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editor’s letter

Editor Michelle Lepianka Carter Design Editor Janet Sudnik Director of Photography Gary Cosby Jr. Photographers Michelle Lepianka Carter Erin Nelson Copy Editors Amy Robinson Ernie Shipe Edwin Stanton Operations Director Paul Hass Advertising Director Lynnie Guzman Marketing Director Sam Kirkwood Prepress Manager Chuck Jones Published by The Tuscaloosa News 315 28th Avenue Tuscaloosa, AL 35401 Executive Editor Michael James Controller Steve Hopper Magazine 205-722-0232 To advertise 205-722-0173 To subscribe 205-722-0102

4

PHOTO | MICHELLE LEPIANKA CARTER

This image of the April, 27, 2011, tornado was taken from the back doorway of Shoe Station at McFarland Mall.

I

f you were in the Tuscaloosa area five years ago, on April 27, 2011, chances are you remember exactly where and what you were doing around 5:13 p.m. that day. The tornado that ripped through Tuscaloosa was part of an outbreak that day that affected many other areas of Alabama and left a path of destruction in its wake. I have heard, and tried to capture through my photographs, countless stories from that day and the days, months and years that followed. As a staff photographer for The Tuscaloosa News, I was out trying to capture the tornado as it roared past my camera near the 15th Street area. When the storm passed, I and fellow photographer Dusty Compton and videographer Corey Pennington headed towards 15th Street to document the historic event and do anything we could to help. In this issue of Tuscaloosa we are taking a look back at the storm that affected so many and seeing where they are now in our cover feature, “Faces of Hope” (Page 44). The Prince family gives you a glimpse into their renovated home in The Highlands after it was heavily damaged by the tornado (Page 61). Also in this issue, local nonprofit Project Blessings is renovating homes in the Tuscaloosa area for those in need. (Page 76) Parents with babies in the hospital NICU units now have a home away from home at The Brayden House in Northport (Page 38). Looking for a new spin on a classic in Tuscaloosa? 301 Bistro on Greensboro is open and offering “Tuscaloosa Fusion” food and drinks (Page 8). Foodie News is packed with tasty ideas from snooty foodie Donna Cornelius (Page 30), and Kelly Pridgen and Ellen Tucker share ideas to prepare a meal perfect for dining al fresco in the warmer spring weather (Page 22). And as in every issue, six intriguing people have shared their stories with us (Page 89), and check out the smiling faces in our On the Scene section (Page 103).

Reach Michelle Lepianka Carter at Michelle.Carter@ tuscaloosanews. com.

Follow us online on Facebook and Twitter!


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sPring 2016

VOLUME 14, NO. 1

contents

8

82

22

08 Dining oUt

27 inDUlgences

44 coVer storY

16 sPirits

30 fooDie neWs

61 at home

38 at home

68 PersonalitY

Enjoy “Tuscaloosa Fusion” while dining inside historic 301 Bistro.

Meet the creator behind the famous That Cheesecake.

Sweet Home Food Bar offers more The latest in local food, trends, than just sips at wine tastings. recipes and epicurean events.

22 Dining in

We’re preparing the perfect menu for dining al fresco this spring.

The Brayden House is a home for families with little ones in NICU.

Catching up with lives changed by the April 27, 2011, tornado.

The Prince family shares their post-tornado home renovations.

The Colgrove sisters carry on a family tradition on horseback.

on the coVer Five years ago, the landscape of Tuscaloosa was forever changed, in more ways than physically. In this issue, we’re catching up with some of the people whose stories captivated us in 2011. Cover images: Staff file photos See story: Page 44

6


WINE +DINE Sweet Home Food Bar’s Monday night wine tastings offer unique sips served with complementing tapas, and a seat at the table with friends new and old. Page 16.

76 GOOD DeeDs

89 6 intriGuinG peOple

82 ArOunD tOWn

103 On tHe sCene

122 lAst lOOK

30

38

Project Blessings restores homes for those in need.

Poking around local antique shops to find new and old treasures.

68

Meet six folks who are making a difference in the community.

The best bashes, parties and char- A look back and forward in ity events of the season. the wake of the 2011 tornado.

7


dining out

Back on Track

301 Bistro makes historic train station a dining destination

BY DONNA CORNELIUS PHOTOS BY GARY COSBY JR.

8


dining out

T

he 20th century was barely out of its first decade when the L&N train station was built in downtown Tuscaloosa. These days, people are coming to the building at 301 Greensboro Ave. for culinary journeys and not actual road trips. In December, Bill and Bebe Barefoot Lloyd opened 301 Bistro, Bar and Beer Garden in the historic structure. Many of their customers are as excited to be there as travelers were back in 1912, when the station was built, the Lloyds said. “The way I feel about this place is the way other people feel, too,” Bebe said. “They’re emotionally attached to it.” Since the restaurant opened, people have been eager to share their connections to the building, which in addition to being a train, and later a bus station, had other incarnations as restaurants and as a special event venue. “A guy called us to make reservations for Valentine’s Day as a surprise for his wife,” Bebe said. “Thirty-eight years ago, they had their first date here. We had a couple who got married here and wanted to celebrate their 10th wedding anniversary here. “We hear story after story like that.” The Lloyds said they have a long-term lease with Jerry Griffin, the building’s owner. Bill had rented the building for the past few years to cater private functions with his Casual Class Catering business. He also owns Wilhagan’s restaurants in Tuscaloosa and Nashville. Bebe, a writer and artist, worked in corporate communications and then taught at the University of Alabama for 18 years. “I taught part time in the Blount Undergraduate Initiative until last semester,” she said. “We were hard and heavy into this restaurant for six months.” When the area near the old train station started to boom — the Tuscaloosa Amphitheater and new Embassy Suites hotel are nearby — the couple decided the time was right to open a restaurant. But before they did that, they visited the University of Louisville, whose library holds records from L&N — or, officially, the Louisville and

TOP: Patrons sit at the bar inside 301 Bistro, which was updated from its former dated styling. ABOVE: The bar serves signature craft cocktails as well as a selection of fine spirits. OPPOSITE PAGE: The interior of the restaurant maintains the look and feel of a train station, the building’s original function.

>> 9


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dining out

TOP: Wild-Eyed Bourbon Duck is topped with a bourbon glaze and served with whipped sweet potatoes and sauteed spinach. TOP RIGHT: A craft cocktail is a great way to begin an evening of fine dining. RIGHT: An original gasolier — a gaslight chandelier — lights up the place, now fitted for electricity.

Nashville Railroad. “We spent three days there doing research,” Bill said. The 8,000-square-foot building’s tile floors are original, and so is its massive gasolier — a chandelier with gaslights, although this fixture was fitted for electricity some time ago, Bill said. Old graffiti is still visible in the women’s restroom, and there are marks on the floor where, the Lloyds think, a mechanical bull stood when the building housed J.R.’s Crystal Palace. “We did a lot of renovations,” Bill said. “For one thing, the bar looked very ’80s. We extended the serving bar and put in a back bar. The mirrors behind the back bar are actually windows. We didn’t replace them but just covered them up.” Bebe is the “art person,” Bill said, and thus headed up most design decisions. “The station was built near the end of the Art Nouveau period and the beginning of Art Deco,” Bebe said. “I didn’t want to do a ‘Gatsby’ or a train theme. When I curated pieces of art, I tried to honor the building’s history

without being kitschy.” To that end, she framed large prints of old circus posters, since circuses at one time traveled across the country on trains. The walls also hold architectural drawings, vintage photos, and artwork in styles popular in the early 1900s. “I wanted it to feel like a bunch of collections,” said Bebe, adding that she loves to show guests around and tell them about the artwork and other decorative elements. As fascinating as the building itself is, no restaurant can succeed without the right food. Bill said that he and his head chef, Steve Brenner, were “on the same page” in coming up with a menu. “I operated a catering company for 10 years, and for the last six of those years, Steve was my chef,” Bill said. Brenner also is the former executive chef at Kozy’s in Tuscaloosa. The menu will change seasonally, but customers always will find food from a variety of cuisines and cultures — and some with a combined heritage. Bill uses the term “Tuscaloosa fusion” to describe not only 301 Bistro’s food but the city itself. “Tuscaloosa is Southern, and there are a lot more Germans here than people realize,” Bill said. “The Gulf Coast is nearby. There also are vegetarians and people who like fresh options. Our chef is a vegetarian.” Wienerschnitzel — a pan-fried veal cutlet — comes with mac and cheese and black-eyed peas. A sausage plate — you can choose one of three German sausages — includes Andouille mashed potatoes. Reuben spring rolls have corned beef, cabbage and Swiss cheese in spring rolls with Thousand Island remoulade.

>> 11


dining out

In addition to the more traditional L&N burger, served with German potato salad fries, there’s a black-eyed pea burger on a whole wheat bun with Double Gloucester cheese and balsamic aioli, among other toppings. Bill said the restaurant doesn’t have gourmet-sized portions — or prices. “You don’t have to wait for a special occasion to come here,” he said. “We wanted to be approachable.” 301 Bistro offers specials, which recently included redfish en papilotte and a prime rib with gorgonzola, and a rotating dessert menu. “Desserts change, but we usually will have a bread pudding,” Bill said. Customers also can ask for a gluten-free menu. In the restaurant’s beer garden, guests sit at long tables and order from an app-heavy menu that includes sausage and cheese boards and 12

a giant pretzel with two mustards and a beer-cheese sauce. “That pretzel is big enough for four people,” Bebe said. The Lloyds also are making plans for Sunday brunch. “We’ll have shrimp and grits, eggs Benedict — food with a New Orleans lean,” Bill said. “We’ll have live music, too.” Sara Thompson is 301’s general manager. The bar manager is Jeanette “Jet” Foose. “I had an ad out for a bar manager, and Jet had moved here from Louisiana,” Bill said. “She went to LSU, was a bartender in Baton Rouge and New Orleans, and had been on TV in Baton Rouge doing segments on drinks.” He said Foose was the tasting room coordinator for New Orleans’ Tales of the Cocktail, one of the world’s premier cocktail festivals.


dining out

ABOVE: guests dine in amid original tile, brick and lighting. owners bill and bebe barefoot lloyd did a lot of renovation but kept much of the original decor. TOP RIGHT: bar manager Jet Foose mixes a gypsy rose lee cocktail. TOP CENTER: a patterned tin ceiling reflects the warm glow of lights below. RIGHT: The award-winning gypsy rose lee contains disaronno amaretto, fresh lemon juice, fresh cranberry juice, a spritz of rosewater and a splash of champagne.

13


dining out

Owners Bill Lloyd and Bebe Barefoot Lloyd did a lot of historic research about the original building before transforming it into 301 Bistro.

One of her crafty creations is the Gypsy Rose Lee. It’s made with Disaronno, an Italian liqueur, and freshly squeezed lemon juice, cranberry juice, a spritz of rosewater and a champagne floater. “We have beers from all three local craft breweries,” Bill said. “We have some really good German beer on tap. We’re selling great big liter steins in the beer garden.” Several wines are available by the glass or by half-bottles. 301 also has happy hours from 4 to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday. The Lloyds think their restaurant is more than 14

just a place for good food and drink. “People in Tuscaloosa tell us they wanted somewhere new to eat — but they also love that they feel connected to this place,” Bill said. Bebe said one of the couple’s goals for opening a restaurant in the former train station was to “honor its history.” “One of the many cool things about saving a building like this is that we’re contributing to people’s stories,” she said. “It sounds hokey, but this place has its own soul. “People say they feel like this place is theirs, and that’s what we want.”

301 Bistro, Bar and Beer Garden is at 301 GreensBoro ave. For more, visit the restaurant’s FaceBook paGe or call 205-764-1395.


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sPirits

Wine

+ DINE by donna cornelius photos by michelle lepianka carter

learn as you sip and sample at sweet home food bar’s monday night wine and tapas

16

P

eek into Sweet Home Food Bar’s front windows on a Monday night, and you may think a really large, boisterous family has gathered for a special occasion. Candles glow on two long tables, and the guests are chatting between sips of wine. In a way, you’d be right about the “family” part. Mondays are wine tasting nights at the downtown Tuscaloosa restaurant, and the events draw a crowd of regulars as well as firsttimers. David Fincher of Tuscaloosa said he’s been coming to the tastings for about five months. On a chilly February evening, he circled the room to talk to old friends and introduce himself to new ones. “We’re all family here,” Fincher said. “We tend to sit in the same sections. But we try to make newcomers feel as warm as possible. There are no stuffed shirts here.” Sweet Home’s wine tastings are a little different from others in town because there’s eating as well as sipping. Melvin Boyd, who became the restaurant’s wine steward in October, said the tastings typically feature two white wines and two red wines plus tapas, which are small plates of food. “We choose a region and serve a different food with each wine,” Boyd said. Guests not only get to sample wine from different parts of the


spirits

world but learn a little something, too. Boyd and Debra Rubino, who owns the restaurant with George Harsch, take turns talking about each wine’s provenance. “I research the vineyards and their owners,” Rubino said. “We’ve done Europe — Spain, France, Germany and even Macedonia.” A recent tasting spotlighted Argentina, a country whose reputation as a wine producer is growing. Guests tried Malbec, the red wine for which Argentina is best known, and also sampled a crisp white Torrontes from the South American country’s Salta region. Luanne Guenther said the educational part of the tastings came in handy when she made a birthday trip to Portugal last summer. “It was great to tour the area we’d talked about here,” said Guenther, who lives in Tuscaloosa. The wine tastings started in October 2014, Rubino said. “Originally, we had them on Wednesday nights,” she said. “We moved them last November to Mondays — what a great way to start the week. Now, we can serve dinner on Wednesday.” Sweet Home Food Bar opened in August 2014 at 2218 University Blvd., in a building that once housed a Fred’s store. Rubino got acquainted with Tuscaloosa when her son attended the University of Alabama, and she and Harsch moved here from New York. The restaurant started off serving breakfast and lunch but soon added dinner hours on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Since the wine tastings moved to Monday nights, Sweet Home is open for Wednesday night dinners that feature its choose-your-own ingredients burger bar. “When we first started having the wine tastings, we had about six people,” Rubino said. “Within a few months, we had about 40. We max out at 60.”

TOP LEFT: A slice of Pizza Bolognese with fresh basil (which is paired with Tilia Bonarda 2013). TOP RIGHT: The red wine selections are ready to be uncorked during a weekly wine and food tasting at Sweet Home Food Bar. ABOVE: A tasting guide walks patrons through the selections. OPPOSITE PAGE, LEFT: Sweet Home Food Bar owner and chef George Harsch talks with patrons between tastings. OPPOSITE PAGE, RIGHT: A charcuterie sample pairs with the wines of the week.

>> 17


sPirits

TOP: Chicken, garlic and chili stir fry pairs with Piattelli Torrontes 2014 during a weekly wine and food tasting. LEFT: Debra Rubino pours wine for patrons at the event. ABOVE: Melvin Boyd taps a wine glass to signal the start of the tasting.

18


sPirits

RIGHT: Debra Rubino chats with guests as she pours the next wine sample. BOTTOM: A crab cake over grits is paired with Zorzal Chardonnay 2013.

One tasting that drew a full house turned out to be — well, not so tasty. “Once, we did sake,” Rubino said. “Everybody was so excited. But nobody liked it, including me.” Like most Sweet Home tastings, the one that featured Argentinian wines drew much more positive reviews. The event started with samples of Piattelli Torrontes ’14 and a spicy chicken, garlic and chile stir-fry. Guests let out oohs and ahs when Rubino held up a bottle and showed off the wine’s mellow topaz color, and they cheered when she announced that this wine has a 14 percent alcohol content. Next up was a Zorzal Chardonnay ’13 from the Gaultallary region. The Zorzal winery, Boyd told the tasters, is a rising star in Argentina. Sweet Home’s chefs paired this wine with crabcakes and grits. The third wine was a Piattelli Malbec ’13 from Mendoza, one of Argentina’s best-known wine regions. Rubino said this wine’s grapes are hand-picked by workers. “They’re actually out there with wicker baskets and shears,” she said. “This wine pairs well with robust food, so we’re serving George’s homemade empanadas.” The last wine of the night was a Tilia Bonarda ’13 from Mendoza. Tasters learned that the Bonarda grape is the most widely planted grape in Argentina after Malbec. Bonardas are Italian grapes, so pizza Bolognese was an apt choice for the food pairing. Those who attend the tastings can buy a single bottle or a case of the featured wines and get discounts by ordering that night. Orders can be picked up at the restaurant later in the week. Wine tastings start at 6:30 p.m., with the first pour at 7 p.m. The cost for each event is $20. Reservations are required and can be made by calling 205-764-9346.

>> 19


sPirits

ABOVE: Kai Guenther, left, his wife, Luanne, and friend John Carlton share a toast. Though the group has many regulars, new faces are always welcome at the table. RIGHT: Wayne Puckett takes a sip of the Piattelli Malbec 2013. FAR RIGHT: Empanadas are paired with the Malbec.

Although the tapas are included in the $20 price, hungry guests who arrive early also can order starters. A recent menu included a charcuterie and cheese plate, arancini (rice balls filled with beef, pork, cheeses and peas and then deep-fried), chicken wings, and garlic fries. Guests don’t have to dress up for the tastings. Many come straight from work, and jeans and other casual clothes aren’t frowned upon. Luanne Guenther said one of things she likes best about the tastings is that they attract a diverse crowd. “We actually started coming to these tastings the second week they had them,” she said. “I’ve only missed four times. It’s about a gathering of new friends and family and learning about wine. It’s a social, learning experience.” Sweet Home Food Bar is at 2218 University Blvd. in Tuscaloosa. For more information, call 205-764-9346 or visit www.sweethomefoodbaral.com or the restaurant’s Facebook page. 20


dining in

Spring for your Supper WELCOME WARMER WEATHER BY TAKING YOUR DINNER OUTDOORS BY DONNA CORNELIUS PHOTOS BY MICHELLE LEPIANKA CARTER

22


dining in

A

h, springtime in Tuscaloosa. Daffodils are popping up, college kids are sunning on the Quad and the voice of the umpire is heard in the baseball parks. If warmer weather is pulling you outside, why not take your dinner with you? Kelly Pridgen, who in past issues of our magazine has shared recipes for game-day gatherings, brunches and holiday treats, has come up with a menu that easily translates from dining room to deck – or to patio, pier or picnic table. Kelly and her friend, Erin Tucker, set up a festive table on the screened porch of the Tucker family’s house in The Highlands. The two women met years ago when their husbands, Dr. Skip Pridgen and Dr. Curtis Tucker, were stationed in Guam as military physicians. Both families ended up in Tuscaloosa, and Kelly and Erin have continued to be friends and to share a love of cooking. The two good cooks gave the meal a casual but stylish table setting with monogrammed paper place mats from Kyle Fine Stationery at 908 Queen City Ave. A fun idea is to get a different monogram on each mat and use them instead of place cards. Monograms are $2 each. Cloth napkins, too, help step up a supper setting. The handmade vintage linen napkins Kelly and Erin chose also are available at Kyle Fine Stationery. They’re $16 each or $96 for a set of six. It’s not hard to amp up your food as well as your table when you’re eating al fresco. Not that there’s anything wrong with hamburgers, but these recipes will make for a fun, flavorful outdoor dinner that your guests won’t soon forget. And they’re easy enough for family meals, too.

ABOVE: kelly pridgen, right, and friend erin Tucker make a springtime meal perfect for dining al fresco at Tucker’s home. OPPOSITE PAGE: bacon-wrapped potato bites are an easy, elegant appetizer.

Bacon-wrapped potato Bites 1 pound very small new potatoes (1-2 inches). (Kelly used baby Yukon Golds.) Olive oil Salt and pepper 1 pound thinly sliced center-cut bacon ½ cup shredded cheddar cheese 2 scallions, optional Ketchup, ranch dressing or your favorite sauce for dipping Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Scrub potatoes and cut in half. Toss the potatoes in a bowl with a small amount of olive oil and season generously with salt

and pepper. Cut bacon slices into halves or thirds (figure out the right size that will go around your potatoes) and wrap around till the ends just overlap. Place potatoes flat side down on a rimmed baking sheet with the bacon ends tucked under. Bake for 45 to 60 minutes until potatoes are tender and bacon is crisp and golden brown. Remove from oven and drain on paper towel. Transfer to a platter and sprinkle with cheese and scallions, if desired. Serve hot or warm with your favorite dipping sauce.

>> 23


dining in

herb-crusted rack of lamb 2 racks of lamb, frenched (see Cook’s Note) 8 tablespoons olive oil Salt and pepper 6 cloves garlic, minced 2 ½ tablespoons fresh thyme, minced 2 ½ tablespoons fresh rosemary, minced 6 tablespoons Dijon mustard Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Rub 1 tablespoon olive oil over each rack of lamb. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Heat a large skillet over high heat. Add each rack separately and brown on all sides. Place lamb racks in a large roasting pan. Mix 6 tablespoons olive oil, garlic, 2 tablespoons thyme and 2 tablespoons rosemary in a small bowl. Coat the top and sides of each rack with Dijon mustard, then top with herb mixture. Roast until a meat thermometer reads 130 degrees for medium rare, about 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer lamb to a platter and let rest for 10 minutes. Slice between ribs, transfer to a serving plate, and sprinkle with remaining ½ tablespoons each of thyme and rosemary. Makes 4 to 6 servings. Cook’s Note: A classic way to prepare rack of lamb is with the bones frenched, or exposed. Most packaged lamb racks these days are already frenched. — Adapted from Bon Appetit, December 1999

ABOVE AND RIGHT: herb-crusted rack of lamb is part of kelly pridgen and friend erin tucker’s springtime meal. topped with fresh garlic, thyme and rosemary, this dish is perfect for any backyard gathering.

24


dining in

sugar-grilled asparagus 1 bundle asparagus, about 25 spears ½ cup sugar 1 teaspoon kosher salt ¼ cup olive oil Zest of ½ lemon, optional Preheat grill to medium-high heat. Cut off the tough ends of the asparagus. Mix the sugar and salt. Roll asparagus in olive oil and then coat in the sugar-salt mixture. Place asparagus on the grill and cook approximately 10 minutes, turning to cook evenly, until sugar is caramelized and the spears are starting to char. Arrange on a serving platter and sprinkle with lemon zest, if desired. Serves 4. — Adapted from Food Network

vanilla chip fruit tart CRUST ¾ cup salted butter ½ cup confectioner’s sugar 1½ cups flour Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Blend in flour. Press mixture into bottom and sides of a 12-inch pizza pan (or a 10-inch tart pan with removable bottom). Bake 20 to 25 minutes until lightly browned. Cool completely.

VANILLA FILLING 1 10-ounce bag vanilla chips ¼ cup whipping cream 8-ounce package cream cheese Microwave chips and whipping cream in a glass bowl at 30-second intervals until chips are melted. Stir until smooth. Beat in cream cheese until smooth. Pour over cooled crust. Chill until firm.

ASSEMBLY: Slice and arrange fruit on top of vanilla filling inside crust. Pour cooled glaze over fruit and spread evenly. Chill until ready to serve. Serves 8-10. Suggested fruits: sliced trawberries, sliced peaches, sliced kiwi, blueberries, raspberries or blackberries Cook’s Note: Give this dessert a simple twist by preparing the crust in a 10-inch tart pan and using a combination of mixed berries. Simply pour the berries over the tart, then top with glaze for a rustic but elegant presentation.

ABOVE: kelly pridgen and erin tucker grill asparagus until the sugar mix carmelizes.

GLAZE ¼ cup sugar 1 tablespoon cornstarch ½ cup pineapple juice ½ teaspoon lemon juice In a small saucepan, combine sugar and cornstarch. Stir in juices. Cook over medium low heat, stirring constantly, until thickened. Cool completely.

25


dining in

corn pudding

NA6759957

ABOVE: corn pudding is a great way to use the spring corn that is coming into season. RIGHT: the table is set for a perfect al fresco dining experience.

2 cups fresh corn, cut and scraped from the ear (about 4 large ears) 6 tablespoons flour 3 tablespoons sugar 1 teaspoon salt 4 tablespoons melted butter 1 ½ cups milk 4 eggs Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix corn and flour in a large bowl. Add sugar, salt and melted butter. Beat milk and eggs together in a separate bowl. Add to corn mixture. Pour into a greased 1 ½-quart baking dish and bake. Stir once after about 20 minutes to keep corn from settling to the bottom. Serves 6.

26


indulgences

Tammy SmiTh’S in-demand deSSerTS aren’T juST any cheeSecake, She makeS ...

that cheesecake

by donna cornelius photos by michelle lepianka carter

27


indulgences

T

ammy Smith is a one-woman cheesecake factory. After operating a successful catering business for years, Smith now is focusing her attention on doing one thing — and doing it well. Her white chocolate cheesecakes are so popular that by Dec. 1 last year, she had to put a regretful message on her voicemail: She couldn’t take any more orders before Christmas. Even the name of her company comes from her cheesecake’s reputation. “I was down to two names: That Cheesecake by Tammy Smith or Cheesecake Bliss,” she said. “I went with the first one because of hearing people say, ‘Oh, my gosh. You make that cheesecake.” Don’t think, however, that this dessert is the only weapon in Smith’s culinary arsenal. Her catering company, which she started in 2001, handled everything from weddings to corporate events. “For the first wedding I catered, besides my sister-inlaw’s, I went to the church and used their stuff,” she said. Her company grew so rapidly that she soon found she needed her own space and equipment. “My husband had his business in the basement of our house,” she said. “I literally kicked him out. He built a warehouse, and I took over the basement and brought it up to health department codes.” Smith said she learned to cook from her mother at their home in Mt. Olive, a community near Birmingham. “My mom was boarded in an orphanage when she was a child,” she said. “The lady who ran the orphanage was TOP AND ABOVE: Graham cracker pieces are crumbled into a coarse grain and pressed into baking pans to make a buttery, sweet crust. LEFT: one of tammy smith’s finished cheesecakes, topped with fresh berries. OPPOSITE PAGE: smith in her industrial kitchen, which she moved into after outgrowing her original space.

28


indulgences

LEFT: smith pours a batch of cheesecakes into baking pans. BELOW: that cheesecake is for sale at the tuscaloosa river market and can be ordered in advance for pickup.

not from the South, and she taught my mom about different cuisines.” Smith and her husband, David, moved to Tuscaloosa right after they got married. “I finished college in 1991 at the University of Alabama in elementary education,” she said. She said she decided not to pursue a career in the classroom after the birth of her first child but continued to expand her cooking skills. “I took cooking classes from Tiffany Maring, who lived in Mountain Brook,” Smith said. “She grew up in Vietnam. We did French, Vietnamese, Thai and Chinese cooking. I did that for 12 years.” She also took cooking classes at Shelton State Community College, she said. Her venture into cheesecake-making began when a family friend was getting married and wanted the groom’s cake to be a cheesecake. “They brought me a photo of one they liked in a cake decorating book,” she said. “I made it, and it was the most disgusting thing I’d ever eaten.” Smith set about creating a tastier version. “I spent six months learning how to make cheesecake,” she said. “I, with sheer dumb luck, came up with the recipe I use now. I haven’t seen a recipe that has the exact same ingredients and instructions. That was in 1996. I baked it for family and used it sometimes in my catering business.” For several years, Smith supplied cheesecakes to Desperados, a Tuscaloosa steakhouse. She originally was supposed to provide the restaurant with three or four cheesecakes a week. “The first week, I delivered 20 cheesecakes,” she said. “It never slowed

down from there. The last two years they were open, I sold them 1,000 cheesecakes a year.” When Desperados closed, she wasn’t sure she wanted to work with a restaurant again, she said. That changed when Justin Holt opened Southern Ale House in the former location of Desperados. “Justin is super nice,” Smith said. “He puts family first.” Holt said he knew about Smith’s cheesecakes because “everybody kept talking about them.” “As far as our desserts go, it’s a favorite,” he said. “We have people who come in just for it. We just call it ‘Tammy Smith’s Cheesecake’ on our menu.” Smith said her white chocolate cheesecake is “the one everybody wants.” She also makes a dark chocolate version by special order. “The biggest compliment I get about my cheesecake is on the crust,” she said. “I have a lot of crust, which really isn’t correct.” While her cheesecake business is pretty much a one-woman operation, family members sometimes pitch in by helping to box up the treats. She and her husband, David, have two children. Ruston is 24, and Rachel is a 19-year-old student at the University of Montevallo. Both graduated from Tuscaloosa County High School. Smith said she sometimes misses her catering business. “I did catering for the University of Alabama and for pharmaceutical reps and did a lot of weddings,” she said. “I did a wedding for 800 once. I’ll still run into people who will come up and say, ‘You did my wedding.’ That’s what you miss most about catering, that you get to be a part of something special.” Fans of That Cheesecake might be surprised to learn that Smith’s specialty isn’t her treat of choice. “If you put 10 desserts in front of me and one was cheesecake, I wouldn’t pick it,” she said. “I prefer European desserts. They’re not as sweet.” Justin Holt likely is glad his customers have a different opinion. “She’s made herself a name in the community,” he said. “She makes a heck of a cheesecake.” Tammy Smith sells her cheesecakes at the Tuscaloosa River Market farmers market on the first and third Saturdays of every month. She encourages customers to order them in advance and pick them up there. Orders can be placed on her website, www.thatcheesecake.com, or by calling her at 205-826-5238. The company also has a Facebook page and is on Twitter and Instagram @That_Cheesecake. 29


foodie news by donna cornelius, the snooty foodie | photos by michelle lepianka carter

the egg machine and i

m

y husband is a bottom feeder. His words, not mine. He loves to find a good deal, especially at two of his favorite places on earth, Sam’s Wholesale Club and Costco. Thus he was beaming when he came home from his latest bargain hunt with a new low-cost discovery: a Dash Go Egg Devil. The booklet that came with this little gadget promised it would cook perfect eggs – from hard- and soft-boiled to poached. My first thought: Yeah, right. Not wanting to rain on his price-busting parade, I graciously decided to give the thing a go. I meticulously followed the instructions, which were surprisingly easy. To make boiled eggs, you punch a hole in the bigger end of each egg (with a tool that’s provided), upend the eggs into holders thoughtfully shaped like eggs, put in a little water (again, the kit came with a clearly marked little vial) and turn the sucker on. There are different settings for varying degrees of boiled-ness. A few minutes later, I had six perfect hardboiled eggs. Next I tried the poaching option. Poaching eggs is hard. Not as difficult as making macarons, but hard. It is often the downfall of cooking show contestants. Judges will say, “Look here, Chef Aristotle, you didn’t get that nice runny yolk, so you are therefore out of the competition,” and there will be much shaking of heads and gnashing of teeth. I removed my hopefully poached egg from the Egg Devil, cut into it – and out oozed that properly runny yolk. The Egg Devil and I are now firm friends. And my Easter egg dyeing is now a whole lot easier. Another of my favorite cooking gadgets was a Christmas gift from my kids, who definitely are not bottom feeders. So this one isn’t a bargain money-wise, but it’s well worth the price. The Breville Panini Grill turns boring old sandwiches into pockets of goodness. It cooks quickly and is easy to clean, too. I get out a wrap, pop in turkey and cheese and whatnot, and voila! My own homemade paninis, which make me very impressed with myself. My mom gave me one of my favorite birthday gifts: a Scanpan skillet. You can brown, deglaze and just plain fry stuff in it with no sticking or uneven cooking. The one I have is oven-safe, too. I take better care of it than I do of my jewelry. My point – and I do have one – is that the right gadgets can make life a lot easier for cooks. You may have some favorite cooking tools of your own. But I’ll bet you don’t have an Egg Devil.

Donna

Donna Cornelius is a Tuscaloosa writer whose motto is: So much food, so little time. Contact her at donnawcornelius@bellsouth.net and follow her on Instagram and Twitter @blonderavenous.

30

I

Spice world

love visiting Homewood when I’m in Birmingham. I can park and walk to my favorite downtown shops -- Three Sheets, At Home Furnishings, Homewood Toy and Hobby – and fortify myself at Urban Cookhouse and O’Henry’s Coffee (soon to open a Tuscaloosa store, if you haven’t heard). But several fellow foodies told me I really needed to add another stop: Penzeys Spices. I took their advice and discovered a store with shelves stocked with almost everything from adobo seasoning to za’atar. I left the store with a bagful of Vietnamese cinnamon, smoked Spanish paprika, ground ancho chile powder, and jars of assorted other seasonings. I pretty much clanked all the way to my car. The company’s website, www.penzeys.com, says it has stores in 29 states. You can order online or get a catalog. Or you can simply visit the Homewood store at 2939 18th St. S. Just be advised: If you, like me, have no willpower when it comes to filling your pantry, take a really sturdy shopping bag.


staFF photos | erin nelson

Foodie news

planning^ the^ perfect^ party^ kathy meZrano’s new cookbook serves up tips along with recipes

O^

ne of Birmingham’s most popular caterers is almost as much at home in Tuscaloosa as she is in her home city. Kathy Mezrano, who owns Kathy G and Company, often travels to T-Town to cater events, many on the University of Alabama campus. She’s done several UA President’s Cabinet dinners and for several years catered the Culverhouse College of Commerce’s Alabama Business Hall of Fame awards ceremony. Her recent event for Gamma Phi Beta’s celebration of the opening of its new sorority house earned her two International Special Events Society’s Allie Awards. “We did the ribbon-cutting ceremony and then the main event at the Bryant Conference Center,” Mezrano said. For the main event, Kathy G and Company took the theme, “No Place Like Home,” and created “Wizard of Oz”-inspired food at Auntie Em’s Nacho Station and Munchkin Land Dessert Station. Even Mezrano’s new cookbook, “Food, Fun & Fabulous: Southern Caterer Shares Recipes and Entertaining Tips,” gives the Crimson Tide a nod. Photos in the chapter called “Tailgate Party” were shot on the UA Quad. All the book’s chapters feature a party theme — “Tuscan Table,” “Asian Buffet” — and include not only recipes but also ideas for table settings and centerpieces. Mezrano has catered weddings and other private functions in Tuscaloosa as well as UA events. “People in Tuscaloosa are open to ideas, and they really want to make their events special,” she said. “They want to do something different. If I could open a second company, it would be in Tuscaloosa. It’s a social town.” “Food, Fun & Fabulous,” published by Inspired Intermedia, is $39.95. It’s available at The Gardens Café at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens and through the company’s website, www.kathyg.com.

ASiAn grilleD chicKen SAlAD Mezrano writes in her cookbook that she likes to mix the dressing with the chicken and let it marinate overnight. The colorful peppers and peas can be added before serving the salad. You can streamline the process by using your favorite vinaigrette or bottled Italian dressing, she adds. The recipe makes 6 cups of salad. 2 pounds boneless chicken breasts 1 teaspoon soy sauce Salt and pepper 1 cup red pepper strips 1 cup yellow pepper strips ¼ pound snow peas ½ cup sliced water chestnuts, sliced ½ cup pine nuts, toasted (you also can use almonds) Season chicken breasts with soy sauce, salt and pepper to taste. Grill chicken for about 8 to 10 minutes per side. Cook fully and let cool. Cut chicken lengthwise into strips. Add vegetables and nuts. Toss with vinaigrette.

ASiAn VinAigrette ½ cup Italian dressing 1 tablespoon soy sauce 1 teaspoon sugar 1 teaspoon ground ginger Combine all ingredients and mix well.

31


Foodie news

Southern

staple

Y

ou can spell it “pimento” or “pimiento.” You can stick to a basic shredded Cheddar-and-mayo recipe or go out of the carton and mix in peppers and onions. You can eat it for an everyday lunch or fancy it up for tea party sandwiches. But however you like to make – and eat – pimento cheese, you have to admit that this spread is a true Southern favorite. The Fresh Market has declared April 9 as National Pimento Cheese Day. In 1983, the specialty grocery store introduced its

version of pimento cheese as its first private label product. Since then, the store has sold more than 11 million pounds of it. There’s a “regular” version and one with jalapenos, too. Sherri Castle, a Fresh Market culinary expert, came up with some tasty ways to use pimento cheese (other than standing at the fridge and sneaking bites from the container). Castle suggests stirring a scoop of pimento cheese into hot pasta and topping the mixture with crumbled bacon and breadcrumbs, adding it to a burger, or rolling bite-sized balls of it in finely chopped nuts. My favorite variation is to smear pimento cheese onto some whole-grain bread and toast it just as you would any grilled cheese sandwich. And my go-to pimento cheese recipe is based on one from Bobby Deen. You have to think that Paula Deen’s son — a true Southern boy — wouldn’t steer you wrong. Like another well-known chef, Emeril Lagasse, I do like to kick it up a notch.

Slightly Spicy pimento cheeSe

Adapted from Bobby’s Pimento Cheese on www.foodnetwork.com, this recipe makes about 3 cups. 3 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature 1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese 1 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese ½ cup mayonnaise ½ cup House Seasoning 2 to 3 tablespoons pimentos, smashed 1 teaspoon grated onion 2 tablespoons jalapenos, diced 1 teaspoon Sriracha (or to taste) Cracked black pepper Beat cream cheese until smooth and fluffy in a stand mixer (or use an electric handheld mixer). Add all remaining ingredients and beat until well blended. House seasoning: Mix 1 cup salt, ¼ cup pepper and ¼ cup garlic powder. Store in an airtight container for up to 6 months.

32


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Foodie news

Treats that will have tails wagging If your first thought about homemade dog treats is, “Boy, that’s weird,” you are sadly behind the times (or you’re a cat person). Popular food sites like The Kitchn, Damn Delicious, Cooking Light and Food Network all have recipes for making your own doggie delights. And don’t get me started on Pinterest, which has instructions for whipping up everything from chicken and wild rice biscuits to oat and apple pretzels for pups. Kelly Pridgen usually shares her favorite recipes for humans, but she’s also been baking for her Goldendoodle. Mamie likes the treats even better when they’re made with dog-themed cookie cutters like the ones Pridgen found on Amazon.

Autumn Apple Crisps

— Adapted from “The Organic Dog Biscuit Cookbook from the Bubba Rose Biscuit Company” by Jessica Disbrow Talley and Eric Talley

NAAC60444

1 ½ cups oat flour 1 ½ cups brown rice flour 1 teaspoon cinnamon ½ cup rolled oats (not quick-cooking) 1 egg 1 cup applesauce (unsweetened) 1 tablespoon honey 2-3 tablespoons water, if necessary Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine all ingredients except the water. Add the water slowly, a little at a time, and mix until a dough forms. (If the dough is too dry, add more water. If it’s too wet, add a bit more flour. You may not need to add all the water if you reach a good consistency first.)

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Roll out dough on a floured surface to ¼ inch thickness. Cut with cookie cutters. Place on the cookie sheet; they can be rather close together since they don’t grow much while cooking. Bake 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer and let cool completely on a wire rack. Store the treats in an airtight container in the refrigerator. (Homemade dog treats have no preservatives, so they will not keep as well as store-bought treats.)

34


Foodie news

epicureAn eVentS April 21

death by chocolate TuscAloosA

Chocoholics, get ready: The Family Counseling Service’s annual night of chocolate immersion will soon be back. Tuscaloosa-area restaurants and caterers come up with some really spectacular sweet treats for this fundraiser. Those who attend vote on their favorite creations. The event starts at 6 p.m. at the Tuscaloosa River Market. Tickets are available now at www.counselingservice.org.

April 30

bbQ & blues TuscAloosA

The DCH Foundation hosts its 19th version of this event that combines music with food from the McAbee Pigfitters and Jim ’N Nick’s Community Bar-B-Q. It starts at 6 p.m. at the Tuscaloosa Regional Airport Terminal. Proceeds go to the foundation’s Help & Hope Patient Assistance Fund. Tickets are available now at www.thedchfoundation .org.

MAy 6-7

strawberryfest cullMAn

Eat your fill of strawberries and other fresh stuff grown in north Alabama at this festival. The event includes music, a classic car show, and arts and crafts. For more information, visit the festival’s Facebook page.

MAy 20-22

hangout music festival Gulf shores

This weekend music, art and food festival features an impressive lineup of bands and musicians performing on the beach. For more information, visit www.hangoutmusic fest.com.

Jimmy smith, a certified cicerone, at the alcove during a “tap takeover” in February.

Craft beer guru J

immy Stewart has a brew-mance going on. As a craft beer specialist for Supreme Beverage Co., the 35-year-old Hoover resident spends his workdays educating and promoting his favorite drink. “Then I go home at night and read about craft beer,” Stewart said. “I’m really lucky. I love what I do.” He’s one of his company’s three craft beer specialists and covers the Tuscaloosa-area market. “I don’t necessarily put in orders for our customers,” he said. “I keep them up to date on what’s coming out and can give them classes about the brewing process, the history of beer. A more educated serving staff will sell more beer. They need to be able to answer if a customer asks, ‘What’s good on draft?’” To expand his own knowledge, Stewart became a certified cicerone, pronounced “sis-uh-rohn.” You might say a cicerone is the beer world’s equivalent of a sommelier, or wine steward. Ray Daniels, a longtime home brewer and beer festival organizer, started the Craft Beer Institute’s Cicerone Certification Program in 2007. Those who go through the program learn about keeping and serving beer, beer styles, beer flavor and evaluation, beer ingredients and brewing processes, and how to pair beer with food.

certified cicerone likes ‘getting good beer to good people’ “There’s an online exam and a tasting portion, which I took in Huntsville,” Stewart said. A few of his recent Tuscaloosa events include a Beer and Burgers dinner at NorthRiver Yacht Club, a beer education class for servers at Mellow Mushroom, and a beer tasting for Loosa Brews. At Loosa Brews, Stewart offered customers samples of Abita Brewing Co.’s new Triple Haze, which has an 8 percent alcohol content, and Bayou Bootlegger, a hard root beer. He also passed out goodies from the Louisiana-based brewery: koozies, magnets and strings of Mardi Gras beads. “Most craft breweries have reps who go out to the market, but they have to cover a really large territory,” Stewart said. “We can help fill in. It’s all about getting good beer out to good people.” Loosa Brews owner Chad Smith called Stewart “a good guy.” “He’s knowledgeable, and he cares about craft beer,” Smith said. “It’s a lot of work to accomplish that cicerone title.” Stewart said he plans to become an even better-educated cicerone. “An advanced certification program will be introduced soon, and I plan to pursue that,” he said. “Like Julia Child, I’m constantly learning.” 35


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at home

a home for

healing J

the brayden house offers comfort and shelter to families with children in neonatal intensive care, in the name of a beloved baby boy

ABOVE: adam and amy pierce, left, Jennifer sumner, sandra and James hudson, and Josh and samantha giambalvo, seated, at the brayden house in northport.

38

by kim eaton photos by michelle lepianka carter

osh Giambalvo would give anything to be able to play catch with his son, Brayden, every day after school, or stay up on Christmas Eve putting together the much-anticipated bicycle that Brayden would have wanted more than anything. Giambalvo would love to just read to his son before tucking him in and kissing him good night, or laugh over something funny that happened at school. Simple things, really, but Giambalvo never had an opportunity to do any of them. Brayden Giambalvo died when he was 26 days old. “My biggest fear was that people

would forget,” said Giambalvo, a 31-year-old Tuscaloosa resident. “It’s a scary thing to think that someone on this Earth that meant so much to you could be forgotten.” Giambalvo made sure that would not happen with the creation of the Brayden House. The four-bedroom, 1,700-squarefoot home serves as a temporary, free residence for parents with children in the neonatal intensive care units at Northport Medical Center and DCH Regional Medical Center in Tuscaloosa. Giambalvo understands the financial, emotional and mental challenges that come with having a baby in a NICU.

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PHoto CoURteSy of tHe GIAMBAlvo fAMIly

at home

TOP: Jennifer Sumner, left, Amy Pierce, and Josh Giambalvo in the kitchen at the Brayden House. Sumner lives at the house, assisting families that stay there while their children are in NICU. LEFT: Brayden Giambalvo, for whom the house is named, in the NICU at DCH Regional Medical Center in 2008. BELOW LEFT: A chalkboard in the kitchen offers inspirational messages and a house schedule.

Brayden was born eight weeks early and weighed 2 pounds, 12 ounces. Other than being an early, small baby, Giambalvo said, he was primarily healthy. While Brayden was in the NICU, the focus was on weight gain and giving him steroid shots to help develop his lungs. “We lived at the hospital (DCH) for 24 days, and then earlier that week, the doctors told us if he gained a bit more weight and could pass a car-seat test, we could go home,” he said. Brayden never made it home. At 24 days old, he developed necrotizing enterocolitis, an intestinal illness, and was airlifted to Children’s of Alabama hospital in Birmingham. The surgeon removed part of Brayden’s bowel, but the infection returned 36 hours later. “They told us there was nothing else they could do and the infection was either going to slowly take its course and kill him, or we could elect to turn off the equipment and let him pass peacefully,” Giambalvo said. “We elected to turn off the machines. I rocked him until he passed away.” That was March 5, 2008. The next few years were a blur to Giambalvo. He got through those first couple of months just keeping a routine — going to work, spending time with friends and trying not to think about what he lost. But then the holidays approached and Giambalvo said he started thinking that he didn’t really have anything to be thankful for, so he turned to alcohol. “I kind of shut off from people. I stopped being nice to them, stopped caring about them. I was just mad at the world,” he said. “I had a couple 40


at home months of alcoholism and got a DUI, which helped straighten me out a bit. But it still took me a few years to figure out how to be happy again.” Although he says losing Brayden helped him be an even better father to the two children he has now, it still didn’t fill that emptiness in his heart. “Brayden wasn’t around anymore, and that wasn’t the way it was supposed to be,” he said. Then he discovered the Brown House Community in Northport, a Christian organization that opens its hearts and homes to the surrounding community. Giambalvo said its participants tutor the children in the area, love them and spend time with them. Working with two other couples in the community — Amy and Adam Pierce and James and Sandra Hudson — an idea started forming. “We started talking about what we would do if we had a bunch of money or if we won the lottery, and I thought it would be great to help people,” he said. “Then I started thinking about the families that we had met at the hospital who weren’t able to visit their children because of distance or money.” That discussion happened in 2011. In December 2012, they broke ground, and in October 2014, the Brayden House was open. The goal is to take away families’ financial stress by offering them a free place to stay while their baby is in a NICU. There is also no time limit on how long a family can stay; as long as their baby is in the hospital, they are welcome. “What I saw mostly while in the hospital with Brayden was that families just didn’t visit much,” Giambalvo said. “Some parents couldn’t take off work, or others might have had the time but didn’t have the money

to stay in a hotel while their baby was in the hospital. My thought was if they had a free place to stay, then they would be with their babies. There’s no reason for a baby to sit in there alone. It won’t take away the parents’ exhaustion, but it gives them a bed and warm place to relax for a few hours if they need.” The house has two sides. One side belongs to the host family, which is responsible for cleaning the house, checking people in, providing meals when possible and loving the families. The other side has two rooms to house two families. Each has its own entrance. There is also a main living area with a kitchen, dining area and living room. Since its opening, the Brayden House has housed seven to nine families, including a mom who stayed for four months. The only requirement to stay is that the family normally resides outside Tuscaloosa or Northport and needs the house. Social workers at both hospitals help the Giambalvos find the families. There have been only one or two instances that a family was not able to stay because the house was full, said Giambalvo’s wife, Samantha. With basic annual expenses running around $18,000, the Brayden House survives on donations, a subsidized rent from the host family and a business Internet account fee paid by community members. “If for some reason we don’t have the donations that month, it would come out of pocket,” Samantha Giambalvo said. “So far, the thought of that hasn’t been scary enough to distract us from how much it helps the families.” The couple does not plan on stepping back anytime soon. Plans for the future include paying off the home, as well as developing a funeral

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at home

RIGHT: The spacious living room features a large roll-up garage door that opens to a screened-in patio at the Brayden House. CENTER: The patio offers a peaceful retreat for familes going through a stressful time. BOTTOM LEFT: One of the bedrooms at the home, which can house two families at a time. BOTTOM RIGHT: Families have private entrances to their portion of the house.

fund for families whose babies do not make it out of the NICU. “If you have that experience, paying for a funeral for your baby is the last thing you need to worry about,” Samantha Giambalvo said. “We’d love to be able to say, ‘Just grieve, we’ll take care of this.’ ” Whether there will be another Brayden House in the future is unknown at this point. Josh Giambalvo said they just have to see if there is a need and what that need is. “I think the next step would be a tiny house, but I’ll build a hotel if that’s what is needed,” he added. Regardless of whether the couple builds one new house or 20, keeping Brayden’s memory alive while helping families is still his father’s No. 1 goal. “I definitely am a believer that there’s a few things that define your life and one of those things is what you leave behind,” he said. “I didn’t build the Brayden House. Brayden and people everywhere who decided his legacy needs to live on built the Brayden House. Now, his name will live on forever.”

42

How to help To make a donation to the home, visit brayden house.org. For more information, contact Samantha Giambalvo at 205383-5555 or Josh Giambalvo at 205799-3817.


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cover story

On April 27, 2011,

an EF4 tornado devastated our city and many others. In its path, it left a wake of death, devastation and despair. Our communities were shaken to the core, but not beaten. When the skies cleared, people joined hands and began to pick up the pieces of their homes, their neighborhoods, their cities. And while digging through the rubble, they found ...

44

photo | michelle lepianka carter


cover story

hope.

These are their stories.

photo | t.G. paschal

45


cover story

The Hall Family

O

by drew taylor

n April 27, 2011, Amie Hall was sitting in DCH Regional Medical Center with her son, Karter, when her mother asked where Amie’s daughters were. Groggy from medicine she was taking, Hall last remembered seeing her daughters, Khloe and Kristyn, with her and Karter in Alberta, looking for help alongside hundreds of others in the aftermath of the tornado. However, Khloe and Kristyn were nowhere to be found. “For a minute, I thought I was losing it,” Hall said. “I knew they were out there.” Earlier that day, Hall had received a call from her then-husband, Keith Matthews, as he was driving from work on Hargrove Road. She and her three children were at their home on 25th Avenue East in Alberta when Matthews called. “It just seemed like everything got dark and he started screaming, ‘It’s a tornado! It’s on the ground,’ ” Hall said. “I said, ‘Stop playing.’ ” By the time Hall realized what was happening, the tornado was only two blocks away from the house. After trying to get her children out of one of the rooms, she felt herself fly into the air as the tornado carried her home nearly 150 yards. “I thought we were going to die,” Hall said. At the time, Matthews heard the house crumble as he was on the phone with Hall. “I remember hearing stuff being thrown around, and I lost contact with her,” Matthews said. “It took about two hours before I could make it back.” After landing, Hall knew she was in the rubble of Alberta Elementary School after recognizing books and signs she had seen in the school. From there, Hall went to locate her children. When Hall found Karter, he had a cut and burn along his head, as well as a fractured nose and jawbone. He was 1 at the time. A police officer said Karter was going to die if they didn’t get him to a hospital, she said. In the hours after the tornado, Hall and Matthews searched the area to find her daughters. Khloe was found on a neighbor’s porch, while Kristyn was found in Holt with a family friend who had taken her there. In the five years since the tornado, Hall has had a mixture of feelings about what happened but, ultimately, she learned what her priorities in life were. “I think sometimes you have to go through something really devastating to know what life is 46

pHoTos | MicHelle lepiAnKA cArTer

TOP: Amie Hall and her children, Karter, 6, Kristyn, 5, and Khloe, 8, in their new neighborhood. Their home in Alberta was destroyed when it was picked up and moved from its foundation, with the family still inside, by the 2011 tornado. ABOVE: Karter, then 1, in the shelter after the tornado. RIGHT: The young family, with father, Keith Matthews, in a shelter in 2011.

all about,” she said. “It’s about family, happiness and taking advantage of every day.” Matthews said even though he and Hall are no longer together, the storm taught him to never take life or family for granted. “I could’ve lost my kids that day,” Matthews said. “I think about it all the time, and it makes me be more thankful about things because it could’ve been a lot worse than it was.” However, Hall has regrets about what happened to Karter. Since the tornado, Karter has suffered from post-concussion syndrome, which has included long bouts with nosebleeds and migraines. “If I had just watched the news or not turned the TV off, nothing would have ever happened to

Karter,” she said. Hall’s oldest daughter, Khloe, was 3 when the tornado destroyed her house, a memory that affects her to this day. “When it gets dark early, she freaks out because she thinks it’s always a tornado,” she said. “She barely likes to go outside.” Hall said she tries to calm Khloe down when she begins to become fearful of the weather. “I tell her I won’t let anything happen to her,” she said. “I tell her she doesn’t have to worry.” Today, Hall has a lot of gratitude that her family survived the tornado. “It makes you appreciate life because a lot of people didn’t make it,” she said.


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pHoTos | MiCHeLLe LepiAnkA CArTer

LEFT: Heather and Vann McCullar stand at their home with dog, Mickey, in 2014. Their home was destroyed by a fire shortly after being rebuilt following the April 27, 2011, tornado. BELOW: Heather stands on the lot where her home used to be in the Forest Lake neighborhood in 2016.

The McCullars

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by nick privitera

eather and Vann McCullar know firsthand the heartbreak of losing a home, a place filled with memories and love. But the McCullars didn’t just lose their Forest Lake home once. They lost it twice. The 2011 tornado damaged their home so severely that it took three years to repair. After moving back into the house and finally feeling a sense of normalcy, tragedy struck again when the McCullars’ home burned to the ground in 2014, killing their two dogs. Heather McCullar said both tragedies were painful but that losing the two beloved pets, which had survived the tornado, made the fire the worst of the two disasters. “I guess the fire was the most stressful. With the tornado, the house got damaged. You can replace things, but with the fact two of my dogs died in the fire, it’s a lot worse,”she said. She recalled that the 2011 tornado caught the couple off-guard. They had just returned to their Forest Lake home from a trip. “We didn’t realize that (the tornado) was going to be as bad as it was,” she said. “We were trying to set up our camera on the back porch to video it, because you don’t ever really think you are going to be hit. They always go everywhere else.” A call from Heather’s mother alerted the McCullars to the dangerous nature of the storm, prompting them to go back inside and prepare

for it. Heather and her husband, Vann, took cover with their two dogs in a closet, listening as the storm ravaged their home and the rest of the neighborhood. Heather said they were not in the closet for a very long time but that it felt like forever. “You could hear glass,” she said. “You could hear things hitting the house, and then you could smell insulation. So you kind of knew that something had happened, but you didn’t know how bad.” When Heather and Vann emerged from the closet, their living room appeared fine, but they then discovered that a tree had fallen through the back of their house. “It was like our minds were blank or something,” she said. “You just didn’t know what to think. And then the next thing was when we walked out front and heard people hollering for help. So then we just completely stopped thinking about our house and started trying to figure out where people were.” Forest Lake was one of the hardest-hit neighborhoods during the April 27, 2011, tornado. People were trapped in their homes, so Heather and Vann, with other neighbors, helped pull people from the rubble. Heather said a staircase had fallen on one of her neighbors. The man had to be carried out of his home on a door, which rescuers improvised as a stretcher. In the following weeks, Heather and Vann worked alongside their neighbors to help clean up the debris. They distributed food and water to those whose homes were destroyed. After the initial shock of the storm had

worn off, the McCullars and their neighbors struggled to pick up the pieces of their lives. The details of dealing with the insurance company and rebuilding their neighborhood became the focus of their lives. It took 13 months before they were able to move back into their home. Linda Parsons, a former neighbor of the McCullars, said Heather and Vann served on a neighborhood committee with her after the tornado. According to Parsons, many of the residents of Forest Lake were older and had lived in the neighborhood for decades, but the devastation of the storm forced them out because rebuilding would have been impractical. Parsons and the McCullars used their voices on the committee to work with the city and ensure that the tragedy wouldn’t turn into an opportunity for the commercialization of Forest Lake. After living with family members, Heather and Vann were eventually able to settle back into their home and readjust to the changed Forest Lake, but their rest would be short-lived. When their home burned down in December 2014, they were back in the same situation that they had been in only a few years before, staying with family members and trying to figure out a solution. Heather and Vann made the decision to leave Forest Lake. They moved into a new house on Laurel Wood Drive in June 2015, but she said that it’s not the same. The feeling of comfort was gone. “Everyone looks at us in our house now, and they’re like, ‘You went from that little house in Forest Lake to this big, nice house here.’ But I would always go back to that same house. (This house) isn’t home yet,” Heather said.

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phoTos | miChelle lepianka CarTer

The Hallmans by mark hughes cobb

ike many of us who lived through April 27, 2011, Kelli Hallman recalls a riot of sights, sounds and scents: the jet-engine sucking of the EF4 tornado looming; the steely whine of chainsaws carving paths; the pungent aroma of resin oozing from snapped pines overriding the loamy smell of turned-out soil; patchwork clumps of clothes and other belongings, the house itself shattered out of place; an implacable black wall that threatened, in raw minutes, to swallow the world. The worst death she had to deal with at home was that of Buck, their 7-year-old Labrador retriever. But in days to come, Hallman would handle much more. She stayed home that day with her then-5year-old daughter. Husband James went to work at Mercedes but came home early. Though they lost all material things, Hallman knows they were luckier than some, having built a storm shelter on the grounds. Their home was just two years old, up high along the river, facing Holt. It’s so elevated, the Hallmans could see the lights of Bryant-Denny Stadium. Yet it had been nicely secluded, in a virtual pine forest, a quarter-mile from the start of their driveway. “You couldn’t see my house for the trees, if you just drove down the road,” she said. In the eerie earlier calm that day, she saw a premonition: “A little bird came up to the window, and was banging on the glass, like ‘Let me in!,’” she said, laughing. “It was like he knew something.” Earlier they’d cleaned out the shelter, an oblong fuel tank dug into the side of an embankment. At 4 p.m., the family sat outside, waiting. “It sounded like a jet, the suction from a jet,” she said. “It was not a train like everybody says. The closer it got, the hair on your arms started standing up.” Neighbors from a nearby trailer park clustered in, until it got so crowded, Hallman moved Buck back to his garage, where he felt most comfortable in storms. “That’s where he wanted to be anyway,” she said. As the tornado rearranged their lives, suction forces pulled so hard that her brother-inlaw had to muscle the shelter door shut. “I can still smell the pine trees snapping, the dirt, because it was just ripping trees up,” she said. “The only thing we had left was the clothes on us” and, oddly, shrubbery planted around the house — the foundation of which was the only thing still intact — stayed mostly in place; deep roots. Someone’s aluminum fishing boat had wrapped

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TOP: The hallman family took refuge in this storm shelter, along with their neighbors, in Cottondale. ABOVE: The family dog, buck, was killed when a beam fell on him during the storm. OPPOSITE PAGE, TOP: The family today, in front of their new home. BOTTOM: The hallmans’ home after the storm, which left only a pile of rubble.

around one of the few still-standing trees. “Afterwards it was so calm, and then a rainbow came out.” Hallman fell on her knees to pray. Her daughter told her, “Mama, everything’s gonna be OK.” Hallman alerted family, via text message, to their situation. When texts came in, she heard work summoning: the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences. Part of their mission involves picking up the dead. “Work started calling me, ‘Hey, we need you here; we need you here.’ One of the (Tuscaloosa Police Department) homicide guys can remember hearing me crying, hearing it in my voice: ‘I would really like to help right now, but I can’t get out of my driveway.’” When the chainsaw team freed them, Hallman used work as many did: a contribution, but also palliative for loss. “If I were here constantly, I would have lost my mind, so I did go to work,” she said. “Tuscaloosa is a medical examiner county, so we don’t have a coroner. I’m the only death investigator in forensics for Tuscaloosa County.”

The city’s morgue couldn’t contain the victims, so the Tuscaloosa Veterans Affairs Medical Center, which has a larger cooler, became an adjunct facility. Some came by ambulance; others Hallman picked up in the department’s van, two bodies at a time, unless it’s children, when more can fit, she said. To handle seven bodies in a week would be extreme for Tuscaloosa. Within days, Hallman worked with dozens. Fortunately, she’s not unused to handling business outdoors, in a street, where police must string up tape to keep gawkers out. “This was different: Everybody was helping everybody,” she said. “It was traumatic for the people finding loved ones, but still, everyone was helping us load these people on cots and vans.” Growth came after: Tuscaloosa County now has a mass-fatality team, with members from homicide, forensic and legal fields. The Hallmans rebuilt, replanting more than 1,000 trees. Their new home added a safe room, in Kelli Hallman’s closet. Some things can never be replaced: A beam in the garage had fallen on Buck. Their cat showed up later, having lost kittens she was carrying, and all her claws: a veterinarian said she must have taken days to dig her way out. “We still have her; she’s a survivor,” Hallman said. “I lost all my sonogram pictures, all that baby stuff, all (the) little pictures from preschool, kindergarten … just the little things you think of, the Christmas ornaments they made, the Mother’s Day stuff. I would just like to have those things back.” Her daughter adapted well, though she’s still wary of storms. “My closet is full of stuff now. She asked, ‘Mom, how will I know when you think it’s a tornado?’ I told her, ‘When I start pulling things off the wall and taking them to the closet,’” she said, laughing.

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Kip Tyner

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by stephanie taylor

ip Tyner wore a coat that was much too heavy for a spring morning when President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, visited Tuscaloosa two days after the April 2011 tornado. It was 80 degrees but felt hotter because the trees and buildings that once blocked the sun had been leveled. The longtime Tuscaloosa city councilman was one of the hundreds of Tuscaloosa residents left with very few, if any, possessions after his home was among those destroyed. “I had to dress for the president coming,” Tyner said. “I was able to find that heavy jacket at my mother’s house, so that’s what I had to wear.” Hours later, the Obamas had left Alabama and Tyner was still out in the heat, passing out water and listening to people’s horror stories. That day was not the first he would juggle responsibilities as a city representative and public servant while working to rebuild his own life. “I just immediately went into workman›s mode,” he said. “There was the shock that my house, my parents› business, my office and all of my personal belongings were gone. I honestly just put that aside and concentrated on the people. I was so overwhelmed by people who had absolutely nothing.” Tyner had stopped by his mother’s business, Tuskaloosa Exterminating Service, on University Boulevard the afternoon the tornado hit. They took their dogs and headed to her home in Durrett Grove. Both were on the stairs to the basement when it passed over, blowing the door open and throwing debris inside. “I’ve been through a lot of tornadoes over my time, and it always did sound like a train. This time it sounded like a jet engine,” he said. “We could see each other talking, but we couldn’t hear anything. It was like a disaster scene in a movie.” Tyner walked down the street toward University Boulevard, where he immediately saw two bodies that had been placed together. The area would become a makeshift morgue as the hours passed. Looters were already on the street, taking beer from the convenience stores that had been reduced to rubble. “It was just chaos,” he said. “Absolute chaos.” Tyner didn’t learn that his own house off Veterans Memorial Parkway had been destroyed until a few days had passed. More than 65 percent of the Alberta district he’s represented since 1997 was destroyed. People were hungry and thirsty, and many had nothing but the clothes they had been wearing 50

phoTo | miChelle lepianka CarTer

TOP: alberta baptist Church in alberta was badly damaged by the storm. LEFT: City Councilman kip Tyner stands near 25th avenue and university boulevard in 2016.

of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Myeloma Institute for Research and Therapy, where he was treated for cancer that begins in the plasma cells in bone marrow. His last treatment was in October 2013, and he is now in remission. “One thing that kept me going during that time was thinking, ‘I’ve got to get back because nobody is going to fight for Alberta like I will,’” he said. “It really got me through a lot of days. I always thought that I appreciated every day that I woke up. But now I know that after losing almost all of my possessions and almost losing my life, I appreciate everything so much more — my friends, my family. I just appreciate how wonderful the phoTo | erin nelson good Lord is in my life and that I’m that afternoon. able to wake up every day and be “I honestly didn’t think about all the things I healthy again.” had to do for myself,” he said. “I was busy handing Growth has slowly returned to the area. Tyner out diapers, water and food. I was telling people said he remembers when Alberta was a shopping where to go to sign up for help and where to get and entertainment destination for people all over the things they needed.” the Tuscaloosa area and that he hopes for a return Within days, Tyner had resumed to that. New businesses have located to the Unihis noon “Great Day Tuscaloosa” talk show, versity Boulevard corridor, and developers have which usually features interviews with commuinvested to build new housing. The Alberta School nity members and civic activities. He used the for Performing Arts, a new police precinct, fire staplatform to get information out to victims and tion and tennis stadium have opened in the area, the unaffected members of the Tuscaloosa and and an Amtrak station is planned for the Leland Northport communities who wanted to help. Shopping Center area. The growth has been slow, In November 2012, Tyner was misdiagnosed he said, but it’s been good growth. with sarcoma. He underwent what turned out “We have one chance to get it right, one chance to be unnecessary surgery to remove three ribs. to restore Alberta to its greatness,” he said. “We’re He later spent several weeks at the University going to do it again, one property at a time.”


cover story photo | michelle lepianka carter

The School Nurse

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by drew taylor

eresa Quarles said she still thinks about what she could have done on April 27, 2011. That day, she began what became nearly a three-day shift at Holt Elementary School, where she oversaw medical treatment for many people who had been injured in the tornado. Even now, Quarles remembers many patients being carried into the school gym on truck beds or on doors trying to get help. “I dealt with a lot and saw a lot that I’d just as soon not remember,” she said. Before the tornado, Quarles had been head nurse at Holt Elementary for more than a year. She had wanted to be a nurse ever since she was a young girl watching her grandmother, Margie Sanders, tend to the sick at Tuscaloosa Veterans Affairs Medical Center and other hospitals in West Alabama. “It’s always interested me how she just knew things,” she said. “If something happened, if there was an accident or someone was sick, she always knew what to do.” The day the tornado struck, Quarles was watching TV weather reports at her home in Northport when she received a call from Debbie Crawford, the principal at Holt Elementary School, asking her to ride with her to check on damage at the school. By the time they arrived,

there were people seeking shelter inside the gym. “A deputy there knew I was a school nurse, so he put me in charge of triage at Holt Elementary,” she said. “So they started bringing all the injured to the school.” For a while, Quarles was the only nurse tending to the injured at Holt, where she saw people who had been crushed to those who had pieces of wood embedded in their bodies. Not long after, additional doctors and nurses arrived at the school to assist. Over the next couple of weeks, Quarles would travel with other doctors and nurses to treat countless other people across West Alabama. “I held a lot of hands and said a lot of prayers,” she said. “I think a lot of what people needed was someone to talk to them.” The Tuscaloosa County Sheriff’s Office later honored Quarles and others for their work in the aftermath of the tornado. Quarles, however, said she was just doing her job that day. “You don’t think twice about jumping in and helping your own family, and so when we pulled up and I saw the devastation and some of the families come in, you just go into that mode where you are taking care of your family,” she said. In the years since the tornado, Quarles has asked herself if she could have done more to help others. “There are days where I am fine and other

LEFT: teresa Quarles in the holt elementary school gymnasium in February 2016. Quarles spent three days in the gymnasium after the 2011 tornado, using it as a makeshift triage unit to aid the numerous injured in the community. the gym and school sustained damage and have since been renovated.

days where I’m not,” she said. “I think you always feel like there was more you could’ve done and been able to help out more.” She said part of her regret is feeling that she was unprepared for the situation. During the past couple of years, Quarles said she underwent counseling to deal with those feelings and realizes she had done all she could. “It happened, I dealt with it, and I just had to pick up the pieces,” she said. Nonetheless, the tornado inspired Quarles to better her career. In October, she left her job at Holt to return to school at Shelton State Community College, where she is studying to become a registered nurse, and then work on a master’s degree in nursing. “I never wanted to be underprepared again,” she said. “I never wanted to not have what I needed to be able to take care of a situation like that.” When Quarles looks back on the tornado, she said she believes her situation was part of a divine plan. “God placed me where he wanted me at that particular time,” she said. “I did the best I could at that time, and I was there for a reason. I don’t know what that reason was, but I was there.”

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ellen potts, director of habitat for humanity in Tuscaloosa, stands atop the foundation for a new home in alberta.

The Home-Builder

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BY ANGEL COKER ilver-colored roofs reflect the sun onto the few snapped trees left behind from the tornado. They’re the roofs of Habitat for Humanity houses built on ground where the debris of old, poor-quality rental houses and a run-down apartment complex once lay scattered in the aftermath of devastation. Since the April 2011 tornado, Juanita Drive and other streets in Alberta and Holt have been construction zones, with residents living with the sounds of hammers and saws as more and more homes rise. As a volunteer on the Family Selection Committee, Ellen Potts helped choose the residents who would live in these houses. Before the tornado, Potts said she met with the board about twice a year to help select the families who would partner with the organiza52

tion to live in the two houses that Habitat built each year. But that changed after the tornado. The board started meeting about four times a month to make these selections, and houses popped up left and right. “I went from about five or six hours a year to perhaps 12 or 14 hours a month” on the selection committee, Potts said. “It was probably 10 or 15 times more work than it was prior to the tornado.” Although the tornado never touched her home, her work life changed drastically. In March 2013, Potts stepped down from the board and took over as the executive director of Habitat, leading the organization in its growth. Construction increased from two houses a year to about 18 a year as funding earmarked for tornado victims flooded in from all over the world. Potts said it came from individuals, churches, businesses, large corporations and

phoTo | gary Cosby Jr.

organizations in addition to $1 million in U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery funds. “We grew so fast,” she said. “Our organization pre- and post-tornado is like the little boy we all knew in grade school that was 4-foot-9 and then 18 months later he was 6-foot-4,” she said. “The Habitat affiliate here was very small. We built one to two houses a year before the tornado. We built 47 between 1987 and 2011 when the tornado hit. The tornado kind of resurrected our Habitat affiliate.” Habitat’s post-tornado construction began in July 2011, and the organization is now working on the 55th house since that time. The organization also began doing repair work, repairing close to 100 houses, she said. On Juanita Drive, 21 Habitat houses have been built, one is under construction and 15 lots are still available. Each house has a safe room constructed to FEMA standards.


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photo | miChelle lepianka Carter

photo | Dusty Compton

photo | gary Cosby jr.

TOP LEFT AND RIGHT: Volunteer crews work to build new homes for residents whose houses were destroyed in the 2011 tornado. LEFT: nichole Cammon hugs her mother, Donna madison, inside nichole’s newly built home in 2012, the first to be completed after the storm. ABOVE: ellen potts stands in alberta in 2016 at the construction site where a number of homes were rebuilt.

photo | miChelle lepianka Carter

With fewer applicants now identifying themselves as tornado victims and funds earmarked for them drying up, she said Habitat has turned to work in other areas, including West End, where it primarily built before the tornado. The applicants partner with the organization to purchase a home at fair market value

with a zero interest 30-year mortgage that saves them $85,000 to $90,000 in interest payments over the life of the mortgage, and single-adult households must put in 250 hours of work on their new home or the homes of other Habitat homeowners. Potts said the increase in home ownership has reduced the city’s crime rate, noting that

about 10 percent of all crime in Tuscaloosa occurred in and around Juanita Drive before the tornado. “Any neighborhood can have crime, but the crime rate has just plummeted post-tornado on Juanita Drive,” Potts said. “If you’re driving around Juanita Drive on a Saturday, you see kids out riding their bikes, which I don’t think you would’ve seen pre-tornado because I think mamas and daddies would have been too scared to let their kids out. You see people out on their porches if it’s pretty weather. It’s the kind of family atmosphere that we wanted to foster here. That was our goal, and to see that happening is a beautiful thing.” The organization will continue to build on Juanita Drive, one of the hardest-hit areas in the tornado, and other areas as funding comes in, she said. Five years later, recovery is still taking place, but “it’s coming together,” Potts said.

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The Hero of Holt Ho

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by jason morton

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Robert Reed at his home in Alberta in February 2016.

And then he started talking back. “It’s like they were right there — right beside me,” Reed said. “Like you would walk up to a normal person and they’d be standing there like a normal person. “I just didn’t tell anybody because I didn’t want anyone thinking I was crazy.” Eventually, he sought the aid of a therapist through a free service offered to storm victims. But the damage was done. He had already lost his wife and the Habitat house, and he had given up his lawn care business. The therapist drove with him to a hospital, where he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. Now, on medication to keep the visions and voices at bay, the lingering effects force him to live off disability benefits and cause panic whenever a storm is in the forecast. “If the wind blows real hard or anything and the trees start waving like they’re going to fall over, I get a little jittery,” Reed said. “And if I’m driving or something, I’ll pull over.” He still volunteers with High Socks for Hope, a nonprofit charity organization formed by Tuscaloosa native and Paul W. Bryant High School graduate David Robertson, now a pitcher for the Chicago White Sox. Among other things, High Socks for Hope helps storm and disaster victims restock their replacement homes with beds, cookware and other basic items. Reed volunteers to help move in the furnishings. Judy Holland, managing director of High Socks, said he does the work of 12 people. “Robert is a giving — truly, from the heart —

person,” Holland said. “It’s so important for him to give back, and he feels like the more he does, the more he’s blessed. “We would not be where we are with the nonprofit without Robert.” While some people would have turned their backs on the world, Reed said that was never an option. As bad as life became in the storm’s aftermath, Reed said it did not compare to growing up without a mother — she died when he was 11 — and bouncing among foster homes until graduating from high school. And the storm in no way compared to spending more than seven years in prison for a crime he maintains he did not commit. Reed said he took a drug distribution charge upon himself to save his girlfriend from losing custody of their children. Rather, he sees his struggles as just another challenge set before him by God. Reed says he believes, as a devout Christian, that he was meant to be in Crescent Mobile Home Estates then, just as he’s meant to be finding his path through these travails now. “God said he won’t put no more on you than you can bear. And I believe he did that because he knew I was the person who could handle it like I was going to handle it,” Reed said. “It hurt in a way, but I look at it (like) I ended up helping all those people, and sometimes when you do that, your life can change. “Sometimes it changes for the best and sometimes it changes for the worst, but that’s life — you’ve just got to keep going.”

PHOTO | MICHELLE LEPIANKA CARTER

n the days and weeks that followed the April 27, 2011, tornado, the actions of Robert Reed became legendary. He was the Hero of Holt, the ex-conturned-trailer park manager who helped save 12 people from the ruins of Crescent Mobile Home Estates. Single-handedly, he lifted and removed brick walls and appliances from residents trapped under the rubble of their twisted and broken homes. Items that should have taken more than one person to move were tossed aside like toys by the soft-spoken hulk. “He was absolutely freaking amazing,” Ronnie Morris, a resident of Crescent Mobile Home Estates for almost three decades when the storm hit, told The Tuscaloosa News in May 2011. “He’s a true hero, that’s for sure,” said John Hayes, another trailer park resident, that same month. “He just went with no regard to himself. He’s one in a million.” But he couldn’t save everyone. For two men, he arrived too late. And too late for an 88-year-old woman, whom Reed watched die as he was carrying her to safety. But as word spread of Reed’s selfless actions, donations and support poured in. He received new equipment to resume the lawn care business he was building when the storm struck. Reed and his then-fiancee were soon wed and then qualified for — and eventually moved into — their own Habitat for Humanity home. And the sideways glances he received as a former felon were replaced by smiles and hugs from friends and strangers alike. “A lot of people now look at me a lot different,” Reed said earlier this year, as the fifth anniversary of the tornado approached. “They look at me as being actually a hero — a real person — instead of saying, ‘that’s a convict.’ ” While it seemed the tornado had lifted Reed to a better life, a personal storm continued to swirl within him. At first, he just saw the people he could not save. Then he heard their voices.


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The Small Business

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by becky hopf

former staff members back on the job. Chow and his partners, Lao and Sam Liew, had emerged from the darkness to the brightest of lights. Hokkaido’s reincarnation resembles nothing of its former shell. The old building was a ranch-style, decades-old build. The new façade is sleek and architecturally stylish. There’s more space for parking, and the inside is sprawling, an open space with tableside hibachi grills, a longer bar area and dining tables scattered throughout. There is a vibe that makes it feel alive. Chow says he does not suffer from any sort of post-traumatic stress from what he went through, but he does readily profess his gratitude. “I was happy to re-establish the business. We were glad to see the old customers coming back. We are very thankful for the people of Tuscaloosa supporting us,” Chow says. “I don’t feel sad about what happened to the old restaurant. I am just glad to be alive. Everybody is well. I appreciate things a lot more. It was fate. You can’t control what happened. We were blessed that everyone was OK and that were able to rebuild.”

LEFT: Co-owner simon Chow stands in the rebuilt hokkaido Japanese steakhouse. BELOW: The new building reopened in september 2012.

phoTos | gary Cosby Jr.

imon Chow was aware that the day’s forecast called for storms. He was not aware that he would find himself and his business in the bullseye and that the business he’d worked so hard to make successful would be reduced to a pile of rubble by nightfall. “We knew there was to be bad weather. We were not expecting it to be that serious,” said Chow, co-owner of Hokkaido Japanese Steakhouse near today’s Midtown Village in Tuscaloosa. It was late afternoon when an EF4 tornado barreled through the heart of Tuscaloosa on April 27, 2011. The restaurant was mostly empty, except for Chow and his employees. He’d arrived at work that morning to prepare for the lunch crowd and a typical day in the restaurant business that would find him in motion, nonstop, until closing. “I had not been following the weather,” Chow said, recalling the events of that day, five years later. “My employees knew. They had been following the weather.” Among those monitoring the weather was one of Chow’s business partners, Charlie Lao. As the weather worsened, he made the decision to leave to ride out the storms at his house. “I didn’t know it was coming,” Chow said of the moments before impact. “I went into the dining room, and no one was there. Everything happened very quickly. It blackened and darkened. The storm came and blew everything away. “I didn’t know it was a tornado. It lasted seconds. It came and went. I jumped into the office and got under the desk,” Chow said. “We had no chance to get scared or worried. In a split second, it was gone. We are very blessed to be alive. The good Lord looked after us.” Chow said there were about 14 employees in the restaurant when the tornado hit. “They were all in the walk-in cooler,” Chow said of where his employees took shelter. The staff’s quick thinking likely spared their lives and all of them from serious injury. The tornado leveled the restaurant. “I had some bumps and bruises, nothing serious. The employees, they just had bumps and bruises. We crawled out from the debris immediately,” Chow said. “Everybody came out at once. We were very blessed. No one was seriously hurt.” And, with his business flattened, that was what mattered most. “I was just relieved that everyone was OK. That was the first thing that came to my mind.” Lao wasn’t so lucky. The merciless storm lashed at him as he was driving, tossing his car and sending him to the hospital with broken bones and a punctured lung.

The former building lay in total destruction. Cars in the parking lot belonging to the staff were smashed. A truck belonging to an employee from a business across the street had been thrown across 15th Street into the Hokkaido parking lot. The building was completely knocked down; not the owners’ spirits, though. They decided to rebuild. “After the tornado, there was some time to think about how to rebuild,” Chow said. “We understood it was not going to be easy and that it would take time planning.” Even though Hokkaido had been a part of the Tuscaloosa landscape on 15th Street since 2006, the management was starting from scratch, from finding financing and equipment, muddling through building and zone codes and, most importantly, finding a new location. Zoning laws, put in place after the storm, barred them from building on the former site. As fate would have it, a spot became available right across the street. Eventually, the restaurant came back to life, officially reopening on Sept. 6, 2012, several of its

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cover story

The Sociologist

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BY ED ENOCH

aybe it was “The Wizard of Oz,” or maybe it was the way the news made every tornado sound like sure death to a child growing up in Cleveland, but Ariane Prohaska has always feared tornadoes. “I was really sick to my stomach because they were talking about all of the tornadoes that day,” said the 38-year-old associate professor of sociology at the University of Alabama. In 2011, at 33, Prohaska was in the fourth year of her tenure track and sharing a starter home in Forest Lake with her then-boyfriend and her pets, a boxer named Zelda and two cats. 56

With Zelda, Prohaska took shelter in her bathroom as the storm approached her neighborhood. In her dread, she turned on the exhaust fan to mask its sounds. The power went out, and Prohaska, sitting in the tub with her dog, closed her eyes. “I thought I would try to pass out,” she said. “I don’t know how you think you will try to pass out, but I thought my brain might try to protect me, and it did because I don’t remember what it sounded like. I just closed my eyes because I thought I was going to die and just held on to my bathtub faucet with one hand and my dog’s collar with one hand.” The passing tornado blew out the windows of her home and felled three oaks in her yard; one hit the house. Afterward, she walked with her dog into the storm-blasted neighborhood. “I was just spaced out and crying and other

people were trying to help people. And I was like, ‘What is wrong with me?’ I don’t think I knew how to deal with an event like that. I was in major shock,” she said. Until the storm, Prohaska’s life had been free of major trauma. The tornado upended her comfortable life, becoming a prologue to a string of heartbreaks as she grappled with post-traumatic stress disorder from her storm experience. As life around her seemed to return to normal, she found it difficult to function the way she did before the storm, sleeping for long periods of time and unable to focus on tasks and conversations. She felt isolated and selfconscious as others outwardly seemed to be recovering better. “I was scared of everything. I couldn’t get out of my car at Target because of a storm,”


cover story

photo | michelle lepianka carter

she said. “Anything that was new and scary, or anything that was new, I didn’t want to have to deal with it.” Prohaska took a year off her tenure track after the storm, which turned out to be a fortuitous decision. A couple of months after the tornado, Prohaska’s relationship with her boyfriend ended — strained by the storm experience — and, early in 2012, her only sibling, an older sister, died of breast cancer shortly after being diagnosed. She found she needed the time off to focus on herself. Therapy and “amazing” friends she discovered along the way helped her through. Prohaska’s ordeal and a conversation with a student who shared a similar storm experience in Alberta were the catalyst for her recent research projects in disaster sociology. Prohaska is a social inequality sociologist, with much of

photo | dusty compton

ABOVE: the Forest lake neighborhood suffered severe storm damage. RIGHT: prohaska is an associate professor of sociology at the university of alabama, where her tornado experience has influenced her current work.

her previous work on gender. For her current project, she is interviewing people directly affected by the tornado as she studies the impact in different communities. The project is titled “Post-Traumatic Stress or Post-Traumatic Growth? Survivors’ Explanations for Divergent Life Trajectories Post-April 27th.” Prohaska is applying social stress theory — an idea that the long-term consequences of traumatic events and how quickly people recover can be exacerbated by existing stressors such as mental illness or poverty. In addition to questions about pre-existing stressors, the subjects are asked about the concept of posttraumatic growth and whether they feel their lives have changed for the better. “Without having analyzed all of the data, most of the individuals that I interviewed had experienced some level of post-traumatic growth, even if they were struggling financially

or still experiencing mental health issues,” she said. “People were focused on how happy they were to be alive, which seems to trump their financial circumstances.” Five years later, talking about the day of the storm still makes Prohaska anxious. But now she sees positive changes in herself born from her experiences. Five years later, Prohaska sees herself as less inclined toward complacency and better equipped to deal with traumatic events, more laid-back and more capable of disarming the worry that still creeps into her belly with the possibility of severe weather. “I am not going to live an unhappy life if I can control something. If I feel like something is not working, with work or with my personal life, I will talk about it, because life is too short to just go through the motions,” she said.

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The Neighbors

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By LeiLa Beem Núñez

photos | miChelle lepianka Carter

oug Wedgeworth was visiting his aunt near his Rosedale Court apartment when something told him that things were not right. He was walking home when he said he felt a pat on his shoulder. “An angel said to me, ‘It’s going to get bad today,’ ” Wedgeworth said. He turned to look behind him. That’s when he saw the tornado, slowly turning in the distance. As he made it onto the back service drive of his apartment complex, he felt another pat on his back. Again he turned to see the funnel, bigger now, and closer. “It had to be about 2 miles wide — had to be,” Wedgeworth said. “All you could see was a lot of dark debris. And I just ran home.” He stood on his front porch with his cellphone in his hand, taking pictures of the nearing force in disbelief. “I’d never seen a tornado before (except) on television, not in real life,” Wedgeworth said. “But there it was, headed straight for our neighborhood.” The skies grew darker by the second, and he could feel rocks and sand being kicked up by the nearing winds. He saw a house nearby tossed up into the air, blown to pieces in midair. He froze. “I started hollering,” Wedgeworth said. “I thought, if there was anybody in that house, they’re dead.” His girlfriend urged him to get inside. Together they ran down the hall and crouched in their bathtub. Wedgeworth said all he could do then was pray. “I just said, ‘Lord, if you’re going to take me, take me quick,’ ” Wedgeworth said. He heard the windows of his home shatter. He saw his roof come up. He said nothing will ever sound quite like what he heard that day. “I don’t care what anybody says,” Wedgeworth said. “It sounds like a freight train. If you ever hear it, it is the most eerie noise.” When all was quiet, he made his way back down his hallway and, after a few minutes of prying his damaged door open, stepped outside. All he saw was destruction. Near his home, he saw his silver 2000 Camaro convertible crushed by another vehicle, two-by-fours sticking through the seats. Gas and water spewed out of mains. “It was like someone had dropped a bomb in that neighborhood,” Wedgeworth said. “It was unrecognizable.” He immediately set out to look for survivors

OPPOSITE PAGE: Doug Wedgeworth and jeannette barnes stand where her apartment formerly stood at the back of the rosedale Court housing complex in February 2016. Wedgeworth helped dig barnes out after the 2011 tornado reduced her home to rubble. ABOVE: barnes and Wedgeworth look at photos of barnes’ car on top of what used to be an apartment in rosedale Court immediately after the storm.

and do what he could. Some, he could not save: a young woman and her baby, a young girl. But as he and a neighbor combed through the neighborhood, they heard muffled moaning from the wreckage. When they found her, she was still in her blue clothes basket. She had taken cover in it inside her bedroom closet when she heard meteorologist James Spann’s warning on television to all in the Greensboro area to find shelter immediately. Surrounded in the bricks that had fallen all around her, under a shelf that had toppled down, and smothered in garments, Rosedale Court resident Jeannette Barnes struggled to breathe. “I pray, but I prayed even harder that day,” Barnes said. “I was buried alive, but (God) got me out of it. I can truly say God answers prayers.” Barnes does not remember how long she was in her closet, and she does not remember being pulled from the rubble. But she remembers how a voice told her to find her safe place in her bedroom closet. Seconds later, her living room walls caved in on the couch she had been sitting on. “If I had stayed in my living room, I wouldn’t be sitting here today,” Barnes said. She lost her home and most of her possessions, save for a few items like a pair of glasses, Bibles and an angel figurine her mother had given her for a birthday. She especially misses family photographs and her music collections. But Barnes said she still considers herself fortunate to have survived. “I’ve been through the storm, and I’ve been through the rain,” Barnes said. “I feel like I’ve been through it all. And (God) brought me out

of it.” Nearly five years after the storm, Wedgeworth and Barnes remain friends. “He will forever be a part of my life,” Barnes said. Both work to better their communities in the ways that they can. Wedgeworth was part of the Tuscaloosa Forward plan to rebuild the city, and he continues to work with others on improvements such as building codes and standards. He said he enjoys going out into his community to speak with people about their experiences and how they feel things can improve. “It’s been an honor,” Wedgeworth said. “I write to Mayor (Walt) Maddox sometimes and say, ‘Hey, I’m getting bored.’ ” He has since settled back into Rosedale Apartments as the second tenant who returned to the complex, still in its third phase of rebuilding. “I enjoy my spot,” Wedgeworth said. “I told them I was going back. It’s home.” Barnes now lives in McKenzie Court, where she is treasurer of the McKenzie Court Resident Council. She is also resident commissioner on the Tuscaloosa Housing Authority’s Board of Commissioners. She said helping those around her — from offering a meal to an elderly neighbor in need to giving spiritual advice — is the least she can do. “It feels so good to be able to do things for other people, because so many people did so much for me,” Barnes said. “And my blessings keep coming.”

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at home

Silver linings bobby and dena prince have accentuated the positive while reconstructing their home after it was damaged by the 2011 tornado

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ike most people in Tuscaloosa on April 27, 2011, Dena Prince hurried to the safest place she could find when she heard the tornado warnings: the basement of her house in The Highlands. She’d heard on the radio that there would likely be a calm sometime during the storm. So when the roar of the first wave of winds subsided, she ran upstairs to rescue one of her most treasured possessions. “I grabbed my statue of baby Jesus and brought him back downstairs

the first floor of the prince home was reconstructed, including the screened-in porch, which had been destroyed.

by donna cornelius photos by michelle lepianka carter

with me,” Prince said. She and her statue then waited in the basement for the storm to end. “I really thought I would walk up the stairs and my house would not be there,” she said. Her house was standing — but heavily damaged. “I saw limbs and leaves and other debris scattered all through my house,” Prince said. “Windows were broken. Glass was everywhere. I walked outside and was horrified. There were fallen trees in my yard and crisscrossing the street. One fireplace chimney had blown off and was wedged into my roof. Another was lying on my patio. “There was complete silence.” After checking on her neighbors, she texted her husband, Tuscaloosa attorney Bobby Prince, to tell him she was safe. He headed home but had to park on University Boulevard and walk to their house because

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The restored kitchen was expanded, and a new island was added for extra counter space.

the streets of The Highlands were impassable. The couple spent the first few nights after the tornado with friends Mollie and Tom Chambers, the first of many nights away from their own home. “We moved into a friend’s daughter’s apartment for a few weeks,” she said. “At the beginning of June, we accepted the gracious offer of our friends Richard and Darlene Ellis to live in their house while they spent the summer in their mountain home. We lived there until September and then moved into our pool house until the following April, when the renovations on our home were completed.” The Princes’ yard was damaged, too. “We lost many of our huge old oak trees,” Prince said. “Only two trees survived, and they had significant damage but hopefully will recover one day. Trees covered our pool, one completely destroyed our screened porch, and others blocked the back doors of our house.” Prince said she decided to look on rebuilding as an opportunity to make changes to the couple’s house. It was built in the 1920s by Carl Carmer, a University of Alabama professor and the author of the book “Stars Fell on Alabama.” Prince said the house later was the First Baptist Church of Tuscaloosa’s parsonage for many years. “We moved into the house in December 1991,” she said. 62

During the rebuilding process, the Princes took out several walls to open up their kitchen, making it larger and more accessible to the family room. “We changed the location of the dining room, making it adjacent to the living room,” she said. “We added French doors leading out to the back patio. That change brought in more light and gave us a better view of our backyard.” The living room on the front of the house bore the brunt of the storm. But to Prince’s surprise, the elderly single-paned windows in the room held up better than their more modern counterparts. “These are the original windows from the 1920s,” she said. “They allowed the wind to go through; the panes just cracked. My neighbor’s window, frame and all, was just sucked out.” Prince’s silk curtains also survived the storm. “They had to be cleaned — there was glass in them — and we had to put in new linings,” she said. “We rolled up the rug and had it cleaned and stored. I’ve changed some of the furniture in the living room, but to update it and not because we had to replace it. Kellyn Bilton of Lampadas helped me with updating the living room. We got a new coffee table and lamps and re-covered the chairs.” Besides the statue of baby Jesus, now back in its original place in the


at home

TOP RIGHT: the dining room table still bears scars from the storm where debris struck it. dena prince says she kept it that way as a reminder. RIGHT: a silver tea set adds subtle sparkle to the dining room, which was relocated after the reconstruction. FAR RIGHT: a statue of st. Joseph resides in an alcove near the front door.

living room, Prince is fond of her statue of St. Joseph that’s in an alcove near the front door. The piano in the room belonged to her grandmother, who was a piano teacher in Greensboro, Prince’s hometown. To come up with a plan for her newly expanded kitchen, Prince called in a kitchen design expert from Birmingham. “Cyndy Cantley of Cantley & Company helped tremendously,” she said. “The new design makes it easier to cook, and I have a place for everything.” One addition was a large new island. “I had an island before, but it was two levels, one with a cooktop,” Prince said. “It wasn’t big enough to use as a

workspace. The top of the new one is white marble. I have Corian on the other countertops. It’s indestructible.” Like the living room curtains, the kitchen valances stood up to the storm. “These are the same Aubusson blue valances I had before,” Prince said. “Jeanette Foley made them. We cleaned them and then she relined them.” The former dining room is now a cozy family room. Prince said she and her husband often eat in the room at the drop-leaf table that belonged to her grandmother. The new dining room has reminders of the

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TOP: The living room, which took most of the damage, was updated with new furniture and recovered chairs. The piano in the room belonged to dena prince’s grandmother, who was a piano teacher in greensboro, prince’s hometown. ABOVE: a painting by artist Jo bailey portrays the family with each of their interests. Various family portraits are hung throughout the home. LEFT: The living room also features a stone fireplace in a natural, light palette to keep the room light.

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at home storm. Prince can point out little nicks in the wooden table that came from flying glass and other debris. “I didn’t even want to have it redone,” she said. In the main-level master bedroom, a portrait over the fireplace by artist Jo Bailey shows the family in a casual setting. “Bobby wanted it to show everyone’s interests,” Prince said. From the bedroom’s windows, Prince can look out onto the backyard. “The view just calms me,” she said. That wasn’t the case right after the tornado. “When all the cleanup was completed, our backyard was basically a blank slate,” Prince said. Instead of lamenting her lost garden, she decided to look on the bright side. “If I could, I’d say, give me my big trees back,” Prince said. “But now, I have sun. I can have plants I couldn’t have before. We finally have a vegetable garden. My lawn is healthier.” The Princes rebuilt their screened porch, which was flattened by a falling tree. The addition of a fireplace means the porch can be used almost year-round and gives the family another favorite spot to gather. Prince’s daughter, Mary Elizabeth Garvey, lives in Connecticut with her husband, Bradford, and their two daughters, Eliza and Caroline. The couple’s other children, Grace and Willis Prince, live in Tuscaloosa.

Bobby’s daughter, Courtney Walker, lives in Orlando, Fla., with her husband, Clayton, and their three children. Prince teaches a Sunday school class at First United Methodist Church of Tuscaloosa and is on the Tuscaloosa Planning and Zoning commission. She volunteers on weekdays at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School.

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TOP: among the books on the princes’ shelves is a copy of “stars Fell on alabama,” written by carl carmer, a university of alabama professor who built the home in the 1920s. LEFT: the master bedroom is done in bright neutrals with a hint of color and an airy floor plan.

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ABOVE: the prince family lived in their pool house during part of the time their main home was being renovated.

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“That’s the thing I love the most,” she said. She also helps her husband, who’s with the Prince Glover and Hayes law firm, coach the trial advocacy team at the University of Alabama School of Law. She’s a graduate of the school herself. Despite the damage to her house and garden and the extensive work that resulted, Prince said she and her husband consider themselves lucky. “So many people died or were injured during the tornado, and some lost everything,” she said. And she’s still amazed at the vagaries of the storm. “When the tornado hit, I had six wine glasses in a drying rack near the kitchen sink,” she said. “Not one of them even turned over.”

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Personality

Sister Act

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personality

sisters and third-generation cattle cutters

madalyn + blakley colgrove

are making big names for themselves as competitive riders

by becky hopf photos by gary cosby jr.

S

it them side by side, and Madalyn and Blakley Colgrove bounce quips back and forth at each other like pingpong balls. “We’re home-schooled now, but I’m going back to school at Demopolis by my junior or senior year,” the younger Blakley declares when asked about their educational background. “You’re not going back,” the older Madalyn shoots back as she absentmindedly plays with a pen by tossing it; she drops it and ducks under her grandfather’s office desk to pick it up. “Yes, I am.” “No, you’re not,” Madalyn says, popping back up. “She’s not.” And so begins a chat with two sisters who are, in many respects, stereotypical teenagers, cellphones in hand, constantly monitoring the screen as they animatedly answer questions. They are quick to laugh. They are into social media, pop culture and admit to enjoying spending time with their family. But what sets these sisters from Boligee apart from other teens is that the Colgrove girls are closing in on a combined milliondollar mark in earnings in their part-time jobs. The sisters are among the nation’s rising stars in the equine sport known as cutting. Barely four years into the sport as of mid-February, Blakley, 14, had career win-

nings totaling $481,422, and Madelyn, 16, had earnings of $274,224. Cutting is an age-old event, best described as how cattlemen, on horseback, used to herd wandering cattle by “cutting” off the steer with the horse to direct it back to the herd. The sisters are third-generation competitive riders. Their grandfather Joel Colgrove Sr. is a champion rider who took up the sport some 20 years ago. Their father, former University of Alabama pitcher Joel Colgrove, started competing in roping when he was a teenager. Even their mother, Kristen, used to show horses, in Western pleasure riding events. They live on a family compound of sorts that covers 600 acres and includes cattle and some 100 horses, including brood mares and, as of a month ago, 17 babies training to become show horses. It’s called Circle A,

OPPOSITE PAGE: the Colgrove sisters, blakley, left, and madalyn, ride in cutting horse competitions around the country. ABOVE: madalyn cuts a calf from the herd during a practice session.

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Personality

ABOVE: blakley practices her skills as she cuts a calf out of the herd. The Colgroves live on a family compound of 600 acres that includes cattle and horses, called Circle a.

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a name that came with the land when Joel bought it. The girls would go to their grandfather’s to ride horses when they were about 9 and 10, but the thought of showing horses had never crossed their minds. Until 2011. “We had never worked a real cow, and we went to a show with Bear (their grandfather) in Batesville, Miss. They needed somebody to fill a class. They talked us into showing,” Madalyn said. “It was a class called a 2,000 Limit Rider. It’s a beginners’ class. I ended up winning it. Very first time I ever showed, I won the class. My grandfather didn‘t even know I’d won the class. He saw the check. It was only for like $50, but he asked me where I got it. I said, ‘I won it.’ He couldn’t believe it.” “We both showed the same horse the first time -— Blue Bell. She was blind in one eye. We both won our first checks on that horse. We both won at our first show,” Blakley said. At 13, Blakley was the youngest ever to win the Rios of Mercedes National Cutting Horse Associa-

tion Futurity championship. That year, 2014, she won nearly a dozen major amateur and non-pro championships. At age 12, she won the non-pro and 4-year-old amateur. She won the unlimited amateur at the Ike Derby and Classic. Last summer, she qualified among the top 15 youths in the world and won champion at the NCHA Youth World Finals. She’d started competing when she was only 11. Like her sister, Madalyn’s first year competing was 2011. She was 12, and that first year she qualified among the top 15 youth. Her 2014 season included Amateur or Unlimited Amateur wins in four events in the NCHA Classic Challenge, the Breeders Invitational and the Cotton Stakes, among others. She made the finals in four events at Cotton States and won three of them. “They’ve done very well,” said their grandfather. “But they’ve worked very hard. They both have an ability to read a cow and get in rhythm with the horse and not get in the horse’s way when they’re moving. It’s really a team effort between the

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personality

“They’ve done very well,” said their grandfather. “But they’ve worked very hard. They both have an ability to read a cow and get in rhythm with the horse and not get in the horse’s way when they’re moving.

ABOVE: Blakley ties up her horse after practice. LEFT: Madalyn braids her horse’s tail at the stables at Circle A.

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personality cow, the horse, the rider and help they have in the pen when they’re working together.” Their sport takes them away from home, traveling with Joel Sr. and their grandmother, Jane, around the country to cutting shows every month. Some of the bigger shows can last for weeks; others, for a few days. Sometimes they stay in their travel trailer; sometimes, for the longer shows, they’ll rent a house, stay with friends or stay in hotels. Because of their constant travel, they are home-schooled and attend on-site classes at the bigger shows. The girls credit their success to a supportive family, which includes younger brother Colton and their trainers, particularly Austin Shepard. “He is the best trainer,” Blakley says. “He’s won 6 million dollars. He has helped us a lot,” Madalyn says. “He’s always at the shows and he comes here. He’s trained our horses and helped us.” And both also credit their horse teammates. “I think I can get along with just about any horse,” Blakley says. “Even a horrible horse, she can still ride it,” Madalyn says. “You don’t just saddle up and get on a horse. You have to take care of them. You have to figure out their personality,“ Madalyn says. “Each horse is different. They’re smart. You’ve got to love

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TOP LEFT: madalyn works her horse into a herd to select a calf to cut. ABOVE: The sisters careers are just beginning, but they have already earned impressive prize purses along the way. LEFT: blakley chooses a calf to herd during a practice ride.

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Personality

RIGHT: It’s not always boots, denim and horses for the Colgrove sisters. When they’re not in competition mode, they like to spend time with friends and family and get back to normal teen life.

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Personality

“We have goals,” Madalyn says. “We’re really dedicated to this, and we have so much passion for it. We are fortunate to get to be able to do something like this. It’s not something that many kids do. It’s different from other activities and events. It’s a blessing to have this opportunity.” them and take care of them, and if you do that, they perform better.” Ask them what they like most about what they do, and Blakley is quick to answer. “That I don’t have to go to school.” “Blakley!” Madalyn shoots back. Blakley laughs. “Not really. But, seriously, really,” she says, whispering the latter. “I get to ride horses every day. It’s fun to go places and get together with all the friends we’ve made. We all hang out together. It’s just fun.” Ask who is the better rider, and both immediately look at each other and smile. “Oh, shoot,” Blakley says. “I don’t know, to be honest,” Madalyn says. “I’m sure people at shows might have in mind who they think is a better rider. A lot of people are

always asking us if we’re competitive with each other.” “But we’re really not,” interrupts Blakley. “When she does better, I can’t get mad,” Madalyn says. “I won’t get mad because I want us to be on top. Even if I’m second, I want her to be in front of me.” “We’ll cheer each other on,” Blakley says. “They really are amazing, how they support one another,” said their grandfather Joel. “You can hear them critiquing one another about their run. They’re helping each other out.” “We don’t fight as much as people think we do. But we will argue because she gets on my last nerve,” Blakley says as they exchange looks and laugh. Their careers have barely started but, at the pace they are going, their lofty goals, which include making the cutting horse hall of fame, might not be so lofty after all. And someday, they’ll get to enjoy their earnings. “It goes into a bank account. I think we’ll get to spend some of it when we’re about 17 or 18,” Blakley says. “Blakley, I think we’re going to have to be a little older than that before they’ll let us,” interjects Madalyn. “We each have our own savings account, and it all goes into those.” Says Blakley, “I love that I get to spend more time with my family. I’ve gotten closer to my grandparents because they’re the ones taking us to all the shows. And I get to hang out with our show friends and all the horses.” “We have goals,” Madalyn says. “We’re really dedicated to this, and we have so much passion for it. We are fortunate to get to be able to do something like this. It’s not something that many kids do. It’s different from other activities and events. It’s a blessing to have this opportunity.”

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good deeds

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n Great Britain, the phrase “mind the gap” means to look out for the potentially dangerous space between the station’s platform and the train. For more than a half-dozen years, Project Blessings has been minding a different kind of gap within the Tuscaloosa community, one that draws those who live on the edge of poverty into a downward spiral from which far too many can’t escape without help. It is a gap that comes into play when putting food on the table and keeping the lights on outweighs needed repairs to a house. In 2009, Marsha Sprayberry, founder and driving force behind Project Blessings, was working with a charity that made the dreams of children suffering from life-altering diseases come true. One little girl dreamed of a bedroom of her own, so Sprayberry and others went to the child’s house to assess what needed to be done to make this dream a reality. What Sprayberry found was jarring. The house, which had fallen into disrepair to the point of being nearly unlivable, needed much more than a bedroom for the girl. It was then and there that Sprayberry found a calling, and not long after she found an army of volunteers within the Tuscaloosa community willing to step up and provide relief for neighbors in need. One of her very first calls upon leaving

that house was to longtime friend and mentor Kellee Reinhart. “I pulled over on the side of the road after leaving that house and called her and said, ‘Kellee, this is what I have to do,’ and she said, ‘I’ll help you,’” Sprayberry said. Reinhart instantly recognized what her friend wanted to do. “Marsha identified the gap that has existed really forever in the social services arena,” Reinhart said. “She has a servant’s heart and is an entrepreneur and an innovator who has the unique capacity to bring

TOP: project blessings founder marsha sprayberry, right, with pastor larry doughty of Jesus Way homeless shelter for men in 2014 at the then-newly completed structure. ABOVE: Volunteer rhoda Vaughn works at a home that will be used as a dwelling for homeless men in Tuscaloosa in February. OPPOSITE PAGE: Volunteer bill Vaughn caulks the edges of windows in the home in progress.

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good deeds

ABOVE AND TOP LEFT: The two bedrooms inside the Jesus Way homeless shelter for men, completed in 2014 by project blessings. TOP RIGHT: a message of inspiration hangs above a side table at the home.

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people from all walks of life together for a common good.” The result of Sprayberry’s vision and Reinhart’s counsel was a Tuscaloosa-based charity that helps local homeowners with home repairs so they can have a better quality of life. The work is largely done by volunteers. “Most people genuinely want to help other people, even if they don’t have anything themselves,” Sprayberry said. She started with that one project. She worked the phones, she called friends and encouraged them to call their friends. One project became a

dozen. Then, the 2011 tornado that tore through Tuscaloosa took the need to a whole new level and, with it, Project Blessings. Since that fateful April day five years ago, the charity has worked on nearly 100 homes with more being added to the list all the time. This is not Ty Pennington and “Extreme Makeover.” There are no buses and no big reveal. This is providing basic repairs for a neighbor in need as Debbie Neal, a retired nurse who goes on many of the initial house visits with Sprayberry, discovered. “It doesn’t take Ty Pennington coming in there and doing a whole rehab on the house,” Neal said. “Just a coat of paint and some new flooring goes a long, long way.” Just as there is an oppressive depression that comes from living in fear of the next rain when there is a hole in the roof, and a despair that comes when the temperature dips toward freezing and there are holes in the floor, the sense of relief when the roof is patched and the floor mended is transcendent. “It becomes more than just a house at that point,” Sprayberry said. “It becomes a home, and it becomes light and it becomes love and it’s hopeful instead of hopeless.” Just like the organization itself, Project Blessings’ biggest fundraiser is Tuscaloosa-centric. When Charles Morgan III, owner of downtown dining mainstays Chuck’s Fish and Five Bar,


good deeds wanted to open Chuck’s to the public on Thanksgiving for a free meal, with any donations going to a local charity, Reinhart suggested Project Blessings as the charity. “Project Blessings, by its very definition, seemed to be a synonym for Thanksgiving,” Reinhart said. “I approached Marsha and asked if she’d be willing to let us be a part of that. She said yes instantly, and the rest is history.” Just like with Project Blessings, it is volunteers that make the fundraiser so successful. “We have wonderful volunteers, and it’s a magical occasion,” said Reinhart, who has served, with her husband Steve, as chair of the fundraiser since its inception. “The team at Chuck’s is phenomenal.” Volunteers from the community join with the Chuck’s staff. They come early and stay late, feeding any and all who come their way. Donation buckets placed around the restaurant are the only hint of the larger purpose beyond the day and the meal. The donations dropped into the repurposed paint buckets run the gamut from cashier’s checks for large donations from the community’s well to-do all the way to quarters dug from the purse of a young girl, dressed in her Sunday best, there with her family, doing her part to help.

BELOW: debbie neal, a volunteer with project blessings, works at a home in February that will be used as a dwelling for homeless men. BOTTOM: The lowe family enjoys lunch together during the sixth annual Thanksgiving Feast hosted at Chuck’s Fish on greensboro avenue in downtown Tuscaloosa in 2015. it was the fourth year the family has attended the Thanksgiving Feast. They learned about the meal after being helped by project blessings when their apartment was heavily damaged by the april 27, 2011, tornado.

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good deeds

RIGHT: Volunteers austin beattie and laura prehn put finishing touches on the men’s shelter. FAR RIGHT: debbie neal works on the home.

“You need to find your passion, you need to find how you want to make an impact on the world,” said Padgett – who once told Spayberry “if you’ve got a house, I’ve got volunteers.” “Almost everyone I know who has done a Project Blessings home has continued to volunteer. It’s kind of a starting point. Once they realize the need out there and see the practical way they can have an impact and help those families, they’re hooked.” “For me, I love spanning the gap for people,” Padgett said.

PROUDLY SERVING

Tuscaloosa

How to help For inFormation on how to donate or how to volunteer with Project Blessings, visit www. ProjectBlessings.org.

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FOR

YEARS.

It’s another way that Tuscaloosans pay it forward, making a difference for their neighbors. Those donations are put to good use. From every dollar donated to Project Blessings, 85 cents goes directly into the projects the charity undertakes. The other 15 cents goes to necessary overhead, including insurance and similar expenses. While the money raised is vital to providing supplies and skilled labor, it is the volunteers, from Sprayberry to folks like frequent volunteer Joe Padgett, that make Project Blessings what it is.

Regions and Tuscaloosa go way back. For the past 150 years, we’ve been providing banking services to help Tuscaloosa grow. Every day, we make loans, provide safe harbor for your deposits, help businesses stay strong, and make it easier for you to save time and money.

© 2015 Regions Bank. All deposit accounts subject to terms and conditions of the Regions Deposit Agreement. All loans, lines of credit and credit cards are subject to credit approval.

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NAAC60392

For the Regions leadership team of Tuscaloosa, work isn’t confined to the bank or behind a desk. We’re active both personally and professionally in our community. This helps us get to know our neighbors better so we can offer them the best financial solutions possible. And being able to help people move their lives forward is what makes everything we do worth it.


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around town

Adams Antiques & The Potager

Olive Tree

Skyland Antique Mall

something old,

something new

hunting locally for antiques and repurposed treasures by jennifer brady | photos by michelle lepianka carter and erin nelson

Olive Tree

Adams Antiques & The Potager

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Adams Antiques & The Potager


around town

Olive Tree

O

Olive Tree

nline idea-fueling sites like Pinterest and Houzz have inspired a lot of people to try new things, and not just recipes and hairstyles. People want to find ways to get their creative juices flowing, and few things are more hands-on than repurposing furniture and antiques. For consumers hesitant about the price of antiques, repurposing offers options. Local buyers have an eclectic selection when it comes to finding pieces for their home, whether they are looking for antiques with their original character, or painted and distressed pieces, or if they want originals to repurpose and paint themselves. For someone looking for antiques that are in their original condition from many parts of the world, there is Adams Antiques in downtown Northport. It specializes in French Provincial but also carries Italian, Gustavian and English antiques. Owners Carl and Harriett Adams, along with Harriett’s son Brandon Cooper, have more than 30 years in the antique business and call it a labor of love. “You have to love it to be able to sell it,” Harriett Adams said. “We look

Olive Tree

Vintage Cottage

for pieces we love, and we can sell it because you have to have confidence in what you’ve bought.” Cooper does some repurposing and sells those pieces at the family’s businesses, which include The Potager and Hawkins Israel Interiors. “Trying to keep something to its original purpose is nice, but you also try to see the potential,” he said. Cooper said they work on a lot of mirrors and tables, which are sometimes finished with antique flooring pieces, but they do not paint them. “We don’t do any of the painting you see a lot of today because our pieces don’t fit that look,” he said. “Each piece is different, and you have to see what it needs before you even start on it.” He said most repurposing projects are just problem-solving, meaning that sometimes a piece just needs to be cleaned thoroughly to be restored to its original use and finish. Olive Tree Interiors caters to the formal antique collector. Owner Chris Roycroft has been in the antique business for more than 30 years and, like many collectors, he loves furniture and craftsmanship. “From the time I was around 5 to 9 years old, I’ve always had a

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Olive Tree

Vintage Cottage

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around town

Vintage Cottage

Adams Antiques & The Potager

passion for old, discarded things,” he said. His shop is full of pieces that he believes will be around a long time. “American furniture was always made to last,” he said. “A good old piece will last you the rest of your life.” Roycroft said he sees a lot of customers who are learning that is true. “I do have a lot of people coming in who just bought something they had to put together out of a box, and they come in looking for something to replace it because it’s already broken,” he said. “Antique does not have to mean expensive,” he continued. “I have things from $5 to $5,000, all tastes from Europe and even the Far East. I’m going to be completely honest with you about whatever you’re thinking of buying as to whether it will work with your space, budget and your plans. You’re buying my expertise.” The selection includes Fenton glass, solid wood furniture, books, home décor, paintings, knick-knacks, collectibles and more, including some items Roycroft painted. Alison Boutwell of Northport is one antique buyer who decided to test her painting and repurposing skills and, as it turns out, she loves it. “I decided to do some research on how to paint furniture on my own,

Yesterday’s Antiques

84

Yesterday’s Antiques

Yesterday’s Antiques

and I started with small pieces of furniture like end tables, bookshelves, nightstands, etc. and then moved on to bigger projects like desks, TV stands and armoires,” she said. “I even painted all of my daughter’s bedroom furniture.” She said that many of the online garage sale sites have been helpful and that she’s had luck shopping local. “Skyland Antique Mall has a good selection and great prices,” she said. “I was able to find a nightstand there that matched my grandparents’ furniture from the 1950s that I use today. The Olive Tree also has a great selection and is in a convenient location.” Boutwell said she makes her own chalk-style paint, but some crafters prefer to use Annie Sloan Chalk Paint, milk paint, latex paints and spray paints to upcycle their pieces. If your taste is a little less formal than original European antiques, there are several options. Skyland Antiques offers a variety of antiques and collectibles that are in their original state as well as already repurposed pieces on consignment. “We want variety and antique stuff where someone can do their own thing,” owner Sherry Champion said. “We see a lot of older collectors,

Vintage Cottage


around town

Skyland Antique Mall

Skyland Antique Mall

Yesterday’s Antiques

Adams Antiques & The Potager

people just getting into (collecting and repurposing), and older stuff that gets a new use.” Employee Kempton Walker said the shop does have customers who are looking for items to use in a new way. “Our top sellers are Pyrex, cast iron, cobalt bottles, vintage jewelry and industrial items like cotton scales,” she said. “During wedding season, we see a lot of people coming in looking for shabby chic, barn chic, and we’ve even had someone getting items for a steampunk wedding.” Champion said the staff knows their customers almost as well as they know the items in each booth. “A lot of the young boys are looking for military stuff and knives,” she said. “It makes my heart happy to see girls come in and look for the Pyrex that their grandmothers and mothers used,” Walker added. “And most of the time we can tell you exactly where something is or at least point you toward a booth that probably has it.” For buyers who want to express their own tastes, Yesterdays Antiques and Collectibles carries both antiques and repurposed items painted by owner and interior designer Brooke Jarrett as well as original pieces that you can make your own.

Yesterday’s Antiques

“I do a lot of it myself, but I also have basic pieces for anyone that has an idea of their own they want to try,” Jarrett said, adding that many of her pieces come from her dad, who attends estate sales and auctions in north Alabama where he lives. “When I have time, I will also try to go to garage sales around here and see what good pieces are out there,” she said. “I think the distressed look will stick around awhile because you can’t mess it up,” she said of her preferred method of painting. And if you’re one of the many who love the painted and distressed look but don’t have that crafty bone, there is The Vintage Cottage in Buhl. Owner Traci Bigham paints all the furniture she picks from dealers from Nashville to various parts of Georgia, and her husband, Revon, also builds a lot of the pieces she paints. She said she was intrigued by painting furniture and wanted to see where it took her. “I wanted furniture that had a lot of life, but nobody liked the way it looked (in its original finish),” she said. “The farmhouse style is popular, but I’ve always loved it. Painted furniture has been around for centuries, but it’s the (shabby chic) style that has picked up.”

Olive Tree

Olive Tree

Vintage Cottage

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around town

Skyland Antique Mall

Adams Antiques & The Potager

Skyland Antique Mall

For a list of resources from this feature, turn to page 88.

The Vintage Cottage houses a selection of the farmhouse style and welcoming accessories that keep with Bigham’s plans for her own store. “We’re just a little shabby chic store,” she said with a smile. She reiterated what many antique sellers feel to be true -- that American-made furniture and solid wood are best. “We don’t deal with anything that isn’t real wood,” she said. “Furniture made from solid wood is built to last.” Her custom furniture pieces share space with several antique items, such as dishes, glass kitchen items and lanterns. “I try to have something for everyone, every budget,” she said. “Furniture should speak to you so you’ll know its personality before you work with it, and that’s why each piece is different. And as our taste and what our customers like evolves, we’ll evolve, too.”

Skyland Antique Mall

Adams Antiques & The Potager

Vintage Cottage

Olive Tree

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around town

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where to begin your search for that next family heirloom

adams antiques, the potager and hawkins israel interiors Where: 428 Main Ave., Northport Call: 205-758-8651 Web: www.theadamsantiques.com and on Facebook What: Specialties include original and restored antiques personally purchased in and imported from Europe. skyland antiques Where: 311 Skyland Blvd., Tuscaloosa Call: 205-758-8900 Web: www.skylandantiques.com and on Facebook What: Consignment booths with a variety of antiques and collectibles and some repurposed and painted items. yesterday’s antiques and ColleCtibles Where: 3300 Main Avenue, Northport Call: 205-765-4442 Web: Find them on Facebook What: Specialties include latex-painted and repurposed pieces as well as antiques and items waiting for you to paint and repurpose to your liking. the Vintage Cottage Where: 16221 Highway 82 W., Buhl Call: 205-310-3933 What: Specialties include shabby chic and farmhouse-style painted furniture and antiques. Home décor accessories in the shabby chic style also available. oliVe tree interiors Where: 2228 University Blvd., Tuscaloosa Call: 205-758-7424 What: Specialties include original pieces from all over Europe, including furniture, lamps, home décor, paintings, small and large collectibles and books.


6

INTRIGUING

PEOPLE

Meet six folks who make a difference in our communities

ADRIAN CLECKLER

Playground designer for Tuscaloosa County Park and Recreation Authority

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ROBERT HEATH

Dean, Stillman College Library

linda harper

Principal, Paul W. Bryant High School

SHANNON JENKINS

International drag racing world champion

JOHN BARFIELD

Entrepreneur and owner of nine businesses

ELLIOT SPILLERS Student Government Association president, University of Alabama


6 INTRIGUING PEOPLE

No.1

Adrian Cleckler

playground designer, tuscaloosa county park and recreation authority BY ANGEL COKER PHOTO BY GARY COSBY JR.

H

er fingers wrapped around the red cable as she scrambled like a spider across its web up the Spacenet toward the slide at Snow Hinton Park. As her body dropped through the winding, dark, 38-foot slide, her only thought was, “This is fun.” Courtnie Hurst, 22, never thought about how the net and slide were made. But Adrian Cleckler did. Adrian Cleckler has been the playground designer for the Tuscaloosa County Park and Recreation Authority since 2012, and she worked with the organization for many years before that,

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helping bring Tuscaloosa’s playgrounds to life on the manufacturing side. Cleckler said she has always loved to be outside and that she doesn’t know why she didn’t become a landscape architect. Instead, she got her bachelor’s degree in interior design and an advanced associate degree in computer science from Virginia College. That led Cleckler to designing playgrounds like the Bobby Miller Activity Center indoor playground, the Snow Hinton Spacenet and slide and the upcoming playground at Harmon Park among others. Cleckler said she looks at a blank slate of land, and the size, shape, colors and other details come alive as she builds a playground in her mind, all while considering the history, audience, safety restrictions and budgetary constraints that come

into play. “I can go outside and imagine something being there,” Cleckler said. Whatever she imagines, she can re-create by drawing the layout using AutoCAD design software — watching what was previously in her mind take shape on a screen — before sending the design to a playground manufacturer for the engineers to put what was once imagination together in physical form. “The favorite part of my job is to see my design come to life on the computer,” she said. “I love working with computer programs to make them do what you see in your head.” But the most important element to designing a playground, she said, is acting and thinking like a kid.


age: 36 persoNal: Daughter, Harleigh Grace Hubbard, 13 HometowN: Verbena people wHo Have iNflueNced my life: My parents, of course. My mom, a very strong and independent faith-driven woman, is my biggest cheerleader. She calls me Sunshine. She has taught me to be compassionate, giving and hardworking, and that it’s OK to be quirky and have fun in life. my proudest acHievemeNt: Moving to Tuscaloosa. I’m definitely a creature of habit, and it took a lot of strength and courage

for me to move away from my family. sometHiNg most people doN’t kNow about me: My daughter told me to say I fight dragons after work. In all honesty, I love to go outside and get dirty. Playing in the dirt, planting flowers and landscaping my yard are my favorite hobbies. I also enjoy strength training and practicing yoga. I’ve recently started rock climbing and bouldering. wHy i do wHat i do: It is so gratifying to witness something that starts out as just an idea or dream make its way to life. I can’t help but smile when I see kids running to an awesome new playground for the first time.

“Most of the time when I’m designing, I act like a kid. I’m just goofy, and I just try to think, ‘That would be cool if I was a kid,’ ” Cleckler said. “Kids these days, by age 9, they’re not playing on a playground anymore because it’s not fun anymore. It’s not exciting. So you have to try to get something out there for all ages to play on. You try to put yourself in their shoes.” Cleckler said she watches her 13-year-old daughter, Harleigh Grace Hubbard, for inspiration. She also studies European playgrounds to stimulate creative designs, she said. She said a lot of playgrounds in the United States are boring now because of safety restrictions, which can make her job difficult, but she said she researches playgrounds in other countries to incorporate their designs into a fun and unique but safe playground. Cleckler said boring, to her, is walking up a set of stairs onto a deck to slide down a slide; there’s no challenge and no excitement in that. When she was a kid, she remembers climbing up ladders more than twice her height to slide down an aluminum slide, but even those are off-limits with today’s safety restrictions, she said. The Spacenet at Snow Hinton changed what could have been a boring climb up stairs to an adventurous push-and-pull climb to get to the slide. Asked what she would say to Cleckler about the slide, Hurst replied, “Adrian, I think you’re awesome for making this slide because, for people who are older ... it kind of gives us that sense of childhood again, being able to be carefree just for a little bit.” Hurst said she is excited to see the new treehouse playground Cleckler designed that PARA will introduce in the spring. The playground will be the beginning of the new Tuscaloosa City Walk on Greensboro Avenue at Harmon Field Park. The playground itself will be a giant tree made of concrete and handpainted with details like forest animals and tin-can talk tubes. It was designed to commemorate the April 27, 2011, tornado. “The playground will be right in the center of where (the tornado) started, and the theory behind the design is a tree that has been left over from the tornado. The top is gone out of it, and the kids used remnants of what was left over from the tornado to build them a clubhouse,” she said. “I’m just super-excited about it.” In her 14 years of playground design, Cleckler said she thinks it will be her favorite design to date.

NAAC60391

Name: Adrian Cleckler

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6 INTRIGUING PEOPLE

No.2

Robert Heath dean, stillman college library BY ED ENOCH PHOTO BY GARY COSBY JR.

Y

ears ago, Stillman College Library Dean Robert Heath set for himself the goal of learning a new fact each day before he left the campus library, where he has worked most of his life. Learning new things is part of the thrill of the job for the 78-year-old, whose enthusiasm is clear when he talks about assisting the people who come to the William H. Sheppard Library. “It is just interesting to be part of whatever it is. You don’t know until you start talking … I guess it is the mystique of it,” Heath said. Heath believes the effort of the library staff 92

to help patrons is never wasted because they will learn something new — intentionally or unintentionally. “One day — and I am a firm believer in this — all those subsidiary things, one day you will have occasion to remember that and help someone else,” he said. People come to the library overlooking the campus green looking for information about religion, census data or basic facts. “Stillman has meant a lot of things to a lot of people,” Heath said. An alumna from the 1980s recently arrived seeking a book for her teenage son. “It became personal then,” Heath said. “That’s the thing I like, because you touch people.”

With equal enthusiasm, Heath described other searches for details about relatives, old classmates and work on dissertations. “For all of these reasons, the library is there to help them find information. An aid for whatever you need it to be,” Heath said. Heath, a 1960 graduate of Stillman, has worked at the small private college since 1966, rising to the position of dean of the library. Under Heath, the archives at the college have steadily expanded, growing from a few filing cabinets of archival materials to roomfuls. Heath is a self-professed pack rat who sees potential everywhere. “You just never know — what you do today is for history. That is so exciting that somebody might use that. Your job is to preserve it the


“There is a Time; i don’T know when The Time is. i really do noT know. someTimes, i Think (God) has me here for The people. noT for me, noT really. he has me here for somebody else, and ThaT is an unknown. a person walkinG in miGhT need a special kind of help.” best you can; oh, I love that,” he said. Heath is a fixture at the historically black college in west Tuscaloosa and regarded as an encyclopedic authority of all things Stillman. Seemingly quick questions are invitations to Stillman history lessons. Among the archival items, Heath remains fascinated by the accounts recorded in the day book of the college’s founder, Charles Stillman. In the book,the Presbyterian minister recorded his travels, funerals and

Name: Robert Heath age: 78 persoNal: Spouse, Minnie I.L. Heath, retired teacher; children, Reginald Maurice Heath, 53, testing engineer with Lockheed Martin in Denver, Colo., and Robert James Heath Jr., 49, director of radiation safety at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. HometowN: Gadsden people wHo Have iNflueNced my life: Mother, Lillie B. Heath; older brother, Willie Joe Flucker; father-in-law, Joseph Green Sr. my proudest acHievemeNt: The thing of which I am most proud, giving God all the credit, is the success of my family and that the library has success-

fully promoted a unique awareness of archives and what archives can mean to an institution. The wonderful library staff has been diligent in the work of collection and preservation of the college archives. wHy i do wHat i do: I am a librarian because I love what I do. My job is not simply an occupation. It is an opportunity to help someone, to be of service, “a calling,” if you will. I get joy out of helping people find what they need, when they need it. I feel that God has called all of us to serve his people in specific ways. This is my response to God’s calling on my life — service to his people. sometHiNg most people doN’t kNow about me: Most people do not know that I am a music lover and a jazz enthusiast.

marriages he oversaw, sermons, college business and other activities. “I am just fascinated with how Dr. Stillman was able to do all the things he did and keep the school going,” he said. Heath calls service a keyword to Stillman’s history, as well as a personal joy and spiritual mandate. “We are here to serve people,” he said. Heath reflected on the service of others that aided him early in his life. As a young college-bound man from a poor family, his hometown community in Gadsden saw him off and gave him gifts as he went south to Stillman. “I never forgot that,” Heath said. “That stuck with me. They did not have to do that.” As a Stillman graduate applying to graduate schools, Heath had the grades but not the cash for a trip to Atlanta for an interview at Atlanta University. “I was penniless … I didn’t have a way to get there,” Heath said. Lucille White, a catalog librarian when Heath was an undergraduate working in the library, helped him with money to travel to the interview. White’s handing him the money is a lasting memory, Heath said. The $15 helped him get there and back. “So much was done to help me. I live a lifetime trying to pay it forward,” Heath said. In his 50th year as a Stillman employee, Health can’t say when he will retire, leaving that — like so many things — to providence. “There is a time; I don’t know when the time is. I really do not know,” Heath said. “Sometimes, I think (God) has me here for the people. Not for me, not really. He has me here for somebody else, and that is an unknown. A person walking in might need a special kind of help.” 93


6 INTRIGUING PEOPLE

No.3

Linda Harper PrinciPal, Paul w. bryant high school BY LYDIA SEABOL AVANT PHOTO BY ERIN NELSON

I

t was as a child that Paul W. Bryant High School principal Linda Harper knew she wanted to be an educator. “When I was a little girl, I used to play school with my cousins, who are twins,” Harper said. “They would let me be the teacher. I’ve always wanted to be a teacher.” Harper, a Chicago native who counts Birmingham as her hometown, started her career in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., as a teacher. “But I realized that as a teacher I had limitations,” she said, adding that she wanted to do more for her students. “So then I decided 94

to be assistant principal, curriculum specialist and eventually a principal. I did a lot of different things to put me in a position to do more for my children.” Harper moved to Tuscaloosa with her two children in 2006 to be closer to family. That’s when she was hired by the Tuscaloosa City Schools as assistant principal at Bryant High School. She stayed in that position for two years before becoming principal of Oak Hill School. A little more than two years ago, she returned to Bryant High as principal. “When I got to Bryant, one of the first things I wanted to do was to examine the data to see where we were,” Harper said. “We have some phenomenal teachers and families

here. We spent a lot of time here first building a culture, looking at test scores, community partnerships and how we can use all these things to become one of the best schools in the city and state.” During her tenure, the graduation rate went up 17 points to the current 91 percent graduation rate. “We have to keep kids in school and excited about going to the next level,” Harper said, adding that teachers need access to professional development to support learning and student achievement. It’s vital that the students not only stay in school, but also have a plan for after high school, she said. “Every senior needs a plan,” Harper said. “Ninety-seven percent of our high school


age: 49 family: Son, Stephen Harper, 18; daughter, Hayleigh Harper, 14; parents, Leonard Hicks Sr. and Hattie Hicks. HometowN: Originally from Chicago, but grew up in Birmingham. my proudest acHievemeNt: My collaboration with one of our nation’s leading educators, MSNBC contributor Dr. Pedro Noguera, on “Excellence through Equity,” with a foreword by Archbishop Desmond Tutu. It became a Corwin Books best-seller. tHe people wHo iNflueNced my life: My mother made a lasting impression and taught wonderful lessons through her strength and resilience. She always made sure that our needs were provided for and raised us to fight through any obstacle. Making excuses was never acceptable in her eyes. She is a woman of brilliance and of steel. Also, my father is one of the wisest men I know. His practical examples of the

potential of teenagers never escaped me as a first-year teacher. He would remind me to tell my students that they are the greatest, better than any student or athlete in the world, and then sit back and watch them do amazing things. My dad is still a wonderful teacher. I thank him for his presence at my basketball games and track meets, often wearing his work uniform. I thank him for being a great man and a wonderful father. sometHiNg most people doN’t kNow about me: In high school, my best friend was Bobby Humphrey, former University of Alabama running back. We led our boys and girls track teams and basketball teams to many winning seasons. I was very competitive and a sore loser. I would cry, pout and refuse to talk if I lost a basketball game. I would eventually “grow up” and play basketball at Talladega College. wHy i do wHat i do: To help children reach their highest potential. This guarantees a better person, community and world.

seniors graduate with official college acceptance, career and internship plans in place.” But the success doesn’t just start when the students begin ninth grade, Harper said. It starts from their first classroom experience in elementary school. “We’ve met with our middle and elementary schools as we’ve felt (having a plan) was something that needed to start when our kids walked through the doors at pre-K,” Harper said. “We wanted to make sure this is the norm, that when you come to Bryant High, you will be exposed at a high level of instruction and get the opportunity to attend and finish college.” It’s all part of Harper’s goal to see the school become the city’s first blue-ribbon high school, she said. So far the community has been very responsive. “The community is truly supportive of making sure their children have the best,” Harper said. “Each day, you come into a situation where the teachers are working hard, the kids are working hard — it’s a dream job.” Harper is a mother to two kids, Stephen, a senior at the Alabama School of Fine Arts, and Hayleigh, 14, who will be a freshman at Bryant next year. In her spare time she enjoys studying Spanish, reading and exercising.

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6 INTRIGUING PEOPLE

No.4

Shannon Jenkins international drag racing World chaMpion BY BECKY HOPF PHOTO BY ERIN NELSON

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t started with go-karts. Shannon Jenkins began on the short track and has made racing a long track career. “I started racing go-karts when I was 9,” the Tuscaloosa native said. “There used to be a track at the fairgrounds in Alberta. Of course, this was in the 1960s. We had a five-track series. Muscle Shoals and Florence. I’d go to Georgia, Tennessee, Mississippi. I had 88 kart trophies by the time I quit at age 19 or 20.” He may have outgrown kart racing, but Jenkins has yet to outgrow his need for speed. 96

Jenkins, who turns 62 in May, has made racing, in particular drag racing, his career. And what a career it has been and continues to be. The 1971 Holt High School graduate is a three-time International Hot Rod Association World Champion, driving the winning car in 1997, 1999 and 2002. He is the 2002 National Hot Rod Association Pro Mod World Champion, making history as the first and only Pro Mod driver to win both the NHRA and IHRA championships in the same year. His 38 career wins — 18 in the IHRA, eight in the NHRA, 10 in the American Drag Racing League and two in the Arabian Drag Racing League — make him the winningest Pro Mod driver of all time. He has been so successful that Mike Castellana, who is Jenkins’ partner

in his Tuscaloosa-based Awesome Motorsports and who is also an ADRL and IHRA world champion, has referred to Jenkins as the Michael Jordan of Pro Mod drag racing. As successful as he’s been as a driver, Jenkins is equally renowned as crew chief. He has twice been named IHRA Crew Chief of the Year, in 1995 and 2005. He stepped out of the driver’s seat around 2012 to concentrate on being Castellana’s crew chief. Going into the 2016 season, Castellana had 26 career wins. His legendary driving skills and reputation for his expertise under a car’s hood caught the eye of Sheikh Khalid bin Hamad Al Thani, the son of the former emir of Qatar. The sheikh, who was establishing the Qatar Racing Club


Name: Shannon Jenkins age: 61 HometowN: Tuscaloosa persoNal: Wife, Opal; daughter, Chris Jenkins; daughter-and-son twins, Heather Jenkins and Heath Jenkins; grandchildren, Brittany and Justin; parents, Mary Glass and the late Galon Jenkins. people wHo Have iNflueNced my life: My dad, Galon; my family. sometHiNg most people doN’t kNow about me: I enjoy being outside when I’m away from the shop, by the pool, in the yard, mulching, cutting grass, gardening. I get that from my mother and my sister,

Teresa. My mom has two green thumbs, and my sister’s the same way. my proudest acHievemeNt: All the championships we’ve been fortunate to win; in 2002, winning both divisions in the Pro Mod class in the same year with the IHRA and NHRA championships and being the only person in history to win both; being involved with my (business) partner Mike (Castellana) for going on 16 years. wHy i do wHat i do: I love it. I wouldn’t know what else to do. I’ve been involved in the automotive industry for a lot of years, and I’ve been racing most of my life. I’m just fortunate that I could do what I enjoy, and that’s race for a living.

and is a professional drag racer, initially was interested in buying some cars from Jenkins. He ended up not only doing that but also hiring Jenkins to come to Qatar in the early winter, the down time of the NHRA and IHRA seasons, and help develop drag racing in the Middle East. The sheikh made Jenkins and Castellana part of his Al-Anabi Racing. For 10 years now, Jenkins and his crew have been returning to Qatar and Dubai each winter. Jenkins initially raced there, placing second in the Arabian Drag Racing League Battle for the Belts in 2010-11. He continues his work with the sport’s development there while serving as crew chief for Castellana in the Arabian circuit. The trips require shipping Castellana’s car and eight crates of equipment — engine parts and tools — by air overseas, an ordeal that has meant trucking it to Houston a week in advance in order for it all to pass through both U.S. Customs and customs in Qatar. “We’ve had to sweat it out before, getting to the first event and still not had some of our crates back,” Jenkins said. His Tuscaloosa-based crew includes three full-time employees: his son, Heath, Patrick Noland and Jimmy Kane. In addition to Awesome Motorsports, Jenkins is owner in Tuscaloosa-based Speedtech-Nitrous, a household name in drag racing. Jenkins was the first Pro Nitrous class driver to break the 3second barrier, and Castellana the first NHRA Nitrous Pro Mod driver to exceed 245 miles per hour. “The way we promote our product is we race it,” Jenkins said of Speedtech-Nitrous. “Our history is the story. It tells how good our product is. The sheikh is also involved in Speedtech. We sell worldwide. We sell in Qatar. We sell in Kuwait. We sell in parts of Sweden, Australia and, of course, here in the states. We’ve sold to a lot of champions over the years.” The NHRA and Professional Drag Racing Association seasons find Jenkins and his Tuscaloosa crew on the road about 25 weekends between March and October.

For now, he’s satisfied, serving as crew chief, filling his speed needs when he sits behind the wheel for testing. But he hasn’t ruled out jumping back in as a driver. “I still haven’t thrown my stuff and my driving suit away. I keep my license updated. I could drive tomorrow,” Jenkins said. “Sometimes I miss it, sometimes I don’t care. I do have a fan base that asks me all the time, ‘When are you going to drive? Why aren’t you driving?’ I had a big fan following for a lot of years. That’s where (his nickname) ‘The Iceman’ came from. I guess that part of it, the heated competition, I miss somewhat. But I don’t let it bother me. It’s all still racing at the end of the day. It is like an addiction. I go to sleep with it on my mind. I wake up with it on my mind.” He dreams of winning at least one more NHRA championship, whether it be with Castellana or himself behind the wheel, and of having a visible tie-in with his championship hometown. “I’d love to have a sponsorship with the University of Alabama. Having that logo on the side of our rigs and cars, traveling all over the country. I’ve often thought that would be a great deal, the highlight of my racing, to put a deal like that together that would benefit a lot of people by bringing more attention to the University and Tuscaloosa.”

he has been so successful that mike castellana, jenkins’ partner in his tuscaloosa-based awesome motorsports and who is also an adrl and ihra world champion, has referred to jenkins as the michael jordan of pro mod drag racing. 97


by ed enoch photo by michelle lepianka carter

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No.5

he story begins in 1932 when John Barfield was sick as a boy with a fever his parents feared would take

his life. In the black community of Kaulton Quarters in West Tuscaloosa, his family crowded by his bedside in their shotgun house on the hill, armed with tearful prayers and home remedies. “My father said, ‘Johnny, no matter what we did, your fever got worse,’ ” Barfield said. On this particular day, the story goes, in an almost unheard-of occurrence, two white women walked through the black section of Kaulton Quarters to the Barfields’ home and came to the 5-year-old’s bedside. “They said to my mother and father, ‘We would like to help you,’ ” Barfield said. One of the women wrote a note and an address and gave it to Barfield’s father, a sharecropper who cut lumber for railroad ties to support his family. The women instructed him to go as fast as he could to the address and give the note to the man who resided there. The women left with as much mystery as they arrived. “My father did not have a car, so he ran all the way to the white section of Tuscaloosa and he gave the letter to the man,” Barfield said. The man, a doctor, came to the Barfield home and kept an all-night vigil at the boy’s bedside. Barfield’s fever broke in the morning and he recovered in a few days. Too sick to remember the strangers who came to his aid, Barfield asked his parents about the women. “When I asked my father who were those women, he said, ‘Johnny, I don’t know,’ ” Barfield said. “‘Nobody in Kaulton Quarters had ever seen them before and no one had ever seen them since. We just came to the conclusion they were angels God had sent to spare your life.’ He always ended that story saying, ‘Johnny, there must be work that God has for you to do.’ ” Barfield calls the events the first miracle of his life. With a delivery polished by countless recitals and time, the successful entrepreneur shared the story a few times as boyhood memories flooded back during his first visit to his birthplace in 85 years. In January, Barfield, his daughter, granddaughter and a close family friend toured Tuscaloosa in a stretch limousine with the help 98

6 intriguing people

John Barfield entrepreneur and multi-business owner of District 2 Councilman Harrison Taylor, who guided the long car through the narrow and winding roads of what was the old black section of Kaulton Quarters in search of something familiar. Over a breakfast of pancakes, eggs and bacon at the Embassy Suites, Barfield said he still feels the presence of his angels and marvels at the string of miracles in his life. “If you compare where I am today and where we started from and what we started with, you have got to say it was a miracle,” Barfield said. “We did not have anything. Where did I get this mind to do something that most of the people I grew up with didn’t even think about?” In a time when many young black men settled into factory jobs, Barfield made his name as an entrepreneur, starting nine companies

with the help of his wife, Betty, in fields including commercial cleaning and maintenance, engineering and workforce management. He was the son of sharecroppers chasing a better life north who eventually settled in Michigan. His path to business ownership started as a high school dropout wielding a toilet brush. Barfield returned from postwar service with the Army in Europe, married, and took a job in 1949 as a custodian at the University of Michigan. To supplement his income, Barfield started cleaning small homes being built on the outskirts of Ann Arbor, Mich. He eventually quit his job at the university in 1954 to focus on his growing cleaning business. “For the first time in my life, I began to realize the value of my time and my talents,” Barfield said.


Name: John W. Barfield

those values for them.

age: 89

my proudest acHievemeNt: My relationship with my wife, Betty, for more than 73 years. I met Betty when she was 11 years old and we were married when she was 17, and I was 21. She has been my constant companion ever since.

HometowN: Ann Arbor, Mich. people wHo Have iNflueNced my life: I have been influenced by many people over the years, but the one person that I would like to mention in a special way is a man by the name of Robert Lutton. sometHiNg most people doN’t kNow about me: I would like to start a national movement to provide entrepreneurial and leadership training courses for young children beginning at age 9. I would like to encourage them to understand the true value of their time and their talents, rather than allowing others to determine

wHy i do wHat i do: I ended my career with a good name and a good reputation, by remembering what my parents told me when I was a small child. They told me that it was better to have a good name and a good reputation than it was to be rich. I have always tried to remember that principle, and I have always tried to keep my balance by remembering that the most important things in my life are my family, my faith, my health and my friends. This has been my prescription for having a good and successful life.

He sold his first business in 1968 to International Telephone and Telegraph. “I was 39 years old,” Barfield said. “From there on, I just began to build and sell businesses.” Barfield’s dream of owning his own business began earlier in a Pennsylvania coal town where his family lived between leaving Alabama and settling in Michigan. As a paper boy, Barfield, 9, met Robert Lutton, a white businessman who made his living selling soap after losing much of his fortune to calamities that befell a rollercoaster he owned. “I always made it a point to end my route at his little store, and one of the joys of my life at that time was to watch him work and ask him questions,” Barfield said. “I didn’t realize it at the time that this kind old man had seen my interest, and was teaching me how to become an entrepreneur.” Barfield started by sweeping Lutton’s shop but eventually gave up his paper route to sell powdered soap door to door for 15 cents a box, earning a 5-cent commission. “I said, from that experience, someday, by the grace of God, I am not going to be a coal miner; I am not going to work in the fields,” Barfield said. “I am going to be a businessman. I am going to wear a white shirt and a tie to my job every day like Mr. Lutton, and I am going to have a business of my own.” Lutton’s tutelage is among the providential encounters Barfield calls his miracles. He believes entrepreneurship and creating opportunities for others was the work for which God saved him more than 80 years ago. “I think the purpose God had for my life was to be as much a blessing to less-fortunate people as I possibly could, and I think that has been the secret of our success,” Barfield said.

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6 intriguing people

Elliot Spillers

No.6

student government association President, university of alabama by laura testino photo by michelle lepianka carter

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lliot Spillers felt it was important for Chisolm Allenlundy to have a new pair of shoes. It was his freshman year, and Spillers and Allenlundy had become close friends as roommates in a four-person suite in Blount Hall. A few months into the year, a rainy day left the shoes that Allenlundy wore every day soaked. It was too cool and damp in the dorm for them to dry properly. When Spillers called home to ask his mother to help buy a new pair, he said she reminded him that he couldn’t save everyone. That didn’t deter Spillers; he eventually convinced Allenlundy to buy a new pair. This kindness and desire to right wrongs are qualities that a mother saw in her young son and University of Alabama students saw in their Student Government Association president. During the 2015-16 term, Spillers strove to make 100

a diverse campus more inclusive. “Even if it’s little things like (the shoes), he’s always wanting to tweak things and do things the right way and make them the way they should be, especially from his perspective, in both his personal life and as president,” said Allenlundy, Spillers’ SGA chief of staff. “His personality definitely carries over into his leadership role.” Spillers was elected SGA president on March 10, 2015, defeating a candidate backed by the Machine, a bloc of fraternities and sororities that has heavily influenced campus politics since its formation in 1914. Spillers was the first black candidate to win since 1976, when Cleo Thomas was elected the university’s first black SGA president. He was the first independent to win since John Merrill in 1986. “You have to be different to make a difference,” Spillers said. “That’s the reality of it all. And I’m a good kind of different.” Spillers said he knew he wanted to make the change for a more inclusive university the first time he went home to Pelham during his fresh-

man year. “He just felt that a lot of things needed to be changed there (at the university),” said his mother, Wanda Spillers. “He didn’t really get into the specifics of it all, but he just said that he felt a strong desire that he wanted to make a difference there.” Home for the summer, Elliot Spillers said he reluctantly attended the MOTION Student Conference hosted by the Church of the Highlands in Birmingham. Once the three-day conference ended, he said he couldn’t have been happier. Spillers said he re-established his faith and spiritual relationships and gave his life to Christ, one of the best decisions he’s ever made. In addition to receiving a new purpose for himself, he said he saw a vision of inclusivity for the UA campus. “And that vision was one where I saw a place where students were able to access the same opportunities, all across the board, in positions of leadership and influence, and there was just a sense of joy and community across the entire campus population,” Spillers said. “People genuinely wanted to do the right thing for each other,


because we’re part of the Alabama family.” Before becoming president, Spillers lost elections for Senate and vice president of student affairs. But he was still involved in SGA through appointed positions and volunteering. It was the summer before his junior year while studying abroad in Oxford, England, that Spillers said he decided that he wasn’t giving up. He said he had faith in his vision for campus and wanted to be a catalyst for progress toward a stronger sense of Alabama community. The idea for his next campaign solidified late one night over an order of cheese fries with chicken and ranch. Spillers asked his friend Mark Hammontree to run his campaign. Hammontree didn’t have any prior experience as a campaign manager, but he said he recognized that Spillers’ electric personality and clear goals for a campus he truly cared for would make a successful start. Since taking office, Spillers has focused on improving the health and community of the Alabama campus, making an effort to hear the voices of all students. “There hasn’t been a day when he’s not been doing something for campus, and that goes for the rest of the SGA executives, too,” Hammontree said. “And that’s how it should be.” Two of Spillers’ initiatives focused on sexual assault and mental health on campus, which he sought to tackle through awareness, education and sustainability. Although he was unable to achieve all he wanted for the initiatives during his presidency, he said he still felt a difference was made on campus. “Also, I think what’s cool is that through this I’ve gotten a lot of Facebook messages and letters and personal conversations with survivors who have said, ‘Thank you for giving us a voice,’ ” Spillers said. “And it’s tough, because I’m very critical, and I still feel like it’s not enough.” Spillers said he has always been close with his family, who have supported him throughout school and his SGA presidency. His parents, Air Force veterans, instilled in him a love for travel and new cultures. Across from Spillers’ desk in the SGA office, his name is woven into a miniature Turkish rug displayed on a small loom. He said the gift from his father reminds him of a

Name: Elliot Spillers age: 21 PersoNal: Parents Stan and Wanda Spillers; younger brother Jeremiah Spillers HometowN: Pelham PeoPle wHo Have iNflueNced my life: Parents, extended family, Air Force family, Cleo Thomas, Nick Hogan, Barack Obama

sometHiNg PeoPle doN’t kNow: I have a third-degree black belt in karate. Proudest acHievemeNt: Dedicating my life to Christ and being an active member at Church of the Highlands. wHy i do wHat i do: I do what I do because the people before me couldn’t do it for themselves.

diverse world beyond Tuscaloosa. In his time at the university, Spillers said he has developed a sense of responsibility to the state of Alabama, and that only time will tell where he goes. Spillers said he believes the university produces graduates who are intelligent leaders, people the state needs. “And my question is always, ‘What if they stay?’ ” he said. Spillers plans to take a year off before going to law school. He has one class to complete before finishing his major in business management, and said he hopes to continue working in positions of leadership after school. “It’s not easy, but I think it’s well worth it,” Spillers said. “If you’re really genuine about making change happen, I think that it starts in your community, and it starts in your sphere of influence. And for me, it just so happens that my sphere of influence is Alabama, so take that as you will.”

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Tuscaloosa City Schools Superintendent’s Art Show


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United Negro College Fund: An Evening of Stars

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9 1. (Back) Amos Hubbard and Walter Conley Jr., (front) Clifton Warren, Archie Jefferson and David Hood 2. Mary Prentice, Joseph Prentice and Melissia Davis 3. Johncella Bates and Brittany Hollins 4. Luanne Baker and Camillia RatliffEatman 5. Luanne Baker, Johncella Bates, Peter Millet, Tyler Dardson and Camillia Ratliff-Eatman

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10 6. Joseph Scrivner and Carmella Anderson 7. Lucile Pruitt and Sandy Hopkins 8. Annetta H. Verin, Camillia RatliffEatman and Dennis Eatman 9. Bessie Tate, TJ Tate, Clarence Bell and Norma Bell 10. Kay Spencer and Esther Fairley 11. Annie Mary Gray, Miranda Carlisle, Mary Foster and Elizabeth Thomas


on the scene

1

Holy Spirit School Super Saturday

2

Feb. 6, 2016 embassy suites photos | layton dudley

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Jill Oswalt and Hollie Glover Jimmy Kunz and Cindy Tolbert Marlin Smith and Don Smith Curt Collins and Tara Collins

8 5. Michelle Langkawel, Russell Langkawel, Alan McClendon and Anne McClendon 6. Analily Perez, Alejandro Perez, Angelina Rodriguez and George Rodriguez 7. Linda and Ed Heyd 8. Amanda Stewart and Sam Corona 9. Carlene Jones and Dusty Presley 10. Sam Contorno and Jenny Contorno 11. Judy Wingate and Gene Mangieri

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on the scene

Tuscaloosa Preservation Society Mardi Gras Jazz Brunch Feb. 6, 2016 jemison-van de graaFF mansion photos | erin nelson

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8 1. Dan Rountree, Barbara Rountree, Missy Richey and Ben Richey 2. John Hicks and Kirsten Hicks 3. Lee Pike, Betty Pike, John Hicks and Kirsten Hicks 4. Marina Naranjo, Katherine Richter and Lily Rogers 5. Chris Cline and Stefany Estrada 6. Madeleine Hill, Anna Singer and Joanna Jacobs 7. Mike LaRocca and Kayla LaRocca

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8. Matt Colvin and Katie McGee 9. Kate Gates and Avery Berry 10. Alex Biehn and Maegan Biehn 11. Sandy Colvin and John Colvin 12. Olivia Wyatt and Katie Tindol


Feb. 6, 2016 northriver yacht club Photos | erin nelson

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1. Marilee Brown-Wells, Donna Cornelius, Shannon Templeton, Dell Anderson, Betty Warren, Carol Woodard and Judy Hand 2. Lisa Pradat, Dana McCleland, Barbara

8. 9.

Smith, Susan Caples, Vicki Nevin and Linda Achterhof Annabel Gilliam, Pat Petit, Angela Bale, Daphne Burkhalter, Leslie Ferguson and Holly Ellard Carol McKinzy, Neilann Thomas, Marilyn Stephens, Donna McGee, Traci Ferguson and Liz Bradford Robin Maughan, Priscilla Verron, Laura Woolf, Charlotte Williams, Jamie Poole, Ashley Maugham and Tina Deloach Cynthia Stone and Kathryn Hornsby Jean Rykaczewski, Sandy Singleton, Dedra Cabaniss and Dede Clary Donna Lushington, Bridget Livaudais, Dustene Gustus, Nancy Dawkins and Linda Ford Sharon Whitfield, Christi Patton, Tisa Bell Brothers and Donna McGee

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on the scene

Mystics Mardi Gras Party

1


on the scene

10th Annual Great Chili Cookoff

Feb. 13, 2016 bryant conFerence center Photos | erin nelson

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1. Sherri Drummond, Gwen Stewart, Ronny Johnston, Alvin Hawthorne, and Mike Stewart 2. Meredith Gardino, Blake Burden, Phyllis Gamble and Richard Langford 3. Laura Gregory,

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Patrick McKane and Henry Glaus 4. Ashley Hester and Jeanene McCaa 5. Sam Phillips, George O’Rear, Phoebe Adams and Nick Porter 6. Cory Patterson, Duane Baines, Andrew Lancaster, Ryan Wise 7. Melissa Bissard, Brent Sute, Jasmine McQueen, Hunter Sute and Crystal Lovorn 8. John Gordon, Robert Cotton, Randy Palmer and Karen Palmer 9. Greg Parker, Shaetta Taylor and Jonah Murphy 10. Keith Jenkins and Chad Whittington 11. Carson Roberts, Jeff Roberts, Matt Bonnett, Sean Lee, Heath Jordan and Patrick Howard


Chamber of Commerce of W. Ala. 115th Celebration

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Feb. 18, 2016 bryant conFerence center Photos | erin nelson

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3 1. Ron Price and Sarah Beth Hahn 2. Ann Hollingsworth and Dan McCormack 3. Lisa Riley and Kim McMurray 4. Robert Hayes and Jennifer Hayes 5. Gordon Richardson, C.J. Stern, Mike Smith and Inge Beeker 6. Josh Tanner, Robin Jenkins, Elizabeth Shumaker and Harry Shumaker 7. Julie Salter, Morgan Bruce and Bryant Bruce 8. Jackie Wuska, Kevin Whitaker and Bob Pierce 9. Sandra Thomas, Judy Gubera and Lynn Hollingsworth 10. Tommy Hester, Verta Barr-Meherg and Jim Meherg 11. Nikki Pennington, Mark Sullivan and Alicia LeDoux

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on the scene

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on the scene

Delta Sigma Theta Mardi Gras Ball

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Feb. 19, 2016 bryant conFerence center photos | daniel melograna

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1. B.J. Burke and Warren Burke 2. Greg Singleton and Belinda Singleton 3. Paul Bradford, Catherine Bradford, Tonya Young and David Young 4. Audrey Lavender, Regina Steele,

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Violet Wilson and Deloris Warrick 5. Tomeka Royster and Stanley Bates 6. Jill Lancaster, Kerry Stevenson and Tracy Stevenson 7. Pat Sherrod, Charles Sherrod

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and Pamela Foster 8. Pam Foster and Linda Orourke 9. Terra Miller, Fred Miller and Latoya Davis 10. Patricia Wilson and Gevin Wilson 11. Carla Jones and Lewis Jones


Feb. 25, 2016 bryant conFerence center photos | daniel melograna

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10 1. (Back) Luke Henderson, Eva Henderson, Amber Henderson, Charis Henderson, Jeremy Henderson and (front) John Henderson 2. Calvin Brown, Judy Brown, Linda Ford and David Ford 3. Mary Sneckenberger, Paxton Sneckenberger and Mary Pagliero 4. Dot Martin and Angie Hughes 5. Lisa Sellers, Josh Rivers and Beth Smith 6. Victoria Whitfield and Bob Prescott 7. Angelo Rodriguez and Mira Milburn 8. Helen Smith, David Wilson and Andre Taylor 9. Emily Sahib and Josh Sahib 117 10. Craig Edelbrock and Tru Livaudais

on the scene

UA Night of Champions

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on the scene

Krispy Kreme Challenge for Big Brothers Big Sisters

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Feb. 27, 2016 government plaza photos | erin nelson

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1. Natalie Wheeler, Lisa Klutts, Chloe Welch, Kara Jernigan and Alivia Jernigan 2. Lauren Lane, Grace Matthews, Kimberly Mullins, Haley Rosetta and Tessa Albert 3. Jody Davis, Gracie Dover, Abbey Oser, Ann Katherine Vitti, Beca Gregor and Riley Caldwell 4. Hunter Davis, Rod Davis, Traci Culverhouse, Kate Culverhouse and Chandler Thornton 5. Sam Bowman and Madison Segers 6. Harper Sikes and Lucy Corder 7. Susan Huffman, Tatum Hercula,

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Jennifer McMillan, David McMillan and Bradley Pridgen 8. John Duffy and Russ Moore 9. Elizabeth Riley, Molly Beffort, Laney Howard and Sophie Crowe 10. Brucie Mancuso and Madison Montanari

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on the scene

Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Reunion feB. 27, 2016 the leVee Bar & grill Photos | Daniel melograna

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10 1. Kevin Baynes and Chandraia Whitted 2. Connie Johnson and Clinton Johnson 3. Fye Little, Kirra Liittle, Anthony Little and Gwen Little 4. Teretia Jones and Joan Jones

5. Lesa Frazier, Brenda Ervin, Lillie Harris and Mary Foster 6. Brenda Ervin, Mary Foster and Lillie Harris 7. Christopher Ervin and Charlece Bishop 8. Mechelle Frazier, Nancy Boyd, Cassandra

Hawkins and Mary Foster 9. Tishara Smith, Ky’Era Actkins and Brittany Groves 10. Tiffany Warren and Brenda Ervin 11. Stacy Jones and Gwen Little

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on the scene

National Wild Turkey Federation Banquet

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march 4, 2016 tuscaloosa river market photos | daniel melograna

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1. Melinda Nix and Hollie Newman 2. Reid Duvall and Jessica Brittain 3. Weston Hamiter, Bobbie Hamiter, Walt Smith and Frank Hamiter 4. Betty Boyd and Billy Boyd 5. Shelly Funda and Jason Givens

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6. Mike Welborn, Jonathan Black and Clif Davis 7. Jackie Vail, Hayley Elam and Dillon Williams 8. Stacey Standeffer and King Curry 9. Jake Cox, Michelle Cox and Randalll Cox 10. Ford Nixon and Alex McCune 11. Chris McCune and Jeff Makemson

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march 5, 2016 belk center Photos | erin nelson

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1. Pat Adkison, Natalie Norman, Parks Burgin, Herman Bell and Neal Hodo 2. Jill Graves, Nancy Gilbert and Peggy Roberts 3. Michele Days, Linda Hill, Manny Chapman, Norman Hill, Matthew Chapman, Rashad Chapman, Chenele Chapman and Bettina Wright

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4 3 4. Donna Lee Smith and Jeff Arnold Jr. 5. Larry Busby, Terry Jackson and Louie Adkison

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Surin of Thailand 1402 University Blvd | Tuscaloosa AL 35401 205.752.7970 | www.surinofthailand.com

Lunch: Mon - Fri 11am - 2pm, Sat & Sun 11:30am - 2:30pm Dinner: Mon-Thurs 4:30pm - 9:30pm, Fri 4:30pm - 10pm, Sat 5pm - 10pm, & Sun 5pm - 9:30pm

Midnight Sushi ~ $1 Sushi Thurs-Sat 11pm - 1am

Happy Hour ~ $1 sushi after school Mon-Fri 4:30pm - 6pm

121

on the scene

Alabama Softball Hall of Fame


last look

Cedar Crest neighborhood

O

n May 5, 2011, I chose five locations to photograph that had been devastated eight days earlier by the April 27 tornado. My goal was to document their change and regrowth. Here they are, nearly five years later. Change doesn’t happen overnight. A friend recently described change to me as steering a big ship. You can’t change that ship’s course in one swift motion. It takes time. But, slowly, it gets there, and slowly change can and will happen. Tuscaloosa is not what it was before the storm and it never will be. Parts of the city have rebuilt, and others are still shells of what they once were. — Michelle Lepianka Carter

Forest Lake neighborhood

Alberta

Hargrove Rd.

Rosedale housing community

122


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