Hancock County

She wanted to honor a Mississippi veteran — this is how she did it

Gigi Madden carries her new Bay Ratz bass drum. The drum was donated to the group by Irene Mason of Waveland in honor of a North Mississippi veteran.
Gigi Madden carries her new Bay Ratz bass drum. The drum was donated to the group by Irene Mason of Waveland in honor of a North Mississippi veteran. Courtesy

Irene Mason of Waveland said her friend, James Threadgill, had a “laugh that could fill a room” and that he found great joy in helping others.

But when Threadgill died at age 36 on Oct. 20 in Corinth, Mason said she knew she wanted to do something to honor the highly-decorated fellow veteran.

“I wasn’t able to attend the funeral, so I took the money that I would have spent driving to Corinth and I decided I wanted to use it to help someone because James spent his whole life helping other people,” Mason said. “I wanted to do something to help kids so that his legacy could live on.”

Mason said she was familiar with the Bay Ratz Marching Battery, a Hancock County-based youth drum corps that was started by Brian Wilemon of Waveland. She decided to keep Threadgill’s memory alive by buying a small bass drum for the Bay Ratz. Printed on the front of the drum is “In memory of James Threadgill.” The graphic was done by a contribution from Ashman-Mollere Realty.

“I wanted to do something that would annoy parents and make a little noise because James could really laugh,” she said. “But at the same time, I wanted it to help the community and I knew the Bay Ratz needed drums.”

Ratz and mice

Growing up in North Mississippi, Wilemon was a member of the drum line in the West Point High School band. He started the Bay Ratz earlier this year as a way to do something for the youth in the Hancock County community and as a vehicle to continue his passion for drums. His oldest son, Miles, is also in the drum corps.

While the Ratz is mostly made up of teens, both male and female, the groups also has a “mice” class for younger drummers.

“Irene called me and asked me what we needed and I told her we needed drums — especially cymbals and small bass drums,” Wilemon. “I told her the one thing that would get the most use was an 18-inch bass drum, especially with the mice.”

Wilemon said that whoever carries the new drum will have some extra responsibilities within the Bay Ratz.

“We want to put together an overview of James and whoever is carrying that drum will have to be able to tell others about his life — and that he had a laugh that could fill a room and he was put on the Earth to help others,” he said. “This whole thing has been nothing but good.”

Remembering Threadgill

Gigi Madden, 9, is anything but your average 9-year-old. The daughter of Ed and Ann Madden, Gigi loves Pee-wee Herman and she can often be seen riding around her neighborhood on her bike with an R2-D2 bubble maker attached to the front.

She is also a member of the mice class of the Bay Ratz. Wilemon picked Gigi to be the first person to carry the new drum that honors Threadgill.

“I had never tried drumming and I wanted to see what it was like, so I joined the Bay Ratz,” Gigi said.

Gigi said she is excited to be carrying the Threadgill drum.

“It’s really light and it’s easier to carry,” she said. “I look forward to telling people about James Threadgill.”

The Bay Ratz will be performing with Blackwater Brass at 5 p.m. on Friday in Biloxi for the Rue Magnolia Arts District First Friday. The mice will be marching in the Bay St. Louis Christmas Parade at 11 a.m. on Saturday.

Give back to your community

#GivingTuesday is a global day of giving fueled by the power of social media and collaboration.

Celebrated on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, #GivingTuesday kicks off the charitable season, when many focus on their holiday and end-of-year giving.

One of the best ways to get involved is in your own community.