Michelle Bailey sat in the living room of her home in Shalimar, thumbing through a lifetime of family pictures and memories.
She pointed to a photograph of her brother, Wesley “Pad” Bailey Jr., at age 12, proudly posing with his fishing party’s impressive catch; 500 pounds of red snapper reeled in on his grandfather’s charter boat, the Blue Runner. The black-and-white newspaper clipping crumbled at the edges.
“We’ll be going out on the Blue Runner II on Saturday,” Bailey said. “My grandpa sold the boat to Tommy Carter, who’s been a Destin local all his life.”
Bailey, who is the third oldest of nine siblings, was born to Jewel “Judy” Melvin and Wesley Bailey Sr. Her grandparents, Millard “Captain Pete” Melvin and Sarah Melvin, were founding family members of Destin and owned land along the Destin harbor.
On Jan. 1 of this year, Pad passed away after a long battle with kidney disease and melanoma that had metastasized to his brain, liver and lungs.
“It was a shock,” said Bailey. “He was diagnosed with melanoma and then six months later it spread and he was gone.”
Pad was 69 years old.
His dying wish was to be buried at sea just like his mother was laid to rest in 2012; scattered along the waters of the Gulf that he loved so much.
“He’s right over there,” Bailey said, gesturing to a carved wooden box. A folded American flag rested atop Pad’s ashes.
For Pad, who grew up working as a deckhand on the harbor during his teenage years, being laid to rest at sea made the most sense. He returned to Destin after serving in the Navy where he worked on navigational systems and gyroscopes and never left.
Fishing was his true passion, and he had a photographic memory when it came to remembering the exact latitudes and longitudes of the best fishing spots.
“It’s exactly where he would want to be,” said Pad’s youngest sister, Joy Serra. “Destin was his heart. He never wanted to be anywhere else.”
The family will gather in front of Capt. Royal Melvin Heritage Park next to Dewey Destin’s on Founder’s Day, and will board the Blue Runner II to scatter his ashes near East Pass, where their mother was laid to rest. Michelle ordered yellow roses to drop onto the water’s surface along with his ashes.
“He meant the world to me, said Serra. “He was a very warm and caring human being. I miss him a lot.”