GULFPORT -- They were waiting for Grandma, a niece from Massachusetts, a brother-in-law who served four tours of duty in Vietnam, a handsome and successful youngest son and a half-sister arriving to start a new tradition.
Flights at Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport on Tuesday brought families together, and the lobby was filled with holiday excitement.
Jennifer Peterson, 41, of Gautier, was thrilled to see her half-sister Melony Basscarr, 44, again. They are reconnecting after years apart. Basscarr lives in Florida and was willing to leave her family of eight children to spend the holiday with her half-sister and a new family. They share a father, who also lives in Gautier.
Peterson loves big family events and Basscarr came for a week to be part of a potluck, fried-turkey Thanksgiving with sweet potato casserole.
"We bond; we catch up," Peterson said of her new relationship with Basscarr. This is their second Thanksgiving. "We rediscovered each other two years ago and we've gotten to know each other. We're very similar. We both use sarcasm. We look like Dad. It's easy to talk to her, or we're comfortable in silence.
"We have fun whether shopping or just at the house."
Peterson's children hugged their aunt and helped hunt for her luggage before they skipped through the lobby. Peterson was beaming.
She was a kid when she first discovered she had a half-sister. They reconnected through Facebook at
a time in her life when she really appreciates family.
"This is special," she said.
A nephew he's never seen
Patricia Herring helped with a baby as she waited for her brother-in-law, Louis Herring, who was flying in from El Paso, Ill.
Her husband died nine years ago. Louis Herring will be here for the anniversary of his brother's death, and for Thanksgiving.
Louis Herring served four tours of duty in Vietnam, his sister-in-law told others who waited for family members.
"He will also get to see a great-nephew he's never seen before."
Siblings share Grandma
Michele Summerson of Long Beach and her children watched through the glass for her mother, Doris Olevnik of Venice, Fla.
It's their turn to have Grandma for Thanksgiving. Her brother in Washington state gets her for Christmas.
"My brother and I trade," she said.
"There's Grandma," they shouted. And when Olevnik burst through the crowd, there were noisy kisses for everyone. Smiling faces received them.
The family also hosts a Thanksgiving that includes "whatever sailors are left behind in my husband's company."
Her husband, David, is with the Fleet Survey Team at NAVOCEANO at Stennis Space Center.
Word Guild Taylor, 80, of Biloxi, arrived at the terminal an hour before her son's flight from New York landed. She spent the time talking about him.
"He's the youngest. He's handsome, not married and 48," she said. "He's gorgeous."
He worked at the White House during the Clinton years, then quit and moved to New York without even having a job, she said. "I told him, 'You don't go to New York without a job,' and he did anyway.
"He'd charm you to death," she said. "I'm his mother and he charms me to death."
He found work at the United Nations and the New York Board of Trade before landing with a British finance firm that "handles more money in a day than the U.S. government," she said proudly.
She has four sons in all -- two of them doctors -- and a daughter in New Orleans, where they will drive to spend Thanksgiving with at least 10 family members.
Taylor's husband died in August after almost 60 years of marriage, so she called off family Thanksgiving at her house. He loved to fish. They counted 57 fishing poles in his workroom, she said. Taylor is independent, however, and making her own decisions -- sell the family home and move to a gated community.
As the aircraft arrived, she was almost beside herself looking through the glass for her son. She grilled early passengers to make sure it was the right flight through Atlanta. He was one of the last to get off. Then came the hugs.
John Fitzhugh, Sun Herald staff photographer, contributed to this report.