Wednesday, July 19, 2006

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.


At Saturday, 09 September, 2006, Blogger Shannon said...

I took up with Mr. Harry the first time I spoke to him on the phone. My husband worked for him for many years and he'd call the house and say "hello darlin where's Sam" I still can hear his booming voice. To look at him one might think my my I wouldn't want to cross his pass and they would be right but to those that knew him and loved him knew he was one of the most gentle and loving men you could ever be blessed to meet. My children came to know him as the candy man due to the fact that he always had candy or cookies there for them, even when we would just stop in unannounced which was 90% of the visits. The day Sam told me of his passing was one of the hardest days I have ever had only to be compared to the day my own grandfather passed away. I still cry and can't imagine him being gone. I suppose that is in part because I never got to say good-bye. You see Sam and I were leaving the following day after his passing to bring our family on vacation; we were very torn between leaving and coming back or just staying at home all together. So we decided to go on and come back for the services but after talking it over and Sam rembering some advice Mr. Harry himself had given to a co-worker years ago "There is nothing you can do for him now come on in to work." We decided instead of making the 6 hour drive home and cutting the kids vacation short (which all that knew Mr. Harry knows that would not have been his wishes) decided to stay. It was a very hard desicion to make but we knew it was the one Mr. Harry would have wanted us to make. Please tell Mrs. Nancy hello for us and that we love her very much I am so sorry for not visiting but Sam nor I neither one can bring ourselves to come visit without him being there I do pray that soon we will be able to. Always thinking and missing one of the great ones. Thank you Mr. Harry for all of the advise and love you shared.
Shannon and Sam Ingraffia


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