Oliver Earnest “O.D.” Diaz, 85, passed away on Wednesday, June 28, 2023. He was born in Biloxi on June 18, 1938 as the oldest child of Oliver Francis Diaz and Elmerita Moran Diaz. He grew up “across the bay” in what is now the City of D’Iberville in the 1940’s and 1950’s. His family owned much of the land that is now the downtown area of D’Iberville where city hall is located. It was a simple childhood where he enjoyed swimming in the bay and growing up with close friends.
Oliver attended Notre Dame High School where he enjoyed playing sports and being a teenager in the 1950’s. He told stories of seeing Elvis perform at local venues in Biloxi. It was during this time that Oliver met the love of his life, Sylvia Fountain Diaz. They dated, fell in love, and married in 1958. They would spend the next 65 years as a family.
After high school, Oliver earned a scholarship to play football at Perkinston Junior College, which is now Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. Football was his favorite sport and he passed that passion on to his children. When it was announced in 1967 that a new professional football team was going to locate in New Orleans, Oliver purchased season tickets and enjoyed taking family and friends to Saints games in old Tulane stadium. His love of the Saints never waned, even during the very lean years. He was one of the Saints biggest fans.
Oliver went on to earn a degree in business from the University of Southern Mississippi. After college, he returned home and opened several successful businesses. He joined with other businessmen in the area to establish a business community in D’Iberville. He opened the first hamburger restaurant in D’Iberville, called the “Beef-n-Bun”. But, everyone knows him for his primary business, OD’s Package Liquor Store, which is still a staple in D’Iberville.
Oliver’s Catholic faith was central to his life. He provided each of his children with a Catholic education and never missed weekend Mass. Oliver found comfort in praying the rosary and reciting daily prayers. His faith was personal to him and and he never made a public showing of it.
After his faith, Oliver’s family was the most important thing in his life. He was always there to help his family in any way needed. He did so without hesitation and never mentioned it to anyone. He also did the same with friends and even strangers. We constantly hear stories from people who tell us how “Mr. OD” helped them that we didn’t know anything about.
In addition to his faith and his family, Oliver also served his community. Oliver served in the National Guard and was deployed to help with hurricane cleanup and protection. In 1962, when President John F. Kennedy called up the Mississippi National Guard to provide protection for James Meredith at the University of Mississippi, Oliver was one of the Guardsmen to be deployed.
Oliver was also a huge supporter of youth sports in the D’Iberville area. He sponsored Little League, T-Ball, and youth baseball for years. Even when his children had outgrown the teams, Oliver continued his support. When Little League officials balked at having a liquor store sponsor youth teams, Oliver told them to call his team “Papa D’s” and he continued his support without advertising his business. Before casinos came to the coast, Oliver spent many evening playing cards at “Lee’s Pool Hall” with his D’Iberville buddies.
Later, Oliver was one of the businessmen who led the efforts for the creation of the City of D’Iberville. He was literally one of the founding fathers of the City of D’Iberville. In 1988, the City of D’Iberville was established and Oliver was elected to serve as the first Councilman-at-Large. Oliver served the City of D’Iberville for 16 years and retired in 2002. Oliver was instrumental in establishing a post office and separate zip code for the City of D’Iberville, making several lobbying trips to Washington D.C. He was the last remaining member of D’Iberville’s original City Council.
Those who know Oliver know that his favorite place on Earth was his home on the Tchoutacabouffa River. Oliver purchased a lot on the river in 1973. He eventually built a cabin and spent all of his free time swimming, boating, water skiing, and entertaining family and friends. All were welcomed at the river and it became a gathering place for extended family and the friends of all of his children. Oliver taught many neighborhood kids to swim and ski on the river. Oliver loved to cook and the river house was the place for numerous crawfish boils, family celebrations, and even a wedding or two.
Oliver and Sylvia moved into their river house full time after Hurricane Katrina destroyed the family home. Oliver would sit out on his deck overlooking the river which he called his “office”. Oliver spent his final weeks looking out at the river, surrounded by family and friends. Oliver never lost his sense of humor, even in his final days. Friends and family who came to visit him at the end often left laughing at something he said to them.
Oliver is survived by his beloved wife of 65 years, Sylvia, and his four children, Oliver E. Diaz Jr. (wife Jennifer Oestreich), Ferrell D. “Bubba” Diaz (wife Pam Smith), Craig S. “Boots” Diaz (wife Gwyn Lawrence), and Dusti Diaz Simnicht (husband Ronnie Simnicht).
He leaves behind nine grandchildren, Dustin Diaz (wife Sarah), Drew Diaz, Josh Diaz (wife Claire), Jacob Diaz, Justin Diaz, Olivia Diaz, Oliver F. Diaz, Lola Simnicht, and Ava Grace Simnicht. He also leaves behind three great-grandchildren, Cooper Diaz, Anna Kate Diaz, and Ella James Diaz. He is also survived by his two sisters, Julie Diaz Seymour (husband Matt Seymour) and Pam Diaz Fayard. In addition, he is survived by numerous nieces, nephews, and cousins.
Oliver was preceded in death by his parents, Oliver F. Diaz and Elmerita Moran Diaz and his brother Duane Diaz.
The family would like to extend a special gratitude to Reverend Father Godfrey Andoh, who in addition to being a spiritual leader has been a loyal friend and constant companion. He also had spiritual guidance and close friendship with Father Louis Lohan. We would also like to thank the dedicated caregivers from Hospice who provided comfort and guidance in his final days. The family would also like to especially thank his caregiver, Valencia Bickham, whose dedication brightened his final days and became like a family member to us.
In lieu of flowers, Oliver would like to encourage donations to St. Jude Children’s Hospital which he supported all of his life. A donation in Oliver’s name would be greatly appreciated.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be held at Blessed Seelos Catholic Church on Friday, June 30, 2023 at 11:00 am. Friends may visit from 10:00 am. until Mass time. A reception will follow at the D'Iberville Civic Center.
Bradford-O’Keefe Funeral Home is honored to serve the family of Oliver Earnest “O.D.” Diaz.