Haise statue to land in Biloxi for birthday weekend

This week marks the 51st anniversary of Apollo 13’s launch, and the statue commemorating Biloxi native and Apollo 13 astronaut Fred Haise, which has faced challenges not unlike the space mission itself, is back on track toward a Nov. 13 dedication at its pedestal south of the Biloxi Lighthouse.

A preliminary look at the statue had been planned for April 13, 2020, the 50th anniversary of Apollo 13, but was postponed because COVID-19 and artist Mary Ott Tremmel Davidson being diagnosed with cancer.

“I must say, it’s been a long road, but it’s much, much better,” Davidson said the other day. “I’m working away, and I must say that having this project was a wonderful positive thing. Between the cancer and the virus out there, I could have a focus. I am very grateful.”

Davidson said the clay statue – an 8-foot likeness of a spacesuit-garbed Haise cradling his helmet – will arrive at a foundry in June, where it will begin a three-month process to create two sets of molds before the bronze statue is fired.

And the reaction so far? “People have told me that it captures his image,” Davidson said. “If I can do that, I will feel like it’s a good job.”

Plans are still in the offing for the Nov. 13 weekend; Haise turns 88 on Nov. 14. A number of community co-sponsors, headed by Mississippi Power and the Mississippi Development Authority, are involved in the project, which commemorates Biloxi’s most famous citizen.

Haise, who lives in Houston today, is one of only 24 astronauts to have gone to the moon.  At the site, Hurricane Zeta damaged nearby circular ballards in an area that will be known as “the Moonwalk,” but the pedestal for the statue, a six-foot tall circular concrete structure designed to represent the base of a Saturn V rocket, was unmoved.

“We’re already working on dressing up that area,” Mayor Andrew “FoFo” Gilich said. “We certainly were disappointed that COVID delayed things last year, and we’ve prayed for Mary in the interim, but the thing to remember is this: We’re doing just what Fred Haise did back on Apollo 13. You have a plan and you pivot as needed.”
Video: See an update and background on the Haise statue
Hear the Apollo 13 mission in real time

News & notes: Spring break, council agenda, traffic

Spring break: Biloxi Police estimate a crowd of 2,500 to 3,000 was in town over the weekend for spring break, promoted online frequently as Black Spring Break. Although barricades and traffic cones were in place, police implemented the traffic plan sparingly, having to limit left turns on U.S. 90 in West Biloxi briefly on Saturday.

Council agenda: Low-speed vehicles, such as golf carts, would be legal on city streets with a limit of 25 mph or less in a measure the City Council will consider at its meeting Tuesday afternoon. To see the measure and the complete agenda, click here.

Traffic update: See the latest on roadwork throughout the city by clicking here.