Gina Watson feels at home at museum
by Margaret Anderson
Special to The Star
Oct 02, 2013 | 1270 views |  0 comments | 31 31 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Gina Watson of Saks was young when she began accompanying her grandfather, Robert Holmes, when he visited his friend, John B. Lagarde at his home outside Piedmont. She enjoyed the visits to the Lagarde home overlooking a large lake and got to know him.

For the past 18 years, Gina has worked at the Anniston Museum of Natural History, of which Lagarde was a founding member. He donated a collection of over 100 mounted animals he brought back from his African safaris to the museum.

Gina is in charge of the education programs for the Anniston Museum Complex, which includes Anniston Museum of Natural History, Berman Museum of World History and the future Longleaf Botanical Gardens in Anniston. She manages volunteers, schedules school tours, plans public programs and events as well as fund-raising events.

“I’ve always loved the museum,” she said. “I grew up going with my granddaddy to Mr. Lagarde’s home in the Spring Garden area. So working at the museum is kind of like coming home. I remember it like it was yesterday, being in Mr. Lagarde’s home and seeing all the animals he had.”

Gina was born at Piedmont Hospital and reared in Piedmont. She is the daughter of Pat Watson and the late Frank Watson, who owned Watson’s Drug Store for many years. Her siblings are Sherri Heath of Piedmont and the late Derek Watson.

Her son, Brett Barnes, is self-employed and will marry Kristin Dawson on Nov. 1. Her other son, Ashley Watson and his wife Caroline live in Tallahassee, Fla., with their 5-year-old son, Lefevbre. Ashley is a singer and songwriter and works for Verizon Wireless.

“Growing up in Piedmont was a wonderful experience,” she said. “It’s a great community. I have very happy memories of living there. I’ve been very excited about the success of the school system. It’s such a valuable asset to the growth of the community. It’s a beautiful little town.”

After graduating from Piedmont High School, she attended the University of Alabama and received a degree in secondary education from Jacksonville State University. She taught middle school science in Gwinette County (Ga.) before moving back to Alabama to work at the museum.

She is a member of El Bethel Christian Assembly Church in Oxford and currently volunteers with the Kyle Comfort Foundation, helping with its annual 5K run, which will be Nov. 9.

This is the first year she’s failed to plant a vegetable garden in a long time.

“My schedule didn’t allow it this year, but also the rain kept hindering everything,” she said.

Gina enjoys traveling, while riding behind her significant other, Scott Williamon, on his motorcycle. She likes to collect hand blown glassware and enjoys going to glass factories to purchase the pieces.

Gina admits that she’s never been the best cook in her family. She said that title goes to Scott, her mother and her late grandmother, Mildred Holmes.

Gina said most of the cooking she did when she was young with her Grandmother Holmes, who cooked three meals a day that always included breads and desserts.

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Tomato Pie

Discovered at my favorite restaurant in Atlanta, Ga., Mary Mac’s Tea Room

2 large cans diced tomatoes (I love fresh tomatoes but the can ones do fine)
1 Box Ritz crackers- crush in sleeves
2 medium onions
1 ½ cups extra sharp cheddar cheese
1 C grated Parmesan
2 C mayonnaise
3 T. chopped fresh basil (I buy the small spice shaker)
1/3 C olive oil
¼ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. ground pepper

Butter (I spray with olive oil) 13 x 9 baking dish. Spread two sleeves of crushed Ritz and layer the bottom of the dish. Pour 1 can of tomatoes (partial drain) over crackers. Sauté onions in olive oil, salt & pepper until tender.  Layer ½  of the onions onto the onions.

Add 1 sleeve of crushed crackers.  Pour the second can of tomatoes over it.  Add other ½ of onions.  Combine mayo, cheeses and basil in separate bowl.  Mix well and spread over the last layer.  Top with last sleeve of crushed crackers.  Bake at 350 until golden brown.  I sometimes drizzle butter on the top to get that golden brown finish.

Simple Beer Bread

You can use any type of beer you want but my advice if you won’t drink it, don’t cook with it. One of my favorite beers to make this bread with is Warsteiner Oktoberfest, but Miller Lite will do to. Generally, a more flavorful beer makes better bread.

3 c. self-rising flour
1 c sugar
1 (12 oz.) beer.

In a large bowl, mix together the sugar and flour. Add beer and continue to mix. Batter will be sticky. Pour into a 9 x 5 inch greased loaf pan.    Bake at 350 degrees F for about 50 minutes. The top will be crunchy, and the insides will be soft. Serve topped with butter or cheese spread. (test it by sticking a toothpick in it like a cake- if it is clean it is done)

Simple No-Cook Banana Pudding

My son’s and now my grandson’s favorite- to make it even better in the summer put it in the freezer for a couple of hours and you have banana pudding ice cream. It is luscious.

1 Box Nilla Wafers
Approx. 8 - 10 ripe bananas (my boys love bananas)
1 lg box instant Jell-O Vanilla pudding
1 lg box instant Jell-O Banana pudding
1 tsp. vanilla
1 lg container of Cool Whip

Combine both pudding flavors and mix them as directed on the box.  I add a little extra vanilla just for flavor.  Layer the bottom of the bowl with Nilla Wafers, add a layer of bananas and then spoon in the pudding. 

Continuing this layering until the bowl is full.  Finish it off by covering it with a thick layer of Cool Whip.  I love to add some crushed roasted pecans when my family will let me.  It combines the sweet with the salty.  And of course if you want, freeze it!

Beef Stroganoff

Makes 6 to 8 servings

2 pounds ground chuck
½ tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper
4 oz butter
1 med onion-diced
4 tablespoons all-purpose flower
1 can condensed beef broth
1 tsp mustard
1 container of sliced portabella mushrooms
1 cup sour cream
1/3 C white wine

Cook ground chuck and drain off fat. Season with 1/2 teaspoon of both salt and pepper. In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter, add the onions and mushrooms and cook slowly for until tender.  Remove mushrooms and onions.

Stir the flour into the juices and pour in beef broth and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Lower the heat and stir in mustard.  Add in beef, onions and mushrooms. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Five minutes before serving, stir in sour cream, and white wine. Heat briefly then salt and pepper to taste. Serve over cooked rice or noodles
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Gina Watson feels at home at museum by Margaret Anderson
Special to The Star

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