STEPHEN HEMELT — ‘Greater Port Arthur The Magazine’ is ready for you

Published 12:05 am Sunday, July 31, 2022

It was early June when I first talked to Mark Nesmith.

The local artist and teacher was celebrating the fact that Longview Museum of Fine Art was displaying 74 of his paintings as part of an extended exhibit.

That display lasts through Sept. 24, so there is still plenty of time for a day trip and discovery.

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One thing we talked about back then that I didn’t have time to expand on was Mark’s physical recovery from a major car crash, as well as a late-2020 COVID-19 diagnosis.

The two combined calamities led to treatment for six herniated discs that were pressing on his spinal nerve.

Physical therapy followed, as well as receiving epidural treatment.

None of it helped.

“It got bad enough that I could barely use my right arm,” he said. “I could use it to open a door, but I had to stop playing music. I’m a musician. I play guitar. I teach music and art. I had to stop performing gigs and couldn’t paint with my right hand. I couldn’t stand to hold a paint brush or stand at an easel and move my arm around.”

Mark told me he had a decision to make at that point: give in to pity or focus on what he could do with what he had.

Calling upon a true artist’s spirit, Mark chose the latter.

That decision, what it meant to his career as an artist and his ultimate recovery are the focus of one of the stories in the current edition of Greater Port Arthur The Magazine.

Just hitting newsstands this week, Volume 4 of the popular Southeast Texas lifestyles magazine is chock full of spotlight features uncovering some of our region’s most interesting people, places and events.

A particular highlight is the cover story on Hunter Courts, a vocalist with immense talent and a “doing-it-his-way” throwback style.

“Most of the music I perform is the classics like Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Tony Bennett, Bobby Darin and Andy Williams,” he said. But he also digs later musical staples like “Billy Joel, Elton John, Tom Jones, Jim Croce and Bread.”

Hunter, in his mid-20s now, was diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome as a child and battled through neurological disorder to craft his on-stage persona.

He followed his passion of singing and acting with a simple goal to bring great joy to audiences.

His determination has become a present to us all.

A special treat in this edition is a retrospective examination on the Godfather of Cajun Music Harry Choates from premiere history writer Mike Louivere.

His song, “Jole Blon,” became the only Cajun song to make the Billboard Top Five charts.

It reached No. 5 and after dropping, it returned to No. 5 six months later.

In 2014 Rolling Stone Magazine rated Jole Blon at 99 on its list of the top 100 country songs of all time.

Choates is buried in Calvary Cemetery in Port Arthur. His grave is marked with a white marble stone obtained through his service as a U.S. Army veteran.

Another great piece of this current edition is a submission from Madeline Martin, who works as an interpreter at Sea Rim State Park.

Her job involves a lot less translating foreign languages than the title implies. It’s more that she speak “park.”

“I help people understand our natural resources here at Sea Rim and connect to the area in their own meaningful ways,” she says. “If anyone has questions about animals or finds a weird plant they want to know more about, I’m your girl. I run all our programs here at the park as well as talk at outreach and education events around the area.”

There isn’t a better to way to learn about one of our region’s true gems then through the lens of Madeline Martin.

Those interested in picking up a complimentary copy can stop by The Port Arthur News at 2349 Memorial Blvd.

If you are interested in beginning a six-issue mailed subscription, call the office at 409-721-2400.

Volume 4 includes numerous stories celebrating family links, triumph from adversity and those actively making a difference in our community.

These are important stories and would not be possible without the support of advertisers and sponsors. Please consider their goods and services in the future.

Stephen Hemelt is the president of Port Arthur Newsmedia, which publishes panews.com and The Port Arthur News. He can be reached at stephen.hemelt@panews.com or 409-721-2445.