John Gargiulo and his siblings didn't have normal weekends, at least not compared to their peers, as they wielded hammers at 1525 Gulf Ave. in Gulfport. |
Instead of resentment, the six Gargiulo children harbored a love for the family home. The 1910 house, in disrepair from Hurricane Camille and once part of the Grass Lawn estate, was bought in 1973 when Thomas and Katherine Gargiulo finished a military tour at the U.S. Embassy in North Africa. The family labored together on restoration.
The children grew up, the five boys followed in their father's military footsteps, and the house became too big for the parents. It was sold.
"Whenever I would come home on leave, I'd drive by the old house and it would break my heart because it was getting in a horrible state of disrepair again," said John Gargiulo, the youngest of the six, who is a Harrison County assistant district attorney when not in uniform as a Mississippi National Guard major.
Before moving back to the Coast, he spent six years in the Army and attended law school.
"In 1998, I literally walked to the front door of my childhood home and asked the current owner if she would be willing to sell to me," he said. "I said everything you are not supposed to say when trying to buy a house. I wanted to raise my own children where I grew up. I was willing to beg, steal or borrow to do it. It really meant that much."
Six months later, his wife, Lisa, and their three children moved in. His widowed father moved into the small cottage on the property, and soon three of his brothers retired and returned to Gulfport, all buying houses within one-tenth mile of each other.
Katrina spared none of them. The house and cottage on Gulf Avenue are gone, as is one of the brother's homes. The other two brothers' homes were severely damaged.
"My brothers are all moving back," said Gargiulo, "and absolutely my family will rebuild on that lot on Gulf Avenue."
- KAT BERGERON