By Mark Stanley and Tracy Steely
Cheryl Gray is a local artist who paints “funny little flamingos using a mixed media.” She also paints with watercolors and acrylics. After her children left home for college, she began taking watercolor classes in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. “I had always loved art and enjoyed doing crafts at home. But because I homeschooled I never had the time to take classes.” Her husband Steve found that the South Mississippi Art Association offered both pottery and watercolor classes, so she signed up. She took both classes each week for almost four years before they moved to Florida. She and Steve have lived in Walton County almost seven years.
Cheryl and Steve have a large family of five children and eight grandchildren. It’s a good thing they love to travel, because the children are scattered across the United States. Cheryl is also a “big-time” dog lover. “My dogs are my babies!”
What is your favorite thing about Walton County? “I love living here! There is always something to do. I love the art community and the opportunities there are for artists. Oh and of course, I love the beaches! There’s nothing better than a beach sunset.”
What local business makes you the most nostalgic about our community? “I love the little giftshops like Big Mama Hula Girls and Blue Giraffe. My favorite coffee shop is Black Bear Bread Co. in Grayton Beach. My favorite places to go for lunch with a friend would be Basmati’s and The Vue. For an evening outdoors you can’t beat dinner at The Bay. But really, there are so many good restaurants in the area it is hard to choose a favorite.”
If you could choose anyone alive today to have lunch with, who would it be and where would you have lunch? “I think I’d like to have lunch at The Vue with Chuck Swindoll. He had a huge impact on my life. Even at the age of six, I coveted what he had. He was the assistant Pastor at my church, and I watched him very carefully. He was different. He had a joy and passion for Jesus and for everyone around him. I knew I wanted what he had and accepted Christ as my Savior as a result. Later in life his radio broadcasts and books helped me through some very difficult times.”
Name something on your bucket list. “I would love to go to England. Not necessarily to London but to the countryside. Maybe do a Jane Austin tour.”
Where do you see yourself in five to ten years? “I hope still living here. Painting, serving Christ and traveling to see my kiddos!”
What is something interesting that most people don’t know about you? “I used to manage an oil field service company that Steve and I owned. Besides daily paperwork, I would call clients and drive my pickup out to the oil well sites to check on our men.”
Finally, what advice would you give to people? “First to love Jesus with all your heart and your neighbor as yourself. There has never been any advice better that that! And second, to do things even if you’re a little scared. My little granddaughters had this conversation just this morning while watching a show:
N: “Oh, I’d be so scared!”
V: “Yeah, I’d be scared but I’d do it anyway.”
N: “Yeah because if you’re scared it actually means you’re brave!”
Their mom: “Being scared equals a chance to be brave”
Tracy Steely and Mark Stanley are the hosts of a community website called The Faces of Walton County. The project aims to showcase the diverse residents of our community, one Face at a time. To nominate someone for an interview visit www.thefacesofwaltoncounty.com or call Tracy at 850-803-9822.
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