Phi Mu Lady Week at the University of Southern Mississippi recently took on a very special meaning for a 1954 Phi Mu pledge, Dell Mechatto Martin of Belzoni, Miss.
Referred to as 'Lady Dell' by friends and family, Martin was one of the founding members of the university’s famed Dixie Darlings in 1954. But due to a relative’s untimely illness, Martin decided it was best to leave Southern Miss and help her family.
After 58 years, Martin returned to Southern Miss during the 2012 homecoming week, finally getting her justly deserved initiation into the Alpha Omicron chapter of Phi Mu. Martin was only a freshman when she had to leave, and therefore never became an official member of the sorority.
“It’s just a dream come true, I finally get to experience sisterhood after 58 years,” Martin said during a reception in her honor on the Hattiesburg campus.
During a Southern Miss homecoming game in 2009, Martin met Phi Mu alumna, Carr Murphy Brown. Their meeting was rather serendipitous. Brown saw Martin in her Dixie Darling uniform and asked for a picture with her father. Martin and Brown started talking and connected instantly about their love for Phi Mu, with Martin sharing her story with Brown.
From there on it was Brown's mission to ensure Martin, who she said personified every characteristic of a true Phi Mu, be approved and initiated in the 2012 Phi Mu Lady Week.
"We became the best of friends, we had lunches and talked for hours," said Brown of her new friend. "When she told me about her situation and that she had never officially been initiated, I knew what I had to do."
Since Martin's approval from the sorority’s national office in Georgia, Brown has become one of Martin's big sisters and guard in the Southern Miss chapter of Phi Mu.
Martin was decorated with the traditional pink and white of Phi Mu at the reception after her initiation last week. She was showered with gifts and adoration, and appeared as elated as any other pledge.
Denise Hrdlica Rowell, a fellow Phi Mu alumna, has also been at the forefront in making the initiation happen. “Lady Dell has a big heart and a mighty spirit," Rowell said. "Phi Mu values love, honor, and truth, and she embodies all of those ideals.”