Biloxi honors hometown hero Fred Haise, Apollo 13 pilot with statue
BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - Sunday afternoon was a welcome home no one has earned more than Fred Haise.
The Biloxi native was greeted by about 500 people who gathered to the ceremony to celebrate him and witness the unveiling of the statue in his honor.
“It’s such a wonderful thing that they are honoring him today,” said Ocean Springs resident Charles E. Williams. “I can’t believe it. It’s such a wonderful thing.”
Williams remembers the turmoil of that ill-fated Apollo trip. And like millions of others, was joyous when the crew returned home safely.
“It kind hit home then, you know, that he was one of us, right here close by,” he said. “He survived.”
The crowd filled the Lighthouse parking area where the statue now stands. Guest speakers told of Haise’s influence and inspiration he continues to have in his hometown.
Before the unveiling, Haise had his hand print set in front of the statue’s base. The statue, created by artist Mary Ott Tremmel Davidson, is positioned to face north.
Haise, who has been honored all around the world, said this event was extra special.
“Well, this is home town and this is friends and family,” he said. “So, it’s certainly different that way. It’s where I spent a good part of my life growing up. It’s awesome. It’s really awesome.”
And he hopes the monument will serve as an inspiration, not about himself but about possibilities.
“We have a lot of problems in this country and in the world that they’re going to need young people to grow up and be capable,” he said. “And I hope a few of them will be from the Mississippi Gulf Coast.”
Among those gathered were Karla Johnston of Picayune, who carried a sacred memento given by Haise to her father, who was manager of the B-1 test facility at Stennis Space Center.
“I have a piece of the Apollo seat that was my father’s that he had signed years ago, and I was able to get him to sign it today.”
Also attending was Buster Tindel of Gulfport, who was in the Aerospace Recovery Service for Apollo 13.
He remembers his reaction when he saw in person the capsule’s parachutes open.
“It give me chills. It really did,” he said. “To think how close we come to losing some great Americans.”
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