Longtime store owner grand marshal|[12/8/05]

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 8, 2005

ROLLING FORK – While celebrities in Christmas parades are usually spreading cheer to strangers, that won’t be true for one of Rolling Fork’s oldest entrepreneurs, Katherine Tingle.

As she waves from a convertible – weather permitting – tonight in Rolling Fork’s second annual Christmas parade, the nearly 79-year-old owner of Rolling Fork Flower & Gift Shop counts on seeing the faces of people who have visited her shop over the last 52 years.

As grand marshal, Tingle will be the first in a line of about 18 floats, three bands, 40 participants and jolly ole’ Saint Nick at the end.

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&#8220I know them all and they know me,” Tingle said. &#8220There are very few people I don’t know.”

It’s only natural that a person who has become such a fixture in the town of about 2,500 will be the first person parade-goers see. She believes the 4 p.m. downtown parade is a good idea for her beloved town.

Tingle moved to Rolling Fork with her husband, Charles Tingle, around 1952. She was reared in Neshoba County and taught school in Forest and Delta City before opening her flower shop in Rolling Fork.

&#8220I knew Delta City wasn’t going to have a school anymore, so I went to florist school in Jackson,” she said. &#8220It was actually Charles’ idea, but I ended up with it.”

The shop was an instant hit – especially because the nearest place to buy flowers back then was Vicksburg, about 45 miles south on U.S. 61.

&#8220The town had never had a flower shop. If they wanted flowers, they had to go to Vicksburg,” she said. &#8220So, when we came here, we were kind of in the limelight. The ladies with the garden club would love to come. In fact, there were two ladies who would buy things that I knew they had no use for – they were just trying to keep the doors open.”

Tingle quickly realized that the town was too small to support a flower shop alone. She soon added gifts, but it’s the flowers that have kept her right in the middle of the town’s activity.

&#8220We’ve married, buried and birthed most of these people,” said Tingle’s daughter, Kay Black. &#8220People call here if they see a funeral or wedding going on in town – we’re like the info center.”

Tingle and her shop have even become a sort of Christmas tradition to people in town. She and other workers, who include Black, begin preparing for the holidays as early as November and, as the bustle of the holidays picks up, the town’s people start coming in to order poinsettias, red ribbons and other Christmas decorations.

&#8220We’ve been here a long time – you know everybody,” Tingle said.

&#8220There is probably not anyone in this county that has not passed through these doors,” Black agreed.

Tingle said she is honored to have been chosen as grand marshal this year. It’s an honor that shows her devotion to Rolling Fork and the town’s dedication to her service.

&#8220I’ve always felt like anyone who walks through that door is my customer and everyone should be treated the same,” Tingle said. &#8220I just love these people – they’ve been so good to me. They’ve been great to me, so I’d have to love them.”

The Rolling Fork Christmas parade will begin at South Delta Elementary School and wind its way through downtown, ending at South Delta High School.v