Hancock County

‘Unforgettable.’ Help build tributes to longtime mayor Tommy Longo in Waveland, Bay

Eight months after former Waveland Mayor Tommy Longo died, his friends and others will go to work to pay tribute to the three-term mayor who led the city after Hurricane Katrina.

Two events are planned on Thursday, Nov. 7, in Waveland and Bay St. Louis. Both start at 8 a.m., since rain is possible that afternoon.

In Waveland, a ribbon cutting ceremony with color guard begins at 8 a.m. at the Ground Zero Museum, 335 Coleman Ave. Several live oak trees will be planted there, and two 10x10 foot pergolas constructed. Raised garden beds also will be established at the Ground Zero Museum for neighbors or local organizations to grow fresh vegetables or plant flowers.

A pergola also will be built at Our Lady of the Gulf Catholic Church in Bay St. Louis, with a dedication planned at 11 a.m. Fourth-grade students at Holy Trinity Catholic School, where Longo’s wife, Marcia, is a teacher, will receive seed packets and educational materials about the importance of environmental stewardship.

Former CNN correspondent Kathleen Koch posted on Facebook that she is excited to participate Thursday, saying “Please come out to support the effort and celebrate Tommy’s legacy!”

“Mayor Longo’s devotion to rebuilding the Waveland-Bay St. Louis area after Hurricane Katrina was unforgettable,” said Barbara Roueche, Troy-Bilt brand manager, who also will be at the events. “He inspired confidence in recovery efforts and understood the importance of building community spirit to help get things done.”

Longo had his own challenges during Katrina, besides restoring a city that saw 95% of its homes and 100% of businesses damaged or completely destroyed. He had a knee replacement four days before Katrina, and the storm tore away his cast and washed away his crutches.

Gail Cunningham, former senior vice president of Keep America Beautiful, was in Hancock County on Aug. 22 to help plan the events, although she won’t be able to attend Thursday after being injured.

She’s been working to help communities across South Mississippi recover from Hurricane Katrina since 2006, when thousands of volunteers from across the country showed up to help.

“We don’t need thousands of people this time,” she said.

After the major infrastructure repairs to were addressed, Waveland was chosen in 2009 as the kick-off city for the Keep America Beautiful national campaign.

It was thrilling to see Longo’s energy and commitment, Cunningham said. She drove around Waveland with Longo to select projects, as she did with all the mayors, and said it was hard not to put all the projects he named on the list. They chose five Waveland projects and an eight-mile litter walk that she said showed how much of an impact each person could make.

The public is asked to bring gardening tools and sign up for volunteer activities at Planet In Action, or show up at the ribbon cutting in Waveland.

Among the volunteers and sponsors will be the Navy Seabees, Gulfport Home Depot, Knights of Columbus, Silver Slipper Casino, Waste Pro and Chiquita Fresh North America.

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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.