Horace Necaise Jr.'s dream was to be the oldest, still-active volunteer fireman in Mississippi. The family believes he missed his goal by two years.
The friendly, hard-working 78-year-old known as "Junior" joined the volunteers in 1968. One time, speeding down U.S. 90, he was bounced off the fire truck by a big bump and broke several ribs, but he never gave quitting a thought.
At Christmastime, Necaise climbed ladders to hang holiday lights. He was there, too, for all the necessary fund-raisers for a small-town fire force - the ticket dinners, the draw-downs, the golf tournaments. A source of pride was two firefighter sons, one a volunteer, one a regular in Pass Christian, where Junior had served as city alderman in the 1970s.
Necaise, from a family with colonial 19th-century roots, lived and died on the historic DeLisle family compound. He made his living as an ironworker foreman, helping to build the Mississippi Coast Coliseum and area schools.
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"We have said over and over that he taught us the value of hard work and the importance of a good education," said Polly Cuevas, one of his seven children.
Proof lies in the bait-shrimp business he and his late wife, Annie, ran to pay for all the children's college educations. Necaise also trawled for shrimp and always began the summer season with the city's blessing of the fleet to assure a safe and prosperous season.