every battle<br />

against death, every, single time. Campbell<br />

believed that God would heal him of his<br />

cancer, and He did. He may not have healed<br />

him in the way we wanted, but He healed<br />

him according to His perfect will, His perfect<br />

plan for Campbell’s life and for ours.<br />

From the first day Campbell was diagnosed,<br />

we laid him at our Father’s feet. We knew it<br />

would take a miracle to heal him. The odds<br />

were stacked against him, but we were ready<br />

to fight. Our prayer was always that “Thy will<br />

be done” whatever that may be. As we went<br />

through the original treatment protocol<br />

beginning in February 2014 of 54 weeks of<br />

intense chemotherapy and 24 days of<br />

radiation, we trusted God with each step,<br />

with each decision that we made. When<br />

Campbell’s cancer returned in April 2015,<br />

we continued to trust Him and His plan for<br />

his life. When we received the heartbreaking<br />

news on August 17, 2015 that our doctors had<br />

done everything that they could to heal him<br />

here on earth, we continued to trust Him.<br />

We always knew Campbell would be<br />

healed, but now we knew that healing would<br />

come in heaven and not here on earth. As<br />

the words began to flow, so did the tears as<br />

I reflected on what most would consider a<br />

short life. His life may appear short to the<br />

normal person, but the impact he had and<br />

continues to have will be felt for years to<br />

come. He lived the exact amount of time<br />

God had ordained as He knit him together<br />

in my womb…not a day more or a day less.<br />

Hometown MADISON • 31

The following narrative tells the arduous<br />

story of the Dale family’s journey with<br />

cancer. Jill Dale made regular journal<br />

entries about the journey on CaringBridge.<br />

org. This includes excerpts of Jill’s posts as<br />

compiled by Susan Marquez.<br />

Snips and snails and puppy dog tails,<br />

that’s what little boys are made of. Campbell<br />

Dale was a normal little boy in every way.<br />

Spirited. Curious. Exuberant. At least, until<br />

he began having issues with constipation one<br />

weekend. The series of events that followed<br />

became a journey of heartbreak tempered<br />

with faith and love.<br />

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed,<br />

for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you;<br />

I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”<br />

– Isaiah 41:10<br />

“My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made<br />

perfect in weakness.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9<br />

February 12, 2014 was a day the Dale<br />

family will never forget, for that was the day<br />

life as they knew it forever changed. “We had<br />

not noticed anything abnormal over the<br />

weekend,” his mom, Jill Dale, wrote on the<br />

overview of the family’s CaringBridge site.<br />

“Campbell had been constipated a little, but<br />

nothing unusual. On Monday, February 10,<br />

he went to school like normal.” Yet the<br />

four-year-old still complained about being<br />

constipated. An enema, a trip to the doctor,<br />

and a couple of rounds of Miralax later,<br />

Campbell’s temperature was climbing and<br />

his belly was swollen. His doctor sent them<br />

to a Radiology group to get an X-ray done.<br />

When that came back inconclusive, a CT<br />

scan revealed a mass in the boy’s abdomen.<br />

“We were immediately sent to Blair E.<br />

Batson Hospital for Children where we were<br />

admitted at 5:30pm. After running more<br />

tests on Thursday, we sat down with our<br />

doctors and were told our son had a mass in<br />

his belly that needed to be removed. It could be<br />

anything from lymphoma, to neuroblastoma,<br />

to a taratoma or rhabdomyosarcoma (at this<br />

time rhabdo was toward the bottom of the<br />

list).” On Friday, surgeons were able to remove<br />

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

The mass was sent to a pathology lab and on<br />

February 19, the family learned that Campbell<br />

had been diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma,<br />

a rare form of cancer of the tissue. “They were<br />

able to remove all of his tumor, but of course,<br />

there were what they call studs left. We were<br />

scheduled immediately for a bone scan and<br />

PET scan for Monday, Feb. 24th. On Tuesday<br />

the 25th, a bone marrow aspiration was done<br />

along with the placement of a chemo port.<br />

The preliminary results from the bone scan<br />

and PET scan came back favorable meaning<br />

it had not spread to the bones or other organs.<br />

That Tuesday at 5:00, we were told that our<br />

son has Stage IV rhabdomyosarcoma and<br />

they had found a spot in his bone marrow.”<br />

Campbell’s parents, David and Jill, were<br />

told the road before them would be difficult<br />

and hard. “We didn’t want to know the success<br />

rate, that didn’t matter to us,” Jill wrote. “All<br />

that mattered was ‘Can we beat this?’” The<br />

chemo regimen would be aggressive, radiation<br />

would be needed and 54 weeks is what it will<br />

take. “As I laid my head on the table and cried<br />

more than I have in two weeks, I didn’t think<br />

I would be able to walk out of the room. So<br />

David and I looked at each other, signed the<br />

papers to begin treatment and told the doctor<br />

to do whatever needed to be done to save our<br />

son. The one thing that stood out in my mind<br />

was David telling the doctor we know the<br />

Great Physician (Jehovah Rapha) can heal<br />

Campbell, not doctors or medicine…HE<br />

provides the means to do it. So we called our<br />

family in to tell them. The road before us<br />

might be difficult, but we were determined<br />

not to lie down and give up. We were in the<br />

fight of our lives and we were confident that<br />

Campbell would beat this.”<br />

The family resolved to bathe themselves<br />

in scripture and pray continuously without<br />

ceasing.<br />

“But those who hope in the LORD will renew<br />

their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles;<br />

they will run and not grow weary, they will walk<br />

and not be patient.” – Isaiah 40: 29-31<br />

Campbell’s first chemotherapy treatment<br />

began on Wednesday, February 26. All went<br />

well. He actually slept through the first<br />

treatment (he had been given some medicine<br />

to calm him after a rough morning so he slept<br />

all afternoon). The treatment started with<br />

two drugs, Irinotecan and Vincristinem. The<br />

Irinotecan was scheduled for five days straight.<br />

Campbell’s twin sister, Avery (aka ‘’Shu”)<br />

visited, and the children watched movies and<br />

ate Chick-fil-A together. At the time, Jill was<br />

reading a book, “The Red Sea Rules,” given<br />

to hear by a woman at church. “I have found<br />

so much wisdom and guidance in this book,”<br />

Jill wrote. “Meditating on the truths in it has<br />

brought so much peace: ‘So take a deep<br />

breath and recall this deeper secret of the<br />

Christian life: when you are in a difficult<br />

place, realize that the Lord either placed you<br />

there or allowed you to be there for reasons<br />

perhaps known for now only to Himself.<br />

The same God who led you in, will lead you<br />

out.’ So we trust in this and we know that<br />

HE will make a way. We don’t understand<br />

why we are enduring this trial and may never<br />

know while we are here on this earth, but we<br />

know that the same God who paved the road<br />

before us will walk beside us down this road<br />

every step of the way. Mine and David’s<br />

prayer throughout this entire journey is that<br />

God will be glorified in everything. Don’t<br />

worry about anything; instead pray about<br />

everything and don’t forget to thank God for<br />

His answers.”<br />

32 • JANUARY 2023 Originally published February 2016

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every<br />

situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving,<br />

present your requests to God.” – Philippians 4:6<br />

On March 3, after 5 days of treatment,<br />

Campbell was released to go home. “We<br />

were all very thankful to be going home to<br />

our familiar territory, routine, food, etc. “<br />

Like most children, Campbell was a creature<br />

of habit. He thrived in his own environment.<br />

“We will return to the clinic for our post op<br />

appointment at 8:40 Thursday morning and<br />

then our first outpatient treatment will be at<br />

12:30 on Thursday. We will continue to do<br />

outpatient for treatment weeks two through<br />

five, barring Campbell doesn’t get fever or<br />

sick, which would put us back in the hospital.<br />

David and I have decided that each day we<br />

would find at least one thing to give God<br />

praise for...we are thankful and blessed to get<br />

the opportunity to do that each day of<br />

treatment. Each morning, our prayer is that<br />

Campbell’s side effects from treatment<br />

would be minimum or NOT AT ALL.<br />

We boldly pray for not at all. I am constantly<br />

reminded to experience true joy in each and<br />

every moment of the day and cherish the<br />

time God gives me with my family.”<br />

“I will extol the Lord at all times; HIS praise will<br />

always be on my lips.” –Psalm 34:1<br />

“Our bold prayer is that at six weeks,<br />

when Campbell has his first evaluation, that<br />

they will find no cancer. We know this is a<br />

bold request, but our God is bigger than cancer<br />

and we know HE hears each and every request<br />

we offer up to HIM. Our other request is<br />

that the side effects from the chemo will be<br />

minimum or none at all. Thank you again for<br />

all of your prayers, love and support. We are<br />

praying without ceasing that Campbell will be<br />

completely healed…his story is not finished.”<br />

Throughout the treatment, Jill and David<br />

sought moments of normalcy for their children.<br />

About a month after he was diagnosed,<br />

Campbell was able to return to Trinity<br />

Preschool for a brief moment to enjoy Fairy<br />

Tale Day. He dressed as a pirate, and his<br />

twin sister, Avery, dressed as Rapunzel. A few<br />

days later, Jill arranged a photo session with<br />

photographer Allison Muirhead. “Our<br />

friendship/relationship with Allison goes<br />

back 7 years. She took our wedding pictures,<br />

newborn pictures, first year pictures and many<br />

other pictures since, of the twins and our family.<br />

I knew there was no one else I wanted to take<br />

these very special pictures and capture our<br />

family as only she can. Because we don’t know<br />

what the future holds for our family, we wanted<br />

to have memories of what we were before<br />

chemo/radiation.”<br />

Radiation…such a scary word. “It’s one I<br />

never thought I would speak of, especially<br />

pertaining to my child.” A meeting with<br />

doctors revealed that Campbell was<br />

unfortunately not a candidate for the proton<br />

therapy the family had hoped for. “Because<br />

of the rare location of his Rhabdo (in the<br />

abdomen) and the studs that were left from<br />

surgery, the proton therapy will not work.<br />

Without getting too detailed, proton therapy<br />

hits the tumor (or cancer cells) with radiation.<br />

Because Campbell’s cells are probably so<br />

small, there is no way to know what to hit<br />

and you can’t just hit thin air and hope you<br />

are hitting the possible cancer cells remaining.<br />

In his case, you can’t hope, you have to<br />

know for certain that the radiation is hitting<br />

what it is supposed to so that it won’t come<br />

back. So, the only way to do that is to radiate<br />

his entire abdomen.” The good news is the<br />

radiation could be done at UMC. The bad<br />

news would be the toll it would take on<br />

Campbell. The side effects from radiation<br />

will be worse since it is targeting his abdomen…<br />

nausea, vomiting, intestinal issues (because<br />

the intestines do not like radiation), etc. He<br />

will be put to sleep every day for five days a<br />

week for five weeks (because of his age and<br />

the need to be completely still he has to be<br />

put to sleep). He will also be receiving chemo<br />

throughout radiation. We are scared, we are<br />

nervous and we worry about the many side<br />

effects to come. Secondary cancer is a big<br />

one. We know that God provides the wisdom<br />

and tools to the doctors to do their jobs so<br />

we signed the papers once again and said do<br />

whatever you have to in order to save his life<br />

and give him a chance at living a long, full life.”<br />

The toll on the entire family was hard.<br />

“I’m tired, we are tired and my heart aches<br />

for my four-year-old who doesn’t understand<br />

why we keep doing all of this to him. I don’t<br />

know if there has ever really been a time in<br />

my life where I cried out to God that I was<br />

so scared and I wasn’t sure I could keep<br />

going. As much as I feel we are fighting an<br />

uphill battle, HE reminded me that HE is<br />

right there, fighting the battle with us. Oh<br />

gosh how HE loves Campbell more than<br />

I do…HE loves him so much I can’t even<br />

fathom the depths of HIS love for him. So<br />

I release it to HIM, I release Campbell to<br />

HIM, trusting HIM to continue to carry us<br />

through on this journey.”<br />

“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD<br />

is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the<br />

earth. HE will not grow tired or weary, and HIS<br />

understanding no one can fathom. HE gives strength<br />

to the weary and increases the power of the weak.<br />

Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men<br />

stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD<br />

will renew their strength. They will soar on wings<br />

like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they<br />

will walk and not be faint.” –Isaiah 40:28<br />

“From the fullness of HIS grace we have all received<br />

one blessing after another.” –John 1:16<br />

By January, Campbell’s little body was<br />

struggling from the effects of the radiation.<br />

“I’m going to be honest (and David and I<br />

have always said from day one of this journey,<br />

we would never sugarcoat it to make it more<br />

pleasant because honestly there aren’t a lot of<br />

days I count as pleasant). November and<br />

December were rough months for us.” It was<br />

Hometown MADISON • 33

The<br />

Moments<br />

that<br />

Matter<br />

Most<br />

Mary Ann Kirby<br />

34 • JANUARY 2023 Originally published April 2017

Having a child grow<br />

and change so rapidly<br />

creates a sense of nostalgia<br />

(and sometimes panic)<br />

in me like few things do<br />

and I often find myself<br />

reflecting back on my own<br />

childhood as a measure of<br />

comparison. There are<br />

particular memories that<br />

stick out in my mind–<br />

like sitting at the kitchen<br />

table with my grandmother<br />

playing endless hands of<br />

double solitaire and learning<br />

how to fry chicken in her<br />

cast iron skillet–that I hold<br />

near and dear to my heart.<br />

Then I think about the life<br />

that my husband and I have<br />

created for our son and<br />

wonder, of all the memories<br />

(good and bad) that he’s<br />

sure to have, what will he<br />

actually hold onto?<br />

I have to remind myself, on a near-constant basis, that I am actually contributing<br />

to a narrative that my son could possibly play in his mind for the rest of<br />

his life. And that one day, he’ll be creating and instilling memories and moments<br />

and traditions, God-willing, into his own children based on that narrative.<br />

No one has to be reminded that life is short. I already feel the personal<br />

pressure of not “maximizing” my time here on earth as I have tendencies of<br />

taking the same paths over and over again and have made, admittedly, little effort<br />

to change it. I get into these epic ruts where days or even months may pass and<br />

then I look up and it’s Christmas again! I start to calculate how many Christmases<br />

I have left–and I again worry that I’ve wasted precious time. Why do we do this<br />

to ourselves? Or maybe it’s just me.<br />

I really do have good intentions, though, and know I need to do better.<br />

So, in the spirit of spring renewal, I am becoming more intentional about<br />

making the most of every minute and creating the kind of legacy that will<br />

endure long after I’m gone. I’m gonna live like I’m dying, as Tim McGraw<br />

would say! (A quick side note, I’m not dying. I’m just middle-aged, hormonal,<br />

and waxing philosophical.) Hopefully it will serve as an important way to stay<br />

focused on what matters most.<br />

As parents, we tend to stress about things that don’t matter all that much,<br />

don’t we? Our kids probably aren’t going to remember every detail of our home<br />

decor or how perfectly the beds were made. They likely won’t remember that<br />

time the laundry was all piled up on the laundry room floor or whether our<br />

refrigerator was stocked with name brands or generics. And if that’s the case,<br />

and I hope it is, then what will they remember?<br />

Well, I think they’ll remember traditions . . .<br />

Despite my own parents divorcing when I was four and living full-time with<br />

my mom, there are some really specific things that I remember about my dad’s<br />

parents. I remember that they were tall. My dad is 6’6” and his dad was 6’5”.<br />

And I know that they loved to play golf and his mother made “trash” every year<br />

at Christmas. So several years ago, I decided to start making trash during the<br />

holidays, too. I went out and bought a huge glass canister with a lid that would<br />

hold up to two gallons of the savory homemade snack mix and, despite having<br />

no idea if the recipe was even remotely similar to that which I’d had so many<br />

years before, it turned out deliciously and my son now totally identifies it with<br />

Christmas–just like I did all those years ago.<br />

Kids have deep need for predictability. They’ll remember, with great fondness,<br />

the traditions you establish—whether it’s a weekly game night, places you<br />

regularly travel for family getaways, or, in our case, Sunday dinners around<br />

the table, a custom started by my own maternal grandmother. Be deliberate<br />

about creating some traditions that they’ll want to pass on to their own<br />

children someday.

I think they’ll remember the times they felt safe...<br />

There’s a vulnerability and a need for protection in the heart<br />

of every child, regardless of their age. Our kids will remember<br />

the times we chased the monsters from under their bed, kept<br />

calm during a storm, or talked them through a tough situation<br />

they encountered at school. When children feel safe and<br />

secure, they learn to trust other people. And when they<br />

learn that they can trust the adults around them, it helps them<br />

grow up happy, healthy, and better able to enjoy the world.<br />

I think they’ll remember the times we gave them our undivided<br />

attention...<br />

“Watch this! Mom, watch this!” Lord, how many times can<br />

we “watch this?” But kids measure love basically by our<br />

attentiveness to them. The times you stop what you’re doing<br />

to watch them–or when you go outside to throw the ball or<br />

actually jump on the trampoline–those will be the memories<br />

etched into their hearts and minds forever. Take the time to<br />

do the little things with your kids, because in the end, those<br />

will be the moments that matter most.<br />

I think they’ll remember the way we interacted with our spouses...<br />

We laugh a lot in our house–thank goodness! And,<br />

unbeknownst to him, my child is forming his views of love and<br />

relationships, in large part, by watching how my husband and<br />

I treat each other. I hope to have the kind of marriage that<br />

would make him excited to get married someday–and in the<br />

meantime, it’s nice that he actually still enjoys being around us.<br />

They’ll remember our words of affirmation–and our words of<br />

criticism...<br />

A child’s heart is like wet cement and the impressions<br />

made early in life will harden and become permanent over<br />

time. They’ll base their sense of identity, capability, and even<br />

self-worth largely upon the words we speak to them. And<br />

certainly while part of our job as parents is to correct and<br />

discipline them, our words must be full of love, encouragement,<br />

and positive reinforcement, even when we’re angry.<br />

We must be encouragers. The world certainly has enough<br />

critics already.<br />

So, time marches on. We can’t stop it, rewind it, or fast<br />

forward it. But don’t be fooled by all the pages of a calendar–<br />

there are only as many days of the year as we make use of.<br />

Appreciate every second to the fullest extent possible–and<br />

make every moment count. Even if you’re just starting today.<br />

36 • JANUARY 2023 Originally published April 2017






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week 42, and the radiation had an adverse<br />

effect on Campbell’s bladder, necessitating<br />

the insertion of stents. During that procedure,<br />

it was determined there were muted cancer<br />

cells in Campbell’s bladder. “My emotions<br />

have been all over the map lately and this fear<br />

has taken hold of my heart and my life once<br />

again. I would love to say that I have it all<br />

together and all figured out and we are<br />

managing well, but that’s a lie. I am scared<br />

of what my son’s future looks like…what our<br />

future as a family looks like. In the weeks<br />

since, I have experienced a flood of emotions,<br />

but through it all, I have felt God’s presence,<br />

HIS Peace that surpasses all understanding<br />

and daily gentle reminders that HE is still on<br />

HIS throne, HE has Campbell, us, all of us, in<br />

the palm of HIS Hand. And I’m reminded of<br />

that great hymn, ‘It is Well With My Soul.’<br />

I love the words and how comforting that<br />

those words written so many years ago are<br />

still so true, so relevant to my life, to all of<br />

our lives today. I love Kristene DeMarco’s<br />

(Bethel Music) worshipful rendition of it<br />

and find myself listening to it daily.”<br />

With nine weeks left of chemo, David and<br />

Jill began to look forward to week number 54.<br />

That’s when a scan would be performed to<br />

determine if the cancer was in remission.<br />

All along, family, friends, church members,<br />

neighbors, co-workers and others pulled<br />

together to feed the Dale family literally and<br />

spiritually. The family was provided with meals,<br />

cards, ‘happies’ and more which let them<br />

know that they were not alone on their<br />

journey.<br />

“Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love,<br />

that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.”<br />

–Psalm 90:14<br />

The final week of chemo came on week<br />

51, one year into the journey that began with<br />

Campbell’s diagnosis of cancer. Jill was<br />

reflective in her CaringBridge post: “I think<br />

about how this is definitely not how I<br />

pictured my life, especially after having kids.<br />

Through this year, I am learning to not take<br />

life for granted, but to hold on to every<br />

second and to make sure that I make every<br />

day count for HIS Kingdom, as that is my<br />

sole purpose here on earth: to be in so close<br />

fellowship with HIM that HE reveals<br />

HIMSELF to me. That I am open to what<br />

HE is teaching me, showing me and that my<br />

life will be a reflection of HIM and will draw<br />

others to HIM, because that is what life is all<br />

about, living a life that glorifies HIM so that<br />

others will come to know HIM as their<br />

Savior. What a huge responsibility, but what<br />

a glorious, magnificent thing. I never would<br />

have thought cancer would teach me so<br />

much and bring me so far down that the only<br />

way to rise up is reaching and grasping HIS<br />

hand. That’s what we are doing, we grasp and<br />

we hold on as tight as we can because I never<br />

want HIM to let me go. To face a monster<br />

like cancer without a Savior, well, I cannot<br />

even imagine. People ask David and me how<br />

we do it, but I really don’t think we do it. We<br />

do the only thing we know, which is to pray<br />

and trust that HE knows better than us what<br />

is best for us and for Campbell. I don’t think<br />

God makes people get cancer. It’s easy to<br />

blame Him when something bad happens. I<br />

think because of the sinful world we live in,<br />

death, disease, immorality, etc. is a part of this<br />

world. It makes us hope for something better,<br />

a place where there will be no death, disease,<br />

sin. What a magnificent thing, I mean can<br />

you imagine living somewhere like that for all<br />

eternity? That’s why I have hope, because<br />

this life is not the end for me, for Campbell,<br />

for all those who believe. A better place is<br />

waiting and if Campbell gets there before<br />

me, well what a glorious reunion that will be.<br />

He can sit at Jesus’ feet and wait for me to<br />

join him. No, I don’t want my child to die,<br />

but no one does so I have to trust and believe<br />

that God will heal him and he will live a long,<br />

full, healthy life.”<br />

In May, the Dale family prepared<br />

themselves for twelve three-week rounds of<br />

chemo, 36 weeks with no break in between.<br />

Campbell’s cancer had returned. “People<br />

always ask how we do this day in and day out.<br />

The answer is I just don’t know. There are<br />

days that I am a blubbering mess and other<br />

days where I forget this reality and our life<br />

feels a little “normal” whatever that is. I<br />

remember vividly having a bad day almost 2<br />

weeks ago, bad enough that I was hyperventilating<br />

and I couldn’t control the tears, the<br />

anger or the emotions. Thinking about all<br />

these things and being mad at God and<br />

being mad at the world and not understanding<br />

why my son was suffering so much. David<br />

came home that night and reassured me that<br />

it was going to all be okay. He said no matter<br />

what, we were going to be okay (it’s funny<br />

how God puts two people together – we are<br />

so different, but yet our strengths and<br />

weaknesses cancel each other out…God knew<br />

that when he brought us together nine years<br />

ago). After spending much time in prayer<br />

that Tuesday night and basically crying and<br />

praying on my knees at the foot of my child’s<br />

bed (although this has become a regular scene<br />

for the past 15 months), the next morning<br />

I felt this peace wash over me and it has been<br />

with me ever since. I know that was and is<br />

God saying trust ME, love ME, look to<br />

ME…I’ve got this. I have carried you this far<br />

and will continue to carry you until the end<br />

when you join ME in Heaven. HE continues<br />

to give me, give us, a peace that surpasses all<br />

of our understanding, strength to endure and<br />

hope for tomorrow. Chemo starts tomorrow<br />

(Monday). We are ready to fight and win.<br />

We don’t know what the next 36 weeks<br />

looks like.”<br />

38 • JANUARY 2023 Originally published February 2016

“Yet I am always with you, you hold me by my right<br />

hand. YOU guide me with your counsel, and<br />

afterward you will take me into glory. Whom have I<br />

in heaven but YOU? And earth has nothing I desire<br />

but YOU. My flesh and my heart may fail, but GOD<br />

is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”<br />

–Psalm 73:23-26<br />

Those weeks were difficult for Campbell<br />

and for his family. Jill went through all range<br />

of emotions, including anger and helplessness.<br />

“I don’t understand why these kids get<br />

cancer, fight so hard and then lose the fight.<br />

I think it is something I may always struggle<br />

with (another question for that day when I<br />

get to Heaven). I want more than anything<br />

else in this world for my child to beat this<br />

cancer. I know the odds are stacked against<br />

him and there is literally nothing that neither<br />

I nor David can do to change that. I want to<br />

control the outcome. I want to control how<br />

he responds to chemo. I want to control<br />

every last part of it, and I can’t. I simply have<br />

to let it go, lay it down at my Savior’s feet and<br />

remember that Campbell is not mine. He is<br />

only a gift to love and nurture and point him<br />

to the One who loves him more than I do.<br />

What a tall order, but what a gift we’ve been<br />

given. More than anything else in this world,<br />

I want him to know God, to know Christ as<br />

we do, a loving Savior that died so that we<br />

might live. But really, isn’t that what life is all<br />

about for all of us?”<br />

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have<br />

peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take<br />

heart! I have overcome the world.” –John 16:33<br />

By mid September, Campbell was fading.<br />

“I’ve cried many tears in the past few days,<br />

knowing that Campbell is one day closer to<br />

being HOME. He sat up in bed last night<br />

and I was talking to him as he was drinking<br />

his apple juice. I asked him if he was tired, he<br />

nodded yes. I asked him if he was ready to go<br />

home and he said yes. I then asked him if he<br />

was ready to see Jesus. He nodded yes. I<br />

hugged him tight and told him, not much<br />

longer, and then told him that Jesus would<br />

take care of him and told him to wait for us.<br />

No one prepares you for this…there are<br />

no classes, no book to walk you through<br />

watching your child fight cancer and then<br />

watching the cancer take over their body. I<br />

don’t think there is any possible way to write<br />

a book about it or tell someone how to do it.<br />

You do it by experience and it’s an experience<br />

I wish we never had. David and I look at each<br />

other some days and feel like we are living in<br />

this alternate universe or something. It’s just<br />

a strange life we have these days. I think we<br />

just go through the motions, just trying to<br />

get through the day. There have been good<br />

moments during the day with Campbell and<br />

I cherish those. They are becoming few and<br />

far between though. He’s tired and has slept<br />

most of today. He’s on oxygen around the<br />

clock and we have tried to keep him as<br />

comfortable as possible with medication.<br />

He knows he is loved so very much and we<br />

kiss him and tell him that as much as we can.<br />

I think what is scary to me is not having him<br />

physically here to kiss and to touch. That’s<br />

what scares me and it’s something I have<br />

struggled with and have asked God many<br />

times during the day to give me comfort and<br />

peace in that.”<br />

As difficult as the journey was, there were<br />

blessings scattered all along the way for both<br />

Campbell and his family. Several people with<br />

the MSU alumni flew the family back and<br />

forth to Starkville on Aug 25th so that<br />

Campbell could be a Bulldog for a day.<br />

“We are grateful to so many people,” wrote<br />

Jill, “from the athletic department at MSU<br />

(the basketball team, the baseball team, the<br />

football team, Coach Mullen, Dak Prescott<br />

and Scott Strickland), to Allison Muirhead<br />

and John David Smith that captured so<br />

many memories for us that day.” The<br />

Make-A-Wish Foundation in Mississippi<br />

helped with that, as well as granting<br />

Campbell’s wish to go to Disney World.<br />

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we<br />

are wasting away yet inwardly we are being renewed<br />

day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are<br />

achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs<br />

them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on<br />

what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what<br />

is unseen is eternal.” –2 Corinthians 4:16-18<br />

On September 18, 2015, just 11 days shy<br />

of his sixth birthday, Campbell Grady Dale<br />

passed away. “We are heartbroken and<br />

feeling an emptiness in our hearts because<br />

our precious Campbell is no longer here with<br />

us. We are rejoicing that he is now with his<br />

Savior, the one that loves him more than we<br />

can fathom or imagine. Oh to witness that<br />

sweet, precious reunion when he ran into his<br />

Daddy’s arms and to look upon HIS glorious<br />

face and hear HIM say, “Well done my good<br />

and faithful servant. Now come and rest.”<br />

We look forward to the day when we will be<br />

reunited and we can worship our Father<br />

together at HIS feet.”<br />

“I am the Lord who comforts HIS people and will<br />

have compassion on HIS afflicted ones. You can<br />

transcend your troubles because I am both powerful<br />

and compassionate.” –Jesus Today by Sarah Young<br />

“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and<br />

the End,” says the Lord, “who is and who was and who<br />

is to come, the Almighty.” –Revelations 1:8 n<br />

Hometown MADISON • 39

Willie RuthAmy Thomas<br />

There are ticket stubs from every movie I have seen,<br />

whether I liked the movie or not; receipts from the grocery<br />

store, just in case I need to return the strawberries that<br />

I have already eaten; coupons for stores I never visit but<br />

one day might; the bottom half of a shopping list that’s<br />

still blank enough to use. Things only disappear from the<br />

refrigerator when one of my five magnets refuses to hold<br />

up an additional item, instead slowly sagging to the bottom<br />

of the door until the two photos, the invitation for a<br />

wedding that I did not attend, and a football game ticket<br />

are scattered across the kitchen floor.<br />

40 • JANUARY 2023 Originally published April 2019

There is one item that has its own<br />

designated magnet–the strongest one<br />

of the bunch–sitting at eye-level on the<br />

door of the freezer. It’s a list entitled<br />

“Basil Facts,” carefully handwritten in<br />

ballpoint pen by my grandmother and<br />

Scotch-taped to a page from the 2001<br />

Farmer’s Almanac Spring Edition.<br />

“Full sun, plentiful water, well-drained,<br />

rich soil,” it reads. “A dozen plants<br />

will yield 4-6 cups of leaves a week.”<br />

The basil plant that prompted these<br />

instructions has long since withered<br />

away. Planted from seeds in a small<br />

terracotta-colored plastic pot, its<br />

spot on my kitchen windowsill was<br />

never sunny enough for it, and the<br />

stalks grew tall and yellow in search<br />

of warmth.<br />

Just as my grandmother painstakingly<br />

copied these instructions down from<br />

her guidebook on plants, she carefully<br />

tended to her own garden for years,<br />

growing tomatoes, peaches, strawberries,<br />

and butter beans, even when nothing<br />

came out of the soil.<br />

Every Sunday that I lived in Mississippi,<br />

my mother and I spent the afternoon<br />

visiting my grandparents. For more than<br />

ten years, they lived in a small trailer home<br />

across from my aunt, who owns most of<br />

the land on the street and lets her horses<br />

graze in the vacant plots next door.<br />

Each Sunday, we would drive out of<br />

the city until the highways turned into<br />

two-lane streets and fences began to keep<br />

in cows and goats. We turned at the only<br />

gas station for miles and passed handmade<br />

poster board signs that advertise “Baby<br />

Chicks For Sale” or “Free Firewood–You<br />

Haul It.” When we got to the cactus my<br />

aunt has planted beside the road, we<br />

would take a right onto the gravel street.<br />

As we pulled up the driveway, I would<br />

often see just the top of my grandmother’s<br />

head from behind the storage shed, her<br />

curly black hair scooting quickly across the<br />

yard. She would be sitting in a motorized<br />

wheelchair that was designated for<br />

off-roading in the garden, dragging a<br />

water hose in one hand and holding the<br />

day’s mail in the other. She waved when<br />

she saw us and zoomed across the grass,<br />

up the wooden porch ramp. She would<br />

park the chair on the porch, cover it with<br />

a quilt, and hobble into the house with us.<br />

Our visits didn’t usually consist of<br />

much. My grandparents both sat in their<br />

big recliners, my mother and I on the<br />

brown suede couch. The television was<br />

always turned on but always muted–<br />

usually stuck on the local forecast or a<br />

game show. The fridge would be stocked<br />

with my favorite soda, and they always<br />

asked us several times throughout the<br />

visit if we wanted something to eat.<br />

“Did you notice all my flowers<br />

blooming at the front of the house?”<br />

my grandmother asks us. We say we<br />

didn’t, and she laughs. “I’ve got all these<br />

flowers that have bloomed out right<br />

Hometown MADISON • 41

here at the front porch,” she says,<br />

pointing toward the door.<br />

My grandfather chimes in from his<br />

chair across the room. “Real, or fake?”<br />

he asks, and my grandmother laughs<br />

in response. They’re fake silk flowers<br />

buried in the real dirt, and they bloom<br />

year-round.<br />

“You’d think with all the time I’ve put<br />

in it, I would have a better garden than<br />

what I turn out to have,” she says. “I just<br />

really haven’t had space anywhere that<br />

I’ve lived to have very much of a garden,<br />

you know.”<br />

My grandmother, who was named<br />

Willie after her grandmother and Ruth<br />

after her mother, grew up in the garden.<br />

Born in southern Alabama but raised in<br />

central Mississippi, she lived with her<br />

family on property owned by the man<br />

they raised crops for. In the small family<br />

garden by their home, she helped by<br />

shelling peas, and they lived off what<br />

they could grow.<br />

The first garden of her own was in<br />

the backyard of her home on Lawrence<br />

Road in Jackson, Mississippi. There, she<br />

raised two daughters and lived for nearly<br />

forty years. During the weekdays, she<br />

worked in the daycare at their church,<br />

Briarwood Baptist, taking care of<br />

three-year-olds who called her “Miss<br />

Roofie.” Her vegetable garden sat across<br />

the length of the yard’s left edge, and<br />

carefully planted wildflowers ran down<br />

the other two sides of the chain-link<br />

fence. In the center of the yard sat an<br />

old peach tree covered in fine mesh to<br />

keep out squirrels, and two silver metal<br />

clothesline posts. In the summer, sunlight<br />

made its way through the canopy of the<br />

giant, ancient oak trees that dotted the<br />

old neighborhood.<br />

When they moved to the trailer in<br />

2005, they dug up the concrete<br />

stepping-stone that sat in front of the<br />

gardening shed in the backyard and took<br />

it with them. It had my mother’s name,<br />

Debra Henderson, engraved into the<br />

wet cement with a pointer finger, and<br />

the year, 1968.<br />

In the new home, my grandmother<br />

immediately picked the best spots for<br />

her new garden, which flanked the trailer<br />

home on opposite ends. My uncle tilled<br />

up the soil for her, and she set to work.<br />

When it got harder for her to walk down<br />

the steps and across the yard, we got her<br />

the motorized wheelchair. After this,<br />

she put her trowel and gardening claw<br />

in the chair’s side pocket and began<br />

dragging the watering hose behind her<br />

across the yard.<br />

At the end of every autumn, she<br />

would say that season was her last to<br />

work in the dirt. “I’m not doing a garden<br />

next year,” she would tell us. We bought<br />

her the most realistic-looking silk flowers<br />

we could find, and she planted them by<br />

the mailbox and in hanging baskets<br />

along the back porch. But one Sunday<br />

afternoon each spring, we would pull up<br />

in the gravel driveway to see freshlytilled<br />

earth, tree branches serving as bean<br />

poles, and evenly-spaced mounds of dirt<br />

with tiny green sprouts breaking free.<br />

One particular Sunday, while sitting<br />

in the living room as a brightly-colored<br />

NASCAR race swirled silently around<br />

on the TV, I asked her what it is about<br />

gardening that she likes so much.<br />

“I don’t know,” she said, laughing.<br />

“I just do.” Sitting in her recliner, she is<br />

wearing two pairs of fuzzy pink socks as<br />

well as house shoes, and her feet barely<br />

touch the floor. “I just like to go outside.<br />

I could stay out there all day.” With this,<br />

she pauses and turns to my grandfather,<br />

who is nodding off in his own chair.<br />

“Couldn’t I, Shelton?” she asks him.<br />

He picked his head up and doesn’t miss<br />

a beat. “You do,” he responds. “You do<br />

that sometimes.” He tells us that when<br />

the weather is good, she’ll go out at ten<br />

and won’t come back in until two or three.<br />

“I like to do butter beans…” she says,<br />

looking off in the distance. “I like to have<br />

butter beans, and okra, and tomatoes,<br />

and squash–which I don’t have good<br />

luck with, squash.” She continues,<br />

“Onions, strawberries, blueberries…<br />

peach trees, pear trees, plum trees. If<br />

they’re good plums, they’re about like<br />

that,” she says, holding up her fingers<br />

to show an imaginary, golfball-sized<br />

piece of fruit. “This past year I didn’t<br />

have good plums because half of it….<br />

Well, I only had half a plum each.”<br />

That year, she carefully picked each<br />

plum, half not quite ripe, the other half<br />

already turning bad. Setting them in<br />

her lap on the wheelchair, she brought<br />

the small pile into the house each day.<br />

She would then carefully peel each piece<br />

of fruit, keeping only the parts that were<br />

good. Little by little, she amassed enough<br />

that summer to make a few jars of jelly,<br />

which she gave to us.<br />

“There are some vegetables that just<br />

take too much time to plant and peel,<br />

Mama,” my mother always told her.<br />

“You can buy them at the store and<br />

they taste just as good.”<br />

“Yeah, but I still wanna’ put ‘em up,”<br />

she said, laughing.<br />

During my sophomore year in<br />

college, I came home for the summer<br />

determined to grow my own garden in<br />

the backyard. I purchased several seed<br />

packets at the local yard and garden<br />

center: giant sunflowers, heirloom<br />

tomatoes, California poppies, dark green<br />

cucumbers. I planted the seeds in egg<br />

cartons filled with soil and watched<br />

them peek out of the dirt, their tiny green<br />

bodies stretching toward the kitchen<br />

window’s sun.<br />

In the heat of June, I used a longhandled<br />

shovel to break up the hard<br />

Mississippi clay and mixed it with new,<br />

rich, black soil, burying the roots of<br />

each sprout an even six-inches apart.<br />

I punctured the dirt with the ends of<br />

freshly-pruned crepe myrtle branches<br />

42 • JANUARY 2023 Originally published April 2019

and tied up the stems of the tiny<br />

sunflowers with strips of old pantyhose.<br />

Each morning, I dragged the watering<br />

hose out to the plot, letting it soak the<br />

ground before the sun reached noon<br />

and could boil the tiny plants.<br />

Around mid-July, my interest began<br />

to wither. The tiny tomato plants were<br />

infested with bright green hornworms<br />

that would continue to chew the leaves<br />

even after you cut the pest in half with<br />

shears. The poppies never sprouted.<br />

Angry red wasps seized control of the<br />

sunflowers until a storm blew through<br />

and snapped the stalks at their base.<br />

The one cucumber that grew started to<br />

turn a sickly pale yellow. I didn’t even<br />

like the taste of cucumbers, and I had<br />

an assortment of mosquito bites to<br />

support my surrender.<br />

After college, I moved to downtown<br />

Birmingham. My outdoor plot is now<br />

limited to what flower pots I can fit on<br />

my shady third-floor fire escape, and<br />

the constant refrain of train horns has<br />

replaced the melodies of Mississippi<br />

crickets at night. Even though I gave up<br />

on the garden in my parents’ backyard,<br />

I’m still drawn to the displays of envelopes<br />

full of seeds that appear in the grocery<br />

store each spring. I have killed succulents,<br />

herbs, flowers, leafy greens, each new<br />

season bringing in a new plant with new<br />

promise and ending with something like<br />

the brown, twiggy basil plant that<br />

recently evacuated my windowsill. Even<br />

my grandmother’s list of “Basil Facts”<br />

can’t make amends for my black thumb.<br />

My grandmother passed away in<br />

the spring of 2017, leaving behind an<br />

empty recliner and an empty garden<br />

that can’t be filled. The only thing she<br />

loved more than tending to her flowers<br />

and vegetables was her family, and<br />

she cared for us the same way she<br />

nurtured her garden: with devotion,<br />

tenderness, determination, and an<br />

abundance of love.<br />

It’s an old way of doing things:<br />

choosing the perfect plot of soil that’s<br />

not too sunny, not too shady; tilling<br />

up the dirt and watching the<br />

uncovered earthworms dance<br />

around; carefully planting each<br />

bulb six-inches apart and<br />

covering them with the right<br />

amount of soil.<br />

You’ve got to make sure they<br />

get enough water and enough<br />

sun, and you’ve got to fertilize<br />

them at exactly the right time<br />

and keep the insects away. You’ll<br />

painstakingly pick and peel and<br />

chop and can. If you’re like my<br />

grandmother, you will always be<br />

disappointed with what you yield,<br />

even if you’ve got enough to give<br />

to both your daughters and all<br />

four of your grandchildren with<br />

some left over. But, if you’re like<br />

my grandmother, you’ll do it<br />

every single season just to be<br />

outside in the sun. As she<br />

would have told you,<br />

“I just love to see stuff grow.”<br />

Hometown MADISON • 43

Chocolate Pie<br />

• 1¼ cups granulated sugar<br />

• 3½ Tbsp. cocoa powder<br />

• 2 large eggs<br />

• ¼ cup unsalted butter, melted<br />

• 5 oz. can evaporated milk<br />

• 1 9-inch pie crust, homemade<br />

or store bought<br />

• whipped cream, for serving<br />

Preheat oven to 350. In a large bowl,<br />

whisk together the sugar and cocoa<br />

powder. Vigorously whisk in the<br />

eggs, butter, and evaporated milk<br />

until completely combined and<br />

smooth (batter will be thin).<br />

Pour batter into the pie crust and<br />

bake for about 50-55 minutes or<br />

until the filling sets and there is a<br />

thin crust on the top. (It might be<br />

slightly jiggly in the center, but that’s<br />

okay - as it sits and cools, it will<br />

set up more.) Remove from oven<br />

and let cool completely.<br />

Slice and serve<br />

with whipped<br />

cream and<br />

chocolate<br />

shavings!<br />

Apple Pie<br />

• 2 9” pie crusts<br />

• 7 large Granny Smith apples<br />

(peeled, cored, and sliced into<br />

½ inch slices)<br />

• ½ cup granulated sugar<br />

• ½ cup light brown sugar<br />

(loosely packed)<br />

• 2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour<br />

• 1 tsp. ground cinnamon<br />

• ⅛ tsp. ground nutmeg<br />

• 1 Tbsp. lemon juice<br />

(plus the zest of half of a lemon)<br />

• 1 large egg (lightly beaten in a<br />

small bowl for egg wash)<br />

• 2 Tbsp. sanding sugar (optional)<br />

Prepare pie crusts per package<br />

directions – refrigerate. Place oven<br />

rack in the center position and<br />

preheat the oven to 400. In a large<br />

bowl, combine the sliced apples,<br />

granulated sugar, light brown sugar,<br />

flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, and<br />

lemon juice and lemon zest; toss to<br />

coat evenly. Remove the pie crust<br />

dough from the fridge, and carefully<br />

lay the crust into the bottom of a<br />

deep-dish pie plate. Spoon the apple<br />

filling over the bottom crust and<br />

discard juices at the bottom of the<br />

bowl. Lay the second pie crust it<br />

over the apple filling.<br />

Use a sharp knife to trim the dough<br />

along the outside edge of the pie<br />

plate. Lift the edges where the two<br />

pie crusts meet, gently press to seal<br />

and fold them under. Rotate the pie<br />

plate and repeat this process until<br />

edges are neatly tucked under<br />

themselves. Cut 4 slits in the top of<br />

the dough to allow steam to vent.<br />

Place the pie on a baking sheet.<br />

Brush the surface of the pie crust<br />

with the egg wash and sprinkle with<br />

sanding sugar. Cover the edges with<br />

a pie shield or a strip of foil to keep<br />

them from over browning during<br />

the first 25 minutes. Bake at 400 for<br />

25 minutes. Carefully remove the<br />

pie shield, turn the oven down to<br />

375 and continue to bake for an<br />

additional 30-35 minutes or until<br />

the top is golden brown and the<br />

juices are bubbly. Cool at room<br />

temperature for at least 3 hours.<br />

44 • JANUARY 2023

Bourbon Pecan Pie<br />

• 3 eggs, lightly beaten<br />

• 1 cup granulated sugar<br />

• ½ cup light corn syrup<br />

• ½ cup dark corn syrup<br />

• ⅓ cup unsalted butter, melted<br />

• 2 Tbsp. bourbon<br />

• 1 tsp. vanilla extract<br />

• ¼ tsp. salt<br />

• 1 unbaked 9-inch pie shell<br />

• 1¼ cups coarsely chopped pecans<br />

Preheat oven to 375. Mix eggs, sugar,<br />

corn syrups, butter, bourbon, vanilla<br />

and salt until well blended. Prick the<br />

sides and bottom of the pie shell with<br />

a fork at ½-inch intervals. Spread the<br />

pecans on the bottom and pour the<br />

mixture over them. Bake for 35 to<br />

45 minutes, until just set around the<br />

edges but still slightly loose in the<br />

center. (It will continue to set as it<br />

cools.) Place on a rack to cool slightly.<br />

National<br />

Lemon Icebox Pie<br />

• 1 9-inch graham cracker crust<br />

• 8 oz. cream cheese<br />

(room temperature)<br />

• 1 14-oz. can sweetened<br />

condensed milk<br />

• ½ cup fresh lemon juice<br />

• zest of two lemons<br />

• whipped cream<br />

Place the cream cheese into a mixing<br />

bowl and use an electric mixer to<br />

blend until smooth and creamy.<br />

Add the sweetened condensed milk,<br />

lemon juice and lemon zest and<br />

blend again until the ingredients are<br />

fully incorporated and completely<br />

smooth. Pour the filling into the<br />

crust, smooth the top and chill in<br />

the refrigerator for 2 hours to set.<br />

Top with whipped cream or cool<br />

whip and serve cold.<br />

Pie Day<br />

is January 23!<br />

Cherry Crumble Pie<br />

Crust<br />

• 1½ cup all-purpose flour<br />

• 1 Tbsp. granulated sugar<br />

• ¼ tsp. salt<br />

• 6 Tbsp. chilled unsalted butter cut<br />

into ½-inch pieces<br />

• 2 Tbsp. chilled vegetable<br />

shortening cut into ½-inch pieces<br />

• 2 Tbsp. or more ice water<br />

• 1 large egg yolk<br />

Filling<br />

• 6 cups pitted sweet cherries or<br />

pitted frozen cherries<br />

• ¾ cup granulated sugar<br />

• 1 small lemon zested and juiced<br />

• ⅛ tsp. ground allspice<br />

• ⅛ tsp. ground cinnamon<br />

• ⅛ tsp. almond extract<br />

• 2 Tbsp. quick-cooking tapioca<br />

ground in food processor<br />

• 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter cut into<br />

eight small pieces<br />

Topping<br />

• 1 cup plus 2 Tbsp.<br />

old-fashioned oats<br />

• ¾ cup all-purpose flour<br />

• ¾ cup packed light brown sugar<br />

• ¾ tsp. ground cinnamon<br />

• ¼ tsp. salt<br />

• ½ cup chilled unsalted butter<br />

cut into ½-inch pieces<br />

Blend flour, sugar, and salt in food<br />

processor for 5 seconds. Add butter<br />

and shortening and pulse processor<br />

until mixture resembles coarse meal.<br />

Add 2 Tbsp. of ice water and yolk to<br />

dough and process on and off until a<br />

moist clump forms, adding more ice<br />

water teaspoonfuls at a time if the<br />

dough is dry. Form dough into a ball<br />

and then flatten it into a disk. Wrap<br />

dough and plastic and chill for at least<br />

1 hour and up to 24 hours.<br />

Toss fruit with sugar, lemon juice<br />

and zest, spices, almond extract, and<br />

tapioca; let stand for 15 minutes.<br />

In large bowl mix together oats, flour,<br />

sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Add butter<br />

and use hands and fingertips to mix<br />

mixture until moist clumps form;<br />

cover and chill until ready to use.<br />

Move oven rack to middle position<br />

and preheat to 425. Lightly flour the<br />

countertop and roll out the dough<br />

into 13-14-inch round. Transfer<br />

dough to a 9-inch deep-dish glass pie<br />

plate. Trim dough overhang to<br />

¾ inch. Fold dough over and crimp<br />

edges decoratively. Spread filling over<br />

the dough and smooth into an even<br />

layer. Scatter butter pieces over the<br />

filling. Sprinkle topping over filling<br />

evenly. Bake pie for 30 minutes, then<br />

reduce temperature to 400. Cover<br />

just edges of pie with foil or pie shield<br />

and continue baking until filling is<br />

bubbly and topping is brown and<br />

crisp, about 25 minutes longer.<br />

Move pie to wire rack and cool at<br />

least 30 minutes before serving.<br />

Serve warm or at room temperature.

High<br />

School<br />

to Grad<br />

School<br />



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46 • JANUARY 2023

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Hometown MADISON • 47

The CHALKBOARD Madison Schools<br />

Madison Central<br />

2022 Homecoming Queen Ava Dear<br />

Front L-R: Rorie Annabelle Carmody, Thomas Mason Benedict, and Holland Alyse Portera.<br />

Back L-R: MCHS principal Dr. Teague Burchfield, 2021 homecoming queen Rowan Gentry,<br />

queen Ava Dear, Dave Dear (father), and Madison County Schools Superintendent Charlotte Seals.<br />

48 • JANUARY 2023

2022 Homecoming Court<br />

Front L-R: Rorie Annabelle Carmody, Thomas Mason Benedict, and Holland Alyse Portera. Second row L-R: Junior Court members Anna Edgar, Rhyin Singleton, and Lauralee Hetzel;<br />

senior court members Zoe Zhang, Alexa Ainsworth, Mattie Dupuy, Kinsley Wilson, queen Ava Dear, and Bergen Bianchi; junior court members Brooke Bumgarner and Kylira Griffin;<br />

sophomore court member Pearl Magee. Third row L-R: freshman court members freshman court members Reyanna Williams, Avery Coney, and Aliyiah Morris; senior court members<br />

Bryman Williams, R.J. Smith, Jake Norris, Vic Sutton, Aiden Allen, and Isaiah Spencer; sophomore court members Aricyn Brown, Lana Nabulsi, and Sara Reeves Thomas.<br />

Back L-R: freshman court members Damorion Smith, Trashun Brown, and Connor Wade; junior court members John Griffin, Harry Singh, Ty Miller, Max Zuluaga,<br />

and Tyrone Richardson; sophomore court members Tripp Higgins, Brandon Huerkamp, Whit Turpin and Darren Woods.<br />

Hometown MADISON • 49

TheTime COIN<br />

Camille Anding<br />

Boxes! They’ve been a big part of my life<br />

in our moving process.<br />

Friends have saved and shared their empty cardboard boxes so we could transport our<br />

“treasures” in them. I’m indebted to them and their boxes. I’m even more indebted to the inventor<br />

of the cardboard box - the efficient lightweight, recyclable container that saves me from carrying<br />

our items by the armloads. We’ve packed everything transportable in the handy carriers. Long<br />

live the #1 aid for moving!<br />

I’ve discovered that our lives are surrounded by boxes - and they all hold necessities,<br />

valuables, or treasures. There are shoe boxes in my closet, jewelry boxes on the shelf, and a<br />

toy box in the loft. There are little boxes for nails and tacks, medium size boxes for flatware,<br />

crackers and cereal, and mega boxes for lamps and larger valuables.<br />

I recall the first treasure given to me in a little box. It reiterated the truth of : “If it comes in a little<br />

black, velvet box, I’ll love it.” It was late afternoon on a road in Shelby, Mississippi, when Othel<br />

stopped the car and handed me the little black box. What a treasure rested inside its velvet walls!<br />

In our sorting and packing our fifty-plus years of accumulations, I’ve found more than one<br />

medium size box holding personal treasures: original Mother’s Day cards with personal notes<br />

from Tahya and Eli, plaster handprints, school day pictures with snaggletoothed smiles and<br />

uneven bangs, ribbons from talent shows and artwork from not-so-promising young artists.<br />

Cardboard boxes can definitely hold treasures.<br />

This year a large wooden box, beautifully embellished, rolled past me at the funeral home.<br />

I thought to myself - another box - and holding the most valuable treasure - the body of a loved<br />

one. This “box” would be the final earthly resting place for this child of God and would leave<br />

family and friends to be placed in a nearby cemetery. The sadness of the separation was heavy,<br />

and then a new meaning suddenly flashed through the gloom. Cemeteries are where we bury<br />

our treasures! Surely God must see acres of buried treasure instead of the cold, gray marble on<br />

cemetery plots. According to His promise, one day there will be a trumpet blast, and all those<br />

boxes of treasures will be emptied as the dead in Christ rise in glorified bodies.<br />

That will mean the end of a lot of things - and boxes will be one of them. There won’t be any<br />

more moves.<br />

50 • JANUARY 2023

Hometown MADISON • 51





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