Charm school founder dies

Published 7:19 am Friday, July 1, 2016

Dixie Gallaspy, a longtime Bogalusa resident and civic supporter, died on Tuesday.

She was 81.

Gallaspy, the wife of attorney and watermelon farmer John Gallaspy, is remembered as an active part in the community and a supporter of numerous activities and a longtime promoter of manners through her charm school.

Gallaspy’s charm school, The Smoky Creek Summer School for Girls, was a week-long introduction for girls to the world of etiquette, health and poise.

The school attracted national attention in 2002, when the Associated Press ran a story about the charm school and it appeared in papers across the nation.

In the story, Gallaspy articulated why she thought charm schools still had an important place in the world.

“The basic thing is this: Both parents are working, they’re sending their kids to the best schools they can afford, but they just don’t have any time left over,” she said, in the article. “A lot of these little girls are growing up without any kind of domestic understanding. I’m trying to recapture those skills.”

The school also attracted the notice of Bogalusa native son Steve Richardson, who made a documentary about the school. That film made its debut in April.

Gallaspy did more than teach girls the fundamentals of social charm. As the owner and founder of Dixie’s Designs, an interior design firm, she brought taste and class to businesses and homes across the region.

The Rev. Bill Moon, the pastor at Elizabeth Sullivan Memorial United Methodist Church, was Gallaspy’s minister and a friend. He said Gallaspy was a longtime active member of the church and for years she taught Sunday school there.

“She taught Sunday school class for years, and she had a good sized class,” he said. “She only recently gave that up. It hasn’t been that long ago. When she was sick, she tried to find someone to handle it and only recently … she very reluctantly gave that up.”

Similarly, Moon said that as recently as several months ago, even as she was sick from cancer, Gallaspy had expressed interest in holding one more summer school session.

“She so much wanted to do one more of those,” he said. Moon said he had thought about sending his granddaughter until it became obvious there wouldn’t be a class this year. Still, he said, he has heard from former students that the class made a lasting impact.

“We heard from people who went through that years ago and what a difference it made in their life,” he said.

Gallaspy supported other causes, as well. Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards named Gallaspy as a charter member of the Louisiana State Commission on Women’s Rights and closer to home, she lent her support to the Bogalusa Blues and Heritage Festival.

Festival founder Malinda White said she was happy to have the support of Gallaspy and her husband, both of whom cut the inaugural ribbon at the first festival.

“I was excited they were a part of that,” White said.

White praised Gallaspy as well-loved in the community.

Moon remembered when he and his wife, Ann, first met her when they visited Bogalusa for the first time two years ago.

“I can tell you that she and John were among the first people we met here,” Moon said. “When we visited here, prior to moving, we spent the night out at Smoky Creek and she was so gracious to let us use the facilities while we were visiting a few folks in the community.”

Visitation will be at the Elizabeth Sullivan Memorial United Methodist Church from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. today, and from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. Saturday. Interment will be later at the Pelican Cemetery in DeSoto Parish.