Vestavia Voice June 2024

Page 1

Reflections on retirement


As the days get longer, there’s more time to pack in all the fun Vestavia Hills has to offer. Check out something new this summer in the city you call home. TRY YOUR HAND AT PICKLEBALL If you haven’t picked up a pickleball paddle yet but have been wanting to, now is a great time — Vestavia’s supply of courts is constantly growing. You can find them in neighborhoods, parks and churches, and many are open to the public. Wald Park (1090 Montgomery Highway) has outdoor courts available for use, and Sicard Hollow Athletic Complex (4851 Sicard Hollow Road) has outdoor courts open to the public, but you can only reserve them in advance if you’re a member. Vestavia Hills Recreation Center (1973 Merryvale Road) and The Lighthouse at Vestavia Hills United Methodist Church (2061 Kentucky Ave.) also have indoor courts, but a membership is required to play. Before you pick up a paddle for the first time, check out this rules tutorial to get you started: official-rules/rules-summary. The rules may seem complicated, but once you get going, it doesn’t take long to catch on. PLAY AND SPLASH With summer heating up, it’s the perfect time to get the kids out to try the splash pad at the Sicard Hollow Athletic Complex, which is open 9 a.m. to sunset. After they dry off, they can check out the HIGHEST PRICES FOR GOLD EVER! $10,000 paid All Types of Gold & Silver Coins Cummings JEWELRY DESIGN 205-298-9144 3166 Heights Village, 35243 Vestavia Hills Cahaba Heights Now is the time to sell! Bridging education with nature, Dolly Ridge Elementary debuts outdoor classroom. Rocky Ridge Cumberland Presbyterian Church celebrates 170 years. Sponsors 4 City 6 Schoolhouse 8 Business 10 Real Estate 12 Events 14 Sports 18 Community 21 INSIDE See page 9 See page 22 Down to Earth Celebrating 170 BROOK HIGHLAND PLAZA • VESTAVIA CITY CENTER Extra 20% off in Store only. Valid only in Vestavia and Birmingham Shoe Station stores. Cannot be combined with additional discounts or coupons or used on prior purchases, refunds or exchanges. Excludes Doorbusters, Accessories, Apparel, Socks and Gift Cards. Excluded Brands: Crocs, Asics, Reef, Nike, Under Armour, New Balance, Sperry, Chaco, Birkenstock, Timberland, Timberland PRO, KEEN, OOFOS, HEYDUDE, Guess, Frye, Jack Rogers, Seychelles, Antelope, Chocolat Blu, Dolce Vita, Rainbow, Hoka One, Brooks, Dansko, Alegria, Naked Feet, Steve Madden, Koolaburra by UGG and UGG. Other exclusions may apply. To redeem present coupon at checkout. One coupon per transaction. Offer subject to change without notice. Valid 06/01/2024-07/01/2024 11:59 pm EST. IN STORE ONLY 20%OFF June 2024 | Volume 12 | Issue 2 VESTAVIA HILLS’ COMMUNITY NEWS SOURCE VESTAVIAVOICE.COM | STARNESMEDIA.COM BROUGHT TO YOU BY SERVING VESTAVIA HILLS, THE 280 CORRIDOR, HOMEWOOD, HOOVER, MOUNTAIN BROOK AND TRUSSVILLE
Hauser said the day she talked with Becky Patton in 2005, she didn’t think it was a job interview — not really, anyway. “We just ended up talking a lot,” Hauser said. So she was surprised when Patton, the principal at Vestavia Hills Elementary West at the time, offered her a job as the assistant principal. Hauser had been a teacher at Vestavia Hills Elementary Central for nine years at the time.
retiring this summer
Hills principals
See RETIREMENT | page 27 See SUMMER | page 26
Kim Hauser, the principal at Vestavia Hills Elementary West, listens as third grader Manar Baroody reads a Mother’s Day poem on May 9. Hauser is retiring after 19 years as an administrator at West, with 28 years in the Vestavia Hills school system. Photo by Erin Nelson Sweeney.
Summer in the city: Activities to explore around Vestavia Hills
Children play in the splash pad at the Vestavia Hills Aquatic Complex. Photo by Erin Nelson Sweeney.
2 • June 2024 Vestavia Voice High Quality Service and Customer Satisfaction is our priority We’re committed to surpassing your expectations for your beautiful outdoor spaces by creating and maintaining landscaping, hardscape installation and effectively minimizing drainage and erosion issues. Your Large and Small Tree, Shrub and Drainage Experts | BEST PRICE for Trees, Shrubs Astroturf & Privacy Screens Gardner has the Call to schedule your landscaping plan 205-401-3347

42ndAnnual I LOVE NIGHT America

Thursday, June 27, 2024

6:00 pm at Wald Park

Presented by:

6:00-8:00 pm

Free Swimming at the Wald Park Aquatic Center Kids' area sponsored by Vestavia Hills Methodist Church Sponsor Booths Music by Chevy 6 at 6:30 pm FIREWORKS SHOW at 8:45 pm

Food & Drinks available to purchase from concession stand and food trucks. Bring a lawn chair or blanket. Free shuttles available from nearby parking lots. Visit for more information.

Many thanks to all our Sponsors June 2024 • 3
Vestavia Hills Chamber of Commerce & the City of Vestavia Hills
Activate Games * Altadena Eye Care * Birmingham Chimney Services Chick-fil-A Vestavia Hills * Cookie Fix * Crumbl Cookies * Megan Kincaid-ARC Realty Mighty Dog Roofing * Promotional Creations * Vestavia Barber Shop

About Us

Editor’s Note By Tim Stephens

As the new editor of the Vestavia Voice and other Starnes Media publications, it’s great to be “home.”

This is a literal and figurative statement. Since college brought me to Birmingham (and UAB) in 1991, it feels as if I’ve called almost every metro municipality home at some point. It’s good to be back.

It’s also good to be back in journalism after a few years with tech startups.

It feels full circle. My media career began at the old Birmingham Post-Herald and carried me to the Orlando Sentinel, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel and Along the way, our teams pioneered many digital innovations that are now

Published by: Starnes Publishing LLC P.O. Box 530341 Birmingham, AL 35253 (205) 313-1780

common. You’ll begin to see these influences with the Vestavia Voice.

A mentor of mine once defined news as “interesting people doing interesting things.” Vestavia Hills is full of people like that. We want to tell those stories. We have many new content plans that will debut this summer. I encourage you to connect with our social channels, visit our website and reach out to me anytime at tstephens@

For advertising, contact:

Please submit all articles, information and photos to:

Please Support Our Community Partners

Alabama Power (5)

Allsteel Fence (23)

Ambrose Kitchen & Bath (11)

American Village (24)

Amy Smith Gardner, State Farm (27)

Birmingham Zoo (24)

Bistro V (23)

Bromberg’s (6)

Budget Blinds (15)

Cahaba Valley Imaging (19)

Cardinal Roofing (7)

Children’s of Alabama (9)

Cummings Jewelry Design (1)

Dermatology & Skin Care Center of Birmingham (18)

ENT Associates of Alabama (16)

European Wax Vestavia (4)


Editor in Chief: Community Editors:

Sports Editor: Contributing Editor: Design Editor: Photo Editor: Graphic Designer:

Production Assistant: Operations Specialist:

Dan Starnes

Tim Stephens Jon Anderson

Leah Ingram Eagle

Kyle Parmley

Lee Hurley

Melanie Viering

Erin Nelson Sweeney

Ted Perry

Simeon Delante Sarah Villar

Galleria Woods Retirement Community (20)

Gardner Astroturf (6)

Gardner Landscaping (2)

Gaynell HendricksTax Assessor (27)

Issis & Sons (2)

Jana Hanna RealtySouth (7)

Monster Tree Service of Birmingham (5)

Mr. Handyman of Birmingham (21)

One Man & A Toolbox (9)

One Source Heating Cooling and Electrical LLC (10)

Parrot Structural

Services LLC (25)

Royal Automotive (28)

Shoe Station (1)

Contributing Writers:

Katharine Armbrester

Lauren H. Dowdle

Sarah Gilliland

Loyd McIntosh

Grace Thornton

Client Success Specialist: Business Development Exec:

Legals: Vestavia Voice is published monthly. Reproduction or use of editorial or graphic content without prior permission is prohibited. Vestavia Voice is designed to inform the Vestavia community of area school, family and community events. Information in Vestavia Voice is gathered from sources considered reliable but the accuracy cannot be guaranteed. All articles/photos submitted become the property of Vestavia Voice. We reserve the right to edit articles/photos as deemed necessary and are under no obligation to publish or return photos submitted. Inaccuracies or errors should be brought to the attention of the publisher at (205) 313-1780 or by email.

Warren Caldwell Don Harris

Shunnarah Flooring (12)

Southern Home Structural

Repair Specialists (16)

SouthPoint Bank (14)

Spiffy Design (8)

The Crossings at Riverchase (17)

TherapySouth Corporate (15)

University of Alabama / Culverhouse College of Business / Executive MBA (12)

Vestavia Hills Chamber of Commerce (3)

Vulcan Termite & Pest Control (8)

W.E. Lusain Funeral Home (13)

Watts Realty (10)

Window World of Central Alabama (25)

Find Us

Vestavia Voice is distributed through direct mail to Vestavia Hills residents. You can also find copies at a variety of locations throughout the community. For a list of pick up locations, scan the QR code below or go to vestaviavoice. com/about-us.


4 • June 2024 Vestavia Voice
FREE WAX Scan QR code to join our Grand Opening Guest list and receive a FREE WAX. HOOVER TRACE CROSSINGS 2539 John Hawkins Pkwy, Suite 125 Hoover, AL 35244 205-745-6066 VESTAVIA CITY CENTER 790 Montgomery Hwy, Suite 116 Vestavia Hills, AL 35216 205-745-6065 SCAN ME

Vestavia Hills residents provide full range of tree services to Birmingham area

If you need professional trimming, pruning or removal of trees and shrubs at your home or business, look no farther than Monster Tree Service.

The company has offered high-quality service at competitive prices nationally since 2008, and its highly trained specialists work safely and efficiently with the latest tools.

The owners of the local Monster Tree Service franchise are Dylan Digmon and Kristen Digmon, who live and operate their business in Vestavia Hills.

“We moved to Vestavia Hills a little over two years ago, and we couldn’t have picked a better place to put down permanent roots,” Dylan said.

Dylan said he “grew up in the forestry industry” and has advised numerous home services companies.

“A Monster Tree franchise was a perfect fit for us.”

Traditional tree removals are a big part of their business, and “when they do need to be removed we want to set the standard for safety and reliability,” Dylan said.

However, “plenty of people out there can cut a tree down, but we want to be the go-to call for alternatives to keep trees healthy,” he said. “We want to be seen as a true tree-care service provider.”

Dylan cites such services as soil health treatments. and preventative treatments for Southern pine beetles.

“There are a range of solutions we can offer to improve tree health and extend the life of the trees that make Vestavia Hills so unique,” Dylan said.

“We’ve treated a couple of pines in our yard to prevent the beetles from killing them,” Kristen said. “They provide great shade and we’re thankful that we can extend their lifespan. We’re most excited to share services like this with our neighbors.”

It’s gratifying and rewarding to serve homeowners, the couple said.

“Helping homeowners is the reason we started the

business,” Dylan said. “We felt like there was a huge opportunity to improve the customer experience within tree care services.”

“We’ve been on the other side of home repairs,

Monster Tree Service

• Call: 205-440-3909

• Web:

• Social: @monstertree.bhm

• Hours: Monday-Friday 8 a.m. to 5 pm. and Saturdays 8 a.m. to noon

both urgent and planned,” Kristen said. “Whether it’s work inside or outside of the home, we understand the need for care, safety and professionalism. That’s what we expect and we’ll go above and beyond for our customers to ensure that peace of mind.”

The couple also enjoys living and working in Vestavia Hills.

“We felt welcomed and at home here immediately,” Kristen said. “Our neighbors barely let our movers leave before greeting us, buying us dinner, or bringing over sweet treats.”

“We love Vestavia Hills, we were immediately sold on the area and the parks, trees, and natural surroundings, and it’s been a great place to raise our kids,” Dylan said.

The couple have been pleased to see the “strong support” in Vestavia Hills for local businesses, sports and schools, Kristen said, adding that the couple help sponsor Rebel Athletics at Vestavia Hills High School.

Dylan said that he enjoys being a Monster Tree Service franchisee.

“Being part of the broader Monster Tree network comes with significant training and safety resources, all of which benefit both our employees and customers,” he said.

For more information, call 205-440-3909 or go to June 2024 • 5
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From delivering reliable power to offering solutions to help you be more energy efficient, we go to great heights to provide top-of-the-line service. Our team is dedicated to meeting your energy needs. That’s power for a better Alabama. Visit to learn all the ways we can serve you. Scan


Council approves grant for Altadena Park improvements

The Vestavia Hills City Council approved a grant earmarked for improvements at Altadena Park during its regular meeting on May 13.

The $15,000 grant from Innovate Alabama, a public-private partnership focused on entrepreneurship, technology and innovation throughout the state, will be used for recreation enhancements to the park, which is a point of emphasis for the City Council as part of its master plan, said Jeff Downes, the Vestavia Hills city manager.

“Innovate Alabama has multiple pillars that they are supporting. One of those is a pillar focused on outdoor recreation,” Downes said. “We put in a grant based on our master plan and we got $15,000 to go toward exercise equipment, and anything remaining can go to trail enhancement out at Altadena Park.”

The grant is just one of many grants either already awarded or applied for by the city, which Downes highlighted in his city manager’s report earlier in the council meeting.

Among the grants are a $3 million EPA grant from Sen. Katie Britt to support the city’s stormwater master plan for areas on the east side of U.S. 31. Furthermore, Downes said officials from Britt’s office recently informed city staff about an application for an additional $1 million for further stormwater enhancements.

“We had a communication from Senator Britt’s office that they accepted, not awarded, but accepted our application for another million dollars for the next phase of that project,” Downes said. “They called us several times and are excited about pushing that forward.”

Other grants Downes highlighted include $75,000 awarded to Vestavia Hills by the Energy Efficiency Conservation Block Grant Program for sidewalk improvements in Cahaba Heights.

Additionally, Downes said the city is waiting on a response for a $250,000 grant for stormwater improvements in the Rocky Ridge community, plus a possible grant for additional fire department personnel in Liberty Park.

“All of these are things that we are doing to try to enhance our revenues, and not just grabbing money where it can be grabbed, but to be supportive of our overall strategic plan,” Downes said.

In other items:

► The City Council approved a Class II liquor license for Everyday Package Store, located at 3015 Columbiana Road.

► Mayor Ashley Curry addressed the first reading of an upcoming resolution to rezone property located at 4529 Pine Tree Circle from single-family residential to Vestavia Hills B-2 (general business) with conditions.

► Katie Wiswall, the Urban & Community Forestry partnership coordinator at Alabama Forestry Commission, commemorated the 30th anniversary of Vestavia Hill’s recognition as a Tree City USA community.

► Ashley and the City Council recognized May 19-25 as National Public Works Week. City Councilman George Pierce said that the personnel of the Vestavia Hills Public Works department are as important and perform tasks as crucial as the city’s police force and fire department. “We always recognize our first responders as being police and fire,” Pierce said. “These guys are part of the first responder team. With all the storms we have and trees knocked down, they’re out at night, when we can’t get out of our driveway, making our streets passable. They’re a part of the first responder team, also.”

► The City Council also recognized May 15-21 as National Police Week and May 15 as Peace Officers Memorial Day.

6 • June 2024 Vestavia Voice Call Gardner Landscaping Today 205-401-3347 •Spring Clean Ups • Mowing • Pruning • Mulch • Straw • Seasonal Color • Weed Control and Fertilization to Lawn Areas • Tree and Shrub Care • Fire Ant Application • Weed Control in Natural Areas • Aeration Leave the landscaping maintenance to Gardner.
Vestavia Hills City Manager Jeff Downes says a $15,000 grant from Innovate Alabama will go toward exercise equipment and trail enhancements at Altadena Park. Photo by Erin Nelson.

Mayor’s Minute

This past month, I attended the Vestavia Hills High School graduation. As always, I am extremely proud of our students’ accomplishments. The number of scholarships received and the dollar value of scholarship offers is astounding. I have no doubt that these students will be prepared for the career paths that they choose. It could be college, military service, trade schools or any number of career development programs. I wish the best in their future endeavors.

This June, there are a number of interesting nationally recognized days. For instance, for the month of June you can celebrate National Iced Tea Month, National Dairy Month or National Camping Month.

Or you can celebrate other occasions for a particular day in June:

► June 1: National Say Something Nice Day

► June 4: National Hug Your Cat Day

► June 8: National Doll Day (give a doll to someone special)

These are all notable things to remember and celebrate, but I was disappointed that there was no mention or recognition for June 6 regarding our World War II military liberation of Europe. On June 6, 1944, the Allied invasion of Normandy, often referred to as D-Day, began the liberation of France and the rest of Western Europe and laid the foundation for the Allied victory in Europe.

We should never forget that over 10,000 Allied military personnel paid the ultimate sacrifice for freedom in Europe. As you have your iced tea, say something nice to someone or buy a doll for someone, remember June 6 for our veterans. June 2024 • 7 #1 REALTOR FOR REALTYSOUTH IN VESTAVIA HILLS * *GALMLS data for 2023 Jana Hanna RealtySouth Top Producer 205-835-6188 Low Financing Rates! 25 Year Warranties! Best Google Reviews in the Business! Free Detailed Inspections Superior Installation to Keep Water Out 205•900•ROOF WE FIX ROOFS NO

Terakedis joins Board of Education

Liberty Park resident Amber Terakedis is joining the Vestavia Hills Board of Education in June, replacing Jaclyn Hudson as Hudson ends her term on the board.

Terakedis, a seven-year resident of Vestavia Hills, works as a certified financial planner and partner of Plante Moran. She has three children in the Vestavia school system and has worked on various committees, PTOs and boards, including the Vestavia Hills City Schools Foundation board.

As she interviewed with the Vestavia Hills City Council for the seat, one of the main topics discussed was the 1Rebel 1Future tax plan that failed to pass last year. Terakedis was involved in helping spread information about the proposed plan and urging community members to participate in discussions.

“A lot of people only heard the negative,” Terakedis said. “I encouraged people that if they felt passionate about it and it comes up again, to get involved.”

Terakedis said being on a board is an incredible learning opportunity and a way for her to contribute to the community. She said she was truly honored and humbled to be appointed to serve on the school board.

“I have the utmost respect for the other school board members, the City Council and our superintendent,” Terakedis said. “I’m really looking forward to digging in and helping to maintain the legacy of excellence in our school district.”

She’s also excited to get to know more parents, teachers, students and administrators across the city, she added.

“I’m thrilled to be involved in decisions that will help us navigate the future needs and growth

of our district,” Terakedis said. “We live in such a unique and wonderful place, and I will do everything in my power to contribute to preserving and growing the 1Rebel culture.”

Before making the nomination, Vestavia City Council members spoke with her references, who said Terakedis was a good listener, gave wise advice on how to resolve problems and had helped them feel more connected to the schools and community.

“I try to find ways to get people plugged in, so that we’re collectively making positive progress,” Terakedis said. “You want to work so that your kids can raise their kids here one day.”

Councilwoman Kimberly Cook said she brought the nomination for Terakedis to the council in part because of Terakedis’s dedication to fight for creative ways to fulfill the school board’s vision.

“I look for people who don’t waste time complaining about how things are, but who ask time after time, ‘What can I do to make things better? How can I serve?’” Cook said. “I want someone who is willing to do the messy work of governing a diverse school system because we have many competing priorities and ideas out there.”

Community members also shared with Cook that Terakedis was a peacemaker but that she wouldn’t back down from a challenge if it’s important — things Cook appreciated.

“Amber will be a valuable asset, and the council gives its wholehearted support to her for this appointment, and I am sure our community will too,” Cook said.

Other candidates who applied for the Board of Education this year were Leslie Claybrook, Rachel Jordan, Rhoda Kattus, Brent Von Kanel and Lynn Worley.

8 • June 2024 Vestavia Voice
Have a schoolhouse announcement? Email Sarah Villar at to be considered for inclusion in an upcoming issue. So So Spiffy’s SHINDIG Friday, June 14th 12pm-6pm Saturday, June 15th 10am-4pm The once-a-month warehouse sale features a curated collection of amazing home furnishings! indoor & outdoor furniture * vintage one-of-a-kind pieces * dining chairs bedroom decor deeply-discounted items * rugs SPIFFY OUTDOOR IN NOW! • FREE ADMISSION 1218 Second Ave N, Birmingham AL 35203 (205)440-9013 sosospiffydesign If your pest problem gets too much to handle... 205-663-4200 BACK... they’re It’s tick season - and they can be anywhere outdoors. Keep you and your family tick bite free by... including your yard Examine yourself immediately after walking through tall grass, wooded areas, or anywhere domestic or wild animals roam. At the end of the day do a thorough tick check in a full length mirror - and we mean a down to the birthday suit check. Wash your clothes and shower. Call The Best to Fight The Pest
Amber Terakedis with her famiily at Church of the Highlands on Easter. Photo courtesy of Amber Terakedis.

Business Happenings


Restored Hope Counseling is a new business offering counseling services at 300 Vestavia Parkway, Suite 1500. They offer individual counseling for children ages 3 and older, teens, adults and couples. 205-881-2705,

Marky's Kitchen is now open at 3134 Cahaba Heights Road. The restaurant, owned by the same family that started Zoe's Kitchen, offers Greek salads, sandwiches, chicken kabobs, hot plates, burgers and family dinners like chicken marinara. Customers can stop in daily from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.


Mizzen+Main, a popular menswear retailer, opened last month at The Summit Birmingham. The store is known for its classic men's dress shirt but also carries other men's clothing and golf attire. Customers can stop by Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 6 p.m.


Swarovski recently opened at the Summit Birmingham. The store offers the finest in crystal and created diamonds. They also specialize in jewelry, watches and other gifts. Shoppers can visit the store Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 6 p.m. 205-316-3254,


The Laguna Beach jewelry company Gorjana will open at The Summit Birmingham soon. The company is known for gold jewelry crafted to layer, mix and match. The store will be open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 6 p.m. 205-201-0094,


Morningside Of Vestavia Hills, 2435 Columbiana Road, has been ranked among the best in the nation by Seniorly in its 2024 Best of Senior Living Awards, beating out more than 60,000 senior living facilities nationwide. Morningside Of Vestavia Hills is among 334 facilities Seniorly gave its blessing to based on online reviews for cleanliness, dining services, staff ratings, value, care services and overall resident satisfaction, in addition to a requirement to be free from licensing violations for the last 36 months and have no evidence of negative media coverage for the last 24 months.


Warren Averett has been named one of Accounting Today's 2024 Top Firms for Technology. Firms that made the list use deliberate and intentional AI efforts, advancements in technology infrastructure and a comprehensive view of the dynamic technology landscape. Warren Averrett is one of the largest accounting firms in the Southeast.


The Birmingham location of Cahaba Wealth Management, 3800 Colonnade Parkway, is proud to announce that Louis Williams, CPA, CFP, has been promoted to senior financial advisor. Williams has been with the company since 2018 and looks forward to helping lead the Birmingham office in addition to serving his clients. Cahaba Wealth Management is an independent investment management and financial planning company. 205-588-5167,


Trenton Graves has joined RealtySouth's Over-theMountain office at 2409 Acton Road, Suite 137, as a Realtor. 334-332-4170,

Covington Flooring Co., located in downtown Birmingham, would like to welcome Debbie Deason, a Vestavia resident, to their commercial sales and business development sector. She will be collaborating with architects, interior designers, facility managers and building owners to help them select the best options for their specific needs. She can be contacted by email at 205-328-2330,

Business News to Share?

Do you have news to share with the community about a business in Vestavia Hills or the greater Birmingham area? Let us know at business-happenings

10 • June 2024 Vestavia Voice
Air Conditioning, Heating & Generator Experts Serving VESTAVIA HILLS and Surrounding Areas Don’t worry we guarantee all our work! • A 100-percent total satisfaction guarantee • 24-hour catastrophic emergency service • We train our own technicians and never hire subcontractors • All work completed by certified, licensed and trained professionals 205-944-1166 1807 Oxford Road Homewood, AL COMMERCIAL LEASING & BROKERAGE PROPERTY MANAGEMENT REAL ESTATE CONSULTATIONS INSURANCE 1527 3RD AVE SOUTH BIRMINGHAM 2x Certified Property Manager® of the Year in the State of Alabama Century+ as Family Owned & Operated Business 205-251-1267

Ambrose Kitchen & Bath • 205-510-6961

John Ambrose is a Birmingham designbuild expert with years of experience in top-quality remodels and new construction. He recently rebranded his business and, in this Q&A, discusses his exciting new venture — Ambrose Kitchen & Bath.

Why the focus on kitchens and baths? After undertaking full remodels and building from the ground up, I realized that kitchens and bathrooms are my passion. They’re the most difficult areas in the home, and the challenge is exciting. Getting lighting, plumbing, tile, countertops, cabinets, hardware, appliances and paint to all work in harmony is extremely rewarding.

What sets Ambrose Kitchen & Bath apart? We started as a design and remodeling company, so we can take your project from design to finish, including

Zoë’s Kitchen family opens new concept in Cahaba Heights

Fresh off reestablishing the Zoës Kitchen brand in Crestline, the Cassimus family decided it was time for their patriarch to have a namesake restaurant too. That restaurant, now open in Cahaba Heights, is called Marky’s Kitchen. Marcus and Zoë Cassimus have been in the restaurant business since 1995. Their entrepreneurial adventures began with the opening of the original Zoë’s Kitchen location in Homewood, and that spirit continued with their son, John, who has founded businesses such as Maki Fresh, Jinsei and Miss Dot’s Kitchen (now Craft’s on Church Street).

“Helping my father open a restaurant with his name on the sign will be one of the highlights of my life. I’ve seen what it’s like to see my mom’s name on the steps of the New York Stock Exchange, and now it’s Dad’s turn,” John Cassimus said in a press release.

Marcus Cassimus said there will be plenty of familiar family recipes on the menu at Marky’s Kitchen, plus a smashburger, “which is one of my favorite things to cook.”

The new burger comes with grilled onions, cheese, pickles and “Marky Sauce” and crispy shoestring fries. Other menu items include pita bread sandwiches, roll-ups, kabobs, chicken marinara and sides like hummus, slaw and pasta salad.

“We offer a special [called The Smash Special], which is two smash burgers and fries for $12.99,” John Cassimus said. “We know it's hard to eat out and things are crazy expensive, so we want to be able to offer that [to our customers].”

The family's famous chocolate cake is also on the menu at Marky’s Kitchen.

The restaurant has opened in the former

Helping my father open a restaurant with his name on the sign will be one of the


of my life.

“ ”

Local Roots restaurant on Cahaba Heights Road.

“We have a great fanbase in Crestline, and we knew we had a beautiful opportunity with a space that was already built out here [in Cahaba Heights] that was ready to go, and we just jumped at the opportunity,” John Cassimus said.

While the location does have a drive-thru, it will be used as a pickup window instead.

“It’s great for customers on the go or those that need to pick up a quick lunch. We make everything fresh, so we ask them to order them at least 15 minutes ahead online, and then they can come to the window to pick it up,” John Cassimus said.

Presently, the Cassimus family is looking forward to building up the business in Cahaba Heights, but they won’t say they’ll never expand the brand.

“I feel like we’ll expand in the Birmingham area when the right opportunity and timing presents itself,” John Cassimus said.

Marky’s Kitchen is located at 3134 Cahaba Heights Road and is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m. Order ahead for pickup at the drive-thru window at

space reimagination. We also stand out by carrying six distinct cabinet lines to meet the design and budget needs of anyone looking to elevate their home’s value. We can usually produce 3-D renderings of your vision after only one design appointment. What’s your favorite cabinet line? I love working with any cabinet that meets a customer’s needs, but my personal favorite is Mouser — a true luxury brand with lots of custom options. Mouser is still made in Kentucky bourbon country with the same quality and craftsmanship found nearly 70 years ago in Mr. Mouser’s tiny shop. It’s a brand that gets even architects excited — with luxury inset, trend right faceframe, chic custom veneers and modern frameless laminates. If you dream it, we can do it with Mouser. For more information, call 205-510-6961 or visit June 2024 • 11 John
a ‘passion’ for building great kitchens and baths
Ambrose has
205-510-6961 creating & transforming spaces for better living AKB
AMBROSE KITCHEN & BATH Above: John Cassimus at the newly opened Marky’s Kitchen in Cahaba Heights. Right: The Smash Special and the chicken kabobs are two popular menu items. Photos courtesy of Marky’s.
12 • June 2024 Vestavia Voice Real Estate Mention this ad to SAVE 20% ON ALL CORETEC Materials and Installation . June 1st –July 1st (Sale does not include any other promotions) CARPET, HARDWOOD, TILE & MORE (205) 518-6423 . 813 Green Springs Hwy Call Who? Call Foo! Follow us on social media! Locally Owned & Operated 100% Waterproof, Kidproof & Petproof Flooring 12-48 MONTHS 0% FINANCING AVAILABLE By the numbers: April 2023 vs. 2024 Note: Real estate data is by zip code, but some parts of these zip codes are outside the city limits. Data provided by the Greater Alabama Multiple Listing Service on May 7, 2024

Recently sold homes in Vestavia Hills

► ADDRESS: 700 Vestavia Lake Drive

► BED/BATH: 4/3.5

► SQUARE FOOTAGE: 3,283 sq. ft.

► NEIGHBORHOOD: Vestavia Lake

► LIST PRICE: $849,900

► SALE PRICE: $977,000

► ADDRESS: 801 Provence Drive

► BED/BATH: 4/2.5

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► ADDRESS: 909 Chestnut St.

► BED/BATH: 4/3.5

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Farmers markets providing taste of summer in Vestavia

Summer is almost here, which means area farmers markets are now in full swing. Vestavia Hills is home to several long-running farmers markets that offer fresh fruits and vegetables as well as arts and crafts and other wares all spring and summer.


Established in 1976, Murphree’s Market and Garden Center has served Cahaba Heights and surrounding communities for 48 years. Owner Brad Murphree said all of the usual summer favorites will be in stock this year, including the perennial favorite Chilton County peaches, as well as Alabama-grown peas, beans, okra and yellow squash.

“We will definitely have Chilton County peaches because the crop looks really good this year,” Murphree said.

"You never can predict heavy rains that may knock something back here and there,” he added, “but as far as peaches and peas that we worry about personally the most, we've been told the crops look good this year."

Murphree’s also expects to have plenty of watermelon, cantaloupe and Southern silverqueen corn from Florida and Georgia in stock, as well as fresh peas and beans like field peas and lady peas.

Murphree’s Market and Garden Center is open Tuesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., and is located at 4212 Dolly Ridge Road.


The Vestavia Hills Farmers Market opened for the 2024 season on May 1, but this year they are open from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m., opening one hour earlier than in previous years. Additionally, the market will remain open through Sept. 11, later into the season.

Each Wednesday features a diverse collection of vendors selling food items like fresh fruits and vegetables from Chilton County, pastries, jams and jellies, locally made sauces and snow cones, as well as tie-dyed clothing, arts and crafts, cut flowers and jewelry.

The Vestavia Hills Farmers Market is an outreach ministry of Vestavia Hills Methodist Church. The vendors’ stall fees are used to buy produce from the market farmers to donate to the Vestavia Hills Methodist Church food pantry.

The Vestavia Hills Farmers Market is located at 2061 Kentucky Avenue in Scout Square.

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Vestavia Hills events guide

June 3-7: Science R Us Camp. 8:30 a.m. to noon. Vestavia Hills Parks and Recreation, 1090 Montgomery Highway. An educational camp where campers will engage in exciting experiments and scientific demonstrations. Demonstrations provided by Traveling Scientist. The cost is $150 per child.

June 3-7, 10-14: Camp VST. 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Mountain Brook High School, 3650 Bethune Drive. Ages 7 to 15. Campers will participate in classes for acting, Shakespeare, dance, voice, playwriting and design. Camper tuition is $300, with $100 deposit due at registration. Scholarships and sibling discounts available.

June 3-7, 10-14: VST STARS Summer Studio. 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mountain Brook High School, 3650 Bethune Drive. Ages 12-18. Campers will participate in classes for scenic design, costume design, lighting design, vocal performance, acting through song, dance performance and more. Camper tuition is $300, with $100 deposit due at registration. Scholarships and sibling discounts available.

June 10-13: “SCUBA Diving into Friendship with God” VBS. 9 a.m. to noon. Vestavia Hills Baptist Church, 2600 Vestavia Drive. For rising first through sixth graders. Free lunch daily in the Fellowship Hall at noon. Also, come June 13 at 5 p.m. to the Fellowship Hall for a fun meal together.

June 17-21: Art Camp. 8:30 a.m. to noon. Vestavia Hills Parks and Recreation, 1090 Montgomery Highway. Campers will explore the creative visual arts, learning to see things differently and channeling their imagination into beautiful artwork. The cost is $175 per camper.

June 17-21: Rock Band Camp – Performance Edition. 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Mason Music, Cahaba Heights Studio, 3187 Cahaba Heights Road. Ages 10-18. Students can sign up with friends to form a band, or register to be placed with other musicians with a similar age and skill level. Rockers will learn songs and perform them live for family and friends on the last day of camp. The cost is $425 per student.

June 17-21: Summer Film Acting Academy. 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Acting Out Academy, 2531 Rocky Ridge Road #125. Ages 8 and up. Summer Film Acting Academy is an intensive training program for young actors. Students will train with the nation’s best coaches in all aspects of film acting, including acting, stunts, improv, voice over, commercial acting, scene study, dialect and more. At the end of the week, students will present their work to a panel of industry professionals for feedback and potential industry representation. The cost is $675 per student. activity-set/578915.

June 24-28: Lunch Bunch Camp. 8:30 a.m. to noon. Vestavia Hills Parks and Recreation, 1090 Montgomery Highway. Lunch Bunch Camp is the perfect place for young foodies who love to cook and enjoy a scrumptious lunch. Campers will have a blast learning how to make their own delicious meals and snacks. Don’t worry about packing your lunch; we’ve got you covered! The cost is $125 per camper.

June 27: 42nd Annual “I Love America Night.” 6-9 p.m. Wald Park, 720 Waldridge Road. Bring the family to enjoy the annual Fourth of July celebration of the city of Vestavia Hills. Children’s activities, live music, a business expo and a movie.

June 30: Three on a String Honors America. 8:30 a.m. and 11 a.m. Vestavia Hills United Methodist Church, 2061 Kentucky Ave. Come hear Three on a String as they perform for the annual Independence Day services at Vestavia Hill United Methodist Church. The group will honor veterans from all branches of the military. Free admission.

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Vestavia Public Library in the Forest


Mondays: Spanish Storytime. 10:30 a.m. Children’s Program Room.

Tuesdays: Toddler-a-Go-Go. 9:30 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. Community Room. Ages 18 to 36 months.

Wednesdays: Silly Goose Storytime. 10:30 a.m. Children’s Program Room. Ages 3 and up. Miss Lauren will bring stories, music, movement and fun for all her preschool friends.

June 1 and 29: Ms. Courtney’s Library Stop. 10:30 a.m. Community Room. All ages. Stories, songs, dancing and playing.

June 4: Tween Time — Birds of Prey. 2 p.m. Community Room. Grades 2-6. Alabama Wildlife Center will be in attendance.

June 6: Lew-e’s Comedy Circus Show. 10:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. Community Room. All ages. Lee Andrews will make you laugh with his comedic attempts at being a one-man circus act.

June 8 and 22: Kreate with Kelly! 10 a.m. Children’s Program Room. All ages. Ms. Kelly will lead your family in a collaborative art project.

June 11: Tween Time — DIY Pokemon. 2 p.m. Community Room. Grades 2-6.

June 13: Musician Andrew Best. 10:30 a.m. in the Community Room. 3:30 p.m. at Liberty Park Elementary Gym.

June 15: Father-Daughter Tea. 11 a.m. Community Room. All ages. Registration required by June 10.

June 18: Tween Time — Casting and Reeling. 2 p.m Wald Park. Grades 2-6.

June 20: Ventriloquist Gene Cordova. 10:30 a.m. in the Community Room. 3:30 p.m. at Liberty Park Elementary Gym. All ages.

June 25: Tween Time — Water Gun Painting. 2 p.m. Community Room. Grades 2-6. Registration required.

June 27: Mr. Bonds, Science Guy. 10:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. Community Room. All ages.


Fridays: Open Gaming. 4 p.m. Community Room. Grades 6-12. Snacks served.

June 4: Nailed It — Teen Edition. 5:30 p.m. Makerspace. Grades 6-12. Register online or call 205-978-3683.

June 5: The Tier List. 4 p.m. Historical Room. Grades 6-12. Snacks served.

June 11: The Triwizard Tournament. 5:30 p.m. Community Room. Snacks served.

June 12: Clay Dragon Eyes. 4 p.m. Makerspace. Snacks served.

June 15: Dungeons and Dragons One-Shot “Treaty of the Tiger King.” 10 a.m. Historical Room. Snacks served. Register at 205-978-3683.

June 18: Acrylic Academy. 5:30 p.m. Makerspace. Supplies and food provided. Registration required.

June 19: Game Party. 4 p.m. Makerspace. Phone or mobile device recommended. Snacks served.

June 22: Crochet Crash Course — Part 2. 10 a.m. Historical Room. Supplies provided. Snacks served.

June 15. Nerf Decathlon. 5:30 p.m. Community Room. Pizza served.

June 26: Tabletop Gaming Group. 4 p.m. Historical Room. Games and expertise provided. Snacks served.

June 28: Super Smash Bros. Tournament. 4 p.m. Community Room. Come dominate the competition and fight to win an Amazon gift card. Snacks served.


June 3: Picture This! Cyanotype Photography. 2 p.m. Library Amphitheater. Register online or contact Kara at 205-9784674 or

June 5: Crafter’s, Inc. — Flower Hoop Wreath. 11 a.m. Community Room. Ages 18 and older. Register online or contact Lora at or 205-978-4674.

June 5: Beginner Yoga Series with Kathy. 2 p.m. Community Room. Ages 18 and older. Join our certified instructor on

Thursday afternoons to learn the basics of yoga.

June 10: Cryptid Trivia Night. 6 p.m. Community Room. Ages 18 and older. Be ready for snacks, prizes and a photo op or two.

June 12: Beginner Yoga Series with Kathy. 2 p.m. Community Room. Join our certified instructor on Thursday afternoons to learn the basics of yoga.

June 12: Read & Feed Book Group — Adventure is Calling. 6 p.m. Community Room. Refreshments served.

June 12: Craft Lab — Hydrangea Watercolors with Holly. 7 p.m. Community Room. Contact Terri at

June 17: Geocaching in the Forest. 6 p.m. Library Amphitheater.

June 18: Personal Finance Support. 6 p.m. Treehouse. Bring your personal finance questions to our open session with an expert from Edward Jones.

June 19: Beginner Yoga Series with Kathy. 2 p.m Community Room

June 24: Adult Dungeons & Dragons One Shot. 6 p.m. Community Room. The first six people who register will be assigned characters and remaining registrants will join as active audience members. Register online.

June 25: The Sisterhood Circle Series. 5:30 p.m. Treehouse. Refreshments served.


Thursdays: Open Maker Lab. 2-5:30 p.m. Bring your 3D printing, vinyl cutting and art projects to work on.

June 10: Intro to 3D Printing. 4:30 p.m.

June 24: Engraved Coasters. 4-5:30 p.m. Space is limited. Register at


June 4: Intermediate Microsoft Excel Part I. 4-5:30 p.m. Technology Classroom. Prior Excel use required. Register online.

June 13: Intermediate Microsoft Word. 4-5:30 p.m. Technology Classroom. Prior Word use required. Register online.

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Rebels sweep state tennis titles

The Vestavia Hills High School tennis teams executed another clean sweep of the Class 7A state tournament.

The Rebels boys and girls took home both titles for the second time in three years, with the boys winning it all for the third straight time. The tournament was held April 22–23 at the Mobile Tennis Center.

Vestavia’s boys piled up 58 points, well clear of runner-up Florence’s 26 points. The boys won eight of nine possible courts on the way to the dominant result. Vestavia’s girls scored 41 points to beat Auburn, which scored 30.

Both Vestavia’s boys and girls won big at the sectional tournament the week prior to qualify for state.

For the boys, the mindset was to get off to a good start in the tournament after the first day. It’s safe to say they did that, as the Rebels won all 15 matches they played Monday.

“Fortunately, our guys came out and played extremely well,” Vestavia boys coach Oliver Aaron said.

The girls team stood strong in the midst of a challenging two days as well, bringing home their second state championship in a three-year span.

“I am so proud of my players for taking on hard competition and holding their mental fortitude,” girls coach Timarie Fisk said. “They remain steady and aggressive, which is what you need when you are playing a strong opponent.”

Luke Bedwell, John Michael Yanosky, Andrew Pipkin, Brayden Helms, Louis Kollettis and Parker Liu all won singles titles, with only one dropped set in the finals amongst the six. The doubles tandems of Helms and Yanosky, along with Pipkin and Kolettis, won as well.

Florence’s No. 2 doubles pair knocked off Ben Cusmariu and Bedwell in the championship round.

For the girls, Kenley Outzen, Caroline Helms, Peyton Standifer and Riley McClain all won singles titles. At No. 2 doubles, Helms and Wynn Strubel took the title.

Madison Standifer was a semifinalist at No. 1 singles and Strubel played No. 5 singles. Standifer and Outzen made it to the semifinals at No. 2 doubles as well.

Even though the boys have won three straight titles, new players have stepped into the lineup each year. Players like Bedwell and Yanosky have been part of things the last three years,

with several others a big part of the last two teams. Aaron credits the current team and even some of the recent graduates with setting the bar high for the program.

“They’ve come in and seen the foundation and structure that we wanted to bring,” Aaron said.

McClain was the only senior on the girls team, while Yanosky, Brayden Helms, Collier Clemmons and Chandler Peeples were seniors on the boys team.

Aaron and Fisk each spoke about several other factors off the court that have helped Vestavia Hills build a dominant program in recent years. Many of the tennis players are

well-rounded, participating and excelling in academics and several extracurricular activities. The support from the community has also been stellar, they said. Both teams have seen success come from the dedication of everyone on the roster.

“A huge factor was the entire team’s commitment to each other,” Fisk said. “It is important that each player is 100% committed to their role on the team. Whether on or off the court, each player is needed. The energy from players off court is so important to the play on the court. You can see the difference in a team as their teammates rally and support them from the sidelines.”

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Vestavia Hills High School’s girls and boys tennis teams won the Class 7A state titles in Mobile on April 23. Photo courtesy of Jason Ding.

Rebels boys impress in runner-up finish at state outdoor meet

The Vestavia Hills High School boys outdoor track and field team came home with a trophy following the Class 7A state meet, which was held May 2-4 in Gulf Shores.

The Rebels finished second to Hoover, which swept the boys and girls titles in dominant fashion. Hoover’s boys scored 156.5 points, with Vestavia edging out James Clemens 73-71 for second place. Bob Jones and Auburn rounded out the top five.

Vestavia’s girls finished sixth, scoring 54.5 points. Hoover racked up 90.5 to win the girls competition, followed by Hewitt-Trussville (71), Auburn (60), Foley (57) and Chelsea (56).

Max Armstrong had a terrific meet for the Rebels, winning the 800-meter race with a time of 1 minute, 53 seconds. He also reached the podium in the 400 by finishing second.

Jack Stubbs was a winner, too, reaching a personal best of 23 feet, 7.25 inches, to win the long jump.

Two of the relay teams reached the podium, as the 4x800-meter team finished second and the 4x400 team placed third. The 4x100 team gained points with a sixth-place result.

Chase Webb finished fourth in the 100, Niklas Volkoff was seventh in the 110-meter hurdles, Mitchell Schaaf finished fifth in the 1,600 and eighth in

the 800, John Hayes was eighth in the 3,200, Walker Gardner was fifth in the discus throw, Emory Carver finished eighth in long jump, Brady Ferrell placed fifth in pole vault and Chase Kaiser was eighth in shot put to gain points for the team.

Graham Gwaltney, Jackson Mize, Tyler Dressback, Hollis Smith, Riley Garcia, Nate Bradshaw, Caleb Farrar and Drake Renta also contributed to the team.

Kennedy Moreland was a standout on the girls side, winning the pole vault by clearing 11 feet, 6 inches. She was joined on the winners’ stand by teammate Christiana Belcher, who was the top javelin thrower, reaching 133 feet, 2 inches.

Molly Mac Sharp gave the Rebels a 1-2 finish with her second-place result in javelin. Emily Spooner was sixth, as the team got three point-scorers from the single event.

Reese Beckner finished fifth in 100 hurdles, Riley Zeanah was fifth in the 800, Barclay Brown finished fourth in high jump and Krislyn Thomas finished fourth in pole vault to earn points. The 4x800 relay team was fifth and the 4x400 relay was seventh as well.

Layne Turner, Claire Spooner, Kaitlyn Wende, Anna James Litty, Abby Allen and Finley Beckner also competed.

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Cahaba Valley Imaging Top: Vestavia Hills and Hoover compete in the boys 4x100-meter relay during the AHSAA Class 7A, Section 3 track and field sectionals at Hewitt-Trussville Stadium on April 27. Above: Vestavia Hills’ Tyler Dressback competes in the boys high jump. Photos by Richard Force.

Vestavia second grader burning rubber on go-kart circuit

Reuben Greer is a typical little boy doing typical little-boy things: going to school, playing with friends and aggravating his little sisters and foster brother. However, one thing sets this 9-year-old apart from his peers — Reuben is a go-kart racing champion.

A second grader at Vestavia Hills Elementary West, Reuben was introduced to go-kart racing by his father, Stephen, when he was just 4 years old and began competing at the age of 6. Instead of spending his weekends on the soccer field or basketball court, Reuben and Stephen Greer travel around the country racing in go-kart hot spots like North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Ohio.

Racing in the Cadet class, for kids ages 6 through 12, Reuben competes with, and routinely beats, drivers much older than him, while zipping around road courses at speeds topping out at 72 miles per hour. Stephen Greer said the transformation since Reuben started racing as a 6-year-old has been amazing.

"Right now, he's racing against some kids that are several years older than him, and one of the things that makes a big difference is maturity,” Stephen Greer said. “He started in Cadet when he was 6. So he was 6 years old racing against 12-year-old kids that have been racing that go-around as long as he's been alive. It’s hard to compete.

“Can you imagine football or another sport and the difference between a 6-year-old and a 12-year-old?” he added. “"There's not many 6-year-olds that can compete with someone that much older and mature. He's finally starting to catch up with some of the older kids. It's fun to see."

In March, Reuben won championships in two categories — four-stroke engines and the more powerful two-stroke engines — at the 2024 AMP Kart Racing Championship in Atlanta. While the two-stroke engines go-karts are faster and give the driver more options to

accelerate and pass, it was in the four-stroke competition that Reuben displayed his abilities behind the wheel.

"In four-stroke races, no one ever pulls away. Everyone sits in each other's draft, kind of like NASCAR," Stephen Greer said. "He was able to pull away and won by three or four seconds, which is kind of unheard of in that class."

While the Greer home is like any house in Vestavia Hills, Reuben’s room is a virtual shrine to automobile racing. Shelves are packed with trophies, toy cars line his desk and posters of professional race car drivers are pinned to his walls. Despite living in

A New Way of Living

NASCAR territory, Reuben’s favorite driver is IndyCar superstar Will Power, and he hopes to follow in his hero’s footsteps one day.

Soft-spoken and relatively shy during his interview with the Vestavia Voice, Reuben said he doesn’t have much of a pre-race routine. After putting on his race suit, gloves and helmet, he said he’s ready to get behind the wheel.

"I really don't have anything. I just say, ‘OK, I'm ready. Let's go,'" Reuben said.

A native of Ireland, Stephen Greer started racing go-karts at the age of 6 as well, and he continued to race cars and motorcycles throughout his teens and early 20s.

He immigrated to the United States while touring as a guitar player for the Christian rock band Bluetree. Now a member of the Vestavia Hills Board of Zoning Adjustment and an engineer with his own firm, these days Stephen Greer spends most of his spare time and energy tending to his son’s racing activities, which, he says, is more enjoyable.

"I get the karts ready, so there's a lot of prep that goes into the karts. There's a lot of setup and gear changes," Stephen Greer said. "We have these tachometers that have all of the data of lap times, revs and speeds, and we try to figure out what gear he should be in."

“I’d rather watch him race,” he said.

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Reuben Greer with his go-kart. Photo courtesy of the Greer family.


Have a community announcement? Email Sarah Villar at to be considered for inclusion in an upcoming issue.

Vestavia Hills native gracing London ballet stage

John Murch loves to run, jump and leap, and he’s among the best from his hometown at what he does. However, Murch, a Vestavia Hills native, isn’t a basketball or football player, but instead is an up-and-coming star in the competitive world of ballet.

Since 2021, Murch has been living in London and studying ballet at The Royal Ballet Upper School, a prestigious three-year program administered by the University of Roehampton. One of only 100 students from 17 different countries in his class, Murch will graduate in July and already has his heart and mind set on the next chapter - a life in professional ballet.

“I really want to be in some sort of ballet company, if that’s in Europe, if that’s in America, so right now I’m just trying to audition,” Murch said. “I want to join a company, just enjoy life and take one day at a time. That’s really just what I want to focus on.”

Murch’s road to the Royal Ballet began in Liberty Park. He was introduced to dance by his mother, Wendy, who would spend time dancing with him around the house.

She eventually gave him a DVD featuring some of the masters of the art, such as American ballerina Gelsey Kirkland and Russian legend Mikhail Baryshnikov. Murch said he was captivated by the art form and, even at a young age, knew there was something special about ballet and that he wanted to explore it more.

“I would always play it in the living room and I’d be dancing to it. I always just was drawn to it,” he said.

His mother enrolled him in gymnastics classes at the age of 4 and, soon thereafter, in the creative movement classes at The Dance Foundation in Homewood. Self-described as a hyper child, Murch said the creative movement class was where he first had an opportunity to combine his need to move around with the artistic side of his personality.

“I wanted to move on from gymnastics and into something a little more artistic, so I started doing creative movement classes, like running around with scarves,” Murch said.

As he grew, Murch moved on to other dance programs throughout the area and eventually began studying and performing at the Alabama Ballet from 2015 to 2018. By the time he hit his teens, Murch knew that ballet was not just a hobby — it was his passion.

He came to realize, as well, that he had a true talent, and that ballet could be his opening to life others could only dream about.

“I remember I was about 13 and I was in one of the studios, and that’s when I thought, ‘I can take this seriously and if I work really hard at it now, while I’m young, I can be decent at it when I’m older,’” Murch said.

However, he said, it was difficult at times

being a boy interested in ballet in a community heavily focused on sports.

“It’s not really in the culture and it’s not a part of everyone else’s way of life, so I just felt kind of alone in that aspect, but also I didn’t really let it affect me. I felt a little more different than everyone else to begin with,” he said. “It was just kind of something special that I did.”

Wendy Murch said her son’s experience with the Alabama Ballet gave him the foundation he needed to pursue ballet at a higher level, eventually winning scholarships to elite ballet programs in New York and Boston.

“As John progressed as a classical ballet dancer, Alabama Ballet was instrumental in helping him grow as a dancer,” she said. “But as he became a teenager and started winning scholarships to American Ballet Theater

Since 2001, Vestavia Hills native John Murch has been living in London and studying ballet at The Royal Ballet Upper School, a prestigious three-year program administered by the University of Roehampton. Photos courtesy of John Murch.

summer intensives and Boston Ballet, it became evident that he needed to be more challenged.”

Murch earned a scholarship to The Rock School for Dance Education, a classical ballet school located in Philadelphia from 2019 to 2021, performing in “The Nutcracker” and other productions. With an ultimate goal of studying in Europe, John Murch said The Rock School prepared him before taking that leap.

“That was really a good place for me, because I feel like it was a place for me to train and get better before they put me out there in front of all those different international schools and into the competitions,” Murch said. “It was a really good place for me to kind of get ready.”

Murch said he landed on The Royal Ballet’s radar in 2019 thanks to a bit of trickery by his mother, who suggested a road trip to check out a class in Chicago. He was surprised and

delighted to discover the truth when they pulled into the parking lot.

“Basically, I didn’t know what I was auditioning for, which is kind of funny,” Murch said. “I didn’t really ask any questions, and then I saw the sign for The Royal Ballet School.”

While impressed with Murch, The Royal Ballet School recruiters felt he was still a little too young and green. However, they encouraged him to audition the next year, which, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, was done via conference call. This time, he was offered a scholarship at the school.

“The Royal Ballet School requires an enormous degree of dedication, physical and mental stamina as well as good citizenship and character,” Wendy Murch said. “It is one of the top five schools for classical ballet training in the world, and each day students must earn their spot.”

During his three years at The Royal Ballet, Murch has performed in a number of productions, including “The Nutcracker,” “Manon” and a tour of “Romeo and Juliet” in Japan in 2023. Now, as he gets ready to graduate, Murch said he is ready for the next challenge wherever ballet takes him.

“What I’ve learned is that I’m constantly throwing myself into the deep end,” Murch said, with a laugh. “I learned that I’m really resilient and that you can do a lot more than you think you can. Sometimes, you just have to throw yourself into it.”

Wendy Murch said she is inspired by her son’s heart and dedication, and she is excited to see him share his talent with the world.

“John’s dedication has taught me a thing or two about perseverance and faith. His faith is extraordinary, and many times he has told me that God will see him through,” his mother said. “These are his gifts, and he is using them to bring beauty, art and dance to the audiences of the world. I am so proud of him.” June 2024 • 21
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‘Church on the Hill’ celebrates 170th birthday

When Bonnie Acton started attending Rocky Ridge Cumberland Presbyterian Church in 1959, she knew it was a place where she belonged.

“I started attending because it was the church where my husband’s mother had been attending,” Acton said. “The people were amazing and they were always so welcoming. I never felt like a stranger and it was just a special place to me.”

Acton, who has continued attending the church over the years, will be one of many church members looking forward to celebrating the 170th birthday of the church with a series of events that begin with an open house from 1 to 2 p.m. on June 8.

The open house will be followed by a short program and reception from 2 to 4 p.m., when the church will celebrate its history in the Birmingham community. Church members also plan to set a vision for the next 170 years.

A worship service on June 9 at 10:45 a.m. will feature the Rocky Ridge choir and praise brand.

“When I first started attending it was mostly young couples, and we all kind of grew up together with our families,” Acton said. “When our children came along, they were regular attenders of the church, but as time has gone on, a lot of my generation has started to fade. There aren’t many left from when I first started going to the church.”

The Rev. Karen Schmidt serves as pastor at the church, following a line of 30 individuals who have pastored the church in the last 170 years.

“The folks at Rocky Ridge know how to love in Jesus’ name,” Schmidt said. “It is natural for them because it is in who they are. They are the most genuine people you will ever meet. They aren’t flawless at it, but they are real. They understand that if they are to do anything it is because of Jesus Christ who gives them strength, and I am honored to be their pastor.”

There was no organized church in the Rocky Ridge Community until 1854, according to a manuscript on the Acton family history, one of the first families listed on an area census from 1820.

In 1854, Franklin Pierce was the fourteenth President of the United States; the city of Birmingham would not be formed for 17 more years; and the Civil War was about 7 years away.

The Rev. Robert Bailey began conducting services in a “brush arbor” in the Rocky Ridge settlement in 1853.

The result of those meetings was the organization of the Rocky Ridge Cumberland Presbyterian Church on June 5, 1854, by 11 charter members.

The Rev. George M. Simpson, a circuit preacher, is credited with being the church’s first paid “full time” minister.

After the brush arbor meetings, a log building was soon erected, which was the first sanctuary of the church. In the 1880s, the log building burned to the ground.

The church building was moved from its initial location near what is now AAA across the street to its present site, around 1914, according to information provided by the church.

“I think the church has had a history of ebb and flow where they have gone between surviving and thriving,” Schmidt said. “I think the

reason it is still here is that the people of the church love God deeply, they love one another deeply, and they have a deep connection to the church as the center of their community life. As I look at the history of Rocky Ridge, I see relationships with one another and with God to be of high value. The people of Rocky Ridge are willing to work to serve God, their community, and one another.”

Kirk Kilpatrick started attending the church in 1962 after deciding to go with his wife, whose mother was one of the early members of the church in the 1930s.

“Things weren’t like they are now,” Kilpatrick said. “It was a small church, but it had good people and I just really enjoyed going.”

Kilpatrick said his mother-in-law, Bernice Jones, started attending the church after moving

to the area.

“Back then, there weren’t any other churches so she started attending, she loved the church, and she attended until the day she died,” Kilpatrick said. “I am getting close to turning 90 years old myself, and most of the people I grew up with in that church are now gone. There just aren’t many of us old folks left. But, it is a good place and I have been real thankful for it.”

Acton said a new project the church started this year is something she is excited to see grow and flourish. It consists of a garden the church community has labeled “God’s Garden.” Through the project, church members have worked to plant fruits and vegetables to offer to the community.

“We had a planting day, and then there are several of us who go up there and volunteer our

Rev. Karen Schmidt leads the congregation in prayer during the Sunday service.

time, and it has been a really neat thing,” Acton said. “Each person that spends a little time at the garden you can really see the work that has been done and we are thrilled to see it coming along. We have planted things like green beans, squash, okra, tomatoes, corn and broccoli. We had this field behind our church and we decided to turn it into a little garden.”

Acton said she feels like God has a special purpose for the church, which is one of the many reasons it has remained for so many years.

“There is a reason that church is still sitting on the hill after 170 years,” Acton said. “It is just a really special place.”

For more information about the celebration, or to find out more information about the church, The church is located at 2404 Altadena Road in Vestavia.

22 • June 2024 Vestavia Voice
Above left: Parishioners leave the service at Rocky Ridge Cumberland Presbyterian Church on May 12. The church is celebrating 170 years of fellowship in June. Above right: Parishioners greet each other at the start of the Sunday service. Photos by Erin Nelson Sweeney.

Vestavia teen chosen for prestigious magazine junior council

Vivaan Dudeja is going places, and being selected for The Week Junior Council is just the beginning.

Hundreds of students nationwide applied, and 13-year-old Dudeja, a Vestavia Hills resident, is the first chosen from Alabama.

The Week Junior is a weekly magazine that reports the news directly to children ages 8 to 14. Only 12 kids from across the country earn a place on the Junior Council every year. Dudeja’s semester on the council lasted from January to May.

Andrea Barbalich, the editor-in-chief of the magazine, said that the program provides opportunities to learn about current issues in the world and also how to make a difference.

Dudeja has been interested in journalism since the third grade, and reading The Week Junior magazine inspired him to write for The Altamont School newspaper, the Acta Diurna.

Dudeja said his “eyes were opened” to journalism, and after writing several articles for the school newspaper, he knew he wanted to apply to the Junior Council.

His first application was unsuccessful, but perseverance paid off, and he was accepted this year. He plans to continue pursuing journalism when his time on The Week Junior Council ends by writing for both the Acta Diurna and other papers.

The selection committee for the junior council program looks “for children who are curious, who care about the world and who are committed to making a difference,” Barbalich said.

Out of hundreds of applicants, Dudeja made an impression with his many inter ests, including piano, golf and volunteer ing at a food bank, Barbalich said.

“Most of all, we were impressed with his clear and genuine concern for the world, especially ensuring a quality education for every child,” she said. “He also said to us, ‘Nobody is a born leader. We learn to become one’ — which we felt were very wise words.”

The Week Junior Council program consists of video calls and workshops, and the students learn “how to develop informed opinions and turn their ideas into action,” Barbalich said. “They choose topics to report on and write about, interview experts and work together to produce articles for the magazine.”

Dudeja said he understands the power of journalism to inform curious readers and help children gain a quality education. He also said that he writes a lot, and his teachers at The Altamont School have helped him grow as a stronger writer.

During his time in the program, Dudeja learned all about producing a magazine.

“I have been given a peek inside the process that editors and designers go through every week to deliver a great magazine to readers across the U.S. and the rest of world,” he said.

Planning and conducting interviews were valuable skills that Dudeja learned. The budding journalist wrote an article for The Week Junior about the potential for algae to be a superfood for the future.

“Children and their parents have told us that being on Junior Council is a life-changing experience that will stay with them forever,” Barbalich said.

“Just as children learn to make a positive difference through our program, we are thrilled that the Junior Council is making a positive and lasting impact on their lives.”

“My experience with the Junior Council has been absolutely amazing, and I have truly learned a lot,” Dudeja said. June 2024 • 23
Vivaan Dudeja recently spent a semester learning about the world of journalist as part of the junior council of The Week Junior magazine.
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get awayFOR A DAY

Spend a day with American patriots in the 18th century

Enjoy red, white and blue all-American family fun this summer at the American Village. The “Hidden Heroes: Revolutionary Spy Adventure” offers something for patriots of all ages. Learn to become a spy, outsmart the redcoat forces and join the Continental Army. Read the Village Gazette upon your arrival at the Visitors Center to find out each day’s revolutionary events. Food trucks will be onsite every Saturday.

Starting Friday, May 31, escape the heat at the cinema. The summer film series will run every other Friday evening (May 31, June 14 and 28, July 12 and 26) in the West Wing of Independence Hall theatre. No admission is required, but a donation is suggested. Beer, wine and food trucks will be available on Constitution Green to provide refreshments before the film. Enjoy the American Arts & Crafts Fair on Saturday, June 1. See painters, soap makers, potters, jewelry makers, wood workers and metal workers create and sell their works.

On July 4, join your family, friends and neighbors at the American Village to celebrate Independence Day 1776! Fun, food, fireworks… you’ll find it all, bigger and better than ever. Admission is $5 for adults and free to veterans, active military and children 4 and younger. Gates open at 11 a.m. and the family-friendly fun lasts through

American Village Where: 3727 Alabama 119, Montevallo

Summer hours: Tuesday-Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (June-July) Admission: Adults $11, students and youth (ages 5-17) $10, seniors $9, and free for veterans, active military and children ages 4 and younger Call: 205-665-3535 Web:

twilight’s last gleaming. For a complete schedule of summer events, visit the American Village online at

Summer is the perfect time for families to enjoy the zoo

Summer, with long days and gorgeous weather, is the perfect time for families to enjoy outdoor attractions like the Birmingham Zoo.

Covering 122 acres, the zoo is home to 550 animals of 180 species from six continents, including zebras, orangutans, elephants and a jaguar.

The only Alabama zoo accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the facility draws 500,000 visitors annually.

Visitors can see the Birmingham Zoo’s new baby giraffe, Mopane (pronounced Mo-Paw-Nee). The first giraffe born at the zoo since 2014, Mopane was born in April to mother Ruby and father Jalil, with the help of the zoo’s animal care team.

“We’re overjoyed to welcome this beautiful baby giraffe to our zoo family,” said Chris Pfefferkorn, the zoo’s CEO and President, calling the birth “another step” in the zoo’s work to help conserve giraffes.

There are lots of animal experiences at the zoo, including goat walks and bird feedings, some at the Junior League of Birmingham Hugh Kaul Children’s Zoo.

Visitors can also enjoy riding the Red Diamond Express Train and climbing the Full Moon Bar-B-Que Adventure Tower.

The zoo also hosts special summer events:

► June 8: Zoo Brews, with craft breweries and food trucks. 6-9 p.m. Ages 21 and older.

► June 15: Pancakes and Princesses, an enchanted day in a magical court of characters during the Royal Pancakes and Princesses Breakfast. 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.

For even more fun year-round, become

Birmingham Zoo

Where: 2630 Cahaba Road

Hours: Wednesday-Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Call: 205-879-0409


a member. Members enjoy unlimited visits as well as discounts on events, camps, classes and more.

Located at 2630 Cahaba Road, the zoo is open Wednesday-Sunday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

For more information, including membership packages, go to or call 205-879-0409.

24 • June 2024 Vestavia Voice SPECIAL ADVERTISING SECTION
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community park next to it, which offers an ADA-accessible playground with features specifically designed for children with autism. For more information, visit location/splash-pad-park.


Vestavia’s AMC dine-in theater is ready to keep you entertained this summer with its heated recliners and menu of burgers, sides, milkshakes and more that you can order via mobile app. And for members of AMC’s rewards program, there are more discounts on ticket and concession prices on Tuesdays. Check showtimes or get more information at -al/amc-dine-in-vestavia-hills-10.


What’s not to love about a spot where you can sit outside, eat good food and let your kids play?

Grab some chips and queso from Taco Mama, a burger from The Standard or a pizza from Davenport’s Pizza Palace and enjoy the vibes in the outside space with friends and family. Top it off with a Crumbl cookie or Jeremiah’s Italian Ice.


There’s always something new on tap at Vestavia Hills Library in the Forest. Check out their calendar this summer for daily events ranging from a Super Smash Bros. tournament to performances by a magician and balloon artist. For teens, on June 15 and July 13 there are Dungeons and Dragons events, and for tweens there’s a chance to learn casting and reeling on June 18. Visit for more details and a full list of events.


Activate, an interactive gaming experience, opened six months ago, and it’s got nine kinds of game rooms that make you hide, duck, shoot lasers, throw basketballs, memorize patterns and use fancy footwork. Activate, located at 1425 Montgomery Highway, takes walk-ins, but they recommend that you make a reservation in advance. Visit for more information, and don’t forget your flat-footed shoes.


Has it been a while since you’ve been bowling? This summer is a great time to get out and remember what’s great about it. Vestavia Bowl (1429 Montgomery Highway) is offering regular specials — check them out at vestaviabowl. com. And if you’re feeling really ambitious, Vestavia Bowl is right next door to Activate you could visit both the same day.



Across Vestavia, there are neighborhood pools and other places to get in the water, such as the Vestavia Hills Aquatic Complex (720 Waldridge Road), which offers a pool and a connected splash pad. A membership is required. For more information and opening hours, visit


Do you know how many parks Vestavia has? If your answer is less than 12, then you’ve got

some exploring to do this summer. Wald Park has playgrounds, a dog park, walking trails and of course pickleball, but there are other great parks you should visit too. Across the street, Boulder Canyon Nature Trail starts at the Library in the Forest and offers a beautiful wooded hike with a bridge and a waterfall.

McCallum Park (at the end of Rosemary Lane) has a playground along with trails, green space and access to Little Shades Creek. Meadowlawn Park (4041 Dolly Ridge Road) has some playground equipment and a walking trail.


If you’re not into the outdoors, a paint party might be right up your alley. Get together with friends at Board & Brush Creative Studio (2017

Canyon Road, Suite 111) and work together on wooden signs that you can take with you as decorative pieces for your home. Visit for more information.


Need to shake up your workout routine or get started with a new one? Consider trying a new gym near you — Vestavia is full of different kinds of individual and group workouts, from boot camp and Crossfit style classes to Pilates and hot yoga, and many are offering promotions this summer.


Whether you’re a seasoned golfer or a beginner, you can get out on the course for some sun.

The Vestavia Country Club spans 176 acres and offers an 18-hole golf course and a 9-hole par-3 course, though a membership is required. To find out more details, visit

A short drive from Vestavia, the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail at Ross Bridge — which has been called one of the top golf resorts in North America — offers golfing to the public. For more information, visit


Andy’s Farm Market offers a large selection of homegrown fruits and vegetables, including Chilton County peaches and Silver Queen corn. It’s open Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. To learn more, visit andysgardencenter. com/farm-market.

Join the conversation. Scan the QR code to read us online, join our newsletter and follow us at Get Vestavia Voice in your mailbox, inbox and online.
26 • June 2024 Vestavia Voice
Top: Tyler Barnett walks his dogs, Odie and Buttercup, at McCallum Park. Above: People play pickleball at the new pickleball courts at Wald Park. Photos by Erin Nelson Sweeney.

“She was from Mountain Brook, and she said she needed a Vestavia person with Vestavia experience in that role,” Hauser said. Fast forward to 2013, and she found herself stepping into Patton’s shoes as principal. And now Hauser and two other principals — Mark Richardson and Tonya Rozell — are all retiring after years as “Vestavia people.”

Richardson, who has served as principal at Vestavia Hills Elementary East for 25 years, said he believes the schools are one of the biggest reasons people choose to live in Vestavia, and he’s grateful to have been a part of that.

“People here in this school and community love their children, and they realize the importance of education. Those are the ingredients for school success,” he said. “If all school districts in America had the love for kids and valued their education as highly as ours does, you would have much more successful schools, because parents would do whatever they needed to do to support the schools.”

Richardson said for him, education wasn’t his initial choice as a career path — he dabbled in computer science in college, then majored in journalism. But by his senior year at the University of Alabama, he was leaning more toward the classroom than the newspaper business.

His older brother, Wayne, was his “guiding star” as he figured out his path.

“He was the one who became the first teacher in our immediate family, and I was able to watch him and learn how to do it right,” Richardson said. “I learned so much from him as a teacher, and then he became an administrator, and I learned from him about that, too. He’s a fantastic role model for me.”

Richardson taught fifth grade for seven years at Vestavia Hills Elementary Central, then went to Chelsea Elementary for two years to serve as assistant principal. In 1999, he came back to Vestavia as principal at East and never left.

“I always wanted our school to be the school that people find to be warm, the school that people find to be easily approachable, with an open door to parents,” he said.


For the past 25 years, Richardson has led his school in focusing on the Golden Rule: treating others as you would want to be treated. Twice — in 2013 and 2022 — East has been named a state and national School of Character.

“We’ve established our EAGLE core values — Empathy, Acceptance, Grit, Love and Excellence — all defined in simple kid terms,” Richardson said. “We talk about meeting the needs of others despite differences, and we’re able to set the table so parents can do a deeper dive on character at home.”

Hauser said at West, they’ve also worked hard at instilling the character traits that they call the West Way: courtesy, respect and responsibility. West was also named a national School of Character in 2021.

“Those three core values are melded into everything we do,” Hauser said.

In 2016, the school was among 328 schools given The National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence.

Like Richardson, Hauser is grateful for the involvement of parents at her school.

“When I think of West, I think of the culture

and the family feeling. It’s such a family place, and that includes our wonderful, fabulous PTO,” she said. “They are a part of our school and do so much.”

She said she also loves the way the culture in the school is shifting toward leadership development among teachers.

“There’s been a shift from ‘What can I do for my classroom?’ to ‘What can I do for the school at large?’ We have a lot of people who have been getting their leadership degrees so

they can step into other roles, such as reading coach or instructional partner,” Hauser said. She said when she started 19 years ago, that wasn’t the case.

“At that time, the culture was to take care of your babies and share on your team well, which is great. But now it’s ‘I want to grow professionally and help the entire school,’” Hauser said. “Our whole faculty and staff believe in nurturing the whole child and loving deeply, and I’m so grateful to have been a part

of that culture.”

Rozell, who is retiring as principal of Vestavia Hills High School, said she’s also going to miss her “work family” as she moves into the next season of life.

“You spend so many hours at school and in the extracurricular events,” she said. “I’m going to miss my students and my colleagues, whom I have such a deep level of respect for.”

She said she’s also grateful for the “constant support from the community … and I’m humbled that they would entrust me with a school of this caliber.”


Rozell has worked in different roles in education since 1992, including as principal of Liberty Park Middle School just before coming to Vestavia Hills High School. She took on the role at Vestavia Hills High School in summer 2020, just in time to help the school navigate its way into a new school year amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I’m proud of how we were able to hold on and have some grit and perseverance,” she said. “When a lot of places around us were not having school, we were having school. We were doing our very best to provide as much structure and camaraderie and a place for students to come, to provide as much normalcy as possible.”

They saw that impact in a quantitative way through high test scores in the midst of “one of the most difficult things in families’ lives and students’ lives.”

“I had teachers around me who — even though it would’ve been easy to cave or fall under all the pressure that was on them — they kept us going,” Rozell said. “They were the lifeline, and I think for a lot of these families and kids, we were the lifeline that got us out of that season.”

She said one of the things she will miss the most about being principal at Vestavia Hills High School is the relationships that she’s built with students over the years.

“That is where I get my energy. It’s not a job; it’s more like a life calling,” Rozell said. She realized she enjoyed helping people learn back when she was in high school and was asked to be a teacher’s assistant.

“I had a Latin teacher who was on an extended leave, and I was approached to kind of teach alongside a substitute Latin 1 teacher,” Rozell said. “That really kind of began to shape my mindset; I realized I enjoy trying to help people understand concepts and ideas.”

That was the first of many seeds people planted in her life along the way that grew into her passion for and calling to the field of education. That hasn’t wavered over her 32 years in teaching and administration.

“There’s just pure joy in watching people come from point A to point B or to partner with them in some way to help them make decisions about their next steps in life,” she said.

Hauser said she would also miss the students. One of the factors that initially dissuaded her from retiring was to think about how she wouldn’t see the next class of fourth graders become fifth graders, and so on.

But with that mentality, “I’ll be 89 by the time I retire,” she joked.

Richardson said he will also miss the people but is grateful for the opportunity to serve as a principal mentor for a little while. “I’ll miss the day to day, but I’ll still get to be around and stay connected,” he said.

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at Vestavia
a group of fifth graders and their reading
as they
June 2024 • 27
Top: Tonya Rozell, principal at Vestavia Hills High School, talks with sophomore Paolo Aban. Rozell is retiring this summer and has served
principal Aban since his sixth grade year at Liberty Park Middle School. Above: Mark
Elementary East, talks with
game of spoons. Richardson is retiring this summer. Photos by Erin Nelson Sweeney.

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Harleigh and Joey Portante with their new 2024 GMC Yukon XL Denali.

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