BILOXI -- The family of Andrew M. Gilich Sr. had a couple of months to say goodbye before the Biloxi businessman died Friday at age 91. A funeral service will be Wednesday at Nativity BVM Cathedral in Biloxi.
Despite recently declining health, he fought to make it to his birthday Tuesday and celebrate with his children, grandchildren and extended family. He also wanted to watch baseball and see Tiger Woods make a comeback this week.
Gilich was an avid golfer, one of a group from the Coast who formed Sunkist Country Club.
Since he worked all week, he golfed only on Sunday, said his son, Andrew "FoFo" Gilich. "For a man who could only play on Sundays, he did very well," he said.
These last weeks of his life gave Gilich Sr. a chance to talk about his four holes-in-one on four different courses. Gilich told his family he hit one at the old Edgewater course, one at St. Andrews, one at Gulf Hills and one at Sunkist.
He also recalled leaving Biloxi in 11th grade to fight in World War II. With his maritime roots in Biloxi, he captained a 50-foot LCM transport boat in the Philippines.
"Truly the greatest generation that he came from," his son said.
His 11th grade education took him far, but Gilich saw that education was key for his children. "There was no question I was going to college," his son said.
Together with his wife of more than 50 years, Jacobina Sekul Gilich, they ran the first grocery stores in East Biloxi -- City Hall Grocery at Main and Howard and later the Foodland Supermarket on Judge Sekul and Porter Avenue, the first in the area to have aisles and carts.
Like many Biloxi businesses leaders, both of Gilich Sr.'s parents came to South Mississippi with little money or education.
"He was very proud to be Croatian," his son said. "Innovation and intuitiveness would make you succeed."
Gilich Sr. started building apartments across Biloxi and had a very successful career, his son said. He also enjoyed a large extended family and except during the war, Gilich lived all his life in Biloxi.
FoFo said he wanted to be just like his dad. "Everything he did as a kid in high school I wanted to do," he said. His dad was on the boxing team. "I boxed," his son said.
They also played partners in the Slavic Invitational Golf Tournament for more than 30 years.
"I've got great, great memories of him," his son said. "He was a true Biloxi gentle man."