Krewe of Mer announces Mardi Gras royalty

Published 12:23 am Sunday, February 5, 2017

The Krewe of Mer recently announced its royalty for the 2017 Mardi Gras season.

The krewe’s grand ball will be at 8 p.m. Saturday at the Natchez Convention Center. The ball is invitation only.

The 2017 royalty are:

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King Ray Brown

King-elect Ray Brown has been married to Queen-elect Diane F. Brown for 33 years. They have three daughters, Crystal Diane Brown Robinson of Slidell, La., JaLisa Rae Brown and Raechelle Diana Brown, both of Natchez. They also have three grandchildren, Rayson, Katelynn and Kirsten.

Ray is a graduate of South Natchez High School. He attended Alcorn State University. He has an associate degree from Copiah-Lincoln Community College, a bachelor of science degree from Southeastern Louisiana University and is a graduate of the Southern University Law Enforcement Academy.

Ray is the son of the Rev. James Brown Sr. and Classie P. Brown of Natchez. He has served the community for 16 years as a deputy sheriff, 20 years as the constable of the northern district and is presently employed as supervisor of safety and security for Natchez-Adams School District where he has been for the past 11 years.

Ray is a member of St. Luke A.M.E. Church and serves as a steward and vice president of the choir. He is a member of Clover Hill No. 13 Grand Lodge A F & A M, the Mississippi School Resource Officers Association, the county’s first response team and the Emergency Management Association. He is an E-911 board member and vice chairman of the Natchez Recreation Commission.

Ray loves attending church, going to New Orleans Saints football games, family outings, shopping and spending time with his family.

He also loves creating and designing items, including many of the decorations for this year’s grand ball.

He enjoys helping young people succeed in the community and most of all giving back to the community which he believes gave him a chance to succeed.

Queen Diane Ford Brown 

Queen-elect Diane Ford Brown is the daughter of Mittie L. Ford and the late Rev. Wilson Ford Sr. of Natchez. She is the wife of King-elect Ray Brown. They have been married for 33 years. Diane and Ray have three daughters, Crystal Diane Robinson, JaLisa Rae Brown and Raechelle Diana Brown. They have three grandchildren, Rayson, Katelynn, and Kirsten.

Diane is a graduate of South Natchez High School. She attended Alcorn State University. She has an associate degree from Draughons Business College in Jackson and an associate of cosmetology degree from Hinds Community College in Utica.

Diane is a member of Smithland Baptist Church and serves as a member of the choir, the Willing Workers Club and the Pastor’s Aide Club. In addition, she sings in the choir at St. Luke African Methodist Episcopal Church, and serves as choir secretary.

For the past 35 years, Diane has been employed at Natchez Coca-Cola Company and is currently the office manager.

She loves to attend church, enjoys New Orleans Saints football games and is a season ticket holder. She enjoys exercising, family outings, shopping and spending quality time with her family.

Captain Gwendolyn M. Ford 

Captain Gwen Ford is the daughter of Frances Louise Morris and the late Sidney Russell Morris Sr. She is the proud mother of Tremaine Lance Ford and the late Jarred Cortez Ford.

Gwen is a native of New Orleans and lives in Natchez.

She attended Jerome’s School of Cosmetology and Copiah-Lincoln Community College, where in 1979, she received her associate degree in marketing and business administration. In 2011 she received her bachelor of science degree from Alcorn State University in business administration.

Gwen is an established entrepreneur and has owned and operated Gwen’s Creative Concept Beauty Salon for 37 years. She also works with Creative Tax Service and is a licensed life and health agent for Penn Global Life Insurance Company out of Jackson and Lincoln Heritage Final Expense Insurance.

Gwen is a member of Holy Family Catholic Church and sings in Holy Family’s gospel choir.

She is a fun-loving person. She has been a member of the Krewe of Mer since 2004 and enjoys being a part of the skits or serving in any capacity for which she feels there is a need.

Gwen’s hobbies include spending time with family, singing, dancing, reading and traveling.

Duchess Frances Morris 

Duchess Fran Morris is a native of Natchez and the mother of three adult children, Myrna Morris Matthews, Gwendolyn Ann Morris Ford and Sidney Russell Morris Jr. She is the proud grandmother of five grandchildren, James Matthews, Jasmine Matthews, Tremaine Ford, Brianna Morris and the late Jarred Cortez Ford. She has four lovely great-grandchildren.

She is a graduate of St. Francis High School and Alcorn State University. She is a registered nurse and began her work in the medical field at Ochsner Foundation Hospital in New Orleans, then worked at Jefferson Davis Hospital and Natchez Regional Medical Center.

Fran is a loyal, active member of the Krewe of Mer and has served in various capacities through the years.

She is a member of Holy Family Catholic Church, where she serves as an usher and as a member and secretary of the Knights of Peter Claver Ladies Auxiliary. She is also a member of Eliza Pillars Registered Nurses of Mississippi, where she has served as treasurer since 1985. In addition, Fran is a member of Lizzie Shumaker Temple No. 1052 Order of Elks.

Fran is a long-time board member of the Natchez Preservation Committee and she has recently been re-elected to serve on the board of trustees for the Historic Natchez Foundation, where she previously served from 2002-2010 and served as president in 2006.

She has been with Natchez Municipal Employees Federal Credit Union, which is now Citizens Choice Federal Credit Union, for more than 30 years and currently serves as the board chair.

Fran greatly enjoys fishing, traveling and playing computer games.

Brenda Washington 

In 2008, Brenda Washington served as the 19th queen of the Krewe of Mer. She is the daughter and step-daughter of Thomas and Carol Valentine of San Jose, Calif, and the daughter of the late Berlin Payne Washington of Natchez. Brenda is the proud mother of two children, Derrick Washington and the late Lucius Washington; and the grandmother of two grandchildren, Camyra and Derrion Washington.

Brenda is a graduate of L. W. Higgins High School in Marrero, La. She studied at the University of New Orleans, Copiah-Lincoln Community College and Delta College. She has worked in the Jefferson Parish School System.

Brenda is a member of the Grove African Methodist Episcopal Church where she served on the usher board, as a member of the trustee board and as a member of the choir, where she served as assistant secretary.

She is also a former member of the Adams County Mass Choir. Brenda also helped to form the Susie B. West and Lower Woodville Heights Tenant Organization, where she served as president for many years.

Brenda’s hobbies are reading, singing and writing poems. She’s very passionate about working in the community and helping the less fortunate. She strongly believes our kids are our future and the elderly paved the way for us all.

Her motto is, “The true meaning of life is to keep on giving from your heart and soul and you will receive heavenly blessings.”

Renza J. Grennell 

Renza J. Grennell is the spouse of Jonathan Grennell Jr. and the mother of Jonathan, Jr., Darryl, LL’Juna, Ann, Tom and Renza. She enjoys being the grandmother of Jadtrl, Justin, Jonathan, Jaylan, Austin and Danyel.

Renza is an active member of the Krewe of Mer and has spent numerous hours helping to design, coordinate and construct costumes for the pageantry and the skits.

She is a member of Zion Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church and various other civic organizations.

She is a retired educator from the Natchez-Adams School District and still actively participates in area education by serving as an advisor to others and taking an active role in the education of her grandchildren.

One of Renza’s great enjoyments in life is cooking. As a great cook, she has spent many hours preparing delicious meals for others to enjoy.

Thelma S. Newsome 

Thelma S. Newsome is a life-long resident of Natchez and Adams County. She is married to Donnell Newsome and together they share four adult children, Almetia, Kelvin, Sylvia and Nicky; 11 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

Thelma is a retired educator with more than 35 years of service in Mississippi and Louisiana. During her tenure as an educator, she served in a variety of capacities from teacher assistant all the way to central office administrator.

In addition to being a very active member of the Krewe of Mer, where she has served in various offices and on several committees, she serves as secretary for the Natchez-Adams School District Board of Education and served for 25 years as a member of the Copiah-Lincoln Community College Board of Trustees.

She is a member of Rose Hill Missionary Baptist Church, a Golden Life Member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated, a life member of Alcorn Alumni Association, a member of Southwest Mississippi Chapter-Coalition of 100 Black Women, Retired Educators of Mississippi and she has served in many other local and national affiliations.

Thelma has a passion for reading, cooking and traveling with her husband. She spends a lot of time mentoring young people and is a strong advocate for children and education. She has helped to inspire not only her children to succeed in life but many others in the Miss-Lou area.

Duchess Bonita D. Reed 

Duchess Bonita Reed was happily married to the late Oscar K. Reed and they have two wonderful sons, Marcus and Lance. The unions of these two sons produced seven precious grandchildren: Payton, Marlyn, Tayler, Tori, Jessica, Kamryn, and Lauren.

Bonita is a retired educator from Natchez-Adams School District. She is a member of Rose Hill Missionary Baptist Church and many other civic organizations.

She enjoys volunteering, swimming, aqua aerobics, playing Scrabble and traveling.