Come on in

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 22, 2009

Demographically the Miss-Lou’s population is nearly half black, half white; half male, half female and on the decline.

But door-by-door the area’s demographics are much more interesting.

Many local residents have deep roots here. Many were born here, but left at some point or another to try life elsewhere.

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But they never stay away.

The reasons for the local transience vary from person to person. Most movement depends on the availability of work, here or elsewhere.

But each person’s story varies from the next, and the only way to truly get to know our community is to knock, door-by-door.

Thelma Noble

Thelma Noble has parked her car in the same driveway on Eastmoor Drive in Natchez for the past 50 years.

And although Noble is originally from Wilkinson County, she never had any intentions of moving away from her current residence.

“I always planned to live here for the rest of my life,” she said.

Noble willingly moved from Woodville to Natchez because that is where her heart was, she said.

“My husband had moved to Natchez with his parents before we got married,” Noble said. “He moved away but he never forgot me. He came back to Woodville and got me and brought me here.”

In the 50 years she has lived in Adams County, Noble said she has seen much change in the area, but her street has been relatively unchanged. She said many of the families on the street are the same as when she first moved there.

“It’s a lot quieter on the street now,” Noble said as she recalled the number of children that were raised in each house near hers. “When we moved here there were a lot of children on the street now they are mostly grown.”

The four bedroom house, which she bought with her now deceased husband, is where Noble raised her four children — two boys and two girls — and is still full of family today. Noble shares the house with her son Alex Noble, 47, and his girlfriend, Marcella King, 44, and sees other family members almost daily, including her grandson Rychard Green, 33.

“There are three main houses in the family,” Green said. “And this is the castle.”

And Noble is perfectly fine being the queen of her close knit family.

“I wouldn’t take anything for them,” she said.

Lisa Maples

Lisa Maples is back and loving it.

The Orleans Street resident moved back to Natchez with her husband Ken and daughter Taylor in July, and they have been in their current residence since August.

Another daughter, Missy, 22, occasionally darkens their door when she is in from college at Johnson and Wales University in North Carolina.

Six years ago, the family left Natchez to move to Oklahoma, where Ken worked in the oil business.

They had spent 13 years in Natchez before the move, and they couldn’t shake it.

“We just missed it, the activities and things you can do here,” Maples said. “There is an activity ever weekend if you want to do it.”

Those things included the Great Mississippi River Balloon Race, the jazz festival, local chili cook-offs and Mardi Gras parades.

“The town we were in wouldn’t offer that,” Maples said. “They would have one parade a year. For a (city) this size to offer this much, that is different.”

So when the family heard that Callon Petroleum was looking for a new Chief Financial Officer, they made the move back.

Since moving back, the family has immersed themselves back into the community, and Maples said she spends a good deal of time doing church and school activities at Jefferson Street United Methodist Church and Trinity Episcopal Day School.

She is also involved with pilgrimage and the Krewe of Phoenix.

“We really enjoyed living here, and we wanted to come back,” Maples said.

Kelvin Tillage

Kelvin Tillage is a very well known person, at least among his neighbors.

As a “Super Dad” for Girl Scout Troop 559, a member of the Zion Hill Baptist Church No. 1 choir, an umpire and referee, a substitute teacher and a driver for Stine Lumber Company, Tillage definitely gets around in the community.

Tillage has lived in his house on the corner of Spruce and Vidal streets in Vidalia for 16 years. His wife, Anna Laura, had lived in the house six years before they got married.

While Tillage and his bride live by themselves, they are rarely home alone.

“I have anywhere from six to 10 kids at my house during the weekend,” he said. “I have a pool table and some weights back there. They always come around looking for snacks, too.”

Tillage has a big family, too. He said he has anywhere from 50 to 75 relatives in the Miss-Lou, not counting his wife’s family. She has nine brothers and sisters.

Their closest family lives just across the street. The Tillages’ daughter, Dominique Kennedy, and her husband Christopher live on the opposite corner with their three children, two daughters ages 5 and 1 and a 2-year-old son.

“When he sees me come home, he’s automatically wanting to come over,” Tillage said of his grandson, C.J. “It’s playtime.”

Tillage’s family is from the Miss-Lou, but he moved to Vidalia from Chicago nearly 20 years ago because, he said, he likes the weather.

He was a pulp mill operator for International Paper before being laid off and has held numerous jobs since then, including offshore work, car sales and even a one-year stint at Angola State Penitentiary.

Chet Gaston

Chet Gaston can’t imagine living anywhere but in the Miss-Lou.

“If I had a choice to live anywhere else in the world, I wouldn’t go anywhere,” he said.

A Natchez native, Gaston spent 20 years in the military, and he saw his fair share of exotic lands.

Africa, Southeast Asia, Central and South America, Afghanistan — he’s seen it all.

And after his stint, he moved to Missouri and raised his daughter. Then she went to college.

“I was living there by myself, so I moved back here,” Gaston said.

In fact, it was his sister Tori Lemoine who brought him to Concordia Parish. And it’s his sister and her husband who Gaston lives with now.

He said his living situation couldn’t be better.

“(My sister) is the finest lady in the world, this Southern belle,” he said.

Only 18 months his senior, Lemoine raised him, Gaston said.

And for his brother-in-law, Don Lemoine, Gaston would rather just drop the titles, because to Gaston, his sister’s husband is like a blood relative.

“He’s a fantastic man,” Gaston said.

Gaston spends his days in relaxation — hunting, fishing, raising his backyard garden.

And he loves playing with his sister’s grandchildren, Brice, 6, Caden, 2, and Jaden, 18 months.

While Gaston has traversed the world, he said he isn’t surprised he found his way back to the Miss-Lou.

“I love it down here. I love the people here,” he said.