While inducted into the Heritage Hall of Fame for his role as “captain”, Harry Gonsoulin merits recognition for many roles, including father, fisherman/oysterman, trawl and cast net maker, butcher and in his final days, janitor crew chief.
Harry was born in Lauraville, Louisiana to Decomine and Elda Borel Gonsoulin in the year 1905. As many of the French immigrants did, the Gonsoulin family moved to Biloxi to find work in the seafood industry with Harry going to work on the schooner shrimping boats at the age of about 13 years.
In young adulthood, he met and married Lelia Comeaux. The couple initially lived on East Howard Avenue in Biloxi, but later bought a 2-bedroom house on Oak Street where they raised their eight children. While Lelia worked in the factories shucking oysters and canning shrimp, Harry learned how to make trawls as he worked on the shrimp boats of Mr. Grego Anticich. By the time Harry’s son, Ronnie, was ten years old, he had taught him this skill, thus ensuring a stronghold in the Gonsoulin legacy to the seafood industry. He and his son would work tirelessly on these trawls when Harry was not out on a shrimping trip.
During World War II, Harry worked as a butcher at his brother’s grocery store while he was in the service. When Esse returned from duty, Harry continued his seafood career and served as captain of the LAURA MOORE, owned by Ralph Baker. When not out on a trip, he would be found with shrimp trawls strung across his yard, adding lead and cork lines for the Glavan Trawl Company.
For more than ten years, Captain Harry ran the RUTH FRIEDHOFF, owned by the Mavar Shrimp and Oyster Company. When the Mavar’s decided to sell their fleet, Harry went to work for Dejean Seafood captaining one of their vessels. Not one to sit idle, when Harry decided it was time to turn in his captain’s hat, he immediately went back to work for Glavan’s Trawl Company and the Biloxi School System serving as Chief Custodian. He would work on trawls until noon, then move to serve at the high school for the afternoon.
Harry Gonsoulin showed dedication to his family, his community, and the seafood industry in his hard work up to the year of his passing, 1976. We are pleased to honor him as an inductee for the 2017 Hall of Fame.