Back Home Again: Capt. Harry Bell
Harry Bell’s life is part of the rich tapestry that is the historical fabric of Pearlington. It symbolizes the spirit of Gulf Coast people and their story of survival.
When he passed away last week, this is how that life was commemorated locally:
Capt. Bell's life was fit for a novel
Joshua Norman, Sun Herald
How do you sum up the life of a man whose life story would put to shame the wildest imagination of the best novelist?
For Capt. Harry L. Bell's family, the answer is simple: You don't.
"He led an incredible life," said Brehm Bell, one of Bell's four children. "I can't encapsulate it. He was just a very gracious man."
Put simply, Bell, 72, was a tugboat captain, a New Orleans operations manager for T.E.C.O. Ocean Shipping, a bishop of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Waveland, and an avid supporter of the Boy Scouts.
That does not begin to describe the life of a man whose legendary stories include, among other things: being electrocuted; being shipwrecked several times; surviving a brutal car wreck and week long coma; plunging into a bay off a drawbridge on a motorcycle escaping a sheriff who did not like that he was dating his daughter; weathering countless storms at sea; swimming five miles on Lake Pontchartrain looking for help for a wounded fellow seaman; and, in one of his last heroic acts at the age of 71, piloting a small skiff through his Pearlington neighborhood as the eye of Katrina passed overhead, rescuing several people from crumbling homes to bring them back to safety on his shrimp boat.
Bell also took the fundamental doctrine of charity of his Mormon faith very seriously, his son said, giving countless interest-free loans to his neighbors and constantly stopping on the roadside to help stranded motorists.
"I know of at least two occasions where he'd just buy engines for them," his son said. "He had a shed of tools that he mostly would loan out to friends."
For Brehm Bell and his siblings, though, their father was above all else a waterman.
"When he was out on the water, he loved it," his son said, adding that he would regularly take the family out with him. Bell would often shrimp for fun and just give his catch to friends.
"Fishing and shrimping with him was the best of times," he said.