Business

2019 Spirit of the Coast award winner has ‘heart and soul’ to spare

Dick Wilson, center, was named the 2019 Spirit of the Coast award winner on Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019, at the Mississippi Gulf Coast Chamber of Commerce annual meeting. From left are George Schlogel, Liz Joachim, Wilson, Kathy Springer and Chevis Swetman.
Dick Wilson, center, was named the 2019 Spirit of the Coast award winner on Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019, at the Mississippi Gulf Coast Chamber of Commerce annual meeting. From left are George Schlogel, Liz Joachim, Wilson, Kathy Springer and Chevis Swetman. meperez@sunherald.com

He was completely surprised and accepted the 2019 Pat Santucci Spirit of the Coast award with humility and a tear.

A crowd of 500 applauded Dick Wilson as he was presented with the award Tuesday during the annual meeting of the Mississippi Gulf Coast Chamber of Commerce at the Beau Rivage Resort & Casino.

Wilson joins a roster of other well-known business and community leaders who have been honored since the first award was presented 30 years ago in 1989.

He traveled the world while serving in the United States Air Force, and was stationed at Langley, Area 15, Okinawa, Korea, Thailand and Vietnam, among other bases, as a pilot and instructor. He become a lieutenant colonel in June 1973 and he was stationed at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, and among his many awards are the Bronze Star, Meritorious Service Award and Air Medal.

He stayed on the Coast when he retired in 1976, and continues to honor veterans and help organize the annual Veterans Day parade among his many community activities.

“Dick has been such an active member of the community including the Mississippi Gulf Coast Chamber of Commerce for many years,” said Adele Lyons, CEO of the chamber.

“He has given his heart and soul to make this community a better place,” she said. “He is the perfect recipient for the Pat Santucci Spirit of the Coast award.”

Wilson was owner of Wilson Fishing Camp on Biloxi’s Back Bay and worked for Biloxi and in 1995 opened Art-FX Studio/Gallery in Gulfport with his wife and son, Marty. He served as the president of the board for the Mississippi Vietnam Veterans Memorial and was president of the Biloxi Chamber of Commerce in 1995.

Past winners

The Pat Santucci Spirit of the Coast award recognizes an individual who has made contributions of significance in the field of business for the past year. Criteria are ethical conduct, reputation, recognition, leadership, credibility. Winners are:

  • 1989 Walter Williams
  • 1990 Roland Weeks Jr.
  • 1991 Pat Santucci
  • 1992 Jerry O’Keefe
  • 1993 Bruce Stewart
  • 1994 Bill Peden
  • 1995 Alton Bankston
  • 1996 George Schloegel
  • 1997 Lucimarian Roberts
  • 1998 George Thatcher
  • 1999 Gene Warr
  • 2000 Ron Peresich
  • 2001 Dwight Evans
  • 2002 Tim Hinkley
  • 2003 Jim Williams
  • 2004 Mike Garrett
  • 2005 Janice Young
  • 2006 Chevis Swetman
  • 2007 Anthony Topazi
  • 2008 Ricky Mathews
  • 2009 Duncan McKenzie
  • 2010 Gerald Blessey
  • 2011 Jon Lucas
  • 2012 John McFarland
  • 2013 Elizabeth Joachim
  • 2014 Dorothy Wilson
  • 2015 Linda Watts
  • 2016 John Hairston
  • 2017 Jerry Levens

Award presented an annual Gulf Coast Chamber meeting in Biloxi

Gulfport accountant Jerry Levens was presented with the Mississippi Gulf Coast Chamber of Commerce’s Pat Santucci Spirit of the Coast award during the organization’s meeting at Beau Rivage in Biloxi on Tuesday.

Mary Perez is the business and casino reporter for the Sun Herald and also writes about Biloxi, jobs and the new restaurants and development coming to the Coast. She is a fourth-generation journalist.


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