Hurricane Katrina

Ralph Madison, 51, Biloxi

Ralph Madison looked after his friends.

"I met him when he was homeless, and I was homeless, and he kind of watched my back," said Rita Baldwin, who runs Loaves and Fishes of Biloxi. "You've got to have someone watch your back when you're homeless, especially when you're a woman."

Madison, Baldwin said, was a drifter who had a hard time doing anything for very long, but he always looked after his friends and he was an avid crossword puzzle fan.

"No matter what was going on in his life, he would find a newspaper and do the crossword puzzle," Baldwin said. "That was his big thing, doing the crossword."

Madison had been in and out of the Coast area over the years, and Baldwin said she didn't know that Madison, who was in his early 50s, was back in the area when Katrina was coming. She thought he was in Florida with his ex-girlfriend. After the storm, however, she heard there were two people missing from the Seashore Mission United Methodist Church in Biloxi. One of them, she was told, was a new guy.

When the body was recovered a month after the storm, she learned the new guy was actually her old friend Madison, who was "new" only to a new worker at the mission.

"I know that he had a heart condition," Baldwin said. "The only thing I can figure is when the building collapsed he had a heart attack, because he could swim, and he would have tried to save others. He was a good person, funny and outgoing."

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