Cathie Smith was eating in a downtown Leakesville restaurant when she first heard she and husband Kenny had won a St. Jude house on the Mississippi Coast. She didn't even know her family had a ticket for the fundraising drawing for the popular children's hospital.|
Besides, she suspected they were talking about her father-in-law of the same name. "I missed the big call," she said. "And it was my birthday, too."
The night before the April 13, 2002, drawing, her mother-in-law, Althea Smith, attended an open house at 6204 Ascott Drive in St. Martin. She bought three $100 tickets, one each for herself and her two children.
When they heard the good news, the Smiths were living in an enlarged trailer in rural Leakesville.
The house was valued at $250,000 and the Smiths had to borrow the money to pay $90,000 taxes on that, thinking "it was still a steal at that price." Eventually they moved for good.
"We brought our bed, TV and clothes and pretty much left everything else in the trailer and bought new things for the house," said Smith. "The house was plenty big enough for family to visit and they did."
Last spring, the Smiths packed their belongings in the Leakesville trailer and moved the boxes of memories into one room so their son could move in. Then the trailer burned down.
The Smiths breathed a sigh of relief. They still had their St. Jude home.
A few months later Katrina came, and everything else they owned was lost.
"You know the saying, 'Everyone has a moment of fame.' Well, we feel like that was ours and now it's over and we will go back to Leakesville and try and rebuild."
Smith said the couple hopes to set up a FEMA trailer on the Leakesville property and eventually sell the St. Martin land.
- KAT BERGERON
Another St. Jude note
A second St. Jude house, won by Joy Klundt, a Montana woman who wanted to be closer to her Coast grandchildren, was gutted inside by 11 feet of Katrina water.
It is in the new Savannah Estates in Back Bay Biloxi, near Brashier Road. Klundt's ticket won in late June 2005 and because she had not yet taken possession it still belongs to St. Jude, which currently has contractors studying repairs.