Vicksburg’s Frances Koury wins state honor|[3/23/06]

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 23, 2006

Frances Koury says bringing a cultural event to Vicksburg reminds her of going to market back in the days of the family store, Koury’s Children’s Shop.

&#8220You want to bring the best, and it’s always a challenge. I enjoy that,” she said.

Koury, 80, has been an advocate for the arts and entertainment here for years, stepping up her efforts since she and her husband, Ellis, closed their Washington Street store and &#8220retired.”

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She’s been the coordinator of the city’s 175th birthday celebration, performances by the Mississippi Symphony Orchestra, the Fourth of July Pops Concert and fireworks display and the Four Seasons of the Arts program. She’s also the originator of the International Chamber Music Festival, which kicks off tonight.

In the midst of whirlwind activity surrounding the nine-day festival, Koury will be honored Tuesday as one of 20 Mississippi Ageless Heroes at an awards luncheon in Hattiesburg sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Mississippi.

&#8220I’m very excited about this honor, and I’m looking forward to the luncheon. Ed McMahon is the speaker,” she said.

Koury, a Waxahachie, Texas, native, moved to Vicksburg in 1943.

She began working as a secretary at First Baptist Church, where she’s still a member, and met Ellis Koury, a Vicksburg native, when he came home after World War II.

They married, and Koury and her husband took over the Koury family’s store, which eventually became Koury’s Children’s Shop. The store closed in 1997, and retirement freed her to become more active than ever.

&#8220In everything I try to do here, I think it’s important for our community to come together to experience culture such as world-class entertainment or the celebration of the founding of our city,” she said.

Koury said besides volunteering, another passion is children.

&#8220A lot of that comes from having the children’s shop for years and years. To see 3,000 young children exposed to the symphony for the first time is very rewarding,” she said.

Koury, the mother of three grown children, has no plans of slowing her volunteer efforts any time soon.

&#8220I enjoy the challenge and the interest in helping do something that’s beneficial to the community,” she said.

Koury is being honored in the New Beginnings category and is the first Vicksburg resident to receive the Ageless Heroes award. She was one of more than 300 seniors nominated by peers for the ninth annual awards program.

&#8220The Ageless Heroes program recognizes those who serve as role models in showing that age is not a hindrance in accomplishing great things,” said John Sewell, director of corporate communications for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Mississippi.

&#8220Mrs. Koury definitely stood out as someone who has donated her time and her talents to the community of Vicksburg throughout the years, and for that she should be recognized,” Sewell said.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Mississippi donates $500 to the charity of choice of each award recipient. Koury requested the donation be made to the Southern Cultural Heritage Foundation.

&#8220I asked that it be earmarked for children’s programming,” she said.