When Beverly Gunnels worked at Marine Life Oceanarium in Gulfport as a teenager, she was so busy feeding creatures in the fish and shark tank that she didn't notice she was about to swim into the belly of a shark.
A co-worker pulled her out of the tank, and that ended her foray with sharks. Her mom refused to let her go back to work, and the story went into family lore.
Twelve years ago Gunnels moved to Pass Christian, a town she and her husband Larry, a retired lawyer from Chicago, picked because of its warm winters, friendliness, charm and nearness to her childhood.
The 61-year-old "Babs" loved to stay in touch with her Gulfport High Class of 1961.
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The couple met when she was a flight attendant for Braniff Airline. Dressed in the traditional leopard print uniform and pillbox hats of that era, he couldn't help but notice her. Then her personality and sense of humor won him over.
"She was just a beautiful woman," said son Warren Gunnels of Odenton, Md., legislative director for U.S. Congressman Bernie Sanders.
Gunnels also had an interesting family history that includes invention of the antiseptic pain reliever Campho Phenique and a mother who was twice chosen as Miss Illinois.
Widowed in 2004, Gunnels moved to a Gulfport apartment to be even closer to her childhood roots. As Katrina approached, Gunnels went to the North Biloxi home of friends, where she usually weathered storms. She did not survive the surge.