Jackson County

Joe Krebs soared as employee, dad, husband and leader

 Joe Krebs with his hand-built model airplane, The Cajun Queen.
PHOTO COURTESY JON KOPPISH Joe Krebs with his hand-built model airplane, The Cajun Queen.

A ride in a Piper J3 Cub when he was a 6 years old led Joseph Krebs Jr. to a lifetime fascination with airplanes.

As a teenager, he worked at a Pascagoula wool mill to earn money for flying lessons and became a licensed pilot at 17. His first passenger would be his future wife, Betty Jo Little.

Krebs died May 1. He was 84.

Little fell in love with the adventurous teen, a seventh-generation Krebs of Pascagoula, on a hayride on the Delmas property in Bayou Casotte, said their daughter, Deborah Horsley.

One of Little's friends had a date with one of Krebs' friends. "He told Joseph to come on and they'd find someone to go with and mother was the one they found," she said.

They dated for four years before saying "I do." Their marriage of 64 years gave them four children, 12 grandchildren, 11 great-grandchildren and one great-great grandchild, Cayden McNally, who will be 3 in June.

After graduating from Our Lady of Victories High School in 1949, Krebs joined the Air Force and flew in the Strategic Air Command in California during the Korean War.

Back home in Pascagoula, he started work at Ingalls Shipbuilding. Horsley remembers her dad heading off every morning with his steel-toed boots and hard hat, carrying a lunch pail filled with goodies her mother fixed for him. In his 39 years at the shipyard, he worked on 197 vessels -- from nuclear submarines to amphibious assault ships -- according to a plaque he was given at his retirement party. Among his prized possessions was a letter from President George Bush, who visited the shipyard in the '80s.

For almost half of his time at Ingalls, Krebs was director of the electrical/electronics department. Former Ingalls President Jerry St. Pe' told Krebs' family that Krebs was a meticulous professional who was extremely well liked by his co-workers, Horsley said.

"Anything he did, he did to the best of his ability, no matter what," she said.

That's the way he was raised, and those are traits he instilled in his four children as well, she said.

He applied that philosophy to everything he did, not just his job. A friend asked him to serve as a volunteer on a loan committee at a local business, which gave way to 33 years of service at Navigator Credit Union. In 1989, he was elected to the Board of Directors there and was named chairman of the board in 1995. He held that position for more than 20 years. "If it needed to be done, it was going to be done the best possible way," his daughter said.

In 2015, he was inducted into the Mississippi Credit Union Hall of Fame for his commitment, leadership and dedication to helping others achieve their personal goals.

Krebs knew the value of hard work, but he also liked to relax.

He'd take his three weeks of vacation at the shipyard in October so he could hunt in Colorado. In his retirement years, he'd take those hunting trips in Montana.

He was a licensed gunsmith and would build and repair weapons for himself and others.

Krebs loved to fish as well. He'd load up Betty Jo and the kids and head out on his boat, Sundowner, to fish for speckled trout and red snapper around Petit Bois and Horn islands. With the kids grown with families of their own, he'd rely on his buddies for his fishing fix, cruising the Pascagoula River in their boats.

About 15 years ago, Krebs reconnected with an old love -- radio-controled airplanes. He flew them with his children when they were young, but gave it up when his sons' football and baseball games took up his time. When his son-in-law, Russell Horsley, showed an interest in it, he picked up the hobby again. "My dad took him under his wing," Deborah Horsley said.

The two built planes together, flying them in fields in Ocean Springs and Irvington, Ala.

Krebs, born on Christmas Eve 1931, often joked he had been shorted at birth because his birthday was so close to Christmas.

Horsley said that wasn't the case at all. His family made sure he had plenty to open, both on Christmas Eve and on Christmas Day.

"He was spoiled rotten when it came to his birthday," she said. "He always got double presents."

Visitation for Krebs will be held Thursday, May 5, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Heritage Funeral Home in Moss Point.

Funeral Mass will be at Friday, May 6, at 11 a.m. at Our Lady of Victories Catholic Church.

The family suggests memorial donations be made to St. Mary's Catholic Church, where the Krebs attended church for 25 years after moving to Gautier. Donations also can be made to the American Cancer Society or any charity of choice.