Former Biloxi mayor and Frank Gehry's unique friendship

George Ohr, the Mad Potter of Biloxi
George Ohr, the Mad Potter of Biloxi
The Ohr O'Keefe Museum pods during construction.
The Ohr O'Keefe Museum pods during construction.

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - By Jeff Lawson – bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Frank Gehry and Jerry O'Keefe are two men who grew up in very different worlds, but have formed a special friendship.

O'Keefe is the former Biloxi mayor and a long time, successful businessman. Gehry grew up in Canada, persecuted because of his Jewish heritage. Years later, he would go on to become the man considered the greatest living architect in the world.

It was the Ohr O'Keefe Museum that brought them together.

O'Keefe has known for years that Gehry was a huge fan of George Ohr, the Mad Potter of Biloxi. So more than a decade ago, O'Keefe used his persuasive powers to convince Gehry, that he should be the one to design the museum.

During the recent grand opening of the museum, Gehry told WLOX, "It would not have happened without Jerry. We were partners, and I could explain things. And he could say what he liked and did not like."

Gehry has often said that his intent was to have the museum dance with the trees. You may be surprised to hear, that came from the imagination of Jerry O'Keefe, not Frank Gehry.

"It was his idea to come dance with the trees," Gehry said.

The museum is unique in so many ways, and so is the friendship between these two very successful men.

"We are both in our 80s now," O'Keefe said with a slight chuckle. "Frank is a little younger and spryer than I am, but we understand each other."

Hearing O'Keefe's comments, Gehry said maybe they should write a book sometime about the experience of building the museum, all the hurdles that have been overcome, and the friendship they have formed.

Maybe they will one day, but for now, they are just happy to be good buddies.

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