Hurricane Katrina

Residents defy limitations of their ages

The stories in this series are not written by professional journalists, but by journalism students at the University of Mississippi.

The students went to where Katrina had been to find new life - beyond drywall and contractors - and they found it in the everyday rituals of some Gulf Coast residents.

These stories aren't about Katrina's victims, but about people whose lives signal resiliency and rebirth in a region trying to renew itself. We will profile seven of these South Mississippians this week.

Though past retirement age, the people profiled here aren't slowing down - too much to do, too much to become.

The students, part of a documentary writing class at Ole Miss, focused on aspects of their everyday lives - from new interests to old passions.

Retired music teacher and opera singer Betty Bittner is working to save the Live oaks in her neighborhood from those who might think they won't sprout leaves again. Photographer Austin Lindsey knows more about the latest cameras than many teens and has a special room in his house devoted to his digital toys.

Gail Cotton looks for renewal as she rebuilds her home and her life.

Singer Gigi Hines still dreams of strumming her guitar to stardom. John Kelley, a civil service engineer at Keesler Air Force Base for 34 years, joyously cooks meals for the hungry at his church.

Some find relaxation in work. Others work hard at relaxing with friends.

Restaurant owner Yvonne Mallett treats her customers like family and says she never gets tired of seating them for dinner. Alice Eldridge, a grandmother, keeps her social circle spinning like a performer with plates on sticks.

The writers, editors and photographers are Michael Atkins, Oxford; Allison Buckley, Meadville; Carly Dickson, Ocean Springs; Victoria Hiles, Roanoke, Va.; Alexis Lognion, Biloxi; Susie Penman, Jackson; and Matthew Sharpe, Chalmette.

Mark Dolan is an assistant professor of journalism at the University of Mississippi.

The series

Seven South Mississippians who are defying the storm and age are being profiled this week by students at Ole Miss:

Today: John Kelley

Monday: Yvonne Mallett

Tuesday: Gail Cotton

Wednesday: Betty Bittner

Thursday: Gigi Hines

Friday: Alice Eldridge

Saturday: Austin Lindsey