Wednesday, March 6, 2019
It's the time of year when many of us are thinking about those we love and what we love. This time of year also means that we look around for the area's power couples. The 2019 dynamic duos include a dentist-semi-professional-baseball player pairing, couples who use their creative pursuits to improve the city and surrounding areas, couples who have worked to effect change in the community, and more. Check out these couples and stay tuned for a few more in the next issue of BOOM Jackson, which hits the streets on March 6.
David and Emmi Sprayberry
David and Emmi Sprayberry like to combine their work of art, communication and storytelling in helping Jackson and its people.
"We love the city, and we love our community," David says.
Emmi and David were both born and raised in the Jackson metro area, although they both left and traveled outside Jackson for extended periods of time.
The couple met at a local concert with Norma Jean, As Cities Burn and Plastic Glasses when Emmi was selling merch for the bands. The two kept bumping into each other at local events and had more than a few mutual friends.
"One day I came by her house with a Jackson Free Press to bring her a list of venues, (but) she knew all of the venues. I just wanted to see her," David says. The Sprayberrys married in 2005.
Emmi currently works for St. Andrew's Episcopal School and teaches upper school visual arts, including courses such as art, graphic design and photography. She also helps with an after-school tutoring program called Red Door, where she is the arts coordinator and teaches art for first through 12th grades.
David is the assistant director of university relations at Belhaven University. He also teaches a media-relations class and does public-relations work for the Mississippi Museum of Art, Epilepsy Foundation Mississippi, Mississippi Book Festival, CelticFest Mississippi and Mississippi Rep. Joel Bomgar. David and Emmi also have a photography company Bee's Knees Photography.
"We both want to be intentional with our time and the way we invest it with people," David says.
Emmi says: "Jackson is overflowing with talented people. There are so many special individuals, and whether we just get coffee or work together on a project, it's always enriching." —Sarah Kate Pollard
Tyrone Hendrix and Ercilla Dometz-Hendrix
For couple Tyrone Hendrix and Ercilla Dometz-Hendrix, community and giving back are important parts of their lives. "We ... try to make our community a better place," Hendrix says.
Hendrix, the executive director of the Mississippi Association of Educators, served as president of Jackson City Council from 2014 to 2017. During his term, he fought for issues such as living wages for city workers and financial transparency in local government. Dometz-Hendrix, a policy analyst for the Mississippi's University Research Center at the Institutions of Higher Learning, is currently on the Bond Oversight Committee for Jackson Public Schools and is a member of the Center for Art & Public Exchange's Community Council.
Dometz-Hendrix received her bachelor's degree in diplomacy and international relations from American University in Nicaragua in 2006. Later that year, she began studying in Jackson State University's political-science master's program. Hendrix, a south Jackson native, received his bachelor's degree in psychology from JSU in 2006. The two met in the program and married in 2010.
Hendrix says MAE's mission is to ensure that every child in Mississippi has access to an equitable education, regardless of the person's zip code. The organization works to give educators a voice in state politics. "We believe that educators know best how to provide a quality education for children," he says.
Dometz-Hendrix does research for economic policies, such as the impact a lottery would have on Mississippi and presumptive eligibility for Medicaid.
"What we say at our office is that we try to figure out how to make Mississippi better for more Mississippians," she says. —Amber Helsel
Juan and Rachel Gomez
CityHeart Church youth pastors Juan and Rachel Gomez share a purpose in life.
"We're community builders," Rachel says.
The couple's path together began with different formative experiences.
Juan, 26, grew up in San Antonio, Texas, the youngest of four children.
"I had no dad growing up, he says. "I got into trouble a lot." After a big fight in high school, a judge ordered him to take an anger management class.
That, he says, is what turned him around. What that class did for him he wanted to do for other kids.
"But," he says, "after high school things get real for you. I was taking drugs to supplement my loneliness." He eventually realized that was not working.
"I stopped cold turkey," he says.
Rachel, 25, grew up near Orlando as a middle child of nine.
"I came from a very good family experience," she says. "My motivation—also based out of my family situation—is to include more people. Wanting people to belong. To be included. These are people we're bringing up that are going to be running the world."
The couple met at Bethany College near Baton Rouge, La., where each graduated in 2015 with a Diploma of Biblical Studies. They married the same year. They moved to Jackson in September 2017 and became the youth pastors at CityHeart in September 2018.
The couple often do events with the kids, such as cleaning up a park. "We convey to the kids, 'Speak the gospel, do the outreaches,'" she says. "Christianity is not just sitting down. We live it."
Juan is a respiratory technician at CareMed Specialty Pharmacy in Ridgeland, and Rachel is a project manager at Red Squared Productions. —Rebecca Burr
Trey and Antoinette Jones
When members of the Hattiesburg Black Sox, a semi-professional baseball team, step onto the field, Antoinette Liles Jones is usually the loudest one in the crowd of wives and girlfriends, she says. "I call myself, like, a Soxy lady," says the wife of centerfielder and team captain Trey Jones.
When first applying to colleges, Antoinette, a Michigan native, was looking for a school with a marching band.
"I don't know how I heard of the Sonic Boom of the South, but I truly wanted to be a part of it," she says. She ended up attending the school on an academic scholarship. She graduated in 2011 with a bachelor's degree in chemistry.
Trey grew up in Morton as the son of a dentist. After graduating from Morton High School, he studied and played baseball at Meridian Community College. He graduated from Mississippi State University in 2009 with a bachelor's degree in biology.
He met Antoinette while they were students in the University of Mississippi Medical Center's dental school. They married in 2016. They both now work at Forest Dental Practice. in Forest, Miss.
Trey is going into his ninth summer with the Hattiesburg Black Sox. He has been the team captain for about five years now, he says. The team plays during the spring and summer. They have traveled across the U.S., playing in games such as the 2016 NBC World Series. They also played in the inaugural Bluegrass World Series at Louisville Slugger Stadium in Kentucky.
Besides being a dentist, Antoinette is also a certified yoga teacher. She does not teach in a gym or studio, though. This year, she plans to take yoga to the people, essentially. She plans to teach the members of the Black Sox, along with small business owners, dentists and more. —Amber Helsel
Julia and Jamie Weems
Julia Weems, 43, is a musician, licensed clinic social worker and Birmingham native. She and husband, Jamie Weems, stay in Jackson because of the strong community here.
"This is where we're raising our kids, the kind of place people can have an impact if they put their energy into their community," Julia says.
Jamie, a 41-year-old Meridian native, received his bachelor's degree in music performance from the University of Louisiana Lafayette 2001. He is an information-technology cyber-security analyst for Jackson-based Pileum. Over the years, he has played with local Jackson musicians, including a duo formed with Mark Roemer. Julia received her bachelor's degree in English from Birmingham-Southern College in 1997 and her master's degree in social work from the University of Alabama in 2005. She has a private practice in Jackson that focuses on trauma therapy. Julia plays with St. Brigid, An Irish Celtic band.
The couple met in Washington, D.C., where Julia was living and Jamie was visiting. They married in 2008.
For Jamie and Julia, music is an important aspect of their relationship.
"We have evolved from what we were, but we are still very intentional about how we engage with the community both through music and through other ways," Julia says.
Their son, Jake, 8, plays the drums and daughter Ella, 5, has a soprano ukulele. "We've always been the musician couple we've always been (now) with two other little musicians," she says.
On marriage and parenthood, Julia says: "There are challenges neither of us could have anticipated. I have always felt so incredibly fortunate to have landed with this person to move through life with."
Jamie says: "We are 10 years into our marriage, and it still feels the same way (as) when we first got together." —Brynn Corbello
Stevie and Ozie Hendrix
Stevie, 31 and Ozie Hendrix, 35, aim to help Canton in both their artistic and business endeavors.
"For me, my point of view is that I can help show people a different outlet (for art) that may be different from the norm," Stevie says.
Photographer, painter and tattoo artist Stevie owns RockStar Ink Tattoo Studio in the city, and Ozie owns IFAMOUZ CANDLES and SPA. Both businesses are in the same storefront at 355 W. Peace St. in Canton.
Stevie, born in Canton, says he has been interested in art since he was a child. He graduated from Canton High School in 2007, then attended Hinds Community College for graphic design for a year before deciding college wasn't for him.
From 2007 to 2009, Stevie worked in the industrial field and at a restaurant franchise. He has been in the tattoo business for 10 years.
"Art is my passion, and I knew from tattooing I could make my own money, and I knew I could do it and be good at it," Stevie says. He worked at HardRocs Tattoo in Brandon starting in 2009, and then opened RockStar in 2013.
Ozie was born in Chicago, Ill., moved to Canton, Miss., in 2004.
"Canton was a second home, I have family here and spent summers here," Ozie says.
She started college at Jackson State University in 2004 for public relations, but in 2006, she left the school. The couple met in 2008 while both worked a local restaurant franchise in Jackson. They began dating in 2015 after bumping into each other after a Slim Pusha and Sika premier.
"When I saw her, I spoke. The rest is history," Stevie says.
They married in July 1, 2016. The couple have two children: Ji'Dante, 12, and Zho'Nla, 2. —Armani T. Fryer
Marie and LaRue Owen
Marie and LaRue Owen are united in their belief that loneliness, depression and isolation are some of the greatest dangers to communities today, especially among senior citizens.
Both of them are dedicated to bringing people together and building connections in their own way.
LaRue, a retired Methodist minister who practiced in the Jackson metro area for 37 years, has conducted what he calls "Table Talk" at Char Restaurant every night since 2013.
"Every night I come in at 5 p.m., sit at a table and invite people to come and speak with me," he says. "I know, it sounds crazy and strange, but after six years, there have only been 22 nights where I was by myself. It's a safe place for people to be themselves, and the one rule is to be nice to each other."
Marie, a freelance graphic designer, has been working with her sister, Hilda Owen, on a co-housing project called "Front Porch Mutual" since 2009. She describes co-housing as a village-like small group of houses grouped around a central common space, in which residents also share common facilities such as gardens and dog parks. The project is meant to address the small number of nursing homes and assisted-living facilities in Jackson compared to the large number of seniors.
"People live longer if they're having fun, and this way you can know everyone, meet on the front porch, share meals and enjoy cocktails in the afternoon," she says.
The two graduated from the University of Southern Mississippi, which is also where they first met. They married and moved to Jackson in 1980. Their son, Frank LaRue Owen Jr., is vice president for strategy at Mad Genius Advertising in Jackson. —Dustin Cardon
Shaun and Kimberly Conerly
Shaun and Kimberly Conerly, who have been married for almost 23 years and have lived in Madison for 16, are both passionate about volunteer work and helping the less fortunate in the Jackson metro area.
"I've had a deep love of volunteering since high school, when I started working with Toys for Tots," she says. "I've always wanted to do what I could to serve those less fortunate and give back to those who can't provide for themselves." She volunteered with the organization in her sophomore and junior years of high school.
Shaun was born in Madisonville, La., and Kimberly was born in Forest, Miss. The couple married in 1996.
Kimberly currently serves on the corporate board of Goodwill Industries of Mississippi. There, she helps unemployed people find jobs with Goodwill stores around Mississippi, which sell donated items such as clothing and shoes.
She has also been a member of the Junior League of Jackson for seven years, helping with projects such as providing meals for in-need children in Jackson and offering counseling for children who have lost family members or someone close to them.
Shaun is a member of the Madison chapter of the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic men's fraternal service organization that does volunteer work for local nonprofit groups. Among the services the Knights of Columbus perform are cooking meals for homeless people, assisting the elderly in their homes and providing scholarships for needy children in Madison.
"We are blessed to be able to give back to our community and both just want to do whatever we can to put a smile on someone's face or make life easier for someone else," he says.
"Helping people is important for both of us because we have seen that there is such a need in the greater Jackson area for services," Kimberly says.
She is an information technology services manager for Southern Farm Bureau Casualty Insurance Company, where she has worked for 10 years. Shaun is a sales consultant for Herrin-Gear Lexus.
The couple has twin 15-year-old daughters named Lauren and Haley. —Dustin Cardon
Pete and Susan Farris
Pete and Susan Farris, 28, are a busy couple.
Pete, who was born in Memphis but raised in Southaven, moved to Clinton in 2009 to attend Mississippi College, which is where he and Susan met. Susan is a Brandon native who graduated from East Rankin Academy and then started college at MC in 2009.
They hung around with the same group of friends and then got to know each other better when they became editors of the Mississippi College literary magazine.
"Eventually through the magazine, we discovered that we both liked 'Doctor Who' and together would watch the new episodes on Sunday night and eat cheap hibachi," Susan says.
Pete received a bachelor's degree in graphic design and Susan a degree in English with a writing concentration from Mississippi College. Two weeks after graduating, the couple married, with "Doctor Who" as the wedding theme.
"We couldn't quite get away with the costumes," Susan jokes. "My mother would have killed me." But all the colors, the cakes and decorations were Doctor Who-themed, and the recessional was the TV show's theme song.
Susan is the marketing director of Mangia Bene, which manages BRAVO! Italian Restaurant & Bar, Broad Street Baking Company, and Sal & Mookie's New York Pizza & Ice Cream. Pete is the digital assets director for Spectrum Capital, a real estate development firm, and he is an adjunct professor at Mississippi College, teaching graphic design. Both are working on their master's degrees in fine arts. Pete is studying for one in graphic design at Mississippi College, and Susan attends the online creative writing program at Lindenwood University in Missouri.
Susan is the co-founder of the networking group Entrepreneur Quarterly that meets at Sal & Mookie's every quarter. Another quantum of their time goes to their church: CityHeart.
"We're pretty involved there," Pete says.
He volunteers as the lead producer, and Susan volunteers with the worship band. The couple is also involved in the church's outreach in the community, which has included taking Sunday lunches to fire stations in Jackson, and helping Kirksey Middle School with supplies, setting up classrooms, being proctors for testing and more. Susan and Pete live in Brandon near the reservoir with two dogs and three cats. —Richard Coupe