Dickinson resident returns to house damaged by Hurricane Harvey ready to celebrate the holidays
Dickinson resident Bonnie Dues knows a thing or two about resilience.
Dues, a child of the Great Depression who’d worked as a teletype operator during World War II, was working in an office near the Port of Texas City in 1947 when a ship carrying ammonium nitrate caught fire and exploded, causing the worst industrial disaster in the nation’s history.
She lost her husband in 1996 and has weathered many coastal storms during her 91 years.
When Hurricane Harvey in August last year hit her beloved town of Dickinson, inflicting extensive flood damage to hers and hundreds of other homes in the city, she took it in stride.
Returning to her remodeled house this year and being able to celebrate Christmas is a joy, Dues said.
“I’m home and ready for the holidays,” she said.
Dues told her family she wanted her house to look just like it did before Harvey, and, except for new furniture, it does.
Although several of her cherished Christmas decorations were lost to rising water during Harvey, many were in the attic above her garage, she said.
With the help of her daughters, this post-Harvey home is aglow with new life.
A newly purchased 9-foot tree in the living room is filled to capacity with nutcrackers, shiny red, green, silver and gold ornaments, a tree topper of gold-glittered fern, poinsettias, holly berries and red-glittered starbursts.
An old-world Santa collection across the room is displayed above the back windows. Below them, a white ceramic manger scene is flanked by two miniature trees and gold angels.
Tall red candles sit atop the fireplace mantle among an assortment of ornaments and poinsettias resting in a garland of gold netting.
The formal dining room table features a centerpiece of magnolia leaves, juniper and red roses. The chandelier, filled with ornaments, sparkly poinsettias and a red sequin waterfall, hovers over place settings for six. The garland atop the buffet picks up the color scheme, with two gold reindeers wearing shimmering poinsettias.
A small office adjoining the living room belongs to a life-sized fiberglass Santa as he sits in a chair reading “A Visit from St. Nicholas.”
“He’s a Harvey survivor, too,” said Dues, who never thought he’d be the same after the dirt, grime and water damage he endured.
A lot of elbow grease from her son-in-law had Santa looking like new.
Several of the Christmas figurines on Dues’ office bookshelf are by artist Jim Shore. Atop the shelving is an antique wooden bowl special to Dues, full of poinsettias, surrounded by four angels.
The master bedroom tree reflects the fashion style of Dues, who is known as “Mimi” to her family. Ornaments of teal and silver, a few dressy high heel shoes and a fancy hat add a personal touch.
A cozy den in back of the living room is where Dues spends most of her time. It’s here where an upside-down Christmas tree hangs from the ceiling.
“During the Middle Ages, Eastern Europeans would flip them to represent the Holy Trinity,” she said.
The tree is decorated with dolls and toys for the grandchildren. The theme carries over onto the coffee table that holds an assortment of toy Santas, a fire truck and wooden blocks.
The breakfast room is radiant with shades of blue and silver, another tree, cascading garland and a trio of angels sitting atop a stenciled chest that survived Harvey.
The area above the kitchen cabinets is draped with garland; two small trees are arranged atop a burlap tree skirt on the kitchen island below.
Although Dues is proud of her holiday home, she often reminisces about Christmases past.
“My parents were cotton farmers with very little money,” she said. “There were five children and we made ornaments from construction paper to put on a cedar tree we had cut down in the woods. We got one gift each, plus a stocking with fruit and nuts.”
Despite a few obstacles and unforeseen events, Dues has enjoyed a long career in real estate and previously worked alongside her late husband, Bob Dues, for many years.
“We met when I pulled into his Dickinson gas station in 1946,” she said. “By 1947, I was working for him, washing and greasing cars; I did a little of everything. We got married in 1949, and eventually got into the camper business.”
Dues smiles a lot when talking about her past, remembering those strips of construction paper and the smell of fresh-cut cedar. And although she appreciates the spectacular glitter and sequin décor throughout her home, one thing is missing.
“I’ve not been able to find a box of vintage ornaments that are special to me,” she said. “I’m hoping it might be somewhere in that attic above the garage.”