Nacogdoches County Chamber of Commerce names Grace Handler as Citizen of the Year

Grace Handler named Citizen of the Year
by Kelly Daniel, Nacogdoches County Chamber of Commerce

Grace Handler stands outside her downtown business Handler Insurance. Photo by Brandie Cosby, Bowsby Photography.

Grace Handler does a lot in Nacogdoches County. She does it well, and she makes whatever it is better.

She has been in the insurance business for 17 years. After working for two companies she made the decision to open Handler Insurance in April 2006 with an office location in the Williamsburg Plaza on North Street. The agency grew from offering life and health to the current list that also includes policies for property, commercial, homeowners and auto insurance.

When Grace arrived in the complex, Charlene Rees, G.G. and owner of Rees Jewelry, was one of the business neighbors.

“Things really changed around there,” Rees said. “Grace started off with a bang and organized either a Thanksgiving or Christmas pot luck lunch out in the hall. Up until then, that had never happened. It was great fun as we all brought our dishes and put our chairs in the hallway and had lunch and visited.”

Grace continued the neighbor-friendly acts by organizing a baby shower for another woman, decorating with others for Christmas and helping Rees host an open house, all while growing her business clients.

Handler and Rees became close friends, praying together during times of personal loss that each experienced.

When Rees decided to move her business to its current location at 418 E. Main Street, she invited Handler to join her. “I told Grace that it just so happened Ms. Rogers had an office for rent in the same building right behind my store,” Rees said. Grace accepted the invitation, and the two held back-to-back ribbon cutting ceremonies for their businesses on April 16, 2014.

Handler grew up in the Tampa, Florida area. She was born on May 12, 1965 to Clarence and Ethel Clements, and she credits her parents as her most influential mentors, providing a Godly home and teaching her and her three siblings to walk by faith. Grace enjoyed spending time with her family. She played clarinet in the school marching band and was deeply involved in her church, holding leadership roles in the Women’s Missionary Union (WMU).

After making her way to Texas in 1999, Grace met Bobby Handler. They married on December 11, 2000, and they enjoy living in Looneyville. “Bobby is my best friend who stands with me and understands my work for the church and community,” Handler said. “I have four children, Pricilla, Victoria, Mark and Brandie and I was then blessed with a stepson Chris. God gave me Bobby and my children, and they are each a wonderful gift. They encourage one another.”

After Handler Insurance was established, Grace recognized that she lacked relationships with the locals.

“I was on the road a lot, working the Tyler and Lufkin areas before opening my agency,” she said. “I have always liked to be involved with community and church, and I wanted to do more in Nacogdoches.”

She found her opportunity to make contacts through the Chamber.

Handler thanked several people for helping her “get her feet wet” with the Chamber: Neil Slaten, Tipton Ford, and Bill Teague invited her to join the first Total Resource Campaign in fall 2010; and Francis Spruiell, Austin Bank, asked her to chair Operation Thank You! in January 2011.

Chamber involvement grew from there. Handler is a Leadership Nacogdoches alumna, has served on the Chamber’s Board of Directors since 2013. She held the Vice Chair Membership Services position for the 2013-2014 fiscal year and has accepted the Vice Chair Special Projects and Fundraisers role for the new Chamber year that begins on Oct. 1. She chaired the Texas Blueberry Festival in 2014 and 2015, leading a group of approximately twenty key volunteers through the months of preparation required to produce an event that attracts thousands to historic downtown. She contributes her talents to numerous other Chamber committees and projects.

So many have benefited from her involvement with Habitat for Humanity of Nacogdoches, Christian Women’s Job Corp. (CWJC) of Nacogdoches and Adult Protective Services. Those that work with her in these organizations share a common observation – Grace brings joy in all situations.

CWJC Executive Director Helen Stevenson met Grace 16 years ago when they became next door neighbors.

“At that time, Grace was a single mother of four children. She was determined and working hard to build a business not just to survive but provide well for her family,” Stevenson said. “In January of this year, she joined our volunteer team at CWJC, and she is a perfect fit for our mission to equip and inspire women for a better future for themselves and their families.”

Handler is an instructor for a CWJC “personal finance” class that is offered free to attend.

“Grace brings not only her knowledge of personal finance, but her own real life experiences and victories to share with the women we serve,” Stevenson said. “Grace teaches and leads with understanding and genuine passion to help. She is investing in women’s lives and making a difference in our community.”

New home owners receive valuable financial knowledge from a similar program available through Habitat for Humanity.

Executive Director Miki Lynn credits Handler as a driving force in Habitat’s growth. “She has spearheaded the Home Owner Preparation courses, teaching most of the classes herself,” Lynn said. “She is the heart of our Family Support Team and has a wonderful and personal rapport with our clients. She has dedicated hundreds of hours assisting in planning and executing our move to the new location, including painting the interior of our showroom.”

Lynn described Handler as “a dynamic force” pushing for more efficiency and modern processes and is currently working to enhance the organization’s annual Golf Classic.

“She is a voice in the community for our mission,” Lynn said. “Grace has a way of getting things done and having fun at the same time. Her energy lifts up anything where she is involved.”

Handler recently became involved with Adult Protective Services, and she jumped in with the recent Senior Prom. “For some, this was the only prom they have been able to attend, and I had a special experience just watching them,” she said. “Dressing up and walking in, taking pictures, dancing was such a delight for all of us. I can’t explain the feeling of happiness in the room.”

She fundraises for the Lilbert-Looneyville Volunteer Fire Dept. and supports The O’Malley Alley Cat Organization and served on the board of directors as treasurer of the Friendship Cemetery.

She and Bobby host get-togethers throughout the year at their home that can compare to some festivals with the amount of activities, music and food available for their guests.

“Grace Handle is a giver of all givers!” said Jessica Henderson, Chairman of the Chamber Board of Directors. “When dealing in business, with family or friends, she makes a remarkable impact in people’s lives that seems to come as natural and easy as the sun rising in the morning and setting in the evening. She is truly a community role model, and it is an honor to announce her as the 2015 Citizen of the Year.”

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September 22, 2015: NPD Crime Report

This is a complete list of reports responded to by the Nacogdoches Police Department

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September 22, 2015: Nacogdoches Sheriff’s Crime Log

This is the report from the Nacogdoches County Jail that lists the arrests made from 6 a.m. of the previous day to 6 a.m. of the listed day.

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September 22, 2015: Nacogdoches County Booking Report

This is the report from the Nacogdoches County Jail that lists the arrests made from 6 a.m. of the previous day to 6 a.m. of the listed day.

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Agenda for Commissioners Court Friday, September 25, 2015

Agenda for Commissioners Court Friday, September 25, 2015

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SFA’s Aria/Concerto Competition winners to perform with Orchestra of the Pines

Ryan Brewer

SFA's Ethereal Quartet features Oswaldo Garza of Houston, soprano saxophone; Scott Augustine of Humble, alto saxophone; Rene Luna of Dallas, tenor saxophone; and Michael Chapa of The Colony, baritone saxophone.

The Orchestra of the Pines at Stephen F. Austin State University will present the program “Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue” at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 5, in Cole Concert Hall on the SFA campus.

The concert will feature winners of the SFA School of Music’s 2015 Concerto/Aria Competition, including Ryan Brewer, SFA graduate student from North Richland Hills and guest trumpeter, and the Ethereal Quartet, a group of undergraduate saxophone students.

Brewer will perform Johann Nepomuk Hummel’s Concerto for trumpet and orchestra.

“While I consider this work something old, written in 1803, Ryan’s playing is new, refreshing and technically brilliant,” said Dr. Gene Moon, director of orchestras at SFA.

For “something new,” the program moves forward nearly 200 years when American composer William Bolcom completed his Concerto Grosso for saxophone quartet and orchestra in 2001.

“Borrowing a compositional form from the Baroque period, Bolcom infused new elements to the old by using a saxophone quartet for the concertino, which will be performed by the Ethereal Quartet,” Moon said.

The members of the Ethereal Quartet are Oswaldo Garza of Houston, soprano saxophone; Scott Augustine of Humble, alto saxophone; Rene Luna of Dallas, tenor saxophone; and Michael Chapa of The Colony, baritone saxophone.

“Bolcom’s work infuses the styles of jazz and rhythm and blues into a tapestry of musical interludes and idioms,” Moon explained. “The quartet captivated the audience in the final round of the competition back in April and will do the same in the October concert.”

Nestled in between the two solos, the orchestra will present “Vltava” from Má Vlast by Bedrich Smetana. The work is one of six movements from Smetana’s tone poem suite and portrays two streams of water originating in the Bohemian Forest, Moon said. The musical narration describes the flow of water as the streams merge, grow larger and pass through various landscapes as well as a peasant wedding and the Vysehrad Castle.

The concert is a joint presentation of the SFA College of Fine Arts and School of Music. Tickets are $8 for adults, $6 for seniors and $3 for students and youth. For tickets or more information, call the SFA Fine Arts Box Office at (936) 468-6407 or visit

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Guest piano recital to feature music of Tchaikovsky, Chopin

Dr. Tali Morgulis, associate professor of piano at the University of Houston’s Moores School of Music, will present a guest recital at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 29, in Cole Concert Hall on the Stephen F. Austin State University campus.

The performance is part of the SFA School of Music’s Cole Performing Arts Series. The program is subtitled “Autumn Song for Piano A Cappella” and features works by noted composers Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Sofia Gubaidulina and Frédéric Chopin.

First on the program are three pieces from Tchaikovsky’s “The Seasons, Op. 37a,” including September: The Hunt, October: Autumn Song, and November: Troika (Russian Dance). The second work is Gubaidulina’s contemporary sonata, composed in 1965, which involves some playing inside the piano on the strings, according to Dr. Andrew Parr, professor of piano at SFA.

“The final work is the Sonata in B Minor, Op. 58 by Frederic Chopin, written late in his life,” he said. “This is a staple of the piano repertoire.”

Israeli-American pianist Morgulis has been described as a “pianistic firecracker,” who is hailed for performances that are “full of power and emotion,” Parr said.

“She delivers vivid, imaginative programs to an ever-growing international audience,” Parr said. “Her love of the standard repertoire and passion for chamber music and contemporary works have led to a variety of engagements with many of the world’s leading orchestras, ensembles and soloists in the finest concert halls.”

Morgulis studied at the Samuel Rubin Academy of Music in Tel Aviv and the New England Conservatory of Music. Her playing can be heard in music by Rachmaninov, Lutosławski, Janáček and Shostakovich on IPA Classics, and her second solo album featuring music by South American composers was released by Delos in 2013.

The artist will give a master class for SFA student pianists at 2 p.m. the same day in Cole Concert Hall.

Recital tickets are $8 for adults, $6 for seniors and $3 for students and youth. For tickets or more information, call the SFA Fine Arts Box Office at (936) 468-6407 or visit

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SFA trombonist Scott to perform eclectic program

Dr. Deb Scott, professor of trombone at Stephen F. Austin State University, will present an eclectic program of virtuosic solo trombone music in a recital at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 28, in Cole Concert Hall on the SFA campus.

The performance is a feature of the SFA School of Music’s Cole Performing Arts Series.

“Each piece is uniquely different,” Scott said of the program, “particularly the ‘Sequenza V’ by Luciano Berio, which is one of the most difficult solos ever composed for trombone.”

The program will also feature “Colloquy” by William Goldstein, which is a one-movement piece composed for wind ensemble and solo trombone using elements of jazz to balance sections of lyrical melodies with exciting technique, Scott said.

“There will be a special appearance of the famous European clown, Grock,” she added, “performing the somewhat controversial piece ‘Sequenza V.’ This musical theater piece by Berio uses ‘extended techniques’ for trombone, including circular breathing and multiphonics to create sound imagery.”

The recital will end with the well known “Flight of the Bumblebee” composed by Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov in 1899 and arranged for trombone by Christian Lindberg.

SFA piano accompanist Ron Petti will also perform.

Tickets are $8 for adults, $6 for seniors and $3 for students and youth. For tickets or more information, call the SFA Fine Arts Box Office at (936) 468-6407 or visit

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SFA’s First Friday Film Series to feature ‘Samsara’

The Stephen F. Austin State University School of Art and the Friends of the Visual Arts will present a free, one-night screening of “Samsara” at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 2, in The Cole Art Center @ The Old Opera House in downtown Nacogdoches.

Filmed over five years in 25 countries, “Samsara” is the non-verbal 2011 documentary from filmmakers Ron Fricke and Mark Magidson, the creators of “Baraka.” It is one of only a handful of films shot on 70mm in the past 40 years, according to information at

Samsara is a Sanskrit word that means “the ever turning wheel of life” and is the point of departure for the filmmakers as they search for the elusive current of interconnection that runs through our lives, the website said. “Samsara” transports audiences to sacred grounds, disaster zones, industrial sites and natural wonders. By dispensing with dialogue and descriptive text, “Samsara” subverts expectations of a traditional documentary, instead encouraging the viewer’s own inner interpretations inspired by images and music that infuses the ancient with the modern.

This screening is part of the School of Art’s monthly First Friday Film Series and is sponsored in part by the Nacogdoches Film Festival, William Arscott, The Liberty Bell, Nacogdoches Junior Forum, Karon Gillespie, Mike Mollot, Main Street Nacogdoches, David Kulhavy, John and Kristen Heath, Brad Maule, Galleria Z, Jill Carrington, Jean Stephens and Jim and Mary Neal.

The Cole Art Center is located at 329 E. Main St. For more information, call (936) 468-1131.

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East Texas Historical Association to present Lale Lecture Oct. 8

The East Texas Historical Association will present the 19th Georgiana and Max S. Lale Lecture at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 8, in the Baker Pattillo Student Center Grand Ballroom at Stephen F. Austin State University.

Dr. Robert (Bob) Krueger of Texas Tech University will be the guest speaker. This event is free and open to the public.

Krueger, a native of New Braunfels, has been a university professor and dean, businessman, and chairman of the Texas Railroad Commission, as well as a U.S. congressman, U.S. senator, U.S. ambassador on three occasions, and special representative of the U.S. secretary of state.

Krueger graduated from Southern Methodist University and received a Master of Arts from Duke University. He then earned a Master of Letters and a doctoral degree in English literature from Oxford University.

In 1961, he began teaching at Duke University, and after nine years as a professor, he became Duke’s vice provost and dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

Krueger returned to Texas in 1973 to take over the family businesses. In 1974, he won the election to be the U.S. representative from the 21st District. Following two successful terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, Krueger became the Democratic Party nominee for the U.S. Senate in 1978, an election he lost to John Tower. He next became U.S. ambassador-at-large and co-coordinator for Mexican affairs in 1979.

In 1993, Texas Gov. Ann Richards appointed Krueger to serve out the unexpired term of U.S. Sen. Lloyd Bentsen. When Krueger lost a special election to that seat in 1993, he became and still remains the last Democrat to serve as a U.S. senator from Texas.

Following his Senate tenure, President Bill Clinton appointed Krueger ambassador to Burundi, which began a defining point in Krueger’s life. His experiences witnessing the Rwandan genocide, and his outspoken defense of human rights led to an attempt on life in 1995. His book, co-authored with his wife Kathleen, titled “From Bloodshed to Hope in Burandi: Our Embassy Years During Genocide” details his involvement in this historic event.

The lecture series is named for Max and Georgiana Lale in honor of their support and beneficence. The couple married in 1938. Max served as the publisher of the Marshall Herald-Banner and was a tireless advocate of print journalism. He also wrote extensively on East Texas history and served as the president of the Texas State Historical Association and the East Texas Historical Association.

Max passed away in 2006. Georgiana volunteered and supported historic preservation efforts throughout Marshall and East Texas. She died in 1982.

For more information, contact Dr. Scott Sosebee, executive director of the East Texas Historical Association, at or (936) 468-2407.

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