Birds, natural beauty of Galveston lured couple to island
High atop the cupola that crowns their Sportsman Road home in Galveston, Rex and Gayle Reynolds have a spectacular view of the wetlands, the bay and the sky. The southerly breeze is fleet, sweet and salty.
Above this pastoral seascape, a trail of majestic pelicans sweeps low over the water, then rises and sails gracefully toward the bay. The Reynolds watch in wonder; it’s something they never tire of seeing, they said.
“We love the pelicans and the egrets and the herons,” said Gayle, who is a painter. “Watching the birds is one of the joys of living by the water.”
The couple owns The Water’s Edge Studio & Gallery, 1302 21st St. on the island, and a “nuts and bolts” business in Houston that Rex started in 1974.
He’s a lifelong fisherman and Gayle paints waterscapes. They were drawn to the island long before they made a permanent move.
The house was designed in 2000 and is modeled after an early Galveston landmark, the 1839 Samuel May Williams house, which Gayle admires.
It rises from the lip of the bay with a long view of South Deer Island, Confederate Reef and the distant arch of the Galveston causeway.
The central staircase, 63 steps from bottom to top, winds through the core of the house with its high ceilings, wall-sized windows and wide, comfortable porches perfect for pondering the beauty of the natural world.
These stairs are part of a daily workout regimen for Rex, who starts at his home gym on the lowest level and climbs to the tower where he rings the captain’s bell and Gayle calls up, “Well done.”
Her colorful seaside paintings decorate the light-filled rooms, along with paintings by friends. One sketch depicts Rex and their son, Mike, fishing off the pier while the grandchildren, Jake and Paige, watch from a window; another has Rex launching one of his hand-built wooden dories into the bay.
“It’s a pretty great lifestyle,” Rex said. “We work all day and then we enjoy a happy hour. We sit out on the porch, sometimes the front, sometimes the back, depending on which way the wind is blowing, and we solve the world’s problems.”
Rex prefers the winter months because he likes to fish after the sun goes down, he said. He catches speckled trout and the occasional redfish or flounder — and he’s often shadowed by a friendly night heron that waits for his share after the fish are cleaned.
The Reynolds are native Texans — he was born in Dallas and she was a rancher’s daughter from 12 miles outside of Beeville. They met while Rex was at Texas A&M University and she was at Sam Houston State University.
“In those days, we would go to Huntsville to date one of the college girls,” Rex said.
He first met Gayle when she arranged a blind date for him with one of her girlfriends.
Before long, the charms of the “6-foot-2, blue-eyed senior” won Gayle’s affection and the two began dating.
After he graduated, Rex moved to Odessa for work. He was offered a job offshore in Grand Isle, La., and on his way, he stopped to see Gayle.
That visit shifted his world. He decided to forego the job and instead stay close to her, a decision he never regretted. They were married the next year and have been together for 54 years.
The Reynolds first lived in Friendswood, where she had a teaching job and he commuted to a metal works company in Houston. They eventually bought a home in Bellaire. During the years of raising a son, coaching sports and building a business, the Reynolds were frequent visitors to the Gulf and also began snorkeling in Belize.
In the 1990s, they purchased a weekend house in Jamaica Beach, and then they bought a building on 21st Street in Galveston.
“Rex wanted to build wooden boats and I wanted to paint, so we decided to share a studio space in Galveston,” she said.
Reynolds took boat-building classes in Brooklin, Maine, for three summers and has built six wooden dories; one is on display in the gallery.
Lately, his interests have shifted to building wooden Adirondack chairs. The chairs are sturdy, expertly crafted, high enough to see over a beach house railing and perfect for porch sitting. He already has several orders but is taking his time and finishing them as he can, he said.
The couple finds the Sportsman Road community sociable and close-knit.
“We’ve been lucky,” Rex said. “I can’t imagine a better place to live. You have to be ready to deal with a few problems like hurricanes and frequent repainting because of the salt, but having all of this, the beauty and the birds, outweighs the rest.”