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Our Legacy Starts Here

Rekindling the Past

The Family Behind Pope’s Museum Resurgence

Dan and I might be the driving force behind the rebirth of Pope’s Museum, but South Georgia is not where our story began. Married over 33 years, Dan and I met in Tampa, Florida where “I chased him until he caught me”. It was in downtown Tampa where we began our life together, purchased our first home, a 1920s historic bungalow, and had two of our four children.

Dan was a computer technician, and I was an English teacher and administrator at a private school. Yet we always knew that Central Florida was not where we wanted to call home. Taking a leap of faith at the turn of the millennia, we quit our jobs, moved our two preschool sons to North Florida, and Dan began a career in law enforcement. Looking back, we are convinced it was a turning point for our family, but we did not know it then.

Living in Tallahassee, Florida for two decades, Dan provided for the family through the Sheriff’s Office, while I homeschooled our sons Jacob and Phillip, and worked as an educational consultant. We loved being involved in our community and our church, but most of all we loved being together. Poker and Uno game nights, day trips and hiking vacations in state parks were common ways for our family to spend time together. In 2007 and 2008, our family of four expanded to a family of six when we adopted Talisa and Ben after being their foster parents since their birth.  It was challenging to have two teenage sons and two infants at the same time! It often felt as if we restarted our family just as Jacob and Phillip were preparing to move into adulthood. During that time, I was invited to be a board member of Ladies Learning to Lead, teach classes at a local college and serve on a pastoral staff at a church in Tallahassee where, in all three situations, I was able to use the platform to showcase the importance of women in the history of our community, our churches and our culture.

All these details seemed to prepare us for the journey of a lifetime-restoring an abandoned national treasure and showcasing the trailblazing feminist Laura Pope Forester. What a journey it has been! As we settled on purchasing Pope’s Museum, we were preparing for a quiet life in the country with century old pecan trees, a guest cottage, and a 2 and ½ story older house, that though abandoned for years, had that “character’ that appealed to me. The mammothlike soft pink Japanese magnolias and heirloom camellias were in full bloom, and finding vintage roses under the brambles was a bonus! The arches and split staircase were wonderful, but finding the heart pine original floors caused me to shout with excitement! Having a large historic portico to use for hosting parties under was dreamy, but finding an entire brick patio beneath 28 loads of dirt and trash still makes me beam.

These aspects of the property are distinctive, but as I found out about the woman behind this amazing national site, the pieces all began to fit. Laura Pope Forester was blessed to have more than 4 decades of marriage to a husband who let her bloom in her gifts. Her artwork celebrated family, showcased solidarity, and expressed gratitude. She was a businesswoman who put the spotlight on others. Those principles are our principles as well. Laura’s story has become another page in our family’s story. In leading a group tour of the museum, making you a home cooked breakfast or hosting your wedding, our family will be working together to make sure that the legacy of this site continues.

Elegant. Joyous. Distinctive–

Award and Recongition

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Learn More About the Museum

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Board of Directors

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Michelle Dean

Michelle Dean, Executive Director and Founder of Popes Museum Preservation is inspired daily by what she sees in both people and places. As a literature teacher and public speaker, she knows that every person and place tells a story and that stories motivate people to dream grander, reach higher, and strive longer. Popes Museum is no exception. Using Popes Museum and its stories in a way that strengthens the relationships and the economy of South Georgia is what keeps her focused.


Daniel Dean

Daniel Dean, Property Manager, brings a hands on approach to the vision of Popes Museum. Dan has been married to Michelle for 29 years. Dan recently completed a career as a deputy sheriff. He works with property management and bookkeeping for both the museum and cottage sites. Additionally he and Michelle are the parents of four children.


Todd Butler

Todd Butler is trial lawyer whose home office is in Cairo, Georgia. He is originally from Pelham, Georgia. He is a Navy veteran, and he claims both Thomas University in Thomasville and Florida State University in Tallahassee as his almae matres. He graduated in 1999 from Mercer’s Walter F. Georgia School of Law in Macon. Todd is an avid supporter of education and the arts in southwest Georgia.

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Richard Curtis

Rich Curtis was born and raised in North Alabama. He received his BFA from the University of North Alabama in 2000. After a year of working at the Birmingham Museum of Art, he entered the graduate program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Curtis received his MFA in 2004. He is currently Assistant Professor of Art at Thomas University.


Della Lovett

Della Wheeler Lovett is the successful small business owner of Wheerlers Christmas Tree Farm and Mazie Daze Fleecery in Grady County. She is also the creator of the Elevate Artisan Market, which is Southwest Georgia’s premiere showcase for artisans and craftspeople from throughout the Southeastern United States. The market is held every October at her farm, featuring more than 150 artists and attracting over than 5,000 attendees each year. 


Ellen M. Jeter

Ellen M. Jeter’s interest is preservation and it stems from 25yrs of custom framing where she was personally involved with the cleaning and repairing of old family portraits and original paintings. Working with these personal treasures gave her a respect of rare family and community as well as national treasures. When she was asked to join the Popes Museum team, she was honored and excited to be able to use her experience to help preserve such a community and national treasure.

Non-Board Members


Kristin Bailey

Kristin Bailey, Assistant Director. Kristin recently moved to Cairo from Tallahassee, FL. She is a geologist by day, but has a passion for technology and marketing of Popes Museum. She manages the Popes Museum website, all social media accounts, and assists Michelle in planning and implementing activities and events for the museum.


Johnny Moore

Johnny H. Moore is the Senior Pastor of Family Worship Center, a steady growing congregation in Cairo, Georgia. He is also known as a motivator, encourager and equipper of pastors and leaders. He is the founder of AimHi Incorporated, a leadership development company,, a company that develops resources and materials for Rural Pastors and Churches, and the author of three books.

Sponsors of the Museum

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