Charlotte Lamar loves celebrating birthdays at Paradiso, her unusual octagonal beachfront home in Belle Fontaine. So for her 72nd birthday she invited lots of family and headed to New Orleans to buy specialty foods.
   She was concentrating on the party so much that Katrina remained in her periphery and she chose to believe early reports it would not come to her section of Jackson County.
   When Lamar realized she needed to evacuate, she spent her energy loading the car with her birthday foods to have the party away from her beloved 5501 Bluff Road residence.
   "I didn't even put the storm boards on the windows like I always do," Lamar said. "The windows didn't break but they bowed in and allowed in some rain and sea water. But I had the least damage of anyone."
   In fact, she has one of the few remaining houses in Belle Fontaine.
   "I moved here when my mother was living in Ocean Springs on the beach, and I always wanted to live on the water. I decided it was time for my dream home. God put it in my mind to build it octagon shape because it is the closest thing to a circle."
   Lamar sketched a floor plan, took it to Florida architect Dennis Evans because she liked "his sense of space" and hired Alabama builder Ed Wells to make her 3,700-square-foot dream a reality. Her engineer son suggested bringing the eight corner pilings to the roof for added strength and putting hurricane clips and straps everywhere.
   As soon as electricity was on after Katrina, Lamar was back in the house.
   "The windows won't bow again because now I have them clipped," she said.
   Lamar may not be the one to experience the next storm, as she's decided she wants to live closer to family.
- KAT BERGERON