Peck Williams' new place in 1948 was a big house by Point Cadet standards. Biloxi peninsula was mostly fisherman cottages, and 4,000 square feet seemed an unpretentious mansion. |
The DeJean Packing Company owner could not know the home's size, sturdy construction and some luck would save his descendants. When Katrina left, 30 people huddled on the second floor of 242 Howard Ave.
Many were neighbors rescued by Williams' grandson, Michael Kovacevich, who owns the house and who had gathered a daughter and his mom (who lives next door) there to weather Katrina. After his grandparents' deaths, the house had continued as the family gathering place.
Only six inches of Camille water came in, so Kovacevich thought it safe. They were at least safer than neighbors, who now mostly have slabs.
"I can stand on my front porch and see all the way around the Point," Kovacevich said. "People ask me why I want to live here. I tell them jokingly, 'Well, I won't have any nosey neighbors anymore.'
"Ours was the last house to get water."
The first rescues came about 4:30 a.m. when he realized a Vietnamese family was in jeopardy. The electricity went off at 5:30, with more neighbors huddled inside, soon joined by a family of seven and a handicapped woman.
The last to gather were a mother and son whose home had twirled several blocks in the surge. They didn't realize they were in the only remaining part, the attic, which was stopped by a Kovacevich oak.
"At 7 p.m. that night, as firemen cleared a path through Howard Avenue, I could see my family lined up behind them and I shouted 'Here comes the cavalry!' They didn't think they'd find us alive."
Kovacevich is now trying to save the split oak, along with his house, which he hopes to be back into by Katrina's anniversary, Aug. 29: "When my house is ready, we'll have a priest bless it and have a family celebration.
- KAT BERGERON