Shell Knob native active in Coast Guard Auxiliary
Partial owner of Century Farm shares love of water, history
To say Penny Bailey loves the water would be an understatement.
Bailey, a native of Shell Knob, is a public affairs officer with the Coast Guard Auxiliary in her hometown, and after spending many years away from Shell Knob, she's enjoying living back near her roots and helping to keep people safe on Table Rock Lake.
Bailey was born in Cassville and lived in Shell Knob until the age of 18, when she moved to Kansas City, Mo., where her older brother and sister lived.
She worked at a number of businesses, from baking to food service, but Bailey's love of water eventually took her in a different direction.
After meeting her husband, Phil, while moonlighting at Denney's in Kansas City, the two traveled the county sailing, hoping to eventually live on a sail boat.
"We couldn't find a boat we could agree on," she said. "We found one in California and were going to go to Washington state, but the situation was nothing like what we were told it would be, so we put our tails between our legs and moved back to Missouri. It was nice to be back with my family and near my roots, and I've always had a love of Barry County."
It was not long after moving home that Bailey found a way to stay on the water, as Phil saw an ad in the newspaper calling on people to join the Coast Guard Auxiliary.
"We rebuilt our house and then Phil saw an ad in the paper and said we were going to join," she said. "We both love the water and love to volunteer. I'd almost say we're professional volunteers."
It was not long after joining that Bailey worked her way up to training public affairs officers for the National Coast Guard Auxiliary, leading to even more travel for the couple.
"I would do three-day courses for the public affairs officers in places like California, Baltimore, Md., Miami and Cape Cod, Mass.," she said. "The National Auxiliary then picked Phil up because they saw all he could do."
After doing so much traveling, the Baileys came home and began doing more work on Table Rock Lake.
"We used to go out every weekend and on holidays on Table Rock Lake," Bailey said. "We take the cruiser out on patrol some days and personal watercraft on other days."
Bailey said over the 11 years as an Auxiliary member, she has seen some interesting things on Table Rock Lake.
"Last year, there was a boat on fire and Phil had to used his personal watercraft to tow it to shore so the fire department could put it out," she said. "We were on patrol on Fourth of July weekend once, and saw two people on a personal watercraft, and after a bit, that turned into just one person. There was a guy in a life jacket in the water, and when we asked him what he was doing, he said he just wanted to go for a swim.
"About 45 minutes later, we saw a different person drive the same boat back up, and it turned out the guy's girlfriend had kicked him off the boat."
Whether on patrol or teaching free boating safety courses, the Baileys have made their mark in Shell Knob, boasting the best flotilla in a 16-state district for the past two years.
Bailey also said the Auxiliary is looking for new members, and anyone interested in volunteering with the Auxiliary is welcome to join.
While not on the water, Bailey has another area she likes to spend her time -- her family's Century Farm that overlooks an area from Shell Knob to Berryville, Ark.
Following the Civil War in 1891, Bailey's family had 40 acres of land in Cassville, which they traded for 40 acres of land in Shell Knob owned by Isaac Brock, a practice that was common in those days.
"They used to say, you always know it's spring because people start trading properties," Bailey said.
Now, the nearly 200-acre Century Farm is part of the reason Bailey moved back to Shell Knob, and Cooper Mountain became one of her favorite thinking spots.
Bailey also keeps a firm grasp of the area's history, with many of the stories she tells having been passed down through her family.
"My mom and dad were older when they had me, so I had no siblings around and I would sit around and listen to the stories," she said. "I spent a lot of time listening to stories in my uncle Millard's store."
Having lived in Shell Knob since 2000, when she returned to the area, Bailey said between the history, family ties and Coast Guard Auxiliary, she is more than at home.