Gypsies, Jimmy, Dunn and Dentzel

By Mary Nagurney

Imagine paying homage to a Gypsy Queen, yodeling with the Father of Country Music, and riding a giraffe—all in the same day. OLLI members enjoyed all these experiences during an October trip to Meridian.

Gypsy Grave

Nestled in the rolling grounds of Rose Hill Cemetery is the grave of Kelly Mitchell, the Queen of the Gypsies, whose funeral in 1915 was attended by 20,000 members of the Romani family summoned by her husband, King Emil. Legend says a visitor who brings an offering will receive good luck. Our group added bracelets and flowers to the beads and pinwheels already covering her resting place.

On the Merry go Around

Next came a visit to the Jimmie Rodgers Museum. Rodgers was a railroad man and the museum carries out that theme with a locomotive, coal car and caboose standing next to the depot housing The Singing Brakeman's memorabilia, including his guitar which is insured for one million dollars. The Country Music Hall of Fame, honoring Rodgers as the first performer inducted, described him as "The Father of Country Music"

A stroll across the park led to the Dentzel Carousel, made for the 1904 St. Louis Exposition and moved to Meridian in 1909. OLLI Members took a fast-clipped spin on a menagerie of elaborately carved horses, lions, tigers and giraffes.

The trip concluded with a stop at Dunn's Falls. In 1854 Irish immigrant John Dunn diverted a stream so that it would tumble down a 65-foot cliff to the Chunky River. Then the waterfall provided power for a grist mill. Now it provides stunning inspiration for photographers.




Making Movies in Mississippi

By Sandra Bender

Miles Doleac

Miles Doleac is passionate about the arts and Mississippi's legendary contribution to the arts. Mississippi has a background of artistic achievement unrivaled by most other states. Here 213 films and television shows have been produced. Great blues musicians, opera singers, short story writers, playwrights and rock stars have hailed from Mississippi. Many people committed to the arts live here. Dr. Doleac believes this is no accident. Mississippi is rich in paradox and contradictions, ripe for drama and creativity.

He said the arts have always expressed what is happening. They provide access to who we are, how we live and our place in the world. He should know because he has devoted his life to the history and current production of performing arts. Dr. Doleac was born and raised in Hattiesburg. He holds a PhD in the Classics and teaches Latin and the history of Greece, Rome and early Christianity at Southern Miss.

As a result of his enthusiasm for Mississippi as a location to make films, Doleac founded Historia Films. He intends to promote the Deep South, where "we aim to entertain, to inspire, to unnerve at times, and, always to make you think." Dr. Doleac has written the scripts, produced and acted in three films, all located in Hattiesburg. In 2014 "The Historian" won the Festival Prize for the Best First Feature at the Long Island International Film Expo. Two years later at that Film Expo, he won the Jury Award for Best Actor in "The Hollow." In October 2017, a third film, "Demons," opened at the Hattiesburg Grand Theater. Many of the actors are from Mississippi.

The process of making a film begins with writing a script. The script is used to attract noted actors. Doleac says casting is everything. Producers are attracted by the commitment of actors to the film.

It is difficult for independent film makers to thrive without help from grants and public funds. He pointed to Georgia as an example. That state is now producing more films than California. Dr. Doleac believes that Mississippi has the right stuff to become a powerhouse of film making.




Mississippi Mounds

By Karen LeBeau

Emerald Mound

"Southeastern Indians began building mounds about 3,500 years ago. Archaeological studies show that mound shapes and uses changed over time. The mounds built by the Natchez Indians, beginning about 800 years ago, were designed with flat tops to accommodate religious buildings and the houses of chiefs. During the period of French settlement the Grand Village was a center for tribal ceremonies," said an informational sign in the interpretation center at Grand Village.

Emerald Mound, near the southern end of the Natchez Trace, is the second largest mound north of Mexico (only Monks Mound in Cahokia, Illinois is larger). Emerald Mound was most likely the tribe's ceremonial center. It measures 770 by 435 feet at the base and is 35 feet tall. Imagine Indians hauling basket after basket of earth to build this huge mound, layer upon layer. It was built and used between AD 1250 and 1650 when it was abandoned. The Indians then moved 12 miles away to Grand Village. This became the ceremonial center from 1682 to 1729.

Driving 350 miles along Highway 61 following the Mississippi Mound Trail one can find 32 different mound sites. Some are now hidden in the woods along highways with only a sign indicating their presence. One even has a white house built around 1850 sitting on top.

The Mississippi Department of Archives and History has a pamphlet "Mississippi Mound Trail" that lists locations for every mound. You can open Google Maps, type in the GPS coordinates to find the location of the markers and spend many hours following the trail of the mound builders.




Let Your Fingers Do the Talking

By Pat Yelverton

Class Group

A new language course has been added to the OLLI curriculum and it has proved to be great fun to learn. American Sign Language (ASL), taught by Dr. Gerald Buisson, serves as the predominant sign language of deaf communities in the U.S. It is a complete, complex language that employs signs made by moving the hands and fingers combined with facial expressions and posture of the body.

Dr. Buisson was drawn to the language after taking a class in ASL in college. Consequently, with several degrees in education, concentrating on Education of the Deaf, Dr. Buisson became a certified sign language interpreter, along with his wife, Margo. He pointed out there are only about 24 certified interpreters in Mississippi. After spending many years in the Education of the Deaf program at Southern Miss, he can be seen interpreting worship songs at Grace Temple Church every Sunday and at various community events, including Lamar County high school graduations and several USM musicals.

Class GroupIn 2016 the State Department of Education officially recognized ASL as meeting graduation requirements in the area of Modern Languages, although no school district has opted to offer ASL.

Teaching at OLLI has given Dr. Buisson a new outlet for his passion. He says it's wonderful having students who want to learn, and he has so much more he would like to impart to enthusiastic seniors! The classes are filled with stories of Dr. Buisson's interpreting experiences, learning to sign songs and, of course, speaking with our hands!





Walk With Ease

By Mary Nagurney

Davis and Nagurney Arthritis hurts. There isn't any doubt about that. Many people, as a way of coping with the pain, give up on exercise.

Certified fitness trainer Anita Davis says, "When people don't feel well, they start thinking internally. They think, 'I don't feel well. I can't do this. I'm uncomfortable doing that.' It becomes a cycle spiraling downward."

In the Peck House garden Davis, who has osteoarthritis herself, leads Walk with Ease, a program developed by the Arthritis Foundation to help people get back into motion. The class is for people at any level—even those who have difficulty walking.

"The program is designed for individuals who are at the very, very beginning of a process to learn about how the body moves," says Davis. "It takes you at an individual level and gives you a pathway forward."

Davis and NagurneyDavis, who is certified by the National Academy of Sports Medicine with a specialization in senior fitness, is able to help each participant set and accomplish a walking goal. One simple but effective tool she suggests is keeping a walking diary, a useful way to monitor progress and stay on track.

Naturally curious with a diverse range of interests, Davis also is fascinating to talk with while walking. She has a PhD in music performance and education and is on the faculty at Southern Miss. As Director of the Center for Research in Creative Learning, she received approximately $1.5 million in grants to teach K-12 students music and the arts in the context of learning about math, science and reading. Her interest in fitness was sparked when her daughter gave her a gift, a marathon makeover program. The realization that as she became more active she needed fewer prescription drugs to treat her arthritis led to her becoming a fitness trainer herself and then to the Walk with Ease program. Less pain, more fitness—a worthy goal for all of us.






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