Pass couple credited for inspiring Katrina-shattered neighborhood

PASS CHRISTIAN, MS (WLOX) - By Trang Pham-Bui – bio | email

PASS CHRISTIAN, MS (WLOX) – Joyce and Chuck Linkey were just five days from moving into their new house on Lemoyne Road when Hurricane Katrina hit.

"The water came up to here. So everything below there was damaged and covered with mud," explained Joyce Linkey as she showed some before-and-after-Katrina pictures of her kitchen.

Joyce remembers well the long months spent gutting the home.  There are so many other memories she wants to forget, like the smell.

"Like a garbage dump. Oh, it was so bad," she recalled.  "Our son came down from Madison, MS, and helped us and the kids begged us to move out of here."

"All the devastation was here. You drove down the street, you felt sick," said Chuck Linkey. "Even coming in and out, you'd say, 'Who in the world would want to live here?'"

Yet the Linkeys chose to stay, even though Katrina destroyed or flooded dozens of homes in their Pass Christian Isle community. And the couple hoped that by rebuilding their house, their neighbors would also return.

"We lived out here two years with absolutely nobody.  You woke up in the middle of the night, you didn't have street lights. You didn't have nothing.  So there was a lot stress just in that," said Chuck Linkey.

Mr. Linkey used his own tools and skills as a contractor to repair the house. He saved all of his tools when the couple evacuated before the storm, not realizing how handy they would be later. He also offered to lend his tools to his neighbors.

"My door was always open on the shed here," he said. "If they needed a tool, they just came in and got it and brought it back. I never lost one tool."

"Many times we borrowed tools and even our contractor would borrow their tools sometimes," said his neighbor Sydney Wall.

Sydney Wall and her husband returned to the neighborhood two years later. And not long after that, three more families came back, including Dr. Sharon Sofford.

"I bought this property 25 years ago as of this year, in hopes of retiring here.  And I've reached my goal," said Sofford.

They credit the Linkeys for encouraging them to come home.

"It was certainly wonderful to see them here and to see them working so hard to be here. So that was certainly an inspiration for sure," said Wall.

Life is a lot brighter now for the Linkeys. Joyce has taken up art.

"Look at the birds and all the trees," she said, holding up a vibrant painting. "I got acrylics, pastels, oils, little bit of everything."

And Chuck still uses his tools, mainly for minor home repairs.  The Linkeys have had their share of challenges over the last five years.

"Chuck had five bypasses, and a lot of that was attributed to all the work and the stress of the storm. So we had a house though and we had each other," said Joyce.

And their determination has helped bring their tiny neighborhood back to life.

"This is a wonderful place to live. It is," said Joyce.

"We got a gorgeous view here. I mean, you walk out on the porch, you got the little park across the street. We just love it.  It made our community right out of this little neighborhood."

Katrina destroyed or severely damaged 1,800 homes in Pass Christian.  Since then, the city has issued 1,100 certificates of occupancy.

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