In some cases, that feeling of connection to home is dormant for a very long time before it is revived.
After Hurricane Katrina’s destruction of the Golf Coast in 2005, jazz musician Travis Riddle made his way back to West Virginia with his family after being
away for 20 years. Riddle grew up in southern West Virginia, but his love of playing jazz led him first to California, and then to New Orleans, where he played with greats such as Pete Fountain, Joe Williams, Oliver Felix and the Dukes of Dixieland. While living in Louisiana, he received a Ph.D. in music education from the Union Institute and University.
In 2005, Hurricane Katrina forced Riddle, his wife Wendy and their three children to evacuate. Upon returning, they found their home destroyed and themselves without much money. That’s when he decided it was time to come home to West Virginia.
His unofficial “welcome home” occurred during a stop at a Wal-Mart when someone noticed his Louisiana license plate and left him $40 and a note, welcoming him to the state. Other assistance his family received included help with their hotel bill and furniture for their new home.
“My wife grew up in New Orleans but loves it here,” Riddle says. “There’s a laid-back, gentle atmosphere and attitude here.”
Both Travis and Wendy Riddle have made the most of this new opportunity for a better life in West Virginia. Wendy attends the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine in Lewisburg. Travis is a music teacher at Meadow Bridge Junior-Senior High in Fayette County, where his passion for music has grown the school band from four to more than 50 members.
He also still performs with his New Orleans style jazz group, “Travis Riddle and the Bourbon Street Sound,” every weekend at the Brier Inn Club in Lewisburg.
“My fondest memories of growing up are of the fall season, family-night ball games and Indian summers,” Riddle says.