- Announcing a new online voters' information website/candidates' forum for Hancock County. The goal? Reviving voters' feelings of empowerment - and excitement!
story and photography by Ellis Anderson
- This month - the sedate Creole exterior of the Bagley house gives no clue that inside, Monet's palette of colors and show-stopping artwork bring a slice of France to Main Street.
Sandra says, “While we were working on repainting, Scott and I joked about channeling Monet and would ask, ‘what would old Claude do?’ Monet’s not my favorite artist, but the colors seemed to work for us and it was fun doing it. Tomorrow could be Jackson Pollock.”
Sandra’s a noted artist herself and her striking paintings – mostly of people – populate the house. Her own rich palette brings to mind renaissance portraits and the characters pop to life against rich wall colors.
“At first we wondered why Monet chose those colors,” she says. “Then the light hit the walls and we understood. We liked how it gave emphasis to my paintings and our other artwork.”
While 318 Main also seems similar to Giverny in age, it was built in 2002 by the Bagleys. The design is based on a New Orleans raised center hall cottage the couple admired. Although the Bagleys call themselves “painfully nostalgic,” they worked with an architect to skillfully incorporate contemporary features like plenty of storage space and energy efficiency in the final design.
The finished home fits seamlessly into the landscape of Bay St. Louis. Scott says they’ve had lifelong residents of the town insist they “remember” the house from their childhoods. It all seems the epitome of elegant Southern living.
The move to Bay St. Louis represented a homecoming of sorts to the Bagleys, who weren’t able to spend much of their working lives in the region of their birth. Scott and Sandra both grew up in Fayetteville, Tennessee, where they met in 5th grade (Sandra says that by 7th grade, she thought Scott was cute and their future was set). They married after college and Scott spent his working career as an attorney in the Air Force. Over the years, the Bagleys lived at least fifteen different places, including Europe, where they toured Giverny for the first time.
They were living stateside in Los Angeles when Scott neared retirement. The South called for several reasons, foremost being their daughter Drew. She’d been accepted to Ole Miss on a dance scholarship (where she was also a Rebelette for four years). They wanted to provide a home base for Drew while she was in college.
A friend who lived in Biloxi and knew of Sandra’s commitment to her art career called and said “Have I got the place for you!”
Sandra recalls, “She went on to say ‘This place has your name written all over it. It’s called Bay St. Louis.”
The stars began aligning. Scott had family in Pass Christian and had fond memories of the Gulf Coast. The couple had a romantic attachment to the coast as well – they had honeymooned in the old Broadwater in 1973. They both loved New Orleans and liked the idea of living nearby. They’d be fairly close to Drew while she was in college.
So in 2001, the couple flew into New Orleans, rented a car at the airport and drove into Bay St. Louis at night. While having dinner at a beach restaurant, they noticed an incredible mural, depicting the biggest moon they’d ever seen, reflected over the bay and framed by enormous oak trees. Then they realized the scene before them was no painting – it was real.
“It captured us,” says Scott. “Bay St. Louis seemed like such a real place. Its authentic character makes it unlike any other city or town we’d visited.”
They purchased a lot on Main Street and worked with architect/developer Stuart Farnet to build the house. The center hall design allowed the front and back doors to be opened in fair weather and a breeze would cool the entire house. The spacious screened front porch made outdoor living in any weather pleasant and bug-free. And the wood-burning fireplace added old world ambiance. Upstairs there was room for two spacious bedrooms and an open painting studio for Sandra. Scott’s library had a dedicated room of its own as well.
Construction was completed in 2003 and when the Bagleys moved in, they found additional reasons to appreciate their new home.
“We loved the people and the activities on the weekends,” says Scott. “And the fact you could walk everywhere. In Los Angeles, you have to drive everywhere, so you spend a lot of time in your car.”
The Bagleys also began developing the gardens, with Scott taking the lead and working with a retired horticulturist friend, Jane McKinnon. McKinnon suggested that they extend their center hall into the garden and place a fountain at the end of it, a project that was carried through with remarkable effect. When the back door is open, visitors entering the front have their eyes drawn down the hallway and along the brick walkway to rest on the splashing fountain. Between the screen front porch with its tiled floor and the back porch gardens, the outer walls of the house seem like room dividers rather than demarcations between indoors and out.
The Bagleys also wanted a shaded yard, so planted nearly twenty trees. They added to the large water oaks already on the property and created stands of river birch and crepe myrtles, accented with live oaks and cypress.
Most of the water oaks went down in Katrina and the house was flooded with two feet of gulf muck. Fortunately, the Bagleys were able to live upstairs while the house was being renovated. Today, it’s impossible to detect any signs of damage. On the ground floor, the living, dining and kitchen areas flow into each other on one side of the wide center hall. The other side contains the library, separated from the master bedroom by a wall of closets and a spacious bath.
At the top of the hallway staircase, Sandra’s open, light studio is flanked by two large bedrooms. Once Drew’s domain, it’s now a paradise for two grandsons. Sandra’s also a certified yoga instructor and B.G. (Before Grandchildren), taught classes in the uplifting space.
Sandra, an award-winning artist, works in oils and explains that her paintings are created using her fingers instead of her brush.
“Using brushes would make me come across as tight. Using my fingers, I felt like I could get in there and make the paint go where I wanted it to go.”
In her early days as a painter, she was drawn to landscapes, when teacher Diane Tessler advised Sandra to begin taking portrait classes. Tessler pointed out that any house Sandra painted seemed to have a face.
That's certainly true at 318 Main Street.
story and photographs by Ellis Anderson
- This month - The graceful Luna lights up the lives of owners and world travelers Rick Ellis and Mary Pyles.
Rick’s father was in the Navy, so he grew up learning to feel at home in places like Panama and Hawaii. He also learned to sail from his father, who crewed for the famous Hawaiian and five-time winner of Olympic medals for swimming, Duke Kahanamoku. Rick says the Hawaiian term for Duke was “waterman,” meaning he excelled at anything having to do with the water – swimming, surfing or sailing.
Apparently, some of the Olympian’s waterman traits were transmitted to Rick. He finds being on the water spiritually soothing and says that sailing gives him a sense of control in a world where “nothing else is.”
In fact, he loves being on the water so much that he spent 25 years working on the seas as a merchant mariner. He lived on Guam for six years and on the tranquil pacific island of Saipan for another eight, calling them home when he wasn’t sailing on ships and tugboats.
In 1987, Rick was working as a ship’s carpenter on a NAVO ship that was docked in Singapore. One morning as he was on gangway watch, a spritely NAVO scientist who had just been assigned to the ship came aboard. As she came up the gangway, she was singing the theme song from the popular children’s show, “Mr. Rodgers.”
“It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood,” sang Mary, and as sort of an unspoken introduction, handed Rick the newspaper she’d been reading.
Soon after, the ship left Singapore for a 20-day voyage to East Africa. The two became friends over the next four months and when they reached the small country of Djibouti on the horn of Africa, Rick asked Mary out on a date.
The couple recount the tale of their courtship while lounging on the deck of Luna with their two small dogs, J.P. and Roscoe. They tell slightly different versions.
“Actually, she begged me to go out with her,” Rick says, looking over at Mary and smiling. “She chased me all over the ship and I couldn’t escape.” Mary just laughs. She’s heard this line before.
According to Mary, the first date consisted of a stroll around the port’s marketplace that evening and then past the port's slaughterhouses. They dined out in a small café, but the excitement wasn’t over.
“We eventually fetched up along the water on an embankment in front of the president’s palace,” Mary remembers. “Then we watched the tide go out and sat viewing all the tires on the mud bank. By the end of the evening, it was clear to us that this was the start of things to come.”
The couple married in 1991 in the Virgin Islands where Mary’s brother lived. Mary had moved from Washington DC to Waveland in 1978 to work at NAVO’s office at Stennis Space Center, so the Mississippi Gulf Coast became “home port” for Rick as well. In 1993, they bought a house on the 400 block of Carroll Avenue in Bay St. Louis. It’s still the place they call home.
The two continued to ship out as their jobs required over the next two decades. Mary finally retired in 2010, while Rick still goes to sea on occasion as a gravity and magnetics technician. Throughout their marriage, Rick has owned smaller sailing boats, ones he could managed single-handedly. He enjoys the solitude when Mary can’t go along and has been sailing solo since he was six.
Over the years he's lived on the Mississippi coast, Rick has owned a 19ft O’Day, then a 25 ft. O’Day. He restored the latter after Katrina, only to have it irredeemably smashed during Hurricane Gustav.
“I was tired of fixing boats at that point,” Rick says. “So I just cut her up in pieces and put her in the dumpster.”
He began shopping for another O’Day last year, “one that didn’t need much work.” He found the Luna, a 1974 O’Day 27 footer, online. She was a freshwater boat, kept on a Colorado lake. She also had a roomy interior for a 27 foot sailboat, with lots of headroom.
After traveling to Pueblo to inspect the boat, Rick made a second trip out west, this time with a friend, and purchased Luna. The two men trailered the boat across country back to the coast, a three-day drive.
The last night of the trip, the friends pulled into a campground in Shreveport, Louisiana. Since they were towing a boat instead of a camper, the owner seemed confused.
“My friend told the lady that we were sailing around the world and had decided to drive the first part,” Rick says.
The two friends climbed up into the trailered boat that night to sleep, and happily discovered a bottle of wine that the previous owner had tucked into the cabin as a surprise gift.
Rick prefers sailing over powerboats partly because they’re quiet and impart a peaceful feeling.
“Also, when you get on a power boat, you’re going from “A” to “B.” When you step aboard a sailboat, you’re already there.”
According to both Mary and Rick, there’s only one problem with having the boat in the Bay St. Louis Harbor.
Rick pinpoints it: “Why bother to go sailing when Bay St. Louis is the one real destination on the coast? We like the fact that all the shops and restaurants are right here.”
But since they’re both world travelers, aren't they ever tempted to retire to someplace more exotic?
“It’s a great environment here - a little funky, a lot of fun,” says Rick. “Why would we want to go anywhere else?”
by Ellis Anderson
- This month - A Dream Playhouse is the chosen class project of Leadership Hancock County 2015, but it's hardly child's play. Find out about the Leadership program and the 2015 class goal to raise awareness for CASA!
The class’s project culminates with a “Raising the Roof” party taking place on Saturday, May 9th at the Ground Zero Museum in Waveland (335 Coleman Avenue). From 1pm to 3pm, there’ll be a “Raffle Pull” open to the public.
Procrastinators will be able to purchase tickets at the last moment and the drawing will take place around 3:30pm. The family-friendly event will also feature cook-out food (courtesy of Tri-R Bar & Grill), free tours of the museum and music – as well as fun and games for children.
The Raising the Roof Patrons’ Party for the event’s sponsors will begin immediately afterward at 3:30pm, lasting until 5pm. In addition to the cook-out food, wine (donated by Rosetti’s Liquor Barrel) and beer (donated by Lazy Magnolia Brewery) will be served.
Raffle tickets are $5 each or five for $20 and can be purchased online here.
The purpose of the project is two-fold: the class hopes to raise both awareness and money for the CASA program, as well as showcase the Waveland Ground Zero Museum.
The Hancock Chamber began the leadership program in 1996 to “identify and prepare the community’s existing and future leadership resources.” The group meets for an entire day each month for field trips and classes that develop an awareness of the community, develop networking skills and teach participants to make the most of their leadership abilities.
Since the program was introduced nearly two decades ago, thirteen classes have produced 320 graduates, many of whom have gone on to become “change agents for the good of Hancock County.”
For the past three years, Janell Nolan has served as the chair of the Chamber’s Steering Committee for Leadership Hancock County (LHC). She calls the program a community effort, saying that it wouldn’t be possible without the support of volunteers, sponsors and local businesses.
Nolan says that each September the new leadership class kicks off with a leadership assessment and an alumni meet and greet. That’s followed by a two-day retreat in October that focuses on team-building and leadership skills. That session sets the foundation for the next six months where the classes take a close look at the six building blocks integral to economic and community development in Hancock County: social infrastructure, workforce development, Stennis Space Center, economic development, civic infrastructure, and cultural heritage and preservation. The program also tasks each class with a project. LHC participants receive a certificate of graduation and celebrate their dedication and hard work in June, with a graduation ceremony and dinner.
Nolan’s a graduate of the 2006 leadership class and says she wouldn’t trade the experience “for anything.”
“The personal and professional relationships that are built in the leadership classes are invaluable.”
Nolan has observed a few things about the program. “Every year, it is truly inspiring to see how the LHC participants – whether collectively or individually, digest the nine-month experience and immediately begin working on fulfilling a need or taking on challenges to improve the quality of life in Hancock County. The 2015 class came up with an innovative plan that would benefit both CASA and the Ground Zero Museum.”
“The LHC Class of 2015 has been working on this fantastic project,” says Nolan. “It’s been nothing short of amazing to watch them pull it together. They’ve involved the school districts, the children, the faculty and staff of the Career and Technology center and built partnerships with many local businesses.”
“In just a short period of time, they’ve already increased awareness of CASA’s mission exponentially. It’s a win-win for everybody – especially our future - the children of Hancock County.”
For more information on the Raising the Roof event, click here.
To read about CASA’s annual Mardi Gras Gala, click here for the January “Talk of the Town.”
The Cottage at 215 Main Street
This charming cottage built in 1910 gives visitors a chance to experience life like the locals in the very heart of Old Town!
The cottage sleeps four people: One bedroom offers twin beds, while a cool Murphy bed pulls down from a closet in the living room. There’s a comfy front parlor that’s great for reading, as well as an eat-in galley kitchenette. The front porch and cottage garden make living outside irresistible, even on summer days.
Since the cottage is kid and pet friendly, 215 Main can be rented as headquarters for a family stay in Old Town or as a romantic getaway. It even comes with two bicycles for exploring the miles of nearby biking/walking trails (along the beach or across the bay bridge) or taking the Historic Biking/Walking tour of Old Town.