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Steve “Gramps” Barhanovich

Remembered for his unrelenting work ethic and his rather unique nickname, Steve “Gramps” Barhanovich was an industry tradesman and boat worker born in Biloxi, Mississippi. His father, Frank Barhanovich, had arrived in the United States from Yugoslavia with two years of college education. Traveling with his friends Bozo Yodonovich and Steve Zulich, the three jumped ship in Gulfport and came to reside in Biloxi. Steve was born on February 14, 1914. He grew up in Biloxi’s Point Cadet neighborhood, an area where many people were known simply by their nicknames. At the age of five, while wearing his grandfather’s hat outside, a neighbor, Buddy Wentzell, greeted Steve by shouting “Hey Grampa!” and the nickname stuck throughout Steve’s lifetime. As a boy, Steve went to work in the seafood factories with his mother. Rising early at two in the morning, Steve would work in the sheds shucking oysters and peeling shrimp. By eight in the morning, he would pause working and proceed to attend a full day of school. During his childhood, Steve suffered from a case of lockjaw for close to a month. This resulted in a slight speech impediment which yielded unique pronunciations and was the origin of his brother Frank Barhanovich’s legendary nickname. In his attempts to call his brother Frankie, his pronunciation of the word sounded like “Yankie.” Much like Steve’s own nickname, this one carried on throughout Frank’s life. Years later, after Frank had completed work on the Biloxi Football Stadium, Steve would convince Mayor Gerald Blessey to name it in honor of his brother. The official name of the facility became Yankie Stadium. Steve Barhanovich began working the Gulf of Mexico from the age of thirteen. He worked on many boats, including the Wilda L. until the outbreak of war in 1939. Steve enlisted in the Coast Guard and served for three years until an accident incapacitated him for five months. During his service, he achieved the rank of Boatman’s Mate, First Class. It was during his hospitalization that Steve discovered a love and proclivity for art, a skill which would become useful later in his life when he took jobs as a sign maker. After returning from the war, Steve continued working on boats and weathered several storms. In the 1947 Hurricane, he was caught offshore on an anchored vessel and forced to ride out the storm. Steve was in Cameron, Louisiana when Hurricane Audrey hit in 1957. He witnessed a tidal wave rise from the Gulf and realized that many who took shelter in the attics would be swept out with the second wave. Over ten years later, this experience would serve him well when the infamous Hurricane Camille hit in 1969. Riding out the storm in his home, he refused to take refuge in the attic and instead helped neighbors swim to higher ground. Barhanovich was involved in many civic activities. From early on, he and his brother Yankie witnessed the toy drives at Biloxi’s Saenger Theatre, and gave up their own tickets for the needier children. Years later, they would start the Biloxi Shrimp Bowl as a fundraiser for the Biloxi Doll and Toy Fund. He also had a once in a lifetime experience of meeting Heavyweight Boxing Champion Gene Tunney when Tony Ragusin brought the boxer to the factory while he was training on the coast. Steve had the opportunity to personally shuck oysters for Tunney. After retiring, he spent many years donating his talents for sign painting and cooking to benefit various charities and drives. He was a member of Biloxi Elks Lodge 606, the business agent for The Painters Union Local 107, and loved sharing a cup of coffee with his friends at McElroy’s. Steve spent his life married to Eula Seymour Barhanovich, and was the father of Joy Barhanovich Tucei. Steve “Gramps” Barhanovich passed away in November, 1991. In his lifetime, he conveyed many stories of his experiences while at sea, but perhaps the greatest story of his lifetime is that of hard work and generosity to others. That legacy remains as renowned as his nickname.


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