City honors Skelton and other preservationists

Zan Skelton, the longtime Biloxi educator whose appreciation of history led to him producing a voluminous history of Biloxi Public Schools, was honored posthumously Thursday evening for his contributions to his community.

The Lifetime Achievement Award for Skelton was one of more than a dozen honors presented during 2012 Preservation Awards, which were announced before a standing-room-only crowd of about 200 at the Biloxi Visitors Center. The ceremony and reception afterward were the finale of the month-long Thursdays in May preservation series.

Among the others recognized during the ceremony was the Rue Vieux LLC, a group of women who are acquiring a restoring historic properties in downtown Biloxi; Coast Transit, for its efforts in designing the Rue Magnolia bus stop;

It was the posthumous award for Skelton that elicited a standing ovation.

“My father’s relationship to memory was central to his character, his desire to preserve it a lifelong passion,” Skelton’s son Dan said in accepting the award. “For him, memory was not something to be neglected, only dusted off on rare occasions. No, memory to him was tangible and alive, something to be contemplated, interacted with, made sense of over time.”

The younger Skelton – who quoted Faulkner in remembering his Dad’s passion for history (“The past is never dead. It isn’t even past”) – acknowledged his father’s many accomplishments:

“Whether it was his work to ensure that generations of school yearbooks would be available in the city library; or his extensive genealogical research into his family; or the volumes he authored of the history of the Biloxi Public Schools; or his two personal memoirs, given as gifts to his family; his memories were vividly brought to life for my brother and me and for everyone to whom his work became available – memories of his childhood growing up in the Depression, his time in the Army that took him half a world away, his arrival in Biloxi, the city he loved, the people he loved, the family he built here, his long and productive life.

“I think he felt an obligation to record events during his lifetime, because
he knew he was part of history in the making. He was there the day the
public school system was integrated, and, aware of the importance of those events, he felt the need to write about it so that people who weren’t there could know what that time was like.”

The complete list of award winners:

Restoration Project Award of Merit: Teresa Thompson, 1506 Avalon Drive

Restoration Project Award of Merit: Jeanne Marie Baker, 133 Seal Ave.

Restoration Project Award of Merit: Chau Xuan Ngo, 287 Reynoir St.

Outstanding Commercial Restoration Project: Rue Vieux LLC, 136 Rue Magnolia

Outstanding Restoration Project: Slay House Restoration (Leigh Jaunsen, Dale Partners Architects, and David Rush, David Rush Construction)

Outstanding Residential Restoration Project: Mary Lynn Todaro, 1006 Howard Ave.

Outstanding In-fill Project in a Historic District: Rue Magnolia Bus Stop
(CTA and Eley Guild Hardy Architects)

Excellence in Restoration: Dennis and Nanette Burke, 139 Seal Ave.

Leadership in Preservation: Mississippi Gulf Coast National Heritage Area and the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources for Acquisition and Preservation of the French Colonial Cemetery at the Moran Site on Porter Avenue

Outstanding Preservation Volunteer: Grace Aaron

Preservationist of the Year: Lee Ann Dubaz

Vision for Preservation Award: Rue Vieux, LLC

Outstanding Preservation Organization: Mississippi Coast Historical and Genealogical Society

Lifetime Achievement Award: Zan L. Skelton Jr.

Photos: To see photographs from the ceremony Thursday evening, click here.

The award-winning endeavors: To see a collection of photographs of the award-winning projects – including many before-and-after images — that was shown during the program Thursday night, click here.

News and notes

A Blessed trip: Those interested in being in the middle of the Blessing of the Fleet this weekend have a chance to ride on the Biloxi schooner Glenn L. Swetman. To find out more, click here.

Weekend preview: To see the weekend’s lineup — which includes the Blessing of the Fleet and Shrimp Festival, an AKC dog show at the Coast Coliseum, Sinbad at the Hard Rock, and Anthony Cools at the Beau —
click here.

Eight Flags Encore Show and Reunion: Zanne Johnson, the impresario organizing the upcoming Eight Flags tribute at the Biloxi Community Center, guests on this week’s City Desk webcast. To listen to the 16-minute program, click here.

Council preview: The City Council will discuss the possible fate of 10 properties — includng the one-time site of Margarativille on U.S. 90, and the White House Hotel — on Tuesday. To see the complete agenda for the Tuesday afternoon council meeting, click here.