Photography by Jessica Turner

The Lake Highlands Women’s League has averaged 15 new members over the past four years, but that doesn’t mean their new initiates are rookies. Most, like Missy Thomas Richardson, have a long history of service in the community and ties to the neighborhood.

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Richardson is a graduate of Lake Highlands High School and longtime Young Life leader for LHHS students. Her mom, Martha Thomas, and her aunt, Marian Davenport, were both members of the league, and two of her childhood homes were part of Holiday in the Highlands, the group’s annual home tour fundraiser. In 1980, the year she turned 8, her home at 8956 Aldwick Circle was included in the league’s inaugural tour.

“I remember getting to sleep over with my cousins and the house looking very nice,” Richardson says. “My mom and my uncle, Floyd Davenport, worked together to get it ready.”

When Richardson was in ninth grade, her family purchased 10031 Ferndale from family friends Ruth and Gene Stallings. Stallings, like many former Dallas Cowboys coaches and players, lived in the neighborhood when the team’s training facility was at Forest Lane and Abrams Road.

The tour used to be more about Christmas decorations,” Richardson says, “and my mom revamped most of her decorations for that 1992 tour. She did one kitschy tree and one formal tree with beautiful, breakable ornaments. My grandmother handmade a bunch of Disney character and nursery rhyme ornaments, and I still use them today. Back then, having two trees was a novelty, but lots of people do it now.”

After they moved in, Richardson’s parents ripped the wallpaper off the wall of her bathroom, intending to replace it. Then they got distracted by other tasks.

“Now I understand they were busy, but my bratty 15-year-old self started writing messages on the walls. Then my friends joined in, and it became this thing,” Richardson says. “Even the adults loved it. For the tour, my parents brought a graphic artist over to add color, and they left the writing up. That would never happen today.”

Photography by Jessica Turner

Richardson will volunteer in a house on tour day, and it might be the home of Stephani and Robert Walne. Stephani joined LHWL in 2018, and Robert currently serves as president of the Exchange Club. Like Richardson, they have memories of the tour from younger days.

“I remember my mom baking for the bake sale and making crafts for the bazaar,” says Stephani, whose mom, Eileen, is a member and opened their Sanshire home for the 1989 tour. “We stayed with my grandmother while my mom got the house ready.”

Robert’s grandmother, Frances Walne, joined the league in 1970, and his mom, Joan, served as president. His childhood home at 10020 Caribou Trail was on the tour in 2002.

“I reflect back now and understand how important it is for your kids to see you working to give back to the community,” Stephani says. “It’s something my parents did and Robert’s parents did – making an impact and giving back to those in need.”

Stephani and Robert married after college and moved into White Rock Valley. She remembers taking the day off work and rounding up girlfriends to attend the home tour long before she joined the league. Some were LHHS graduates, but some had recently moved to Uptown or The Village from towns all over Texas.

“It was fun as young adults to see all the homes,” Stephani says. “We made it a girls’ day, then it was girls’ night out the year of the ice storm.

“Once you’re here, you get it,” Stephani continues. “The tagline ‘Small town in a big city’ nails it on the head. We have access to restaurants and arts and all sorts of amenities, and we’ve got great schools and great people with that small-town support you want when you are raising kids.”

And the Walnes have a houseful – Lucy is in seventh grade, Brett is in fourth and twins Jack and Charlie are in second.

Photography by Jessica Turner

“Robert and I definitely live in this house. All the kids’ bedrooms are upstairs, so that’s where all the rough living happens, but it happens down here, too,” Stephani says. “We don’t want to live in a museum. This is our home. This is where we’re doing life, and visitors will see that when they walk through.”

This will be Richardsons’ first year working the tour, so she’s inviting friends and clients from around the metroplex to buy a ticket and seek her out.

“It would be fun to make it a girls’ trip – go to lunch, do some shopping and enjoy the tour,” Stephani says. “It’s worth it. You get to see lovely homes and be part of something bigger. You’ll be helping high school seniors go to college.”

Homes on this year’s tour are: Morgan and Thomas Farrow, 9215 Cliffmere; Casey and Matt McCann, 9215 Westwind Court; Jennifer and Reed Wilcox, 9024 Aldwick; Stephani and Robert Walne, 9667 Rockpoint Court.

The home tour will be held 9:30 a.m.-7:30 p.m. Dec. 3. The four- course luncheon will be served 11 a.m.-1 p.m. at Highland Oaks Church of Christ. Tickets may be purchased at The holiday market, also at HOCC, will run 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Admission is free.