Happy Birthday! Today is Babe Brown's 82nd birthday, and she and husband Tom are celebrating the day and the work they've completed on their home.
   "I've invited all my neighbors. I wanted them to see all the little touches we've done, like put in crown molding and a little half bath. The most beautiful thing is the front porch with a swing and rocking chairs," Tom Brown said. "We want to be inspiration. I see the inspiration in my neighbors when they are out working on Lewis Avenue. One thing we enjoy is the people who drive by and stop and say how nice it looks."
   Tom, 79, a retired Marine, and Babe have put in many hours of repair work due to unreliable labor.
   "Babe thinks she's 82, but I'd stack her up against a couple of these contractor guys," he said. "We decided no moaning and groaning, we would just get to work. We had one contractor that just quit on us; the other did shoddy work. After that experience, I did my own contracting and I hired my own people. I worked with them and supervised them. I decided that anything that was wrong after that was my fault.
   "Us Marines are awful bull-headed," he said.
   Both are thankful for the faith-based volunteer groups, such as the Baptist Men's Association that ripped out carpet and soggy, moldy items to give them a good start.
   Babe Brown, born in D'Lo, has always loved South Mississippi since her father, Wallace Langley, retired to Long Beach in 1950. Babe's family has maintained her parents' home, now a familiar place for family gatherings. The home in Long Beach was repaired first after Katrina because it had less damage and was the Browns' sanctuary while they were working on the home in Gulfport.
   The couple still have a home in a retirement village near the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Fla., due to Tom's health problems.
   The Browns married several years after losing their spouses, and the quaint home at 630 Lewis Ave. in Gulfport, which they bought in May 2005, was meant to be a quiet place to settle in their retirement years.
   "We wanted to get away from the hustle and bustle," Tom said. "We have a hospital, casinos, a beach, it's a beautiful area. Unfortunately, we have hurricanes, too."
NANCY BOSARGE