Joe Gazzo was one of the first people I met after I strolled into the Sun Herald newsroom back in 1987.
Back then — before the Worldwide Web, text alerts and Facebook posts — Joe made the rounds as public information officer for the Highway Patrol in South Mississippi. He stopped by the newsroom often.
I remember our first meeting because he called me “darlin’.” I was young and full of myself, so I had to set him straight. “I’m not your darlin’,” I said, “so don’t call me that again.”
To his credit, Joe didn’t get gruff with me. He was too polite for that. We knew each other so long, I’m sure he called me darlin’ again at some point, but I never objected.
“Babe” was another favorite pronoun. This, I discovered, was an East Biloxi thing. And Joe Gazzo was, above all, a son of East Biloxi. He liked to drink coffee with the morning crew at McElroy’s Harbor House.
We took to exchanging hugs toward the end of his Highway Patrol tenure in 2008. He always had a smile and a few minutes to chat.
Law enforcement has never been my beat, but every reporter at the Sun Herald draws crime and accident stories along the way. Joe was always patient in answering questions. If he did not have the answer, he found one, even on a Sunday.
After he retired, Joe still stopped by the newsroom to visit, but I haven’t seen him in a couple of years. I did not know he had passed away until I saw the news today at sunherald.com.
Joe knew everybody. So many people are going to miss him. I’d love to see him stroll into the newsroom right now, baby blues twinkling, and ask, “How you doing, darlin’?”