BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Family and friends gathered Friday for a memorial service at Nativity BVM Cathedral to honor former Biloxi Mayor AJ Holloway, who passed away Tuesday at the age of 79.
The service was as elegant as the man himself - the Mass led by Bishop Louis Kihneman.
"We pray for A.J. Holloway that he may truly rest in the peace of Christ and for the family that God's peace may be yours as we pray, in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen," he said.
Residents not only remembered Biloxi's longtime mayor, but they also reflected on Biloxi's longtime favorite son.
"As kids, we lived on Point Cadet and we had a baseball team," said Gerald Hopkins. "I was a pitcher, and AJ was the only one that could hit my curveball. I'll never forget I was at LSU at the time he was playing at Ole Miss he came to over the play the Tigers. Every time they got close to the goal line, the backfield coach made sure AJ was in the ballgame because he was the guy that could get them those five or six yards that they needed for a touchdown."
Longtime Biloxian Susan Hunt was a few years behind Holloway in high school.
"If you do the math, I think it's been 60 some-odd years. That's how long we've known each other. A great friendship," Hunt said.
Current Biloxi Councilman Kenny Glavan also remembers Holloway's pre-mayor days.
"AJ used to own Mary's Drive Inn and my dad owned a net shop, and he used to send me down there and lunch to pick up lunches," Glavan said. "And I'd walk in there and AJ would be in there, and open a Barq's Root Beer for the folks, and he'd always say 'how's your pop doin?' He was mayor-like before he was mayor."
In his homily, the Very Reverend Dennis Carver focused on Holloway's family, particularly, his widow, Macklyn.
"To you, dearest Macklyn, our sincerest condolences," he said. "You have lost your high school sweetheart. Your husband. And Macklyn, the entire city grieves with you."
He spoke of Holloway's strength in Christ, but not without a little humor.
"A.J. was a good Catholic," he said. "And do you know why he was a good Catholic? Because he always sat in the back."
But a deeper message was a directive to the city.
"Let's keep the memory, the legend, the love of A.J. Holloway alive," Carver said. "Let's remember him for the sake of the whole city."
The most moving testimony came from his eldest granddaughter, Destin Holloway.
"My Paw Paw was not a grandpa. He was more than that," she said. "He and my grandma were and are my very best friends."
And she said she learned how to approach life in a simple driving lesson in which he first taught her to drive in reverse.
"I obviously thought he was crazy," she said. "So, I asked him, 'Isn't going forward easier?' He said, 'I figured we'd get the hard part done first.' This moment has stayed with me for 12 years now. My grandpa was a man who got the hard parts done first."
She shared some insider information only a family member would know.
"I can see him in the bathroom spraying his signature hairdo in place with Aqua Net. Sorry. That one's out, Paw Paw."
His smile, Destin said, will be unforgettable, as was his work ethic that made Biloxi great.
"Tonight, as the sun sets over Biloxi, know that your work is done, Paw Paw. God bless A.J. Holloway and God Bless Biloxi."
After the funeral, Holloway's motorcade drove by City Hall with a floating flag tribute right above him prepared by the Biloxi Fire Department. Several people stopped to watch the motorcade, take pictures, and pay their respects to the former mayor.
"I've lived here since the 90s, my wife is from here," said Norman Sinclair, who stood with his hat over his heart as the funeral procession rolled by. "But he was a big influence, especially with public safety with fire and the police department."
And an influence on many others in life, and now in death.
"He's a hero, and Biloxi wasn't looking for a hero," Glavan added. "Biloxi needed him more than he needed Biloxi."