BILOXI -- Frances Creel laughed when she recounted one of her favorite stories about her lifelong friend, Genevieve Creel.
"We were in the 11th grade and we heard Elvis was in Biloxi," she said. "About six of us girls when to see Elvis at the Gulf Hills Resort and Elvis was by the swimming pool. We hung around him and took pictures with him."
Genevieve Skrmetta Creel died Sunday at age 76.
"We're just in shock," Frances Creel said. "We have been friends since kindergarten. But like her daughter told me, 'She's dancing in heaven with Elvis.' She loved to dance and she loved Elvis."
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Point Cadet to Back Bay
Frances Creel said she had been friends with Genevieve Creel since they were about 5 years old.
They started kindergarten together and graduated high school together. The two were such good friends they even married men with the same last name.
"We grew up together on Point Cadet," Frances Creel said. "We later both married Creels and we lived down the street from one another in Back Bay."
Frances Creel said she will remember her friend for many things, including her dancing abilities.
"She was a great dancer," she said. "She hurt her knee a few years ago and she was upset that she wouldn't be able to dance for a while.
'She always had a smile'
Genevieve Creel was the next to youngest daughter of Croatian immigrant Peter Skrmetta, better known as "Captain Pete," the founder of Ship Island Excursions.
Louis Skrmetta, who operates the business his grandfather started, said his "favorite aunt" was always there to lend a hand with the almost 90-year-old family business.
"Genevieve was always a part of the business," he said. "She was raised on Ship Island."
Skrmetta said his aunt had a calming presence at the family's business.
"She had that rare combination of not only being beautiful, but she was also very sweet and smart," Skrmetta said. "She always had a smile and she warmed you when she was around you."
Creel's cousin, Biloxi Mayor Andrew "FoFo" Gilich, said she was very proud of her Croatian heritage.
Proud to be Croatian
"I worked for the Skrmettas on the Ship Island Ferry from the time I was in the ninth grade until college," he said. "Genevieve's family did a lot for Croatian immigrants."
A longtime member of the Slavonian Lodge, Genevieve Creel was to be installed as the president of the club's ladies auxiliary in January.
"She just loved life," ladies auxiliary president Faye Misko said. "She was proud of her Croatian background and her family's history in Biloxi."
Friends of Genevieve Creel said she dedicated her life to her family.
"She loved her family," Biloxi city spokesman Vincent Creel said. "Family and faith were the cornerstones of her life."