GAUTIER, MS (WLOX) - If you head out fishing on the West Pascagoula Middle River, you might spot a wooden piling with a barrel on top. "Tucei's Barrel" is a humble landmark that's been knocked down by Mother Nature many times over the years.
It's not often that a fisherman will share the location of his "honey hole." But Fred Tucei has shared a lot in his 100 years - a lifetime of hard work, happy memories, and a passion for fishing that's still going strong.
"I still go fishing. I catch quite a few fish a lot of times," said Tucei, who will tell you his secret to a long life is to keep moving. He says he's independent, still keeping up his home and land.
"I've always been active all my life, and I think that's why I'm still here."
His passion for the water was clear by the time he was 8 years old. He remembers staying out fishing so much, his mother and father would try just about anything to keep him inside.
"They decided to put a dress on me to keep me from going down," Tucei recalled with a laugh. "But I went down anyhow, with the dress on."
Tucei turned his passion for fishing into a successful career, building Tucei's Fishing Camp in Gautier, which he says drew Hollywood stars, international tourists, and locals alike.
"I guess I made a lot of friends in the world, because we had a wonderful, wonderful clientele," Tucei noted.
Before the fishing camp took off, Tucei had other careers. One in the U.S. Army. Another at Ingalls Shipyard as a welder and foreman. He also worked at Gorenflo's Hardware store where he learned woodworking. It's a skill that would come in handy.
"After a hurricane, especially Camille, his whole camp was torn up, so he started by hand and rebuilt it," daughter Linda Tucei Gandy recalled.
Tucei sold the fishing camp in 1972. Since then, he's spent his time with family, traveling, and, of course, fishing. His beloved wife, Hazel, passed away in 2004, just five days before their 60th wedding anniversary.
This father of two now has two granddaughters and countless others who consider him a father figure. Some of those he's mentored have been quietly working with the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality and the Department of Marine Resources to give him a one of a kind birthday present - a permanent beacon at that favorite fishing spot.
"I think it'll help a lot of people looking for the mouth of the river. It's kind of hard to find the mouth of the river when you're way out, you know," Tucei said.
And just perhaps at that very spot on the Pascagoula River, others will find the peace that Frank Tucei has as he looks back on a life well lived.
"There's ups and downs in everybody's life, you know, but you have to kind of live with that. That's part of it, you know. But if I had to choose an occupation or whatever, I'd go right along with what I did," Tucei noted.
The Tucei family and his fellow anglers aren't the only ones celebrating the 100-year milestone. This week the city of Biloxi gave special recognition to Mr. Tucei. Mayor "Fofo" Gilich even declared February 13, 2018, as Fred Tucei Day in the City of Biloxi.