Bill Ray has been named the Hattiesburg Veteran of the Year for 2019-2020 by the City of Hattiesburg Veteran’s Committee.
He will be recognized at the annual Veteran’s Day Program at 11 a.m. Nov. 11 at the Veteran’s Memorial Park in downtown Hattiesburg. The program is open to the public and will follow the Veteran’s Day Parade, which starts at 10 a.m. at the Hardy Street Baptist Church.
Jim Meade’s passion for teaching remains as vibrant as his first day on the job 49 years ago as a member of The University of Southern Mississippi’s faculty.
“I love teaching, and have enjoyed every minute of it,” said Meade of his nearly half-century career at USM as a professor of art and design.
Whether in his youth as a swimming instructor or a Boy Scout showing others the proper technique for tying knots, and now teaching art to college students, Meade says he’s “never been stingy with my energy and knowledge.”
Some people feel like they have no choice but to create and be creative. Southern Miss grad Rebecca Chandler is one of those people.
We can only speculate what pushes a person to express themselves publicly, but it's these people who are responsible for the propagation of our culture and without these talented individuals, society would stagnate.
Visual artists and musicians that we hold in high esteem are typically at the forefront of the performing lifestyle, but there are many more forms of art.
Most people in Hattiesburg – especially those in downtown – are familiar with Carmen Hardy Ford and her culinary prowess at Gratefull Soul, the restaurant on Main Street she owns with her husband, Grant.
But if not for a change in pace during college, Carmen may have returned to her hometown of Philadelphia – with a much different career path.
“I was actually going to go and do casino hosting (after college),” she said. “Philadelphia has the Choctaw Indian casinos, and that’s what I was going to do – go back and manage the casino.”
Jay Ladner is a Hattiesburg native (Oak Grove High School Class of 1984), and he played baseball and basketball at The University of Southern Mississippi. He enjoyed a few years of pharmaceutical sales after college, but being the son of a coach, he knew that was his calling. He spent two decades coaching at St. Stanislaus on the Gulf Coast, then a few years later he had the opportunity to coach Division I basketball at Southeastern Louisiana. He’s excited to be back where it all started, at Southern Miss.
Janet Gurwitch has had the opportunity to do some amazing things during her career. She’s rubbed elbows and dined with the rich and famous. She created and sold a multi-million dollar cosmetics company. She’s held her own against some of the top labels in the country. She’s part owner of a Major League Baseball franchise.
Gurwitch wasn’t shipped off to some fancy boarding school. She didn’t further her career by studying within the hallowed halls of the Ivy League. She had a desire and a drive to make something of her life.
And it started in Hattiesburg.
When Joseph VanZandt was 7 years old, a Hattiesburg Civic Light Opera production of The Wizard of Oz came to the Hub City.
At the urging of his mom – and dad, who was himself a veteran of community theater with HCLO – VanZandt tried out for one of the many roles for children in the play.
“So I did, and I took to it,” VanZandt said. “My dad played the scarecrow, and I was one of the Munchkins. And as they say, the rest is history.”
And what a rich history in theater it’s been for VanZandt.
MARY MARGARET HYER is a native of Hattiesburg and is a cum laude graduate of the University of Mississippi. She is a 2014 graduate of Oak Grove High School, where she was a member of the Hall of Fame. She represented the Pine Belt as Lamar County’s Distinguished Young Woman of 2014 and now represents the state as Miss Mississippi 2019. She was an employee of Phi Mu fraternity from 2018-2019 where she served as a chapter consultant.