Jerry Gist of Biloxi relished his beach bum status.
"Jerry was a strong person, but a real gentle person at the same time," his friend and former co-worker John Porter said. "He was slow to get mad, but if you made him mad, you better get out of the way."
Gist, in his late 40s, frequently wore a do-rag and a walrus-style handlebar mustache. He worked at Famous Joe's Oyster Bar in Biloxi, preparing oysters and doing whatever needed to be done.
Porter said Gist enjoyed the job because it afforded him the time to enjoy his beach bum status during the day --- hanging out at the beach and fishing and crabbing, and at night it was a chance to socialize with the Famous Joe's customers.
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"Jerry always had a big smile on his face and liked to talk to customers," Porter said. "Once, someone asked if he was 'Famous Joe.' He said, 'No. I'm just a lowly worker.' "
Originally from Lake Elsinor, Calif., Gist had been on the Coast for about 10 years.
He stayed at the Tivoli hotel-motel on the beach in Biloxi when Katrina struck and perished along with seven of his friends.
"He had finally made it to the top of beach bumism," Porter said of his friend. "He was a kind-loving person who loved the Coast. He was the kindest person I ever met."