For 58 years, Don and Miki Vaughan lived, loved, and raised a family in a little red house on Tangerine Avenue.
It’s impossible to enter the home without seeing some piece of the past: a wall of line measurements of their kids, Don’s wooden carvings; a bench the two completed together. Most of the home renovations Don did with his own hands.
In April, 2021, Don died from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
“Don, he never got flustered. I never remember seeing him angry … he was the peacemaker, always calm, always in control,” Miki said. “I’ve got a temper, but he wouldn’t fight. I broke a lot of glasses, slammed a lot of doors. He was my rock.”
For most of his life, Don seldom left Miki’s side. This is the longest she’s been without him.
We Just Danced
Miki’s family owned the now-closed Murphy’s Pharmacy in Gulfport. Don’s family went to the pharmacy, but they never spoke; never ran in the same circles.
Miki thought nothing of the tall, skinny blonde kid she went to school with. He wasn’t her type. She never dated anyone her own age, and she wasn’t interested in jocks.
“I couldn’t stand kids,” Miki said. “A lot of the teachers thought I was a teacher.”
They passed each other in the halls their entire childhood, but it wasn’t until they were in their mid twenties, both divorced with children, that they connected.
At 26, Miki had moved back in with her parents and stayed home most nights. Her father was sick, and that left little time to worry about meeting anyone. Until one night, she hesitantly agreed to head to Gulfport On The Rocks (the current site of Hurricane Eddies) with some friends.
‘I was never much for bars, but I went with them,” she said.
She saw Don across the bar and recognized him from her high school days, but thought nothing of it. A few minutes later he asked her to dance.
“I remember thinking ‘I want to stay here the rest of my life’,” Miki said, a sentiment that took her by surprise. “Don went home that night and told his mother, ‘I know who I’m going to marry’.”
Miki, a straitlaced, strong woman with no room for absurdity after her recent divorce, had met her match. Don was always smiling, quick to forgive, and slow to anger.
It’s little wonder why their initial connection was so strong.
“Well, we didn’t have a choice,” Miki said.
Ying and Yang
That was 1962. In 1963 they were married and living with their three young children from previous marriages.
They never left Gulfport, and watched the city grow for six decades.
“We just kind of blended our family,” Miki said. “I can’t say we had a lot of problems.”
Don was a building engineer with Allstate, and Miki owned a utility collection business in Tyrone Square.
But life was never about work with them.
I hope this can bring hope to someone else out there. Things like this can happen.”
The inseparable pair volunteered for the Gulfport Community Players, created art together, went out dancing in Gulfport, and did everything in between.
Miki briefly owned a small gallery on Gulfport Boulevard, Salmagundi, where she would sell her paintings and he would sell his carvings.
“Basically everything we did, we did it together,” Miki said.
Her two children, Kim and Marc, died in 2008 and 2015, respectively. Peyt, Don’s son, lives nearby.
“I’m just saying when I lost him, I was lost,” Miki said. “The kids are gone, Don’s gone, all I have are the cats and the yard.”
Sometimes there is no moving on. That doesn’t mean she regrets a moment of her life with Don. Instead, she remembers the love of a lifetime.
“But this isn’t meant to be a sad story about a widow,” Miki said. “I hope this can bring hope to someone else out there. Things like this can happen.”