BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - It’s not difficult to find someone on the Coast with fond memories to share or kind words to say about Bishop Joseph Lawson Howze.
“He was a very, very, very good person. I can’t say enough about how he loved what he did," said Buck Ogea.
As the first black bishop to lead a U.S. diocese, Howze’s legacy will forever live on in the history of the Catholic church, but those who knew him well, like Ogea, said they’ll remember him most as a friend.
The two shared the same birthday month. Ogea said every year, Howze would invite him to Mary Mahoney’s for a birthday dinner.
“Of course, being the first black bishop in Mississippi wasn’t an easy job for him, I’ll tell you. So he needed some friends, and I’m proud to say he was my friend," he said.
For Susan Lamey, he was not only a friend, but a neighbor.
“He would come over to the family house for coffee, for breakfast, whatever my mother had in the refrigerator. He stopped by just to say hello and have a casual conversation," Lamey said.
She said it was that down-to-earth personality that made him loved by so many.
“Someone you’d feel comfortable with, someone you could say anything to, and he made an impression on so many lives here in the community,” she said.
Though the news of his passing was heartbreaking, they said they celebrate his life and the time they had with the spiritual leader, who was the first of his kind.
“He would be ready to tell you, I’m going home. It’s simple as that because that’s what he lived for," Ogea said.
“We will miss him but we’ll never forget him," Lamey said.
The visitation for Bishop Howze will be Jan. 15 from 5 p.m. until 8 p.m., and the Vigil for the Deceased will be celebrated at 7 p.m. Visitation is also scheduled for Jan. 16 from 8:30 a.m. until the funeral at 10:30 a.m. All arrangements will be held at Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Cathedral in Biloxi.