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Rising from Ruin is an on-going MSNBC.com special report chronicling two coastal Mississippi towns, Bay St. Louis and Waveland, as they rebuild after Hurricane Katrina.

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This project is evolving. Our daily dispatches coverage has been retired. Click here to see what happened in the area between mid October and January 1, 2006.

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WAVELAND, Miss. – A lone man wielding a chainsaw in a fog-shrouded cemetery is enough to make anyone do a double-take.

But for J.E. Loiacano, a former high school and Mississippi State football coach who has owned the Gardens of Memory Cemetery in Waveland for two decades, cutting off stray branches in whatever the weather throws at him is strictly routine.

“It’s just got to get done. (The cemetery needs) perpetual care,” he says, adding that the grounds must be at their best for two services this week.

Even if he wasn't in the mood to work on this New Year's Day, like other business owners in the area he's had trouble finding workers, he says.

Katrina destroyed Loiacano's home in the Cedar Point subdivision and flooded both of his businesses -- the cemetery and Loiacano Health Club. Thankfully, the storm did not author any of the gruesome scenes of floating coffins seen during major floods in lower-lying areas of the Gulf Coast, he says.

Still, the storm did do a lot of damage to the cemetery, leaving Loiacano with plenty to do as he simultaneously attempts to rebuild his home and life.

“I’ve got a lot of work to do for this week,” Loiacano says, politely excusing himself to return to his chainsaw.

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Mr.Loiacano, i think everyone hopes for someone like you to take care of our famlies places too....

2005 was hard for many of us. It's important to stay focused on the many displaced families that my never be able to return "home". Tnank You for remembering those that have gone before us and treating them with dignity. God Bless.

Happy New Year! I was down again before Christmas and saw lights on in the gym. Glad to see some progress. Thanks for keeping things nice for mom, dad, Aunt Mary and all the relatives-Love y'all
Toni Franckiewicz Handshoe

We should all continue to pray for Mr. Loiacano, and other victims of Katrina & Rita. May 2006 bring peace & hope.

I am from Waveland and I now live in France. I joined the Merchant Marine Dec. 7O. The last time I visited was 92. My parents lost their home but they are fine which is the most important. I know hundreds of people in the Bay Waveland community and it is sad to know that my friends lost all and some lost their lives. The folks there need a lot more than prayer and good thoughts. They are not crybabies wanting everything giftwrapped, just normal Americans who want to restart their lives, families and towns. It can never return to what it was and that is sad because it really is a great place to be a kid.(and an adult). I look at google earth and remember all the streets and who lived where and now all is gone. Those folks are strong and they will be back. And even if I wrote that more than prayers were needed, I pray for them also. I just want people to know that I am thinking and I hope things get better soon!

I am hoping that Coach or his family reads this and knows that my thoughts and prayers are with them and everyone else here on the coast. My husband was born and raised in "the Bay", and I have called this area HOME for 20 years myself. We have been blessed with the opportunity of raising 2 beautiful children here and can't imagine life anywhere else. As I sit here in this camper that is now my new home, I share everyone's pain,frustration,and exhaustion. I was among the lucky few who had flood insurance, as a matter of fact we had even invested extra money in a "fungi,mold,mildew, and bacteria policy". It is January 2nd now, my house is gutted, but now we are at a stand still. Not only are we still waiting to receive our flood policy, my insurance adjuster tells me that neither he nor his supervisors has ever heard of a mold policy and are still trying to figure out how to pay us for it. Add to that the frustration that today I will take the long way around to the Bay to pay my 5th house note since the storm on a home that will not be livable for who knows how long. Yes, I am still paying my notes despite the fact that everyone in my home lost their jobs, bills still have to be paid. Regions mortgage said we could have a 90 day grace period during which if we were late no penalties would be charged but at the end of 90 days all balance would be due. With so much uncertainty I couldn't leave that to chance. I apologize for my own personal ramble. It's hard to not ramble when so much is own your mind. I think of life before the storm. I miss my beautiful drive along the beach and across the bay to my job at Casino Magic. I miss the smiling faces of those I worked with and those who played there. Yes, Coach I miss your smile at the craps table and am sorry this time the odds weren't on our side. Don't forget if you spill diesel on your shoes again Dawn dish detergent will help. Till my insurance finally steps up to the plate we are lost in limbo so if you need an extra hand at the cemetary just call because someone does care.Dianne Strong (225)773-0841.

I applaud Mr.Loiacano for his integrity.

Quote from article: "....like other business owners in the area he's had trouble finding workers".

What I've been reading here on MSNBC.com is that there are many thousands of people in the area collecting their government stipends. I feel bad for their losses, I really do, but there's no excuse for a worker shortage in the area. The government isn't going to be there forever to take care of people so anyone with a strong back should be out there pounding the pavement taking any available job they can find.

Our hungry hard working american predecessors did it during a devastating worldwide depression from 1929-1939 so there's no reason this generation cannot pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and recover from a devastating hurricane season.

If Mr. Loiacano had a better fitness program in his "health club" he might not need the cemetery. Throw away the chain saw. But, you've got to give him credit for all the hard work.

Hang in there. One day at a time... one step at a time. Thank you for all of your hard work.

God Bless you sir. May everyone take hope in your determination to keep on going no matter what.

We are a resilient people and will come back. We do what we need to do when it needs to be done. J.E. is yet another example of that and, yes, there is still a lot to be done.


Mr.Loiacano, you are a true inspiration to the countless Americans around the globe who have lost loved ones from your area. Your commitment and integrity to make your cemetary's visual appearence appealing to those familys who are facing tragedies and deaths is a true statement of the kind of man you are. I sincerely pray for you and your family ad friends and all the people in the coastal areas affected by this tragedy. I'm sure many players whom you've coached will lend a hand in helping you rebuild your life. God Bless!

Coach Loiacano,

I was in Bay St. Louis today with school supplies for the high school. I saw your name on the building on the campus and immediately called Richard. I asked everyone I saw about you but no one could give me any information. Then I read this link on Gene's Page when I got back to Starkville. You and your family are in our thoughts and prayers. We would love to hear from you. Drop us a line. If we can do anything for you we are here.

Your continued strength and ambition are an inspiration to all around the country that have watched the south suffer. May God bless you and your family for keeping the cemetary a sacred place. Your good deeds will not go unnoticed

Thank you so very much for taking care of my parents and other friends and neighbors!
BSL, Waveland and the entire coast have meant so much to me my whole life. I left The Bay in '72 for the Air Force with all intentions of returning and spending my retirement days fishing and crabbing in and around the Bay of St Louis. Katrina has not and will not change my mind!
JE, again thank you! We will keep all of you in our thoughts and prayers!

Mr. Loiacano, My name is Barbara Loyacano and I was wondering if we might be related? My father was from New Orleans and although the spelling is different it seems too unique a name for us not to be related in some way. You are a remarkable man to continue through the stressfull times you are living through.

Please understand that the shortage of workers is not to be blamed solely on laziness or someone riding out their goverment checks. Speaking for my own family, our emergency money from FEMA is already gone and not a penny wasted. When you have to replace EVERYTHING for a family of four it doesn't take long. Socks, underwear, clothes, coats, shoes, blankets,sheets,towels, washclothes, toiletries, pots, pans, silverware, just the basics get expensive when you have to replace it all. Add to that the extra time and gas involved traveling out of town just to find so much as a dollar store to shop at (ALL of them in Hancock county were destroyed). Then you might throw in the expense of putting up your own temporary power pole, or a new pump on a well if your not on city service. Anyone in Hancock county south of I-10 and even some a few miles north of it who did not evacuate lost there vehicles in the flood, a countless number of those did not have full coverage, so there is a strong chance they still don't have transportation of their own. Makes it a little tough to be a reliable employee. For some of us there was added living expenses. In our case, we have continued paying a note on an unliveable home and for almost the first three months we had to pay $350 a month just to park a very small fifth wheeler in a campground 60 miles from our home and absorb the extra expense of traveling back and forth to gut our home. So while some (I doubt many) may be riding out those checks, most of the community is still busy gutting or cleaning their homes or the homes of loved ones who may be unable to do it themselves. Yes the goverment and others rushed in and cleaned a few access roads but that activity has ground down to a snails pace and I would be happy to show you countless areas, including my own that is now left up to the communities to clean. My admiration to the Mayors of these communities, Tommy Longo(Waveland),Eddie Farve (Bay St. Louis), and Billy McDonald(Pass Christian)who have the overwhelming task of rebuilding these beautiful towns with the devastating loss of not only homes but 80-90% loss of tax revenue. We may be layed back in the south but we are not lazy-just a lil overwhelmed but we will rebuild. They called Camille a lady, yet it took many years to recover from her and her scope was nowhere near as far spread nor as devastaing as the b*#!* that we call Katrina. I am not complaining I am just pointing out a few things your might not have known or thought about. If you judge someone by the way they handle lifes troubles don't judge us too soon.

To Jason in Las Vegas:
You are clearly not understanding the nature of the jobs available in these areas. Yes, there is menial labor, and there are jobs in the service industry. If you previously had a job bringing in even an average, middle-class US salary, you WILL NOT be able to afford...well,anything. Not to maintain your family, not to be able to afford to rebuild, not to replace the car that flooded, or the insurance to keep it on the road. Not for health insurance for your family, which these jobs don't provide. Even with the pay of those jobs pushed up to an all time high of $10 an hour in some places, you need to be a little realistic here in understanding just how far that stretches.

People ARE bootstrapping it in ways you can't possibly even imagine. Friends, families, emotional & spiritual networks have come together to do whatever they can to set the Gulf Coast back to rights. But without living here, there's no way to envision the emotional devistation of this place and all those around it, or the daily toll it exacts. People are working, and taking what employment they can...but it's not enough. I don't think a little help from the government it out of line.

To say that there is 'no excuse for a worker shortage in that area' is more than a little naive, Jason. My parents are from the area, and one reason why there are more jobs than people is because people HAVE NO WHERE TO LIVE. Ms. Strong's situation is the norm for many people, and many folks that I know lost their cars in the storm and insurance won't pay their claims on those either. I've also never been anywhere before where people are so sick. Every person I saw down there had hacking coughs, colds, fevers, and inadequate medical care. This was just last week. Jason, I could listen to your complaint if you lived here, but you don't, so keep your inaccurate observations to yourself.
Keep up the hard work Mr. Loiacano, here's hoping this story will help bring the able-bodied to you.

In the South, we value our older relatives-- living and dead. Thank you Mr. Loiacano for remembering those that have gone before us. We all will be there some day. People that have not personally seen the "Katrina" destruction, should respectively consider their comments and carefully think about the devastation that these people have gone through... It is so easy to say that there are alot of people looking for work-- guess what-- these people have LEFT. Most of the 'workers' don't own homes. Can you imagine what rent is now for those few places available to rent? People that still have rental property available have raised rents.. so much that is impossible for any 'worker' to afford. You can't find an available hotel room within a 100 mile radius because of hurricane victims. Where should these 'workers' live???

It is and continues to be a horrible situation... Mississippi got lost in the New Orlean tragedy (and it was a tragedy) but there was a tradegy in Mississippi too--

Don Lewis thinks a health club will stop folks from dying? What planet is he from? I am thankful for folks who tend to the graves of loved ones and that there is a place of quiet solace (save for the sound of the chain saw) in the midst of turmoil. Blessings to Mr. Loiacano and his family.

I hope that people will be able to return to work as soon as possible to help people like Mr. Loiacano, but from what I saw last week that is unlikely to happen fast enough. People have no where to live because insurance companies will not pay their claims, so how can they come back to work when they have no where to sleep? They have no cars because insurance companies will not pay their claims, and they are constantly sick from all the black mold and debris that is everywhere.
Mr. Loiacano is taking care of his businesses, but for those of us who don't own businesses and have insurance companies that are unwilling to conduct business honestly (and pay up), the work must be done ourselves. Gutting and rebuilding a home is full time work for professionals, and much more so for the people who've been abandoned by their insurance. I hope that Mr. Loiacana finds the able-bodied help he needs, but more than that I hope that American insurance corporations will stop holding their customers hostage. Once insurance companies allow work to begin, people can come home. If they don't allow it starting right now, we will have lost an entire region of this country to corporate greed.

A hard working man this one, that takes care of the living as well as the living's loved ones that passed on. God rewards with plenty all those that do not allow adversity to destroy their will to go on. The disaster was enormous, we all need to understand that we live in a planet prone to such things and God has nothing to do with it, it is just the way things are in the universe. Now, giving up and allowing others to carry our burden is flat wrong. If we all hope for some one else to solve our problems, we will be the next specie to be extinct from this planet. Mr. Loicano is an example of a man that won't give up. A wonderful example of strong will and determination.

J. E. Loiacano and the folks of the Bay and Waveland will survive in spite of the ignorant comments from such as Don Lewis and Jason. I moved to the Bay in January 2005 and was building a home in Waveland. I was a member of J. E.'s gym and worked out their five days a week. J. E. is truly one of the finest people on Earth. I left the Coast after Katrina and am now in East Tennessee where my father recently died and I'm trying to help my mother settle his affairs. I'll probably be back on the Coast and my first move will be to join J. E.'s gym.

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