Captain Jack Gazzo, Sr. was the third generation of Gazzo’s in Biloxi after Frank Gazzo immigrated to the United States from Italy in 1860. Upon his arrival, the patriarch managed a good living for his wife and five children in owning an oyster shop in Hancock County. He moved his family to Biloxi, where he and his wife lived on Howard Avenue and his sons lived on Division Street.
His son Frank Jr. married Elizabeth Ryan whose family was from the Back Bay area of Biloxi and were also seafood factory workers. There union brought one son, Andrew Gazzo, who married a Cajun/Scott-Irish young lady from Louisiana, Viola Daniel. It was of this marriage that Jack Andrew Gazzo, Sr. was born, along with three siblings. Jack’s father died at the young age of 28, leaving his mother to raise her four children. She and the children worked in seafood factories to support the family. Jack worked first at his Uncle Bubby Wentzell’s factory and then later, on shrimp boats. One of his crewmates later became his brother-in-law when he married Leona Kopszywa, whose family was also dedicated to the seafood industry.
When World War II began, Jack and his friend, determined to serve their country, walked to New Orleans, LA to enlist in the US Navy Reserve. For more than three years, Jack served his country onboard six different ships in the Asiatic and Pacific Ocean. He was honorably discharged in 1945 and returned home to Biloxi.
Upon his return, Jack worked with his brother-in-law, Joseph Smolcich, on the JOANN FAYARD. With his earnings, he was able to buy a home for his family on Crawford Street then later his own boat, the THELMA BEE, a 35-foot, wooden Biloxi lugger.
Jack was awarded the “Sodality Souvenir Medal” at the 1951 Annual Blessing of the Fleet ceremony in acknowledgement of his fellowship and association in the Catholic Church. He was elected as Treasurer of the newly formed seafood union, but this term would be brief, as Jack Gazzo, Sr. passed away in 1952, at the young age of 31 years. His legacy, however, continues to live on in his children’s dedication to the Gulf Coast’s Seafood Industry, with his descendants being crowned as Seafood Royalty over the years.