Tony Valvano, 84, of Pass Christian, who always sent a card with a personal note to family and friends on their special occasions, wrote a final letter before the storm to his friend Tammy Walker of Gulfport. She read it after the storm.
"He told me," Walker said, " 'I am thankful John is going to get you away from the storm. I'm the captain of this boat, and I'm going to ride it out.'
"He would have stayed no matter how bad it was," Walker said.
That's the reason he died, said his friend, John Hans of Gulfport. "He felt that it was his job to be the captain of the ship for the Penthouse Apartments" where he lived. "He wanted to stay to make sure everybody was safe."
And that's the kind of person he was, extra sensitive, someone who made friends easily and seemed to care deeply for each one of them, Hans said.
"He tried to help everyone he could," Walker said. "You couldn't ever ask for a better person to have known." She said he loved the seagulls and fed them at least every other day; and he loved to go out and eat, forever looking for the best food in town.
Family members in New Jersey said he "had that rare gift to make every person feel special and important."