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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.

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Gail Maxwell

Gail Maxwell is in Senior Leadership at First National Bank in Cairo. A native of Grady County, she brings both her understanding of the community, as well as her background in finance to the Board of Directors.

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Richard Curtis-Chairperson

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. 

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Booker Gainor

Booker Gainor is a Grady County native who currently serves as Cairo’s mayor, as well as working at Florida A & M University in Marketing and Budgeting.  He has been active in our community serving as a math teacher at Washington Middle School before joining the staff at the University.  As mayor, he understands to impact the arts can make in small towns and works to build the impact of Pope’s Museum.

Additional-Board Members


Kristin Bailey

Kristin Bailey, Assistant Director. Kristin recently moved to Cairo from Tallahassee. While she works as a geologist by day, she has been involved in Pope’s Museum from its rebirth. She believes in the mission and has been boots on the ground serving as technical and graphics designer as well as being involved in research and application. Currently, she serves as the BOD secretary.

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Barbara Darus

Barbara Darus’s presence is a strength felt throughout this county in many capacities. She has served Grady County faithfully for 25 years after her move from Jacksonville, FL in 1975. Currently she is in her 8th year serving as Grady County Tax Commissioner.

2024 Sponsors of the Museum

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Grace Stallings

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