She’s been a blonde, she’s been a brunette and she’s been in various states of undress.

She is a mermaid, the top of what appears to have been a three-tier water fountain that someone left on Magnolia Beach about two years ago.

And Brenda Hanselka recently staged an intervention for her after she got a bad tan.

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“I think someone wanted to give her a bronze look, but it was more of a bear brown. She looked pretty tacky, and people were saying that it was discriminating,” she said.

Hanselka co-owns Indianola Fishing Marina, so she took the mermaid to the marina and pressure-washed it. A rainbow of colors dripped off.

Then, Hanselka scrubbed it with acetone and mended one of the mermaid’s arms, which she said had been broken in five places.

Mermaid sighting has Magnolia Beach buzzing

Brenda Hanselka, co-owner of the Indianola Fishing Marina, creates the sign that will accompany the mermaid statue.

Some beachgoers looked forward to seeing the mermaid’s makeovers.

“I walk my dogs at Miller’s Point and see the mermaid change all the time. It’s kind of neat,” Wanda J. Middleton, 62, of Jackson County, said before Hanselka moved it.

Others thought each makeover was worse than the last. They said the mermaid marked the spot where someone had spread a loved one’s ashes.

“It almost seems like a desecration of a grave to me, and I know that’s horrible to think that way, but I can’t even go look at her after seeing the photos of what they’ve done to her,” Sherrie Hulsey McGaharan, 51, of Morales, said also before Hanselka relocated it.

Hanselka fell into the latter group. She said Calhoun County officials told her that the mermaid was considered abandoned property, so the people decorating it could not be charged with vandalism. They also said they might remove it one day.

At the mermaid’s new home in a flower bed at the marina, a camera watches for vandals.

The mermaid’s blue tail glows in the dark, and Hanselka hopes passersby will channel their creativity in a new way by painting a shell in memory of a lost loved one and placing it in the mermaid’s base.

Mermaid sighting has Magnolia Beach buzzing

Hanselka said she was concerned the statue would be vandalized, so she brought it to the marina to live on as a memorial to anyone who loved the sea.

“I already have people who are giving me shells,” Hanselka said excitedly.

Some took to Facebook to praise Hanselka for making the mermaid look classy, while others decried the mermaid’s new look as sterile and corporate, proving once more that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Jessica Priest reports on the environment and Calhoun County for the Victoria Advocate. She may be reached at or 361-580-6521.

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Former Environment/Investigations Reporter

Jessica Priest worked for the Victoria Advocate from August 2012-September 2019, first as the courts reporter and then as the environment/investigations reporter. Read her work now at

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