Biloxi portraits: Mary protects this house

Dolores Barras Fifty-three years. That’s how long the Virgin Mary has protected Dolores Barras, through storms and hard times and even Hurricane Katrina.

Houses flooded, graves were uprooted in the memorial cemetery and caused destruction all over Biloxi.

“But Mary didn’t move,” says Dolores, a Catholic, from her front step, a few feet from where her statue stands beside orange sunflowers. “She’s never been broken or blown away. She has protected my house. I’ve always worshipped her and pray to her and she’s been there for me.”

Dolores grew up just down Division Street. Her childhood home was taken down to make way for the overpass. She and her late husband bought this home on Porter Avenue 55 years ago; fixed it up. Raised their kids.

“I’m not a person of change. I was Biloxi born and raised,” she says, “and they will bury me here.”

The Barras’ home had $500 worth of damage during Hurricane Camille. Katrina was “a bit meaner.” She was spared major flooding. Her sunken den got wet and the back bedrooms had damage. She lived in the front rooms until her god child came. Now, the Back Bay Mission is helping with repairs. Volunteers have replaced the 50-year-old aluminum siding. This week, Livingston CARES volunteers are brushing coats of paint on the house and making her shutters shine bright blue. Repairs are being made by the Back Bay Mission, which has provided support to low-income residents for 94 years.

She couldn’t make repairs on her own on her fixed income. It just pays her bills. Nothing extravagant, she says. No casino needed.

“This. This. At my age, I’m thankful,” she says, watching the volunteers climb up scaffolding with brushes, and laugh as they lean over the shutters in the front yard. “This is my lottery. This is my jackpot, all this work. I’m very, very thankful.”

The Virgin Mary statue