Haise statue expected to be unveiled in November

Biloxi’s statue of Apollo 13 astronaut Fred Haise should be ready for its unveiling in time for his birthday weekend this fall, according to a press release from the city.

A preliminary look at the statue, which will be placed south of the Biloxi Lighthouse, had been planned for April 13, 2020, the 50th anniversary of Apollo 13, but was postponed because COVID-19 and artist Mary Ott Tremmel Davidson being diagnosed with cancer.

“I must say, it’s been a long road, but it’s much, much better,” Davidson said the other day. “I’m working away, and I must say that having this project was a wonderful positive thing. Between the cancer and the virus out there, I could have a focus. I am very grateful.”

Davidson said the clay statue – an 8-foot likeness of a spacesuit-garbed Haise cradling his helmet – will arrive at a foundry in June, where it will begin a three-month process to create two sets of molds before the bronze statue is fired.

And the reaction so far? “People have told me that it captures his image,” Davidson said. “If I can do that, I will feel like it’s a good job.”

Plans are still in the offing for the Nov. 13 weekend; Haise turns 88 on Nov. 14. A number of community co-sponsors, headed by Mississippi Power and the Mississippi Development Authority, are involved in the project, which commemorates Biloxi’s most famous citizen.

Haise, who now lives in Houston, is one of only 24 astronauts to have gone to the moon.  At the site, Hurricane Zeta damaged nearby circular ballards in an area that will be known as “the Moonwalk,” but the pedestal for the statue, a six-foot tall circular concrete structure designed to represent the base of a Saturn V rocket, was unmoved.

“We’re already working on dressing up that area,” Mayor Andrew “FoFo” Gilich said. “We certainly were disappointed that COVID delayed things last year, and we’ve prayed for Mary in the interim, but the thing to remember is this: We’re doing just what Fred Haise did back on Apollo 13. You have a plan and you pivot as needed.”

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