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V115<br />

524<br />


Standout<br />


Fear, Fundraising,<br />

& Finding Community

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Hometown RANKIN • 5

6 • MAY 2024


As Mother’s Day approaches, it’s a time to reflect on the impact<br />

mothers have had throughout generations.<br />

From the nurturing embrace of our own mothers to the remarkable<br />

journey of motherhood we embark upon ourselves, there is a timeless<br />

thread of love and strength that binds us together.<br />

In life, mothers play a pivotal role. They are the ones who hold us<br />

in their arms, instill in us values that guide our every step, and teach us<br />

the importance of compassion, perseverance, and faith. Just as Jesus<br />

honored his mother, Mary, we are called to honor the mothers in our<br />

lives—those who have shaped us and those whom we now have the<br />

privilege to shape.<br />

I am incredibly grateful for the godly example set by my own<br />

mother—a woman whose faith in God has been a guiding light<br />

through both joyous moments and trials. I am forever thankful for<br />

her presence in my life.<br />

As I celebrate Mother’s Day with my own daughters, I’m grateful<br />

for the amazing moms they are to their own children. Witnessing<br />

their strength, resilience, and devotion to their own families blesses<br />

my heart. They are not only remarkable mothers, but also shining<br />

examples of God’s grace and love.<br />

To all the mothers out there—past, present, and future—I want to<br />

express my deepest admiration and appreciation. Your sacrifices, your<br />

tireless dedication, and your boundless love don’t go unnoticed.<br />

You are the heartbeats of our families.<br />

This Mother’s Day, let us honor and cherish the generations of<br />

mothers who have shaped our lives. May we continue to uphold their<br />

legacy of faith, love, and strength as we journey through life together.<br />


Tahya Dobbs<br />


CFO<br />

Kevin Dobbs<br />


Mary Ann Kirby<br />


Barbie Bassett<br />


The Way We Were 10<br />

Reader Spotlight 15<br />

Limitless 16<br />

Hometown Family 22<br />

Standout Seniors 27<br />

Generational Moms 55<br />

Kids Who Care 64<br />

Fear, Fundraising & Finding Community 68<br />

Salads from the South 85<br />

The Time Coin 98<br />


Amy Forsyth<br />



Melissa Kennon<br />



Alisha Floyd<br />


Susan Wolgamott<br />

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


Daniel Thomas<br />

3dt<br />

STAFF<br />


Othel Anding<br />

STAFF<br />


Debby Francis<br />


Jodi Jackson<br />

www.facebook.com/hometownrankinmagazine. 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 Rankin may be reproduced without written permission from the publisher. The management of Hometown Rankin is not responsible for opinions expressed by its writers or editors.<br />

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

Hometown RANKIN • 7

8 • MAY 2024

Hometown RANKIN • 9

Lee & Dan Tucker<br />

Camille Anding<br />

There’s a charming white-<br />

Furniture and Appliances. She<br />

Lee laughs as she admits that<br />

It was after spending time<br />

framed house that sits at a<br />

grew up just a block from her<br />

she had put out “feelers” among<br />

with Dan that Lee appreciated<br />

crossroads near Pelahatchie.<br />

school and was a serious student.<br />

their friends that she thought he<br />

his kindness for the underdog.<br />

The vibrant green lawn around<br />

She also played on the high school<br />

was cute and would be interested<br />

He was also positive and never<br />

the house and the multiple<br />

basketball team, which had six<br />

in dating him. The mutual physical<br />

put people down.<br />

baskets of blooming petunias<br />

players in those days. “I was #6,”<br />

attractions and the “feelers”<br />

Dan discovered that Lee was<br />

that flank it testify to its owners<br />

she said in describing her<br />

worked. They became friends<br />

not just “good looking,” she was<br />

who are blessed to call this place<br />

basketball talent.<br />

and dated off and on for the next<br />

really smart and popular, making<br />

home: Lee and Dan Tucker.<br />

It was a different game for<br />

three years.<br />

it simple for her to make friends.<br />

In 1920, Dan’s grandfather<br />

Dan who excelled in basketball at<br />

After Dan’s junior-college<br />

On July 31, 1970, they shared<br />

cut the timber on their acreage to<br />

Brandon High School and earned<br />

completion, he enrolled at<br />

their vows before family and<br />

build the home. Now, after three<br />

a scholarship to play at Hinds<br />

Mississippi State, and Lee selected<br />

friends at Pelahatchie Methodist<br />

generations of families who lived<br />

Community College. During<br />

Mississippi College to attend.<br />

Church. There was no money for<br />

here, the Tuckers continue to<br />

their senior year of high school,<br />

Life and the distance were a<br />

a honeymoon, so they drove to<br />

plant family roots in this part<br />

they had their first official meeting<br />

hindrance to serious dating,<br />

their first home, a two-bedroom<br />

of Rankin County in the same,<br />

away from the basketball courts.<br />

but toward the end of college,<br />

apartment in Vicksburg, where<br />

restored, 104-year-old home.<br />

Dan remembers the beautiful<br />

both knew they had found their<br />

Lee would have her first teaching<br />

Dan first knew about Lee<br />

young athlete with the “striking,<br />

forever mate.<br />

position and Dan would begin<br />

through their family furniture<br />

long legs” that gave him the courage<br />

work as the new assistant<br />

store in Pelahatchie – Ross<br />

to call her on the party line.<br />

county agent.<br />

10 • MAY 2024

“ You need to be friends<br />

with common interests.<br />

Resolve any arguments<br />

quickly and remember<br />

that marriage is a<br />

commitment.<br />

For their humble honeymoon,<br />

living in the Brandon city limits<br />

graduate of Ole Miss, is a “mover<br />

The bread-winning gene<br />

they decided to ride through the<br />

to moving to their rural location<br />

and shaker” for the city of Laurel<br />

that is born into men spoke<br />

Vicksburg National Military<br />

was a huge adjustment. Now,<br />

as the director of economic<br />

through Dan: “Find a decent<br />

Park before going to their<br />

it’s a trip into town instead of<br />

development for Jones County.<br />

job that you like so that you can<br />

apartment. They still remember<br />

walking across the streets to<br />

The Tuckers’ daughter, Lee, is<br />

always provide for your family.<br />

how they got lost in the park and<br />

share coffee with friends.<br />

a dentist and married to Will<br />

Just being in love won’t necessarily<br />

took forever to find their way out<br />

As for Dan, he feels right at<br />

Herring. They live with their<br />

make it when it comes to<br />

of the maze.<br />

home – again – after working<br />

twins in Flowood.<br />

meeting your families’ needs.”<br />

The only item their new<br />

for thirty-five years at the<br />

The Tuckers have advice for<br />

From the initial travels of<br />

salaries could afford was a TV.<br />

Mississippi Department of<br />

couples committed to longevity<br />

going in circles on their honey-<br />

Frugality was an early way of life<br />

Economic Development.<br />

in marriage. Lee says, “You need<br />

moon trek, to the obvious<br />

for these newlyweds, but a lesson<br />

One of the couple’s favorite<br />

to be friends with common<br />

evidence of their almost<br />

that furnished them well over<br />

parts of living on their large plot<br />

interests. Resolve any arguments<br />

fifty-four years of journeying<br />

the coming years.<br />

of land is the enjoyment that<br />

quickly and remember that<br />

together, success appears to be<br />

Lee and Dan are enjoying<br />

their five grandchildren<br />

marriage is a commitment.<br />

the chosen route they followed.<br />

their retirement years on the “ole<br />

experience when they visit. Their<br />

There will be good times and<br />

home place,” but Lee, a retired<br />

son Ross and wife Suzanne live<br />

bad times. Hang on, knowing<br />

Brandon High School teacher,<br />

in Laurel, Mississippi, with their<br />

the good times are coming.”<br />

admits the adjustment from<br />

daughter and two sons. Ross, a<br />

Hometown RANKIN • 11

12 • MAY 2024

Hometown RANKIN • 13

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READER<br />


Jeremy<br />

SPANN<br />

Why did you decide to make Rankin County<br />

your home?<br />

My home starts with family, my business, a<br />

small-town feel and a growth that accommodates<br />

its people. Leadership has always had the<br />

best interest for the people, businesses, and<br />

safety, so for my family that’s important to me.<br />

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

I have always lived in Rankin with exception<br />

of the time my father moved us to Germany<br />

because of the military.<br />

Tell us about your family.<br />

My family is beautiful because it’s blended.<br />

Shanna welcomed my three sons, and I<br />

welcomed her son and daughter. Jayden, 26<br />

(lives in Alaska), Alanna, 22, Ian, 19, Jordan, 17,<br />

and Kingston, 10, all share a passion and<br />

curiosity for life, which amazes us daily.<br />

Shanna’s a court administrator for Judge<br />

Roberts and she’s worked for the County<br />

for 20-plus years.<br />

What is your favorite childhood memory?<br />

Exploring my grandfather’s farm. Every<br />

summer day was an adventure. The land always<br />

offered something new and challenging.<br />

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

Rankin County?<br />

Sundays at Lakeshore Park on the Rez.<br />

You’re sure to see someone from every<br />

city that makes up this beautiful county.<br />

Sun and water do something for the soul.<br />

Where are your three favorite places<br />

to eat in Rankin County?<br />

Retro Vietnam Restaurant, Harvey’s Fish<br />

House (Brandon), and Not Just A Burger.<br />

They are local business owners, and you can<br />

taste and feel the love in the food.<br />

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

Rankin County on the weekends?<br />

As far as I’m concerned, there’s only one thing<br />

to do and that’s golfing. Refuge, Patrick Farms,<br />

or Baypoint. Beyond that, Shanna can get me<br />

to do anything she wants.<br />

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

spare time.<br />

In my spare time, anyone can find me in my<br />

back yard. Because I’m inside the shop all day,<br />

I try to find a healthy balance of outside.<br />

Where do you see yourself in ten years?<br />

I’ll have a barber school discussing life lessons<br />

with barbering classes.<br />

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

A family trip to Europe, motorcycling across<br />

the United States, and lastly, the Italian coast<br />

with Shanna.<br />

Tell us about your occupation.<br />

I’m the owner of J Gerard’s Barber Salon in<br />

the historic district of downtown Brandon.<br />

I’ve worked diligently to create an environment<br />

that’s traditional and modern. I’ve been in the<br />

industry for nearly 36 years. The gentlemen<br />

that patronize my shop are professionals,<br />

pillars of the community, and family men.<br />

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

I admire my children; they approach every<br />

situation with determination. I want them<br />

to understand that everything they want to<br />

do is possible.<br />

If you could give us one encouraging<br />

quote, what would it be?<br />

The quote I love and live by; “no one’s coming<br />

to help!” Once we understand that, it makes<br />

everything clearer.<br />

Hometown RANKIN • 15


16 • MAY 2024

If you saw Anna Leah Jolly, you would<br />

make assumptions about her, and<br />

some of them would not be wrong.<br />

She is absolutely lovely, and her enthusiasm<br />

and vivacity are genuine. You would<br />

probably think she has a charmed life, and<br />

that is not entirely inaccurate. She has a<br />

family who adores her and a God-given<br />

talent for dancing. Anna Leah is easy to talk<br />

to, and her dreams and aspirations come<br />

pouring out of her. After meeting her, you<br />

would think: “She is a girl with the kind of<br />

drive to make those things happen.”<br />

On the other hand, some of your<br />

assumptions would be wrong. Anna Leah has<br />

faced more hardship in her twenty-two years<br />

than many of us will in a lifetime. She has a<br />

depth of character that faced adversity and,<br />

through God’s care and sovereignty, emerged<br />

with a story to tell and a hope to share.<br />

Her physical beauty and the world of<br />

pageantry and ballet, which take up most<br />

of her full schedule, might bring words like<br />

shallow or superficial to mind. In Anna Leah’s<br />

case, that couldn’t be further from the truth.<br />

Both require a tremendous amount of hard<br />

work on her part, and both are also platforms<br />

she is using to a greater end.<br />

Anna Leah has extraordinary plans for<br />

her life, and it is her hope to use the unique<br />

experiences God has given her to inspire<br />

others to a brighter future.<br />

Her story began when she was born in<br />

Ukraine in 2001. The country does not have<br />

a foster care system similar to America’s, but<br />

it does have a state program that provides<br />

care for a child for several months while their<br />

parent finds employment or works to better<br />

order their personal life. Anna Leah had<br />

been in and out of state care much of her<br />

childhood, spending short periods of time<br />

with her biological mother.<br />

At the age of eleven, she was brought to<br />

the United States with an international<br />

hosting program intended to give Ukrainian<br />

children a cultural experience in the United<br />

States while also potentially connecting<br />

them with adoptive families. The program<br />

was partnered with Crossgates Baptist<br />

Church in Brandon, but several other local<br />

churches were asked to volunteer in hosting<br />

the group, providing transportation and<br />

hospitality to the children during their<br />

weeks-long stay. Jay and Kelly Jolly had<br />

attended an adoption meeting at Pinelake<br />

and, although they were not sure they were<br />

ready to pursue adoption, they certainly felt<br />

they could help with this visiting group.<br />

Many of the children on the trip were<br />

orphans or were already able to be adopted.<br />

Anna Leah was the only child on the trip<br />

whose biological parents had yet to have their<br />

rights terminated. She was also the only<br />

child there with no siblings. She knew very<br />

Anna Leah<br />

Jolly<br />

Sarah Rein<br />

Hometown RANKIN • 17

few of the children in her group, who were<br />

from all over the country, and spoke absolutely<br />

no English.<br />

She felt an immediate connection to Jay and<br />

Kelly - and they to her. In fact, by the time the<br />

group left several weeks later, the Jollys were<br />

already beginning the mounds of paperwork<br />

that would allow them to be ready to adopt<br />

Anna Leah if possible. In the Ukraine, a child<br />

has a great deal of say in whether they would like<br />

to be adopted. About a month after returning<br />

home, Anna Leah was notified by the courts<br />

that she would be able to decide whether to<br />

move forward with terminating her mother’s<br />

parental rights and, thus, be able to be adopted.<br />

Kelly shares, “When the group was leaving<br />

the airport, Anna Leah came up to us and,<br />

through a translator, showed us her picture and<br />

told us to use it to find her.” Anna Leah laughs,<br />

“I was a kid. I really thought they could just scan<br />

the picture to locate me!”.<br />

After Anna Leah made the difficult decision<br />

that she was ready to be adopted, things moved<br />

quickly. “From the time we met her until the<br />

adoption was finalized was about nine months.<br />

So, after the length of a pregnancy, we had an<br />

eleven-year-old!” Kelly recalls.<br />

God had done a tremendous work in<br />

preparing the Jollys’ hearts to adopt Anna Leah,<br />

preparing Anna Leah for an enormous life<br />

change, and bringing these souls together to<br />

form a forever family. Little did they know,<br />

His work was just beginning.<br />

Anna Leah remembers those first few days<br />

and weeks in America. “I came here at the<br />

beginning of the summer after the deadlines<br />

had passed for registering for most summer<br />

activities. I didn’t know any English, and although<br />

I picked up speaking it quickly through plenty of<br />

TV watching, reading and writing fluently took<br />

much longer. I attended a year of private school<br />

and then a year of public school, but neither were<br />

a great fit for me.”<br />

18 • MAY 2024

In the meantime, Anna Leah had discovered<br />

a passion for ballet. One evening when<br />

the family was out to eat, their server was a<br />

dancer at Ballet Magnificat, a professional<br />

Christian ballet company located in Jackson.<br />

She suggested Anna Leah come give it a try.<br />

Ironically, her small-group leader at Pinelake<br />

was also on staff there and was later able to<br />

give her private lessons. It was the beginning<br />

of a new world for the twelve-year-old. Her<br />

parents decided that homeschooling made<br />

the most sense for their daughter, and her<br />

goal soon became being a professional ballet<br />

dancer. She eventually made it into Ballet<br />

Magnificat’s trainee company, in which she<br />

performed for two years, and was then<br />

invited to participate in the Brazil touring<br />

company.<br />

However, by that point, Anna Leah had<br />

recognized that her greater desire was to open<br />

her own dance studio and create choreography.<br />

When considering her next steps after<br />

graduation, she decided to pursue her dream<br />

of teaching at her own dance studio, which she<br />

named Studio A Dance Company. Currently<br />

located inside the popular Courthouse<br />

Gymnastics building, students from age three<br />

through high school are able to sign up for a<br />

variety of dance classes Anna Leah teaches.<br />

You may have already seen her dancers out<br />

in the community as “Christmas Belles”<br />

participating at local parades and businesses.<br />

Anna Leah’s mom, Kelly, suggested<br />

another way that her daughter might want<br />

to use her giftings and experiences. She<br />

encouraged Anna Leah to consider entering<br />

the world of pageants. It would give her a<br />

place to use her desire to choreograph and<br />

dance while gaining some excellent public<br />

speaking skills and confidence.<br />

Participating in pageants would also give<br />

Anna Leah a chance to use her story. The<br />

Miss Mississippi Pageant, which Anna Leah<br />

wanted to pursue, encourages its contestants<br />

to choose a public service platform. “I have<br />

gathered that sometimes people want to<br />

leave the state for various reasons, but, with<br />

my background, I really see Mississippi<br />

differently. I see all it has to offer, and I think<br />

this pageant is a way to promote the value I<br />

see in our state.” She has chosen a community<br />

service initiative she is calling “Limitless”<br />

and is partnering with the national organization<br />

C.A.S.A. (Court Appointed Special<br />

Advocates). C.A.S.A.’s role is to provide<br />

trained, local volunteers who are focused on<br />

advocating for abused, neglected children in<br />

youth courts. These volunteers work<br />

alongside Child Protective Services to build<br />

relationships with children in situations of<br />

abuse or neglect, connect them with available<br />

resources, and make recommendations to the<br />

courts about what is in the child’s best interest.<br />

Limitless is Anna Leah’s personal platform<br />

intended to create a stronger community for<br />

foster care and adoption in Mississippi as<br />

well as using her own story to encourage all<br />

Mississippians to set life goals and overcome<br />

obstacles. To those ends, she has helped<br />

promote the passage of Mississippi House Bill<br />

1624, which will provide C.A.S.A with<br />

additional funding for foster children’s<br />

medical expenses; she sees that as simply the<br />

beginning of what she would like to accomplish.<br />

Her life experiences allow her unusual<br />

insight into the needs of children in foster<br />

care as well as adoptive families. Her hope<br />

is to represent Rankin County at the Miss<br />

Mississippi Pageant and then have the chance<br />

to shine a spotlight on these needs at a<br />

national level at the Miss America Pageant.<br />

Regardless, her story will serve as an<br />

inspiration to the community, where the<br />

overwhelming needs of children in the foster<br />

care system, their case workers, their<br />

biological families, and those who serve as<br />

foster care families and advocates are growing.<br />

Kelly tears up at the thought of what her<br />

daughter is accomplishing. “As adoptive<br />

parents, I wish we would have had the<br />

wisdom and insight she is providing to<br />

families. They can get lost in the needs of<br />

a child coming into their home. To see her<br />

stand in this gap and the difference she is<br />

making...we are so proud.”<br />

Support our Miss Rankin County during<br />

the Miss Mississippi Pageant June 5th-8th.<br />

You can follow her on Facebook or<br />

Instagram - Anna Leah Jolly. You can also<br />

read more about C.A.S.A. at casams.org if<br />

you might like to get involved. Certainly, be<br />

in prayer regarding your involvement in the<br />

many foster care needs in our state. To learn<br />

more about dance lessons with Anna Leah,<br />

vivit courthousegymnastics.com/elitedance-team.<br />

Hometown RANKIN • 19

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Shop with us:<br />

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GenuineMS.com<br />

20 • MAY 2024

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tailored to your needs. Get reliable voice, networking, managed IT<br />

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Hometown RANKIN • 21

22 • MAY 2024

The Bentons<br />

Tell us about your family.<br />

Lee (52) has been in law enforcement since 1992. He has worked for<br />

many agencies and is currently employed by the Mississippi Attorney<br />

General’s Office. Lee is also planning to retire from law enforcement<br />

at the end of May 2024 after thirty-two years serving the citizens of<br />

Mississippi. Prior to his law enforcement career, Lee graduated from<br />

McLaurin High School in Rankin County in 1989. Lee was enlisted<br />

in the United States Air Force from 1989 to 1994. During this time,<br />

he was deployed for Desert Storm and Desert Shield. Lee also has<br />

spent several years in Iraq and, more recently, a year in Afghanistan<br />

as a privately contracted law enforcement professional imbedded<br />

with the military. Looking ahead to life after retirement, Lee<br />

recently started his own pool service company, Pool Patrol. What<br />

started as a funny nickname at home (“pool boy”), turned into a<br />

legitimate business and will occupy most of Lee’s time once he is<br />

officially retired from law enforcement. “The response to this new<br />

venture has been exciting, and we are looking forward to expanding<br />

this business,” states Lee. When he is not wearing a badge or<br />

cleaning pools, Lee enjoys bass fishing and participates in numerous<br />

tournaments all over the South.<br />

Cameron (51) has been a practicing attorney since 2003. She also<br />

graduated from McLaurin High School in 1990. She attended<br />

Hinds Community College, Belhaven University, and Mississippi<br />

College School of Law. She worked for a number of years for the<br />

Federal District Court in North Mississippi. She left federal<br />

employment and began work for then Mississippi Attorney General<br />

Jim Hood. Cameron worked exclusively prosecuting cases involving<br />

death row defendants. In 2020, Cameron left the Attorney General’s<br />

Hometown RANKIN • 23

Office for private practice. She currently practices law with Ringer,<br />

Lingold & Spencer in Florence, Mississippi, the only law firm in<br />

south Rankin County. When she is not working or attending<br />

various events for her children, Cameron enjoys being outside by the<br />

pool, fishing, and traveling, whether it is to the coast for a quick trip<br />

or hopping on a cruise ship for a few days.<br />

Mckena Fisher (18) is the daughter of Cameron and Travis Yancy<br />

Fisher (deceased). Mckena has lived with Lee as her stepfather since<br />

she was five years old. Mckena has attended McLaurin since second<br />

grade and she will graduate this May. After graduation, she will play<br />

soccer for Hinds Community College. She has worked very hard<br />

throughout her time at McLaurin and has devoted herself to her<br />

school and her commitments. She is a three-time all-American<br />

varsity cheerleader, soccer team captain, Diamond Doll, honor roll<br />

student, and a member of both Beta Club and National Honor<br />

Society. Mckena was also a MHSAA Scholar Athlete for 2023<br />

and was voted Ms. McLaurin High School by her peers this year.<br />

She is graduating as a Mississippi Scholar with over 200 hours of<br />

community service.<br />

Keaton (12) Keaton is Cameron and Lee’s youngest daughter.<br />

Keaton has attended McLaurin since pre-K and is currently<br />

wrapping up sixth grade. She has played softball and cheered for<br />

local recreation teams. Keaton plays the piano and takes lessons<br />

weekly, a hobby inspired and encouraged by her grandmother,<br />

Lee’s mother, Yvonne Benton. For her 7th grade year, Keaton will<br />

be on the McLaurin dance team. She is also an honor roll student<br />

and is a member of Junior Beta Club.<br />

How did you meet and how long have you been married?<br />

We’ve known each other since 1985. We dated briefly in 1989 after<br />

Lee graduated from high school and just before he left for Air Force<br />

boot camp. We both went separate ways and lost touch. In 2010,<br />

I was living and working in Tupelo and Lee was living and working<br />

in Iraq. I commented on a photograph Lee posted on social media<br />

and we started chatting online. In December 2010, he came back to<br />

the states for the first time in three years, but before he left Iraq, he<br />

renewed his contract for another year, which meant he was committed<br />

to go back for twelve months. Since we had been chatting, I<br />

offered to at least buy him dinner while he was home. He was<br />

non-committal.<br />

One afternoon, his sister Brandy, who knew he and I had been<br />

chatting, without Lee’s knowledge, texted me that they would be<br />

at Buffalo Wild Wings in Ridgeland if I wanted to come visit.<br />

I immediately dropped everything and decided to seize the opportunity<br />

to see him before he went back overseas.<br />

On my three-hour drive (Tupelo to Ridgeland) to meet them,<br />

Lee texted me about forty minutes before I got to the restaurant. He<br />

reluctantly invited me to join them. If I had waited for his invitation,<br />

I would have never made it in time. I showed up, and this was the<br />

first time in eleven years we had actually seen one another. The<br />

point of the story is if Brandy had not intervened, the last thirteen<br />

years might have looked a lot different for all of us. I spent the next<br />

two weeks with Lee knowing he was going back to Iraq for a year.<br />

He left, traveled back to Iraq, and within two months, resigned from<br />

his position and came back home in March 2011. By May 2011, we<br />

were engaged. We married in August 2011. The rest is history. We<br />

will celebrate thirteen years of marriage this August.<br />

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

Since we are both so busy with careers and kids’ events, our date<br />

nights are mostly spent at home. We enjoy cooking and hanging<br />

around the pool. When we have time, we both enjoy traveling. We<br />

have been fortunate enough to be able to take a weeklong vacation<br />

each year just the two of us. Other than the vacation, we occasionally<br />

will attend a concert or spend a weekend on the Gulf Coast.<br />

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

We experience joy seeing our girls achieve success whether it is<br />

in academics or any number of their extracurricular activities.<br />

We enjoy watching them realize their own potential and making<br />

the connection between working hard and accomplishment.<br />

They also both happen to be beautiful, too.<br />

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

your family?<br />

I hope that we have been a good example for the girls to show them<br />

that they can accomplish anything they want, do anything they put<br />

their mind to, and be strong, independent, and successful. I hope<br />

that we have taught them to hold on to their own beliefs, despite<br />

outside influences, and also be respectful of others’ opinions even<br />

though they might be different. I also hope we have instilled the<br />

importance of family.<br />

24 • MAY 2024

What is a quick go-to meal that isn’t fast food?<br />

Lee does most of the cooking, which usually involves one of three<br />

grills. Fortunately, he is really good at it, and I do not mind at all.<br />

A quick meal usually consists of hamburgers on the grill. We buy<br />

fantastic pre-made ones from Country Meat Packers in Florence<br />

(a great Rankin County success story).<br />

How long has Rankin County been your home?<br />

As a family of four, we have lived in Rankin County for thirteen<br />

years. Lee has lived in Rankin County, when he has not been out<br />

of the country, since he was five years old - roughly forty-seven years.<br />

I’ve lived in Rankin County since I was eleven years old with an<br />

8-year hiatus–so, approximately thirty-two years.<br />

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

No matter where else we have lived, Rankin County is home. Lee<br />

has lived all over the world. I have lived all over Mississippi, but<br />

Rankin County is always home. We are enjoying the thoughtful<br />

growth that Rankin County has experienced and continues to<br />

experience like Dogwood Festival Market, restaurants, Brandon<br />

Amphitheater, the rebirth of downtown Brandon, and new restaurants.<br />

When the girls were younger, we enjoyed all the nice public<br />

parks. As a family, we enjoy going to the reservoir and up river.<br />

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

living in Rankin County?<br />

Nearly all of our accomplishments have been in Rankin County.<br />

Our biggest and most proud accomplishment is establishing our<br />

family–including extended family, Lee’s parents, and his sister.<br />

Lee has served this community, county, and state well for thirty-two<br />

years in the military and as law enforcement. I’ve served the public<br />

for years as a prosecutor and now provide legal services for the<br />

community in private practice. This role has provided the flexibility<br />

to be involved and present at most of the girls’ activities and school<br />

functions.<br />


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

Mckena I like going on vacations.<br />

Keaton I like going to the reservoir.<br />

What is your favorite restaurant?<br />

Mckena Logan’s<br />

Keaton Chick-fil-A<br />

What is your favorite tv show?<br />

McKena Love Island<br />

Keaton Young Sheldon<br />

Hometown RANKIN • 25

26 • MAY 2024

Standout<br />


What event in the life of a teenager could<br />

be more epic than<br />

high school<br />

graduation?<br />

It marks the end of one important period<br />

of your life–and the beginning of another.<br />

It’s exciting and full of anxious anticipation.<br />

But you’ve made it!<br />

Whatever you decide to do with your life after graduation–<br />

remember to follow your dreams with confidence.<br />

What feels like the end is just the beginning.<br />

We pray that wherever life takes you next,<br />

it is sure to be a great adventure!<br />

Congratulations and best wishes<br />

for your continued success!<br />

Hometown RANKIN • 27

Meri<br />

Morgan<br />



One of Meri Morgan’s most memorable highlights of<br />

her senior year is being named Miss BHS. She loves<br />

Brandon High School and has worked hard over the past<br />

four years to help make BHS a home-away-from-home<br />

for all students. Her advice to incoming freshmen is:<br />

“Get involved! There are so many different opportunities<br />

for students. Find your people, and have fun! “<br />

She holds the faculty and staff at BHS very dear and says<br />

BHS has been blessed with the best teachers. “I really<br />

can’t name just one favorite. I have loved all my teachers<br />

and am thankful for all they have done for me.”<br />

If she could change one thing during her high school years,<br />

she wishes the BHS football team would have won a state<br />

championship. She says everyone is so proud of their<br />

accomplishments and that there is nothing like a Friday<br />

night in Bulldog Stadium.<br />

Meri Morgan finds motivation in the quote: “Success is<br />

never owned; it is rented, and the rent is due every day.”<br />

While these words speak to her determination to succeed,<br />

she also makes time to enjoy the little things and make<br />

memories. As she recalls junior/senior prank week, she<br />

pauses, then says, “Let’s just say trying to roll BHS might<br />

Meri Morgan will attend the University of West Georgia<br />

to continue her cheerleading and academic journey.<br />

In ten years, Meri Morgan sees herself moving back to<br />

her hometown. She plans to live in Brandon, raise a family,<br />

and continue cheering on the Brandon Bulldogs.<br />

not be the best idea.”<br />

28 • MAY 2024

Ben<br />

GIPSON<br />


The highlight of Ben’s senior year is being blessed with<br />

the opportunity to develop and strengthen relationships<br />

with both new classmates and lifelong friends. Ben will<br />

always remember the time he got his truck stuck in the<br />

soccer field, and the whole class had to come push amid<br />

flying chunks of mud and turf grass. He recalls pressing<br />

the pedal to the floor, the whine of the strained engine,<br />

and the tires screaming for traction almost as loud as<br />

the now unrecognizable peers shouting, “Don’t stop!<br />

Don’t stop!”<br />

Mrs. Ashleigh Brown is Ben’s favorite teacher through all<br />

of high school. She has been his history teacher every<br />

year since eighth grade. Ben says, “Her care for students,<br />

passion for learning, and subject knowledge was<br />

unparalleled through my high school career.” Ben also<br />

hard. Be respectful. Be good at what you do. Get outside.<br />

Make friends. Follow the Lord’s will for your life.” Looking<br />

forward to his own next chapter, Ben values and heeds<br />

the implications of a quote from Fox Haas of Mossy Oak:<br />

“The good that men do will live long after they’re gone.”<br />

acknowledges Jason Stewart, a dual enrollment instructor<br />

from Hinds Community College. He emphatically states that<br />

Mr. Stewart is a phenomenal educator. He goes on to say,<br />

“I don’t believe I have ever learned so much in one class!”<br />

Ben plans to major in political science and pre-law at<br />

Mississippi College before receiving accreditation as a<br />

certified associate wildlife biologist through Mississippi<br />

State University’s conservation education graduate<br />

Ben has done some reflection on his high school experiences.<br />

Admittedly, he says if he could go back and change one<br />

thing, he never would have attempted to take an online<br />

algebra course. His advice to incoming freshmen is: “Work<br />

program. In ten years, Ben plans to be an attorney, as<br />

well as an associate wildlife biologist, practicing business<br />

or environmental law for a conservation organization such<br />

as Ducks Unlimited or Quail Forever.<br />

Hometown RANKIN • 29

Abigail<br />



Abigail confidently states that the highlight of her senior<br />

year was softball season. She says, “We had an amazing<br />

year that included winning back-to-back district and north<br />

state championships. The East Rankin softball program will<br />

always hold a special place in my heart, and I am so<br />

thankful for it.”<br />

Abigail’s favorite teacher throughout all of high school is<br />

Mrs. Stroh. She says Mrs. Stroh has always been supportive<br />

of her and listens whenever she needs to talk. AbigaiI will<br />

always be thankful for Mrs. Stroh’s guidance, kindness, and<br />

support. She also makes special mention of East Rankin’s<br />

entire faculty: “They have been more than great. I have<br />

always felt supported and appreciated. Thank you.”<br />

Abigail will always remember her senior homecoming:<br />

“It was such a memorable time for me, and I got to spend<br />

it with some of the most amazing people.” Immediately<br />

following the homecoming football game, where she was<br />

crowned homecoming queen, Abigial headed straight to<br />

Starkville for her official softball visit. She says, “I’ll never<br />

forget it; God has truly blessed me.”<br />

Some of the best advice Abigail has ever been given is:<br />

“You are going to make mistakes.” She adds, “Failure is<br />

inevitable, but success comes in how you respond to that<br />

failure. You can choose to feel sorry for yourself, or you can<br />

bounce back and fix it.” Abigail urges incoming freshmen,<br />

“Don’t let sports, grades, popularity, friendships, or anything<br />

else define who you are. Find your worth in Christ. He is<br />

more than enough.”<br />

“If I could go back and change one thing, it would be to<br />

not wish my life away.” Abigail says it is common for<br />

people to get caught up in the past and future, and they<br />

forget about where they are in the moment. She reflects,<br />

“I wish I would have taken a moment to enjoy all the little<br />

things in life instead of stressing about something that is<br />

coming up, and instead, live in the moment.”<br />

After graduation, Abigail will attend Mississippi State<br />

University where she will play softball and major in engineering.<br />

In ten years, Abigail hopes to be successful in<br />

whatever God has chosen for her life and enjoying each<br />

and every day.<br />

30 • MAY 2024

Lincoln<br />

JONES<br />


“Life isn’t always about getting what you want and only<br />

focusing on yourself. Nobody becomes successful working<br />

all by himself, and connections with others is one of the<br />

most important things to do to become successful,”–<br />

wise words from Sergeant Major Donahoe, one of Lincoln’s<br />

JROTC instructors. He holds this advice dear and does his<br />

best to live it out daily.<br />

Lincoln says he will always remember the time he spent<br />

on a team in JROTC. Joining the competitive teams has<br />

taught him a lot about being a better team player and<br />

what it takes to be a good leader. His natural talent has<br />

allowed him to excel, and he finds joy in encouraging and<br />

motivating others to be better versions of themselves.<br />

The highlight of Lincoln’s senior year was the JROTC<br />

Military Ball where he had a lot of fun with his friends.<br />

Participating on the different competitive teams in JROTC<br />

has built an unforgettable bond for Lincoln with his school<br />

and with different cadets across grade levels. He says the<br />

ball was a fun experience where they all got to sit back and<br />

talk about the memories they have made over the years.<br />

Lincoln’s favorite teacher throughout his high school is his<br />

track coach and math teacher, Coach Williams. He says,<br />

“Coach Williams has always inspired me to do my best,<br />

whether we’re in the classroom or on the track. He always<br />

pushed me to take the extra step, even when I didn’t want<br />

to or think it was possible.”<br />

If Lincoln could change one thing, he would go back in<br />

time to talk to more upperclassmen. He says, “I was mostly<br />

quiet when I was younger and only talked to people I<br />

knew. I wish I had talked to people who were older and<br />

wiser than I was to learn from their experiences. Even<br />

though we have parents, teachers, and coaches who are<br />

older than us, some of the most memorable advice comes<br />

from friends or older highschoolers.”<br />

Lincoln hopes incoming freshmen take opportunities to<br />

try something different. He says there is much more to<br />

high school than what happens in a classroom. It’s a place<br />

to meet people and develop yourself by learning different<br />

skills. Lincoln believes, “Even if it’s a little more than what<br />

you’re used to, pushing yourself to do more will steadily<br />

make you a better person.”<br />

After graduation, Lincoln will continue his education at the<br />

United States Military Academy at West Point to pursue a<br />

degree in computer science. He is currently considering<br />

becoming an Army engineer after college. In ten years,<br />

he plans to be working in a steady job with computers.<br />

He hopes his career takes him all over the world so he<br />

can experience different places and meet people from<br />

different cultures and backgrounds.<br />

Hometown RANKIN • 31

Jake<br />



“Just be yourself and don’t let anyone or anything change<br />

who you are,” are the words Jake Johnson hopes incoming<br />

high school freshmen will remember as they embark on their<br />

secondary journeys. Jake certainly leans into who he is and all<br />

his many interests from sports, to music, to missions. He is<br />

confident in his choices and chooses not to spend time<br />

“crying over spilled milk,” per his favorite quote; instead, he<br />

values the experiences he has had and plans to pursue his<br />

passions through college and into his career.<br />

Some of Jake’s favorite memories from high school include<br />

his senior mission trip to the Dominican Republic and being a<br />

Hartfield Huncho, supporting the Hawks football team to a<br />

After graduation, Jake will be attending Mississippi State<br />

University and majoring in finance. In ten years, Jake hopes<br />

to be well-established as a professional in the music industry.<br />

state championship win. He also recalls sharing new music<br />

with his favorite teacher Coach Stuardt Saxton and a special<br />

time when they “got to jam together” in class sophomore<br />

year. Jake would not change anything about the past four<br />

years. He says, “My high school experience has been great,<br />

and there’s not much that I regret.”<br />

32 • MAY 2024

Lilly<br />



The best advice Lilly has ever received is: “Be yourself no<br />

matter what others think.” Being so heavily involved in theatre<br />

and show choir, she says it has been difficult at times to not<br />

care about others’ opinions. However, she has learned an<br />

important lesson: “I have found that what you love to do and<br />

what you are passionate about is way more important than<br />

someone else’s opinion,” she claims. “Doing what makes you<br />

happy will lead to such a positive high school experience, and<br />

the people you meet and the memories you make are so<br />

much more valuable to you in the long run.”<br />

The highlight of Lilly’s senior year was a show choir trip to<br />

Los Angeles and bringing home first place on her eighteenth<br />

birthday. She was the senior Reveillon member who went on<br />

stage to receive their trophy and says having all of their hard<br />

work pay off at her last show choir competition was a very<br />

rewarding experience.<br />

Lilly’s favorite teacher throughout high school is her math<br />

teacher, Mrs. Daniels. Not only is she Lilly’s senior math teacher,<br />

but Mrs. Daniels has also been her teacher-advisor for the<br />

past three years. Lilly says Mrs. Daniels has been an amazing<br />

mentor and truly cares about her students. She adds, “Her<br />

patience and understanding towards me has made all the<br />

difference throughout the years, and she has most definitely<br />

impacted my high school experience for the better.”<br />

Lilly will always remember the Jackson Prep Lower School<br />

and its effect on her senior year. “The kids at the lower school<br />

have helped me more than they know, and being able to walk<br />

over and spend time with them has been such an incredible<br />

thing to add to my senior year.” Lilly’s mother is a pre-K3<br />

teacher. She says that nothing brightens her day more than<br />

going over to her mom’s class to play on the playground or<br />

read books with her students. She says, “I am so glad that<br />

I was able to experience the lower school my senior year,<br />

even if it was for a short time.”<br />

Lilly says she has always been very hard on herself when it<br />

comes to test scores and exams, and if she could change<br />

something, it would be the way she thought of herself after<br />

making a bad grade. She says, “At the end of the day, a bad<br />

grade on a test doesn’t define me as a person, and having<br />

room for improvement is not a bad thing.”<br />

Lilly advises incoming freshmen not to be afraid to leave<br />

their circles of comfort. She says, “High school is a time to<br />

find yourself and what you love to do, so do not hesitate to<br />

try out for something that you may have never seen yourself<br />

participating in.” She believes it is better to try something<br />

new rather than regret missed opportunities later.<br />

Next year, Lilly will be attending the University of Arkansas<br />

and majoring in political science. She plans to eventually go<br />

to law school with a focus in entertainment law. She is very<br />

excited for the next chapter in her life and cannot wait to<br />

meet new friends and watch herself grow in an entirely new<br />

environment. In ten years, Lilly plans to be a practicing<br />

attorney. She hopes to live in a large city and have<br />

opportunities to travel and see the world.<br />

Hometown RANKIN • 33

Hannah<br />

Claire<br />

SMITH<br />

PISGAH<br />

Hannah Claire’s favorite part of high school has been being<br />

a member of the cheerleading squad and cheering on the<br />

Dragons for the past six years. Pisgah football games and<br />

the memories made sharing the sidelines with her best<br />

friends are ones she will always cherish.<br />

The highlight of Hannah Claire’s senior year was being<br />

crowned homecoming queen. She was very honored to<br />

be chosen by her peers to represent her school. She<br />

credits her family, friends, and teachers for making that<br />

night special for her. One of those teachers is Mrs. Kelsey<br />

Treadwell, Hannah Claire’s favorite teacher throughout all<br />

of high school. She appreciates all the ways Mrs. Treadwell<br />

has invested in her over the years through teaching,<br />

coaching, and friendship. Mrs. Treadwell has always given<br />

Hannah Claire the best advice and has truly helped her<br />

grow as a person. Hannah Claire will forever be grateful<br />

for Mrs. Treadwell’s support.<br />

Hannah Claire’s advice to incoming freshmen is:<br />

“The people you choose to surround yourself with will<br />

shape you, so surround yourself with people who lift you<br />

up!” She also encourages students to meet new people<br />

and be open to getting to know others who appear to be<br />

different from them. She says, “You never know what kind<br />

of friendship you could miss out on just because you think<br />

you don’t have anything in common with someone.”<br />

Hannah Claire says she would not go back and change<br />

anything. She believes all her experiences throughout high<br />

school have either brought her joy or taught her a lesson<br />

that allowed her to grow into the person she is today. She<br />

says the best advice she has ever been given was from her<br />

mom who said, “It doesn’t matter what other people say<br />

or do to you because you aren’t supposed to be living to<br />

please others. Instead, live to be more like Jesus!”<br />

After graduation, Hannah Claire will be attending<br />

Mississippi College to pursue a degree in nursing.<br />

Upon completion of her bachelor’s, she plans to gain<br />

nursing experience then return to school to become a<br />

nurse practitioner. In ten years, Hannah Claire plans to<br />

be working as a pediatric nurse practitioner, married,<br />

and raising children.<br />

34 • MAY 2024

Nathan<br />

GRICE<br />


The highlight of Nathan’s senior year is now having the<br />

ability to look back at how far he has come. He cherishes<br />

all the effort that he and his friends have put forth sideby-side<br />

over the years and how those efforts have<br />

provided them promising futures. “Being able to stop,<br />

turn around, and see the adventures we have had is<br />

an amazing feeling.”<br />

Nathan is quick to name Mr. Patrick Lemoine as his<br />

favorite teacher. He has been Nathan’s agriculture teacher<br />

for the past five years as well as his FFA and 4-H advisor.<br />

Nathan credits Mr. Lemoine’s guidance and leadership as<br />

the sources for multiple state victories and high national<br />

rankings in forestry, poultry, and meat competitions.<br />

“It has been an honor to learn from and work for<br />

Mr. Lemoine, and I would gladly do it again.”<br />

Nathan says he will always remember how proud his<br />

teachers, faculty, and fellow students are of each other<br />

as they face new challenges each day. He speaks fondly<br />

of his hometown and the important role its community<br />

has played in his life. “Puckett has been an amazing place<br />

to live and grow, and I am reminded of that every day by<br />

the good people surrounding me.”<br />

The best advice Nathan has ever been given are words<br />

he says he lives by daily: “Give it all to God.” He goes on<br />

to say, “Nothing is too great for the good Lord to handle,<br />

and every tough day that I have ever faced was instantly<br />

turned around with this one action. When the Lord is for<br />

me, what should I fear?” That said, it is no surprise that<br />

Nathan says he would not go back to change a single<br />

thing. “I have had a blessed life, and there is much more<br />

to come. The hardships that I face are simply learning<br />

opportunities that equip me for the future. I believe<br />

I was, am, and will always be right where I belong.”<br />

Nathan advises incoming freshmen to heed the wise<br />

words of George Strait: “We aren’t here for a long time,<br />

but we are here for a good time.” He says they should sit<br />

down, buckle up, and grab a Red Bull because they are in<br />

for a wild ride. “High school seems overwhelming at first,<br />

but as it flies by, memories will collect.”<br />

Following graduation, Nathan will attend Copiah-Lincoln<br />

Community College where he will join the Blue Wave<br />

Show Band and become part of Co-Lin’s various music<br />

programs. He will begin pursuing a degree in mechanical<br />

engineering through Co-Lin that he will complete upon<br />

transferring to Mississippi State University.<br />

In ten years, Nathan sees himself working in mechanical<br />

engineering, having a family, and, “Quite possibly driving<br />

a King Ranch F-250.” Most of all, he sees himself following<br />

the Lord, carrying His light with him everywhere he goes,<br />

and sharing His love with the world.<br />

Hometown RANKIN • 35

Tyranisha<br />

McLIN<br />


The highlight of Tyranisha’s senior year is being inducted<br />

into her school’s hall of fame. She is very thankful to be a<br />

part of it, and, through that process, she learned that<br />

anything is possible.<br />

Tyranisha’s favorite teacher throughout high school is<br />

Mrs. Lydia Herd. Mrs. Herd has been very helpful to<br />

Tyranisha, and her support and encouragement have<br />

allowed Tyranisha to see art in a completely new way.<br />

Mrs. Herd’s confidence in Tyranisha pushed her to work<br />

hard and improve her skills and artwork, which has opened<br />

doors for multiple opportunities for her.<br />

Tyranisha confidently claims she will always remember to<br />

keep God first and never give up. She will push through<br />

anything no matter how challenging it may be. Most<br />

importantly, she will always take time to enjoy family and<br />

friends and will live her life to the fullest. The best advice<br />

Tyranisha has ever been given echoes these sentiments:<br />

“Keep God first. Stay focused on your education. Explore<br />

life. Never settle for less.”<br />

Tyranisha wishes she could go back and “put herself out<br />

there” a little more. She wishes she would have been more<br />

open to trying new things and taken advantage of new<br />

opportunities sooner. She wants younger students to do<br />

what she did not. She says, “Some advice I would give to<br />

incoming freshmen is to not be afraid to take a step<br />

forward. Try your best at whatever you do, and push<br />

yourself to work harder, even when you think there is no<br />

hope because, in the end, it will all pay off.”<br />

After graduation, Tyranisha will attend William Carey<br />

University, where she will pursue a bachelor’s degree in<br />

art. Then, she plans to further her education through a<br />

degree in business. In ten years, Tyranisha sees herself<br />

having a successful career in art while also gaining more<br />

knowledge and experience. She would like to be able to<br />

travel regularly. Some of her dream destinations are Dubai,<br />

the Bahamas, Paris, Jamaica, Egypt, and Bora Bora. She<br />

also plans to open her own art studio so she can share<br />

her art and inspire others to express themselves through<br />

art as well.<br />

36 • MAY 2024

Kate<br />

HULSEY<br />


The highlight of Kate’s senior year is being awarded the<br />

Legion of Valor award. The Legion of Valor is a JROTC<br />

award presented annually to approximately twenty-five<br />

cadets in JROTC programs across the country. Out of<br />

nearly 500,000 cadets in these programs, there were<br />

roughly 1,900 cadets nominated, and Kate says she is<br />

blessed to be one of twenty-six to receive the award.<br />

Kate was shocked and excited when Northwest Rankin<br />

principal, Mr. Lewis Bradford, surprised her with the news<br />

in the middle of lunch during homecoming week. She was<br />

then later recognized during a pep rally and presented<br />

with the official award by (Retired) General Harold A. Cross.<br />

Kate assuredly says her favorite teacher throughout high<br />

school is Mrs. Lora North. Mrs. North is a Spanish teacher<br />

who teaches a variety of levels of the language. She has<br />

taught Kate all four years high school through Spanish II,<br />

III, IV, and AP Spanish. Kate speaks fondly of Mrs. North:<br />

“She is an amazing teacher who cares so much for each<br />

and every student who passes through her classroom.<br />

Each year, she has not only pushed me to further my<br />

understanding and knowledge of the Spanish language<br />

and culture, but she has also pushed me to be the best<br />

student and person I could be on every level.”<br />

Kate says the best advice she has every received is:<br />

“Everything happens for a reason.” A former gymnastics<br />

coach said this to her to remind her that good things come<br />

from hard days. She says, “I have learned to apply this to all<br />

aspects of my life through reminding myself that whether<br />

it be school or a sport, sometimes you just need to take a<br />

step back, take a deep breath, and know that everything is<br />

going to work out according to God’s plan.”<br />

If she could go back and change one thing, Kate says she<br />

would be more open to talking to new people and making<br />

new friends and that the friendships she has made throughout<br />

high school have been so important to her and full of<br />

support and laughter. “Had I quit being too shy or too<br />

nervous of how someone might think of me, I may have<br />

talked to someone I usually wouldn’t have and made a<br />

new friend along the way.”<br />

Kate advises incoming freshmen to enjoy every moment.<br />

She acknowledges how often high schoolers hear, “The<br />

days go by so fast,” but insists this is the truth. She wants<br />

them to know the stress they may feel is only temporary,<br />

and the friends and experiences they have are what is<br />

important. She says, “Focus on finding the people who<br />

share the exciting moments with you so that you have<br />

memories to look back on twenty years down the road.”<br />

Kate will be attending the University of Mississippi, where<br />

she will major in biochemistry and minor in Spanish as well<br />

as compete for the Rebel track and field team as a pole<br />

vaulter. During her sophomore year, Kate cleared three<br />

new, personal best heights in pole vault and set a new<br />

high school girls’ pole vault state record at 13’ 1.75”. She is<br />

excited to continue her academic and athletic careers at<br />

Ole Miss.<br />

In ten years, Kate plans to be a practicing physician’s<br />

assistant in pediatric oncology.<br />

Hometown RANKIN • 37

Chris<br />



Soli Deo Gloria<br />

For the past two years or so, Chris and his best friend<br />

Jaydon have tried to one-up each other with ridiculous<br />

birthday gifts. This year, Jaydon got Chris something he<br />

says he will never top. Jaydon found a website that creates<br />

custom pillows from photographs. Jaydon chose to give<br />

Chris a three-foot-tall pillow featuring the face of his<br />

track/cross-country coach. Chris says, “I have never laughed<br />

so hard in my life! Of course, my coach thought it was<br />

hilarious, too, and it’s something I will never forget.”<br />

Actually, Chris says the best advice he has ever been given<br />

came from his track/cross-country coach, Dr. Wyck Neely.<br />

Dr. Neely has taught Chris the importance of mental strength.<br />

He remarks, “Distance running is a very mind-oriented<br />

sport that requires a lot of mental strength. The biggest<br />

takeaway I have learned from Dr. Neely is that there is<br />

always something left in your fuel tank; you just have to<br />

find it. You may have to dig down deep to reach it, but<br />

you always have something left in you.”<br />

When asked who is his favorite teacher throughout all of<br />

high school, Chris hesitates, “That’s a tough one, I don’t<br />

want any of my teachers to feel hurt because I didn’t<br />

choose them. I love them all, but if I had to choose, I would<br />

probably say Mr. John Clendinning is my favorite. I love<br />

literature, and when we were studying American literature,<br />

I remember that class being the only core class that I<br />

would actually look forward to every day. He managed to<br />

make that class incredibly fun.” Chris also mentions his<br />

drama teacher and says he will always remember the plays<br />

in which he has participated as part of PPCA’s drama class.<br />

“Mrs. Tami Ham is an excellent drama teacher and has put<br />

up with way too many of our shenanigans. We love her,<br />

and I will miss my time in her class.”<br />

Chris has been singing for thirteen years and loves music.<br />

But if he could go back and change one thing, he would<br />

have started learning to play an instrument when he was<br />

much younger. He is currently learning to play the guitar<br />

and wishes he would have developed the habit of practicing<br />

at a young age. He says, “I realize that it is never too late to<br />

start something, but I regret not being more disciplined<br />

about that.”<br />

Chris has sound advice for incoming freshmen. He urges<br />

them to maintain a good work ethic, have fun, but remember<br />

due dates. He wants them to jump at every opportunity to<br />

do something interesting: “If you can go on a mission trip,<br />

do it. If you can represent your school in something<br />

interesting, do it. Take every opportunity you are given.<br />

You never know what looks good on a college resume,<br />

and you’ll never find something you’re passionate about<br />

unless you try something new.” Lastly, Chris wants students<br />

entering high school to remember to seek God above<br />

everything else. He adds, “The Christian life is not easy.<br />

In fact, it may be much harder after you begin to trust<br />

Jesus, but I promise there is nothing more worth it than to<br />

give your life to Christ.” Then, Chris references Matthew<br />

6:19-21, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on Earth,<br />

where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in<br />

and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in Heaven,<br />

where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves<br />

do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there<br />

your heart will be also.”<br />

Chris says he doesn’t know where he will be in ten years,<br />

but he knows where he wants to be. He desires to learn<br />

more about music theory and how to conduct a choir. He<br />

would also like to have run at least one marathon, maybe<br />

more. He believes he is being called into Christian ministry,<br />

and he would like to have started a career in whatever<br />

God has called him to do. Right now, he believes that is<br />

music ministry. So, Chris plans to attend Mississippi College,<br />

where he will major in music education and minor in<br />

ministry studies. His ultimate goal is to be a music<br />

minister, but he is willing to go wherever God calls him.<br />

38 • MAY 2024

Oakley<br />

BOUNDS<br />


“In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct<br />

your paths.” These words from Proverbs 3:6 are ones<br />

Oakley holds dear. He says he will always remember the<br />

lessons he has learned throughout his high school career<br />

and describes the highlight of his senior year: “All the<br />

laughs and tears that I have had the privilege of sharing<br />

with my friends over this past year.” There have been<br />

countless good and bad times, and each one has taught<br />

him a different lesson, whether it be the importance of<br />

hard work or simply understanding that he cannot<br />

control everything.<br />

Mrs. Jo Ann Crawford is Oakley’s favorite teacher because<br />

she never failed to demand the best from him, especially<br />

when he did not demand it of himself. He says she saw<br />

something in him and would not let him settle for less.<br />

Furthermore, her focus was never just on results or<br />

knowing everything for her class. Oakley says, “To her, it<br />

was all about the process and enlightening us through<br />

literature, and that has really left an impact on me.”<br />

If Oakley could go back and change something about his<br />

high school experience, he says he would change all the<br />

times he did not give his best or go the extra mile, especially<br />

with sports. He has gained a valuable perspective<br />

and says that just few years ago, he did not always understand<br />

what a privilege it is to play high school sports. Since<br />

then, he has realized there is nothing else quite like it, and<br />

he oftentimes took it for granted. To that end, he urges<br />

incoming freshmen to give their best in all that they do<br />

and not to let fear of failure hold them back. He adds, “You<br />

will never regret giving too much effort, and you will<br />

remember the times you could’ve given more.”<br />

After graduation, Oakley plans to pursue a bachelor’s<br />

degree in aerospace engineering. In ten years, he sees<br />

himself serving the Lord’s purpose for his life in whatever<br />

way He sees fit. He hopes to be a husband, possibly a<br />

father, and working as an aerospace engineer.<br />

Hometown RANKIN • 39

Jimmy<br />



The highlight of Jimmy’s senior year is winning the district<br />

championship for both soccer and basketball. These wins<br />

meant so much to him because they were a result of the<br />

teamwork and dedication he and his teammates had to<br />

support one another throughout their seasons. Jimmy<br />

was proud to represent his school and says these events<br />

will always be a favorite memory.<br />

Jimmy names Mrs. Angela skinner as his favorite teacher<br />

because she taught him well and helped him learn many<br />

lessons throughout his high school years. He says she<br />

always manages to put a smile on all of her students’<br />

faces, and she encourages her students to strive for their<br />

personal bests. Jimmy says, “I thank her for all she has<br />

done for me.”<br />

The best advice Jimmy says he has ever received is: “Only<br />

focus on what you can control.” Looking back, he considers<br />

what he might change. “If I could go back and change one<br />

thing, I would change my mindset,” he remarks. Until his<br />

junior year, Jimmy says he only looked at life from a<br />

negative perspective; he struggled to find the positive. He<br />

did not enjoy school and viewed it as a punishment.<br />

During his senior year, he realized school “really is not that<br />

bad.” As he enters into young adulthood, Jimmy is realizing<br />

he is more positive, which has greatly improved his<br />

mental health. He wishes he would have had adopted an<br />

optimistic mindset long ago. He hopes incoming freshmen<br />

recognize and use the power they have over their own<br />

circumstances and that they have fun, too, of course!<br />

After graduation, Jimmy will attend the electrical program<br />

at Hinds Community College and, in ten years, he hopes to<br />

be working as an electrician and living a productive life.<br />

40 • MAY 2024

Isaiah<br />

HARRIS<br />


Isaiah will always remember the mixture of emotions<br />

that comes along with senior year. Those feelings have<br />

prompted him to reflect on his past decisions, celebrate<br />

his achievements, and look forward to the opportunities<br />

that lie ahead. So, his advice to incoming freshmen is:<br />

“Don’t ever short yourself - no matter the circumstances.”<br />

The best advice Isaiah has ever been given is: “Don’t be<br />

passive. Always take initiative!” Funny enough, if he could<br />

go back and change one thing, he would have started<br />

saving money in kindergarten.<br />

His favorite teacher throughout high school is Mr. Rodgers,<br />

whose intelligence and wisdom Isaiah admires greatly.<br />

Mr. Rodgers values his relationships with students and<br />

offers them many life lessons in addition to academic<br />

knowledge. Isaiah says he will always cherish Mr. Rodgers’s<br />

guidance.<br />

Graduating basic combat training was the most significant<br />

milestone of Isaiah’s senior year. The skills, discipline, and<br />

camaraderie he developed will serve as a strong foundation<br />

for his future. After graduation, he will transition into<br />

advanced individual training to become a military police<br />

officer. Upon returning, he will pursue education at the<br />

Baptist Theological Seminary in New Orleans and major<br />

in Biblical studies.<br />

In ten years, Isaiah will continue trusting in his faith,<br />

allowing himself to be guided by God, and believes<br />

He has placed him where he needs to be to fulfill a<br />

purpose-driven life. Isaiah plans to be a college graduate,<br />

to have served ten plus years in the armed forces, to be<br />

very successful in his profession, and to be a doting<br />

husband and father.<br />

Hometown RANKIN • 41

42 • MAY 2024

BE HEARD<br />

IN YOUR<br />

HEALTH<br />

What’s on your mind matters in your care. And sometimes, it’s hard<br />

to know the right questions to ask or a simple way to ask them. It’s<br />

our job to make that conversation easier, to stay with you for longer,<br />

to be there when you need us — to listen. That’s our priority and our<br />

promise. So, tell us what concerns you. Tell us your story. The doctor<br />

will hear you now. Learn more at stdom.com/listen.<br />

T H E<br />

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Hometown RANKIN • 43

Chicken Tortillas<br />

• 1 pkg. of flour tortillas<br />

• 6 boneless chicken breasts<br />

• 1 medium onion, chopped<br />

• 1 lb. shredded Monterey jack<br />

cheese<br />

• ¼ stick of butter<br />

• 2 Tbsp. flour<br />

• 2 cups chicken broth<br />

White Sauce<br />

Melt ¼ stick of butter. Add 2 Tbsp.<br />

flour and 2 cups of chicken broth.<br />

Cook until thickened and set aside.<br />

Preheat oven to 350. Cook chicken<br />

breasts and sautee onion. Mix<br />

chicken, onions, and cheese. Roll<br />

some of the mixture in each tortilla.<br />

Pour the white sauce on top,<br />

and bake for<br />

20 minutes.<br />

Sprinkle<br />

cheese on<br />

top and serve.<br />

Shrimp Creole<br />

• 1 cup chopped onion<br />

• 1 large green pepper, finely chopped<br />

• 1 cup okra sliced across<br />

• ½ cup ham or bacon grease<br />

• 3 Tbsp. flour<br />

• ½ cup hot water<br />

• 1 cup tomato juice<br />

• 2 or more cans of shrimp<br />

• Chili powder to taste<br />

• Black pepper to taste<br />

• Minced garlic to taste<br />

• Red pepper to taste<br />

Brown onion in bacon grease. Add<br />

green pepper and okra. Sprinkle<br />

with flour and cook until dark in<br />

color. Add hot water, and cook for<br />

15 minutes. Add tomato juice and<br />

seasonings. Cook 15 minutes more.<br />

Add shrimp, and serve over rice.<br />

Strawberry Butter<br />

• 1 cup unsalted butter, softened<br />

• 1 10 oz. package frozen, sugared,<br />

sliced strawberries<br />

(drain and save juice)<br />

• ½ cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted<br />

Whip butter, add sugar and whip<br />

again. Add strawberries, and whip<br />

more. Gradually stir juice into<br />

mixture.<br />

Taco Salad<br />

• 1 lb. hamburger meat<br />

• 1 head of lettuce, chopped<br />

• 1-2 tomatoes, chopped<br />

• 1 red onion, chopped<br />

• 1 lb. grated cheese<br />

• 1 can drained kidney beans<br />

• 1 bag of Fritos<br />

• 1 bottle Thousand Island dressing<br />

Brown meat. Add taco seasoning,<br />

but do NOT add water. Stir<br />

together. Mix lettuce, tomato, onion,<br />

grated cheese, and beans together.<br />

Add meat to the salad mixture.<br />

Toss with Fritos and Thousand<br />

Island dressing.<br />

Twinkie Dessert<br />

• 1 box of Twinkies<br />

• 8 oz. cream cheese, softened<br />

• 8 oz. whipped topping<br />

• 1 can condensed milk<br />

• Strawberries, sliced<br />

Halve Twinkies and lay filling side<br />

up in a dish. Mix together softened<br />

cream cheese and condensed milk.<br />

Fold in whipped topping. Pour over<br />

Twinkies. Slice strawberries, and add<br />

sugar to them until it makes a juice.<br />

Pour on top, and refrigerate.<br />

44 • MAY 2024

Caramel Icing<br />

• 2 cups of sugar<br />

• ½ cup sugar<br />

• ½ pt. whipping cream<br />

• 1 stick oleo<br />

Mix whipping cream and 2 cups of<br />

sugar in a boiler, and bring to a boil.<br />

In a black iron skillet, heat ½ cup<br />

sugar on low heat to caramelize.<br />

Mix everything together, and bring to<br />

a hard boil. Beat until thick by adding<br />

1 stick of oleo to the mixture.<br />

Julia’s Green Beans<br />

• 4 16 oz. cans whole green beans,<br />

drained<br />

• 1 medium onion sliced into rings<br />

• 1 12 oz. package of bacon<br />

• ¾ cup brown sugar<br />

• ¾ cups vinegar<br />

Place green beans in a baking dish.<br />

Spread onions over green beans.<br />

Fry bacon until really crispy, and keep<br />

drippings. Crumble the bacon and<br />

sprinkle over the beans. Let the grease<br />

cool, then add brown sugar and<br />

vinegar until the sugar dissolves.<br />

Pour the mixture over the<br />

beans and chill overnight.<br />

Bake at 325 for 1 hour.<br />

Chocolate Èclair Dessert<br />

• 1 box graham crackers<br />

• 1 tub regular Cool Whip<br />

• 1 large box of vanilla pudding<br />

• cocoa<br />

• confectioner’s sugar<br />

• butter<br />

Make pudding according to directions.<br />

Let sit a few minutes to thicken. Mix<br />

in cool whip. Layer a 9x13 dish as<br />

follows: graham cracker on bottom,<br />

pudding mixture, graham crackers<br />

pudding mixture, graham crackers.<br />

Icing<br />

• 3 Tbsp. melted butter<br />

• ½ cup cocoa<br />

• 1½ cup confectioner’s sugar<br />

• 2-3 Tbsp. whole milk<br />

• 2 tsp. vanilla<br />

Mix all ingredients and spread on top<br />

of the graham crackers.<br />

Pepper Steak<br />

• 1 chuck roast<br />

• 1 large white onion<br />

• 1 large green pepper<br />

• soy sauce<br />

• cornstarch<br />

• salt and pepper to taste<br />

Cut the roast into strips, and soak in<br />

soy sauce for at least 3 hours. Cut<br />

onion and bell pepper into strips.<br />

Brown the meat in one pan and<br />

onions and peppers in another. Mix<br />

meat with peppers and onions. Mix<br />

corn starch and water in a glass, then<br />

add to mixture to thicken. Add soy<br />

sauce and salt and pepper to taste.<br />

Simmer for 15 minutes. Serve over<br />

rice, and top with chow mein<br />

noodles.<br />

Jamie Elmo<br />

Growing up in Carthage, Jamie was<br />

left the legacy of many great cooks<br />

in her life. She grew up during a time<br />

when families sat around tables to<br />

enjoy meals together that usually<br />

consisted of fresh vegetables. It was<br />

good, “country cooking ,” bacon<br />

grease and all!<br />

Julia Peoples, Jamie’s mother, was<br />

a fabulous cook, which resulted in<br />

passing on the love of cooking to Jamie.<br />

Jamie and her husband of twenty-six<br />

years, Craig Elmo, make their home<br />

in Brandon. Jamie is retired from<br />

Entergy after thirty-eight years in<br />

customer service. This leaves more time<br />

to cook for family and friends. She is<br />

well-known for her cinnamon bread<br />

and gives it away weekly to some<br />

lucky person or persons. A dear friend<br />

gave her “Herman” starter twenty-six<br />

years ago and she has been making it<br />

weekly ever since.<br />

Happiest times for Jamie are in the<br />

kitchen preparing for visits from<br />

Julia Eastland and her family.<br />

Hometown RANKIN • 45

46 • MAY 2024

Hometown RANKIN • 47

1 2 3<br />

4<br />

5<br />

6<br />

7<br />

8<br />

9<br />

10<br />

11<br />

12<br />

13<br />

14<br />

48 • MAY 2024


What’s your favorite thing<br />

to do with your mom?<br />

1. Cooper Batson<br />

6TH GRADE<br />

Watching movies together.<br />

2. Garrett Smith<br />

6TH GRADE<br />

Playing video games together.<br />

3. Eliana Ashe<br />

7TH GRADE<br />

Shopping.<br />

4. Kynnedi Rankin<br />

7TH GRADE<br />

Going to get our nails done.<br />

5. Madaline<br />

Vanlandingham<br />

7TH GRADE<br />

Going to church and going out to eat.<br />

6. TJ Jackson<br />

7TH GRADE<br />

Going to shop for some new shoes.<br />

7. Lyric Landry<br />

8TH GRADE<br />

Baking.<br />

8. Kaleigh Bailey<br />

8TH GRADE<br />

Going to get our nails done<br />

and shopping together.<br />

9. Kaylee Williams<br />

8TH GRADE<br />

Going shopping.<br />

10. D’Lalah Friday<br />

8TH GRADE<br />

Going out to eat and shopping.<br />

11. Makayla Guillory<br />

8TH GRADE<br />

Going out to eat and shopping.<br />

12. John Parker Greer<br />

8TH GRADE<br />

Watching Alabama football.<br />

13. Ja’Cobie Harris<br />

8TH GRADE<br />

Go out to eat at Yummy.<br />

14. Andrew Caraway<br />

8TH GRADE<br />

Going to the car wash together.<br />

We go once a week.<br />

Hometown RANKIN • 49

RCSD<br />

Disco<br />

Party<br />

Prom<br />

Florence High School JROTC students,<br />

under the direction of Sergeant Major (R)<br />

Douglas Feazell, escorted 9-12th graders<br />

from the District’s self-contained classes<br />

down the red carpet for a very special<br />

evening. The Florence High School<br />

Student Council partnered with students<br />

as professional photos were taken and<br />

donated by Corey Smith. Candids were<br />

taken by Florence High School yearbook<br />

staff member Sarah Kathryn Branch.<br />

Dewayne Williams, aka DJ Hypnotic,<br />

was the amazing DJ for the night and<br />

Simply Balloons created the beautiful<br />

disco-themed balloon entrance.<br />

Northwest Rankin High School’s<br />

self-contained class prepared and<br />

provided the food for the night.<br />

Florence High School transition classes,<br />

under the direction of Brittany Eaves and<br />

Tiffany Withers, worked hard to make it<br />

all happen. Special thanks also go to<br />

McLaurin’s self-contained class under the<br />

direction of Nicole Wimberly, Miss Kim,<br />

Nicole Greer, Shalonda Powell, Tricia<br />

Bennett, Amy McAlister, Mr. Miles,<br />

Mr. Roberto, and many more!<br />

50 • MAY 2024

Hometown RANKIN • 51

52 • MAY 2024

Hometown RANKIN • 53


®<br />


From Playroom to Boardroom<br />

Growing up, you always took make-believe to the<br />

next level. Today, you still pursue the full potential<br />

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people to their dreams is our true passion.<br />

Every great relationship has an Origin story.<br />

Start yours today at Origin.Bank/YourStory<br />


ENJOY<br />

At The Blake at Flowood, we are committed<br />

to giving you fresh experiences. That’s why<br />

our activities calendar is full of opportunities<br />

to try out new hobbies, play games, learn<br />

about history and art, explore local<br />

attractions, and enjoy good company! We<br />

ensure that each day for our residents feels<br />

like a vacation, not just through our beautiful<br />

sun-lit spaces and our restaurant-style<br />

dining, but through a wide variety of events<br />

and daily get-togethers. Call today to<br />

schedule your tour and experience how The<br />

Blake at Flowood makes every day exciting!<br />


Call (769) 305-9265 to schedule your tour!<br />

350 Town Center Way, Flowood, MS 39232<br />

blakeseniorliving.com/flowood<br />

54 • MAY 2024

From One<br />

Generation<br />

to the Next<br />

It was an observant person who understood families and said,<br />

“They’re like fudge – mostly sweet with a few nuts.”<br />

For sure, a few “nuts” are scattered through our families. Maybe there’s<br />

a black or spotted sheep – and maybe every member is not blood-kin,<br />

but for the majority of these God-ordained collections of humans<br />

in a family - we stick like glue or hair and bubble gum!<br />

This issue’s Mother’s Day feature highlights generations of families<br />

and personal looks at their own generation. You’ll see some similarities<br />

and some vast changes, but there’s one constant – love.<br />

That key ingredient binds families together from “start to finish.”<br />

Hometown RANKIN • 55

What was your favorite childhood game?<br />

Denelda Growing up in northern Montana in the late 1930’s, most of our<br />

playtime was in the snow. The snow drifts were so high we had to tie<br />

a rope around my dad’s waist when he went out to the barn. The rope<br />

would lead him back to the house.<br />

Brenda Growing up in California, my mom and I would make cupcakes<br />

in a cone. I would sit in the front yard and sell them. One day, my mom<br />

looked out the kitchen window to see how I was doing and the Hell’s<br />

Angels had seen me from the interstate, veered off, and stopped to<br />

buy a cupcake cone from me.<br />

Glenda Hopscotch. My mom would give us an old necklace to use as<br />

our marker. She sure must have had a lot of old necklaces!<br />

Taylor Growing up, the lot behind our house was vacant. We would<br />

have neighborhood baseball and kickball games on that lot.<br />

Olivia My favorite game was playing school with my “cove friends.”<br />

I was the teacher, and I would insist the other kids be my students.<br />

1st Generation<br />

Denelda Tobiason Smith<br />

Outlook, Montana, 1953<br />

2nd Generation<br />

Brenda Smith Myers<br />

Pearl High School, 1974<br />

2nd Generation<br />

Glenda Smith Thurman<br />

Pearl High School, 1978<br />

3rd Generation<br />

Olivia Myers Dees<br />

Pearl High School, 2005<br />

3rd Generation<br />

Taylor Thurman Henderson<br />

Pearl High School, 2009<br />

4th Generation<br />

Norah Alexandra Dees<br />

2½ years<br />

4th Generation<br />

Mary Parker Henderson<br />

18 months<br />

4th Generation<br />

Lennon Kate Dees<br />

6 months<br />

Describe a typical outfit you would wear to high school.<br />

Denelda A skirt, blouse, and tennis shoes. In the winter, we were<br />

allowed to wear pants and a sweater.<br />

Brenda Low-rise bell bottom jeans and tennis shoes.<br />

Glenda Low-rise bell bottom jeans and tennis shoes.<br />

Olivia I was obsessed with Abercrombie and Fitch. That is all I would wear.<br />

Taylor Pearl schools required uniforms through middle school. When I<br />

was in high school, I wore jeans, v-neck t-shirts, and Wallabees.<br />

What age were you allowed to begin dating?<br />

Denelda Our town and school were so small, we all went to movies<br />

and dancing as as group. I began dating when I graduated high school.<br />

I met my husband on a blind date.<br />

Brenda My first date was when I was sixteen. We went to an afternoon<br />

matinee of Gone with the Wind . My dad said I had to be home before<br />

dark. I had no idea Gone with the Wind was a four-hour movie!<br />

Glenda I was not allowed to date until I was sixteen. Not one minute<br />

before. My sister must have negotiated the after-dark rule before<br />

I reached sixteen!<br />

Olivia I was sixteen. Sounds like it was a family rule!<br />

Taylor My first date was a group date to the movies in the sixth grade.<br />

My first real date was in the 8th or 9th grade.<br />

Describe a date night during your generation.<br />

Denelda Going out dancing was a favorite. Our town was five miles<br />

from the Canadian border. We would cross the border to go dancing<br />

but had to cross back over prior to midnight or the border was closed.<br />

Brenda During high school, we would go to a movie. There were no<br />

fast-food restaurants in Pearl. After high school, we loved going out<br />

dancing to Marney’s or the Zodiac.<br />

Glenda Dinner and a movie. Your date had to come to the house and<br />

pick you up and meet your parents. I had a very strict curfew of 11pm.<br />

Olivia We mainly went on group dates to Bonsai or O’Charley’s.<br />

We went so often; the servers knew exactly what our order would be.<br />

Taylor Movies and a Mexican restaurant.<br />

As a child, what was your favorite sweet treat?<br />

Denelda My mom would make cupcakes from scratch.<br />

Brenda Rice Krispy Treats.<br />

Glenda Snickers bar - still is!<br />

Olivia My mom’s homemade sugar cookies with buttercream icing.<br />

She would invite my girlfriends over and let us decorate them while<br />

their moms went Christmas shopping. We called it “Cookie House.”<br />

She still makes them for holidays throughout the year.<br />

Taylor Ice cream Blast from Sonic.<br />

56 • MAY 2024

Who was your favorite movie star?<br />

Denelda The only movies I remember going to see were Westerns.<br />

On the way home, my parents would take me by the library because<br />

I loved to read. I still do!<br />

Brenda That’s easy – Elvis Presley.<br />

Glenda Bobby Sherman.<br />

Olivia Jonathan Taylor Thomas or Zack Morris from Saved by The Bell<br />

(Mark Paul Gosselaar).<br />

Taylor Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen and, of course, Brad Pitt.<br />

Briefly describe a typical church service you remember as a child.<br />

Denelda We grew up in a Lutheran Church. There is an enormous amount<br />

of reciting scripture and standing up and sitting down, so you didn’t<br />

dose off.<br />

Brenda & Glenda Mom would bring crayons and paper to keep us quiet<br />

during the sermon and, if we were lucky, she would give us snacks!<br />

Taylor & Olivia Taylor and Olivia’s generation, their families had joined<br />

Flowood Baptist church. “My favorite part was going to Sunday<br />

school,” says Taylor. “Our family sat on the third row from the front<br />

in ‘big church.’ We would discreetly pass notes to one another on the<br />

church program with options on where to eat lunch after the service.”<br />

Olivia says she always looked forward to the fun, active youth and<br />

children’s ministry.<br />

What was your favorite family vacation growing up?<br />

Denelda Living on a farm far away from any vacation spots, our family<br />

did not go on vacation. Also, we had animals to feed and could not<br />

leave them. We had chickens, cows and horses.<br />

Glenda We did not take any vacations during our young years at home.<br />

Brenda We lived in California by the beach. We went to the beach yearround.<br />

Quite often, mom would drop off my sister at school and take<br />

my brother and me to the beach with a picnic lunch. Not a worry in the<br />

world. Well, except for when my sister found out what we did while she<br />

was at school. We never realized we did not take vacations.<br />

Olivia We flew to Utah, rented a car, and drove to Montana to visit cousins.<br />

Taylor Along the way, we toured Yellowstone National Park.<br />

How did your parents discipline you?<br />

Denelda In the 1930s, the rules were clearly communicated. And with so<br />

many chores to do around the farm, we really did not have time to<br />

break the rules. However, every Halloween the mischievous kids would<br />

go through the town tipping over outhouses. The next morning, the<br />

principal would come into our class and make us go set them all back<br />

up. One year, we tipped over an outhouse that was occupied!<br />

Brenda I was spanked; I never wanted to disappoint my parents<br />

so I don’t remember too many spankings.<br />

Glenda The first warning was my dad’s “look.” If I didn’t get the message,<br />

I was spanked with a belt; that got my attention.<br />

Olivia My daddy couldn’t discipline me; I was a daddy’s girl. But I knew<br />

my mom meant business. When she gave me the consequences of<br />

my actions, I definitely knew she would follow through.<br />

Taylor I didn’t get in trouble much growing up, but when I did, I would get<br />

a spanking, grounded to my room, or have something taken away from<br />

me for an extended period of time.<br />

What do you think was the most important value your parents<br />

taught you?<br />

Denelda To always think about others.<br />

Brenda Honesty. Always tell the truth, and if someone tells you something<br />

in confidence, you never, ever share it.<br />

Glenda Hard work, be nice, and treat everyone with respect<br />

Olivia To treat everyone with respect and kindness.<br />

Taylor Be kind to others.<br />

How did you celebrate birthdays as a child?<br />

Denelda Birthdays were a big event in the Montana farmland. All the<br />

neighboring farmers would come to each child’s birthday party.<br />

Brenda My mom always made our birthdays special. She would make a<br />

cake and let us have a spend-the-night-party.<br />

Glenda Birthdays were a big deal. Our mom let us invite our friends and<br />

she would make a cake, chips, and dip. We always had music and<br />

dancing. Mom loved music and dancing.<br />

Olivia I will say my mom always went above and beyond for our birthday<br />

parties. I loved my birthday, so we had a party every year with a<br />

different theme.<br />

Taylor Birthdays were a big deal for our family. We celebrated each<br />

birthday with an extended family party and homemade cake.<br />

The birthday person got to pick the meal.<br />

What was a favorite Christmas memory?<br />

All The first and second generations celebrated every year pretty much<br />

the same eating oyster stew, reading the Christmas Story, playing<br />

Christmas songs on the guitar, and each sibling singing a song,<br />

reading a poem, or a presenting a performance. Then, they opened<br />

presents. The third generation ditched the oyster stew and added<br />

homemade costumes complete with a cardboard sleigh and a<br />

performance of “Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer.” Then, there was<br />

a quick costume change and a performance of the birth of Jesus.<br />

There were also individual performances, a birthday cake for Jesus,<br />

and family member lighting a candle, expressing what they were<br />

thankful for. Then, it was time to exchange gifts.<br />

What was your scariest thought or biggest fear growing up?<br />

Denelda On our farm, we had a goose. When I walked up the road from<br />

school, the goose would chase me. I was so scared of that goose!<br />

Brenda My parents were so loving. My biggest fear was disappointing them.<br />

Glenda Growing up I did not have any fears. My parents were very loving<br />

and protective. I had a very happy childhood.<br />

Olivia My biggest fear was losing my family. We are very close.<br />

Taylor Growing up, and still to this day, my parents always made sure we<br />

felt taken care of. I didn’t take that for granted; so, honestly, my biggest<br />

fear was losing my parents.<br />

What was a family tradition that you insist or insisted on<br />

passing down?<br />

All Our Christmases included of performing the secular and Biblical<br />

events that define Christmas. Including singing “Happy Birthday Jesus”<br />

with our homemade cake. Traditions are very important to our family,<br />

and passing down those traditions is meaningful to each of us.<br />

What chore did you most dislike as a teenager?<br />

Denelda Going to the chicken house and gathering eggs because they<br />

would peck me.<br />

Brenda Every Saturday morning, my chore was to scrub the baseboards.<br />

I could not go out with my friends if I didn’t complete this task.<br />

Glenda Hands down doing the dishes after supper. We did not have a<br />

dishwasher. I would make an excuse to go to the back of the house<br />

for something and not return until I knew my sister had finished<br />

washing, drying, and putting the dishes up in the cupboard.<br />

Olivia Cleaning baseboards.<br />

Taylor Cleaning baseboards.<br />

We all answered these questions independently.<br />

We obviously pass down family traits without even<br />

realizing it!<br />

Hometown RANKIN • 57

What was your favorite childhood game?<br />

Desieree Jumping rope.<br />

Charlotte Hide and seek.<br />

Rebecca I liked to play with my siblings and cousins.<br />

Suzanne I enjoyed hide and seek.<br />

Describe a typical outfit you would wear to<br />

high school.<br />

Desieree A dress.<br />

Charlotte Skirts and blouses.<br />

Rebecca Jeans and shirts.<br />

Suzanne I was homeschooled throughout high school; so, I would say<br />

athletic shorts and a t-shirt.<br />

1st Generation<br />

Desieree Chandler<br />

December 18, 1932, GED<br />

2nd Generation<br />

Charlotte Phillips Bell<br />

April 28, 1950, Scott Central<br />

3rd Generation<br />

Rebecca Bell Hollingsworth<br />

January 18, 1973, Scott Central<br />

4th Generation<br />

Suzanne Waggoner<br />

March 20, 1998, Homeschool<br />

What age were you allowed to begin dating?<br />

Desieree I did not date. He just would come to my house.<br />

Charlotte Fourteen years old, and we double-dated.<br />

Rebecca Fifteen, but Daddy had to meet them first. They always had to<br />

come in the house, or I could not go.<br />

Suzanne I was allowed to start going out on dates right around the same<br />

time I was able to drive, at the age of sixteen.<br />

Describe a date night during your generation.<br />

Desieree I did not have date nights.<br />

Charlotte It was usually a church activity or a movie and driving around.<br />

Rebecca Dinner and riding around town.<br />

Suzanne Normally, we would go out to eat, see a movie, or both.<br />

As a child, what was your favorite sweet treat?<br />

Desieree Tea cakes.<br />

Charlotte Fruit, especially strawberries and plums.<br />

Rebecca Turtles, but I did not get them often.<br />

Suzanne I have always liked food in general. I have never been picky.<br />

I don’t remember ever craving sweets until my teens. If I had to choose<br />

a favorite, I would say cookies are my favorite sweet treat.<br />

Who was your favorite movie star?<br />

Desieree Roy Rogers<br />

Charlotte Elvis Presley<br />

Rebecca John Travolta<br />

Suzanne Ryan Reynolds or Selena Gomez<br />

58 • MAY 2024

Describe a typical church service you remember<br />

as a child.<br />

Desieree We would have singing and preaching once a month.<br />

Charlotte We sang hymns and then had the sermon.<br />

Rebecca Sunday school and church which consisted of singing then<br />

preaching. I had to be good in “big church,” or I would be taken<br />

outside...not for anything fun.<br />

Suzanne A typical church service would begin with a greeting.<br />

Everyone would get up to say hello to each other and shake hands.<br />

Then, we would sing a few worship songs followed by the sermon.<br />

What was your favorite family vacation growing up?<br />

Desieree We did not take vacations.<br />

Charlotte We drove to West Virginia to see a man that my daddy was<br />

in the Air Force with and whom my brother was named after.<br />

Rebecca The vacation we visited thirteen states. We crossed state line<br />

of a few, then turned around, just so we could say we were there.<br />

We also swam in creeks and visited anything free.<br />

Suzanne My favorite family vacation was going to an RV park, Turkey<br />

Creek, where we were able to play with different kids, ride bikes, and<br />

have quality family time.<br />

How did your parents discipline you?<br />

Desieree Spanking with a peach tree switch.<br />

Charlotte Sometimes with a switch, sometimes a belt, sometimes<br />

being grounded.<br />

Rebecca They used a switch or a belt or grounded me.<br />

Suzanne My parents disciplined me in different ways: spanking, taking<br />

my phone, and grounding.<br />

What do you think was the most important value<br />

your parents taught you?<br />

Desieree Honesty.<br />

Charlotte To be good even if you are the only one and to be honest<br />

in everything.<br />

Rebecca Always be respectful, love the Lord, be honest, and be nice<br />

to everyone.<br />

Suzanne The most important value my parents taught me was the<br />

importance of knowing God and keeping Him in the center of my life.<br />

How did you celebrate birthdays as a child?<br />

Desieree Cake, if anything.<br />

Charlotte Mostly just a family dinner.<br />

Rebecca I usually had joint party with my sister as our birthdays are two<br />

weeks apart.<br />

Suzanne I would either have a birthday party or have friends over to<br />

spend the night.<br />

What is a favorite Christmas memory?<br />

Desieree Getting fruit and nuts and going to my grandmother’s house.<br />

Charlotte Santa came early before dark when we went over to<br />

Grandma’s.<br />

Rebecca Driving around looking at Christmas lights.<br />

Suzanne My favorite Christmas memory is helping my momma find<br />

a present my daddy hid for her.<br />

What was your scariest thought or biggest fear<br />

during your childhood?<br />

Desieree Snakes.<br />

Charlotte Mostly, the dark or being by myself.<br />

Rebecca Never remember being scared. My parents made me feel safe.<br />

Suzanne I do not remember being scared of anything as a young child<br />

other than, maybe, the dark.<br />

What was a family tradition that you insist or insisted<br />

on passing down?<br />

Desieree Cutting watermelon on July 4th.<br />

Charlotte Taking pictures at family get-togethers.<br />

Rebecca Always spending time with family and putting the Christmas<br />

tree up after Thanksgiving.<br />

Suzanne A family tradition that I insist on continuing is spending time<br />

with family during the holidays.<br />

What chore did you most dislike as a teenager?<br />

Desieree Gathering eggs.<br />

Charlotte Carrying slop to the hogs.<br />

Rebecca Working in the garden.<br />

Suzanne I really didn’t like to clean much of anything, especially my room.<br />

Hometown RANKIN • 59

What was your favorite childhood game?<br />

Glenda Tag. And I enjoyed riding our horse “Dilly”.<br />

Brenda Hopscotch.<br />

Ashley Red Rover.<br />

Brooke Hide and go seek.<br />

Describe a typical outfit you would wear<br />

to high school.<br />

Glenda Homemade skirt and blouse with a sweater and bobbie<br />

socks with saddle oxfords.<br />

Brenda Bright colored bell-bottomed pants with colorful tops,<br />

jeans, and skirts.<br />

Ashley Colored jeans with matching socks, Dexters, and bodysuits<br />

or tucked-in shirts.<br />

Brooke T-shirt and leggings.<br />

1st Generation<br />

Glenda Vinson<br />

Puckett High 1952<br />

2nd Generation<br />

Brenda Vinson Murphy<br />

Brandon High School 1976<br />

3rd Generation<br />

Ashley Shivers<br />

Puckett High 1999<br />

4th Generation<br />

Brooke Elizabeth Shivers<br />

13 years old, Puckett Jr. High<br />

What age were you allowed to begin dating?<br />

Glenda 17 and had to be home by 10pm.<br />

Brenda 16<br />

Ashley 15<br />

Describe a date night during your generation.<br />

Glenda Movie or just get together with friends.<br />

Brenda Movies.<br />

Ashley Go out to eat, sometimes bowling or a movie, then go ride<br />

“the block” in Magee or back to Puckett to “hang out.”<br />

As a child, what was your favorite sweet treat?<br />

Glenda Homemade Ice cream<br />

Brenda Homemade vanilla ice cream<br />

Ashley GG’s apple dumplings<br />

Brooke Cotton candy ice cream<br />

Who was your favorite movie star?<br />

Glenda Loretta Young<br />

Brenda Farrah Fawcett<br />

Ashley Julia Roberts, Matthew McConaughey<br />

Brooke Elsa and Anna<br />

60 • MAY 2024

Describe a typical church service you remember<br />

as a child.<br />

Glenda Singing old hymns and preaching.<br />

Brenda Sitting quietly and reverently – traditional service.<br />

Ashley Traditional service – singing, greeting, and preaching.<br />

Brooke Going down to children church.<br />

What was your favorite family vacation growing up?<br />

Glenda Going to the mountains in Tennessee.<br />

Brenda Six Flags in Texas.<br />

Ashley Disney World.<br />

Brooke The beach.<br />

How did your parents discipline you?<br />

Glenda Spanking.<br />

Brenda Spanking.<br />

Ashley Spankings with a belt or grounding from going out.<br />

Brooke Get grounded from things I like.<br />

What do you think was the most important value<br />

your parents taught you?<br />

Glenda Hard work and honesty. Always going to church.<br />

Brenda Respect, equality, love of family and family gatherings.<br />

Ashley Christian based values and respect.<br />

Brooke How to use good manners.<br />

How did you celebrate birthdays as a child?<br />

Glenda Mamma would cook my favorite meal and make my favorite cake.<br />

Brenda Birthday cake and ice cream with friends and family.<br />

Ashley McDonald’s or Chuck E. Cheese.<br />

Brooke Pump It Up. Magician. Swimming.<br />

What is a favorite Christmas memory?<br />

Glenda Going to my grandparents and being with my cousins.<br />

Brenda Santa bringing me a baton and a little red dress<br />

(costume made by my momma) to twirl the baton in.<br />

Ashley Christmas Eve at GG & Papa’s was and still is the<br />

highlight of my Christmas.<br />

Brooke Disney World tickets.<br />

What was your scariest thought or biggest fear<br />

growing up?<br />

Glenda Very fearful of snakes and wild animals.<br />

Brenda Being run over by a cow. Dad told me to stand at the gate<br />

on the farm and not let the cows out. I took off running and told him<br />

“I wasn’t a country girl.” Now I live in the country. HA!<br />

Ashley Making bad grades.<br />

Brooke Sleeping by myself.<br />

What was a family tradition that you insist<br />

or insisted on passing down?<br />

Glenda Regular family gatherings.<br />

Brenda Family gathering on Christmas Eve night eating chili and soup,<br />

waiting on Santa’s arrival by tracking him when news came on.<br />

Ashley Annual beach trip to Seagrove with the “Puckett Crew” the week<br />

of July 4 with all of our family and a lot of our friends.<br />

What chore did you most dislike as a teenager?<br />

Glenda Any outside work.<br />

Brenda Dusting furniture.<br />

Ashley Dusting/polishing furniture.<br />

Hometown RANKIN • 61

62 • MAY 2024

Hometown RANKIN • 63

64 • MAY 2024


Reed Rogers<br />

Susan Marquez<br />







This Florence High School junior exemplifies<br />

those attributes and more according to Kelley<br />

Lingold, who taught Reed in third grade, and<br />

again in tenth grade.<br />

“She also taught my older sisters, Payton<br />

and Neely,” says Reed, who grew up in Florence.<br />

“I always attended school in Florence,” he says.<br />

At Florence High School, Reed is an active<br />

member of both the Beta Club and the Interact<br />

Club. “He actively participates in club activities<br />

and projects, contributing valuable ideas and<br />

insights to team discussions,” says Lingold.<br />

“His involvement in the Florence Mayor’s<br />

Youth Council further underscores his passion<br />

for civic engagement and community service.”<br />

Reed’s community service has made a<br />

difference in the lives he has touched. He has<br />

coordinated fundraisers for his high school as<br />

well as volunteering at a local food pantry and<br />

assisting members of the community with yard<br />

work and manual labor. “He also plays a crucial<br />

role in operating the coffee shop at FHS,”<br />

adds Lingold.<br />

Reed recalls a mission trip he took to New<br />

Orleans with his youth group at Hickory Ridge<br />

Baptist Church. “Every neighborhood in New<br />

Orleans has a little park, and we went to those<br />

parks with basketballs, soccer balls, and other<br />

things and fellowshipped with the neighborhood<br />

kids. We also went to City Park where<br />

we talked to homeless people about the Gospel.<br />

It was fascinating to hear their stories. I have to<br />

admit, it provides a lot of personal gratification<br />

to me from the aspect of feeling good about<br />

making a difference.”<br />

The desire to serve others comes from his<br />

parents, Steve and Tanya Rogers. “They have<br />

always encouraged me to be involved. They have<br />

suggested a few things I’m involved with, and<br />

I found other things on my own. They both<br />

have a heart for service. They are both peacemakers,<br />

and I suppose that rubbed off on me.<br />

I don’t like to see a student on the verge of a<br />

meltdown or being bullied in any way. I can’t<br />

help but step in to diffuse the situation.” Lingold<br />

says that Reed seeks to ensure that each student<br />

in his class is acknowledged and feels included.<br />

“He never uses his talents to tear people down,<br />

rather, he endeavors to build others up.” His<br />

classmates have recognized that by voting him<br />

class favorite, best personality, and most<br />

dependable – a reflection of his outstanding<br />

character and contributions to his school<br />

community.<br />

Reed excels academically, maintaining all<br />

A’s throughout his academic career. He has won<br />

several prestigious awards such as the PSAT<br />

Scholar Award, College Board National Rural<br />

and Small-Town Award, ACT Honors, and<br />

ACT WorkKeys Scholar recognition. “I wish<br />

I could say there was a secret to my success<br />

academically, or that I am exceptionally good at<br />

time management, but honestly, school comes<br />

easy to me. That’s always allowed me to find<br />

time for other things in my schedule.”<br />

One thing Reed feels strongly about is doing<br />

a job right. “I have always been taught that if a<br />

job is worth doing, it’s worth doing right.”<br />

Reed plans on attending Mississippi State<br />

University when he graduates. “I’m very<br />

math-oriented, so I plan to major in civil<br />

engineering. I have a few relatives who are<br />

civil engineers, and they like it.”<br />

Lingold says she wishes she could have a<br />

hundred young men like Reed, “...ones who<br />

set an example with their actions in addition<br />

to their servants’ hearts.”<br />

Hometown RANKIN • 65

66 • MAY 2024<br />

Amplify Tour<br />

APRIL 23 / TABLE 100

Hometown RANKIN • 67

68 • MAY 2024

Fear, Fundraising,<br />

& Finding Community<br />

Melanie McMillan<br />

When eleven-year-old Hunter Burkhalter<br />

began experiencing knee pain nearly a year ago,<br />

his parents, Kristen and Philip, initially chalked<br />

it up to “growing pains.” Though Hunter’s pain<br />

was not constant, it persisted and was particularly<br />

bad after physical activity. “I had done some<br />

research online and learned about Osgood-<br />

Schlatter disease,” says Hunter’s mom, Kristen.<br />

“It’s a condition that causes pain around the<br />

knee that worsens with activity and seemed to<br />

fit what Hunter was experiencing.” Kristen<br />

scheduled an appointment at Mississippi Sports<br />

Medicine. The appointment happened to fall<br />

on the afternoon of Field Day at Hunter’s<br />

school, Highland Bluff Elementary, where<br />

Kristen also teaches. Surprisingly, Hunter’s knee<br />

was not hurting after all the day’s activities. “I<br />

almost canceled the appointment, but I didn’t<br />

know when I would be able to take off again, so<br />

we went,” Kristen says.<br />

After evaluating Hunter, the nurse told them<br />

to come back the next morning. “I could tell that<br />

they saw something that concerned them,”<br />

Kristen says. Following an MRI and lab work<br />

the following day, Hunter was sent to Children’s<br />

of Mississippi for further testing. The initial<br />

diagnosis was osteomyelitis, which is an<br />

inflammation of bone tissue caused by infection.<br />

“They did surgery to drain and clean out the<br />

infection,” says Kristen. “They also took a bone<br />

biopsy as a precaution.” When the biopsy results<br />

came back, they learned that Hunter had<br />

osteosarcoma and had also developed a spot on<br />

his other hip. Because the disease had metastasized,<br />

he qualified for a study at St. Jude Children’s<br />

Hospital, and he was there within days. Hunter<br />

began chemotherapy on June 16th, but after<br />

several rounds, it was clear the tumor had invaded<br />

too much tissue and the difficult decision was<br />

made to amputate his leg.<br />

Hunter had surgery on August 31st, and<br />

began chemotherapy soon after. After eight<br />

months at St. Jude, he was able to return home<br />

in February and continue chemotherapy here.<br />

For Hunter and his mom, being back at school<br />

has been a blessing. “The Highland Bluff family<br />

has been extremely supportive of us,” Kristen<br />

says. “We have experienced an outpouring of<br />

love throughout these difficult months.”<br />

The Burkhalter family has received support<br />

from the larger community as well. “Mike<br />

Armstrong, the softball coach at Northwest<br />

Rankin High School, reached out to me when<br />

he heard about Hunter,” Kristen says. “Mike is<br />

also an amputee and offered to support us<br />

however he could. We were even invited as<br />

special guests to a softball game where Hunter<br />

got to throw out the first pitch.”<br />

Support for Hunter and his family has also<br />

come from a group well known to Mississippians,<br />

Grabuone Outfitters. The seeds for what would<br />

become Grabuone began more than thirty years<br />

ago when Jimmie Nichols, his cousin Joey<br />

Rigby, Rayford Palmer, and others were fishing<br />

in Louisiana. From the boat, Jimmie spotted a<br />

diamondback snake on a tree limb, reached<br />

behind Rayford and grabbed the snake, pulling<br />

it into the boat. “Rayford was convinced it was a<br />

deadly cottonmouth, so you can imagine his<br />

reaction,” Jimmie says. “Rayford told me then<br />

that I should just start catching snakes because<br />

I was no good at fishing.”<br />

After several years of fishing trips in<br />

Louisiana, the guys began fishing Lake Washington<br />

in the Mississippi Delta with “snake<br />

grabbing” being a big part of their outdoor<br />

adventures. “We would have thirty to forty<br />

snakes in the boat at a time,” recalls Jimmie.<br />

Not surprisingly, they attracted a lot of spectators<br />

and usually had a number of boats following<br />

them around the lake. “The name Grabuone<br />

Outfitters came from one of those trips when<br />

Joey and I, along with our buddies Joey Mayes<br />

and Shane Gibson, had a boat full of snakes.<br />

Shane told one of the guys in the boat, ‘Grab<br />

you one,’ and the name just stuck.”<br />

Just for fun, the guys made several videos of<br />

their snake grabbing, and even created t-shirts<br />

with the Grabuone Outfitters name. Shane<br />

posted one of the videos on YouTube, and before<br />

they knew it, the video had more than 300,000<br />

views. That video was the beginning of a journey<br />

that included a CMT series and thousands of<br />

DVD sales over the years.<br />

Grabuone Outfitters is known almost as<br />

much for their contributions to the community<br />

as for their snake-grabbing skills. When the<br />

CMT series took off, Brad Vincent, who had<br />

joined the original four Grabuone Outfitters,<br />

suggested that the group donate a portion of the<br />

proceeds to the children’s hospital. This began<br />

the group’s tradition of giving to those in need,<br />

Hometown RANKIN • 69

and the Grabuone Outfitters Snake Grabbin’<br />

Rodeo and Benefit was born. Brad suffered a<br />

heart attack and passed away suddenly in 2018,<br />

but his generous spirit lives on as the outfitters<br />

mark the fifteenth anniversary of the rodeo and<br />

benefit this June. Each year, the organization<br />

hosts the weekend-long event at Lake Washington<br />

with proceeds benefiting an individual or<br />

family in need, and this year’s honoree is Hunter<br />

Burkhalter. Last year $65,000 was raised, and<br />

the group’s goal is always to raise “at least one<br />

dollar more than the year before.” “It’s been so<br />

rewarding for us to be able to help families<br />

financially,” says Nichols. “Our first benefit was<br />

for Jared Howington, who was fighting cancer,<br />

and he was a fan of our videos. It was a very<br />

humbling experience visiting him in the hospital.<br />

It makes you think about what’s important.”<br />

At a recent meet-and-greet held at McClain<br />

Resort, attendees were able to meet the<br />

Burkhalter family - Philip, Kristen, Hunter,<br />

and younger sister Hannah Grace - as well as<br />

members and supporters of Grabuone Outfitters.<br />

J.J. Bailey, John Mikel Merchant, and Jared<br />

Howington, three of the Snake Grabbin’ Rodeo’s<br />

past beneficiaries, were all in attendance. Gary<br />

and Karen Golden were also special guests that<br />

night. Their late son Corey Ray was a Madison<br />

police officer and a previous rodeo beneficiary.<br />

The impact of Grabuone’s work on the lives of<br />

these young men and their families was evident in<br />

talking with them. “The rodeo is the highlight<br />

of our year,” says Tina Brown, Jared’s mother.<br />

“We really are like a big family.”<br />

While the majority of Hunter’s medical bills<br />

are covered by St. Jude, there are expenses that<br />

the family faces that the Snake Grabbin’ Rodeo<br />

fundraiser will help with. “Hunter really wants<br />

to be able to participate in sports and run at<br />

recess like his friends,” says Kristen. “A running<br />

leg is very expensive, but with the support of<br />

Grabuone, it can be a reality for Hunter. When<br />

he gets older, he will need car modifications to<br />

be able to drive, since it is his right leg that was<br />

amputated. This fundraiser is such a blessing<br />

for our family.”<br />

Hunter is a mature, bright young man<br />

with a great sense of humor, as evidenced by his<br />

collection of t-shirts featuring phrases such as<br />

“Leg Stories: $20” and “I Swim in Circles.”<br />

Visiting with his family, it is clear they are<br />

people of faith. Kristen says, “I have realized<br />

how easy it is to be complacent, but there is so<br />

much peace from surrendering all your fears<br />

and worries to God.”<br />

For more information on the 15th Annual<br />

Snake Grabbin’ Rodeo and Benefit, you can<br />

find them on Facebook @GrabUOneOutfitters.<br />

70 • MAY 2024

Hometown RANKIN • 71



Your Home is<br />

Our Priority<br />

72 • MAY 2024

1-800-HINDSCC<br />

hindscc.edu<br />

Summer & Fall Registration<br />

is happening now!<br />

Fine & Performing Arts Department<br />

Montage Theatre of Dance<br />

Whether you’re starting your college journey or<br />

returning to advance your career, we’ve saved<br />

a seat just for you. Hinds is the perfect place to<br />

learn, grow and succeed. Enroll today at Hinds<br />

Community College. Your future is waiting. Visit<br />

hindscc.edu or call 1-800-HINDSCC<br />

1-800-HINDSCC<br />


In compliance with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title IX, Education Amendments of 1972 of the Higher Education Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and other applicable Federal and State Acts, Hinds Community<br />

College offers equal education and employment opportunities and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, age, disability or veteran status in its educational programs and activities. We recognize our responsibility to provide an open and<br />

welcoming environment that fosters a culture of diversity, equity, and inclusion for employees and students to collaboratively learn, work and serve our communities. The following have been designated to handle inquiries regarding these policies:<br />

EEOC Compliance: Office of Campus Culture and Diversity, PO Box 1100 Raymond MS 39154; Phone: 601-857-3569 or Email: EEOC@hindscc.edu<br />

Title IX: Associate Vice President Student Services, Title IX Coordinator Box 1100 Raymond MS 39154; Phone: 601-857-3353 or Email: TitleIX@hindscc.edu.<br />

Hometown RANKIN • 73

SALUTE<br />

to First Responders<br />

What made you decide to work as a first responder?<br />

When I was in high school, I was interested in wildlife biology, but I<br />

also had a slight interest in the medical field. When I graduated, I really<br />

did not have a direction that I wanted to take, but I worked a number<br />

of jobs. I started working with my grandfather in his house-moving<br />

business. After the fall of 2013, I applied to the nursing program at<br />

Belhaven University. While I attended Belhaven for two semesters,<br />

I was also a part of the Langford Volunteer Fire Department. Langford<br />

is where I fell in love with being a first responder. In the fall of 2015,<br />

I applied for EMT school, and that is where my career in the<br />

ambulance service began.<br />

How long have you been with the Pafford EMS?<br />

As of 2024, I have been at Pafford EMS for eight years, and it has been<br />

a great experience. It feels as though I have found my home.<br />

Paramedic<br />

Brayden<br />

McKAY<br />


Tell us about your family.<br />

My family is my rock. My mother and father helped guide me most in<br />

life. My mother is who I confide in when I have a hard day at work or<br />

just in general. She offers advice in situations where I am struggling.<br />

My father has always used a firm hand to help me learn life lessons.<br />

I have learned many valuable lessons from my father because he has<br />

tested me in situations that I would classify as “sink or swim” scenarios;<br />

the quote, “The teacher is always silent during the test” reminds me of<br />

his methods. My brother is also important to me. As my brother and<br />

I have gotten older, we have found it difficult to spend time together<br />

because of our busy lives, but I would say we have also grown closer in<br />

adulthood. My brother has always encouraged me during times I was<br />

down. He has always been great at helping me stand back up and dust<br />

myself off, so to speak. My girlfriend has also been a wonderful support<br />

system in life and in my career. She always brings a smile to my face,<br />

even on my darkest days.<br />


74 • MAY 2024

What is the toughest thing you have experienced<br />

in your job?<br />

Something I have always struggled with while on the job is<br />

explaining to family members when their loved one has passed<br />

away. It is hard to do that without losing a piece of yourself, too.<br />

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

I often play video games to escape and decompress.<br />

I also enjoy playing golf and hunting.<br />

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

My bucket list consists of driving a racecar at Talladega, travel to<br />

Switzerland, and build a house on fifteen to twenty acers of land.<br />

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

I have always admired my father. He has been a great role model<br />

in my life. One thing he always does that I appreciate is playing<br />

devil’s advocate when I am faced with major decisions. He offers<br />

multiple pros and cons to help me make a decision, so I do not<br />

dive into something I should not.<br />

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

what would it be?<br />

If I could give any advice at all it would be to work hard.<br />

Nothing in life is should be handed to you. If it is, it does not<br />

feel as valuable.<br />

What is your favorite thing about the Rankin County?<br />

I have spent practically my entire life in Rankin County and<br />

have watched cities like Brandon and Flowood grow and develop.<br />

Some of my favorite things here include the parks and quiet<br />

scenery throughout the county.<br />

Hometown RANKIN • 75

76 • MAY 2024

Registration<br />

NOW OPEN<br />

Hometown RANKIN • 77

78 • MAY 2024<br />

April 13<br />

Downtown<br />


Hometown RANKIN • 79

Addiction treatment for adults<br />

Inpatient and outpatient treatment<br />

components can include:<br />

• Medical, mental health and behavioral health assessments<br />

• One to two individual therapy sessions per week<br />

• Group therapy including 12-step principles and journaling<br />

• Family therapy sessions as needed<br />

• Ongoing psychiatric medication management<br />

• Alcoholics Anonymous ® and Narcotics Anonymous ® meetings<br />

• Develop relapse prevention coping skills<br />

• Healthy relationship building<br />

• Improve mental and physical wellness<br />

• 24/7 access, call to learn more<br />

Call 601-936-7886 to schedule a<br />

confidential, no-cost assessment.<br />

Walk-ins are welcome and most<br />

insurances are accepted.<br />

Learn more at brentwoodjackson.com.<br />

3531 Lakeland Drive<br />

Flowood, MS 39232<br />

601-936-7886<br />

Model representations of real patients are shown. Physicians are on<br />

the medical staff of Brentwood Behavioral Healthcare, but, with limited<br />

exceptions, are independent practitioners who are not employees or agents<br />

of Brentwood Behavioral Healthcare. The facility shall not be liable for actions<br />

or treatments provided by physicians. For language assistance, disability<br />

accommodations and the nondiscrimination notice, visit our website.<br />

240334-0517 3/24<br />

80 • MAY 2024

Hometown RANKIN • 81

82 • MAY 2024<br />

Awards Luncheon<br />

April 17 / Pearl Community Center

Hometown RANKIN • 83

Help a child<br />

While you shop.<br />

Friends of Children’s Hospital Debit Card<br />

The Friends Card cost $12 per year, 100% of which is donated to Friends.<br />

BankPlus makes a donation to Friends each time the card is used.<br />

Available via instant issue. Since inception, the Friends debt card has<br />

raised over $4,000,000.<br />

Service Is Our Legacy<br />

From our beginning in a one-room building in Jackson,<br />

Mississippi, to a well-diversified organization with<br />

locations around the world, Ergon remains committed<br />

to Doing Right for our employees, our customers and<br />

our communities. Learn more at ergon.com.<br />

© Copyright 2023 BankPlus.<br />

Member FDIC.<br />

84 • MAY 2024<br />

Hometown Rankin April 2024 ad 4x5.indd 1<br />

3/7/24 9:15 AM


Embark on a culinary adventure<br />

through the heart of Mississippi<br />

with our exclusive feature<br />

Salads<br />

South<br />

from the<br />

Explore these Southern flavors<br />

as we unveil four delicious salads from<br />

amazing restaurants in our community.<br />

From farm-fresh greens to savory toppings,<br />

experience the epitome of Southern charm<br />

and hospitality as we celebrate the art<br />

of salad-making in our beloved hometown.<br />

Hometown RANKIN • 85

Classic<br />

Salad<br />

Your choice of any of our 12<br />

delicious chicken salad flavors<br />

served atop a bed of our spring<br />

lettuce blend with tomatoes<br />

and cucumbers.<br />

Wedge<br />

Salad<br />

Diced tomatoes, fried onion<br />

strings, blue cheese crumbles,<br />

ranch, and bacon bits. Add fried<br />

or grilled chicken.<br />

86 • MAY 2024

Southwest<br />

Salad<br />

Rocket romaine, spicy savory<br />

chicken breast, black beans,<br />

cheddar, mozzarella, corn,<br />

cilantro, avocado, crushed<br />

Fritos, spicy ranch dressing.<br />

Savannah<br />

Chopped<br />

Salad<br />

Seasoned grilled chicken,<br />

dried cranberries, Gorgonzola,<br />

honey-roasted almonds,<br />

tomato and cucumber on<br />

mixed greens. Try it with<br />

Sherry Shallot dressing.<br />

Hometown RANKIN • 87

88 • MAY 2024

APRIL 11<br />



Hometown RANKIN • 89

90 • MAY 2024

Hometown RANKIN • 91

Happy Mother’s Day<br />

from all of us at<br />

Hometown<br />

Magazines.<br />

92 • MAY 2024

Save the Date!<br />

Wednesday, July 3 / 6pm / Brandon Amphitheater<br />

Free to the public! Fireworks at dark !<br />



Community choir concert with special guest, Charles Billingsley!<br />

Hometown RANKIN • 93

Rankin County Chamber<br />

APRIL 16<br />


94 • MAY 2024

Hometown RANKIN • 95


Pearl Public School District<br />

On April 8, students and staff donned solar eclipse glasses to witness the stunning celestial event firsthand. This remarkable occurrence<br />

revealed incredible wonders, far surpassing what we learn in textbooks. It was a day of awe and learning beneath the open sky, truly a<br />

memorable moment for all involved.<br />

96 • MAY 2024

Jackson Prep<br />


Konnor Griffin, the multi-position senior baseball player from Jackson Prep,<br />

was honored on March 28 by the Mississippi Senate with presentation of Senate<br />

Resolution 51, saluting his excellence, as the 17-year-old is considered by many experts<br />

to be the best high school player in America. Griffin pitches and plays shortstop for<br />

Jackson Prep, but he could play anywhere on the diamond. Some Major League scouts<br />

predict Griffin will play center field at the highest level, according to Senate Resolution 51.<br />

Griffin has traveled the world playing the game he loves. Perfect Game has ranked him<br />

second in the country, and he has been invited to play in Perfect Game events, future<br />

MLB events, and the Under Armour All-American Game. Griffin has had an impressive<br />

career at Prep as part of the three-time state championship baseball team.<br />

Griffin helped lead Jackson Prep to its sixth consecutive and Mississippi record MAIS<br />

Class 6A State Championship, a 31-4 record, and a No. 19 national ranking by Perfect<br />

Game this past spring. He was named a High School All-American and selected as the<br />

PriorityOne Bank/Mississippi Scoreboard Metro Jackson Baseball Player of the Year.<br />

A right-handed pitcher, whose fastball tops out in the mid-90s, Griffin had a 7-1 record,<br />

and a 1.38 earned run average with 81 strikeouts and only 15 walks in 50 2/3 innings.<br />

As a right-handed hitter, Griffin had a .537 batting average with 43 runs, 30 runs batted<br />

in, 6 doubles, 2 triples and 8 home runs. Blessed with the ability to hit with power<br />

to all fields, Griffin had a .951 slugging percentage.<br />

2023-2024 STAR STUDENTS & TEACHERS<br />

Shown from L-R: Nolan Lundberg, Lee Waits, teacher; Lytle Moore,<br />

Molly Parks, teacher; Beth Watts, teacher with student Rachel Hammack.<br />




Congratulations to Warner Russ on being<br />

named a USA Swimming Scholastic<br />

All-American for 2022-2023 competition<br />

and academic season. Warner is a senior<br />

at Jackson Prep and will be attending<br />

Auburn University in the Fall of 2024.<br />

Warner competed in both the Winter<br />

Juniors in Columbus, OH, in December<br />

finaling in the 200 IM and the 100 & 200<br />

Freestyle (also breaking the 17-18 Men’s<br />

state record). Over the summer, he<br />

competed at Summer Juniors in Irvine,<br />

CA, racing in the 50 & 100m Freestyle<br />

and the 100 & 200m Backstroke events.<br />

This award is the highest level earned<br />

for a HS athlete through USA Swimming.<br />


Ninth-grade geometry students competed in several math categories at the 2024<br />

Mississippi Math and Science Competition. These geometry students won first place in<br />

the geometry written test and in geometry ciphering. Front L-R: Caroline Jordan,<br />

Catherine Hawkins, Brianna Wang, Adrianna Wang, James Gauthier.<br />

Back L-R: Manning Parks, Stewart Russ, Payne Stroud.<br />


Lower School kindergartners culminated their lesson of the letter “R” with “R is<br />

for Reeves” when First Lady Elee Reeves came to read to the class.<br />

Front L-R: Gus Dew, Colin Steadman, Wimberly Prince, Eryn Grace Harris,<br />

Charlie Dixon, Mary Myron Nix, Townes Brown, Joshua McKeown, Rosalie Kuhn,<br />

Seanna Arnold, Maggie Baker, Ryleigh Rawls, Rhodes Wilson.<br />

Back L-R: Olivia Kneip, assistant teacher, Elee Reeves, Kathryn Watson, teacher.<br />

Hometown RANKIN • 97

TheTime COIN<br />

Camille Anding<br />

The topic was Heaven, and the conversation was lively;<br />

it usually is when people take time to consider the next step after death.<br />

There is always the customary list: Will we know our family and friends? Will we get to eat? What will our<br />

new bodies be like? How about work and jobs?<br />

The questions from Sunday school members were kindled during the tape series recorded by a respected<br />

and notable pastor in our denomination. His facts were authenticated by scripture, so the lesson was interesting<br />

and beneficial.<br />

A forever body is more than my imagination can capture, but living eternally in one that will never ache,<br />

break, or wrinkle is wonderfully fascinating. I once read in one of those near-death-experience books that our<br />

eyes will see added colors with greater brilliance. The book of John describes Jesus in a post-resurrection<br />

appearance to His disciples in His forever body, but the doors are locked in the room where He appears.<br />

Does this suggest there are additional dimensions that our new bodies will experience and navigate?<br />

The following Monday, I walked around our back yard looking for signs of resurrection in some of my<br />

dormant plants and perennials. I planted a small dogwood before the last frigid temps, and I stopped to<br />

examine it for signs of life. Near the base of the sleeping dogwood was a tiny, three-inch oak tree. I bent over,<br />

and with a jerk, pulled it from its earthly mooring. There it was! The Lord was giving me a living interpretation<br />

concerning our “corruptible bodies being raised incorruptible,” and “It is sown a natural body;<br />

it is raised a spiritual body.”<br />

Attached to the base of the tiny tree was an acorn – the tree’s original body, but the small<br />

tree had no resemblance to it. The acorn had to be buried and die an acorn to be “resurrected”<br />

as a living oak tree.<br />

If any of our neighbors happened to witness me inspecting that tiny phenomenon, they<br />

would never imagine the theological breakthrough I was making. Certainly, it was a simple<br />

prototype of something much more complex, but it brought clearer meaning to the picture of death.<br />

Death! O, yes. It is the stalking enemy, the dark prerequisite for leaving this world. Death is a fact that<br />

always comes attached to every life. It always has its turn. However, the believer has a resurrection verse from the<br />

apostle Paul who asks death a question it can’t answer: “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?”<br />

Then Christians resound, “But thanks be to God, which gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”<br />

98 • MAY 2024

Hometown RANKIN • 99

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