Coast banking icon Leo Seal dies at 84

GULFPORT, MS. (WLOX)--The logo on the Hancock Bank flag is a beacon of light.

A shining light is rather apt description of Leo Seal.

Carl Chaney is one of the executives at Hancock Bank who's learned so much for Mr. Seal. "His passion was south Mississippi," said Chaney.

Friends saw that passion in Leo Seal's support for his alma mater Mississippi State.

And they witnessed it every time he walked into a Hancock Bank building.

Chaney called the former Hancock Bank president and CEO, "the culture of this company."

Ellen Peresich met Mr. Seal after Katrina, when she received the 2005 Leo Seal Teacher award -- an annual tribute to south Mississippi's most innovative instructors.

"I think Leo Seal represents someone who values education and wants to contribute to the needs of our students," she said in her Popps Ferry Elementary School classroom.

When you say the name Leo Seal, the words Hancock Bank and Hancock County immediately come to mind.

Generations of Seal's family grew up in Hancock County.

And Seal, the businessman, grew up here at the bank.

He spent the last 61 years of his life either working, running, or supporting this financial institution.

Chaney called Seal, "Soft spoken. But when he spoke, you listened because there was a wealth of knowledge coming out."

As you talk with people about Leo Seal, it becomes obvious that he left an indelible mark on this community.

The American Red Cross was just one of the organizations that benefited from his generosity.

"Particularly most recently he came to our rescue when we needed funds to help us with the disaster relief fund account both at national and local level," said Bill Brent, the executive director of the Red Cross chapter in Biloxi. For weeks, the Red Cross has had a Tuesday night dinner scheduled to honor Mr. Seal. Brent said that event took on more significance because of south Mississippi's loss.

If you ever saw Leo Seal in person, you know he was a tall man. "Very large in stature," is how Chaney described him. "But even larger in heart."

Leo Seal's accomplishments include turning the Port of Gulfport from a city run shipping facility into a state port.

He helped lure the Stennis Space Center to Hancock County.

And most recently, he was chairman of the Infinity program at Stennis.

Leo Seal was 84 years old.