400 Gulf View Ave. was a house of music. |
In the living room stood a baby grand. In the Renaissance music room was a spinet. Then there was Estelle Maxwell, adding her song in every room of the Long Beach house.
Estelle had her debut - she's an operatic soprano - at Carnegie Hall in her 20s and had training at Juilliard and the Chicago Conservatory. Reared in Jackson, she traveled the country with the Columbia Artists Community Concert Series before becoming head of the voice department at Gulf Park College For Women.
She rekindled a friendship with James Maxwell and married the tax attorney in 1962. Four years later they bought the 1940s house, and had to renovate after Camille. But the yellow pine frame was so sturdy, the family joke was they needed a jackhammer to hang a picture.
"It wasn't a grand home, but a very comfortable home built and maintained with love," said Paul Maxwell, their only child and Hancock Bank corporate communications manager.
"I think one of the hardest things I ever did was to tell my mother her house was gone. It had become the family history depository with lots of antiques and photos and memorabilia. There were so many items that represented special family times and I will miss those, but the love is still there and that's how we make it through."
Estelle now lives in an Alabama assisted-living complex, misses her Coast friends and wants to come back but is, at least for now, "tired of running from hurricanes." If she rebuilds, Paul said, it likely won't be so close to the beach.
Now widowed, Estelle spent the storm at Paul's home, which received a foot of surge. As for her house, little remained. The top of the baby grand was found at the bottom of a 12-foot pile of debris; the spinet was two blocks away. Her score sheets marked by soprano masters never surfaced.
"She's doing okay," said her son. "She's a strong lady."
- KAT BERGERON