Red Cross director and MS Coast marketing great John McFarland passes away

John McFarland — a longtime Coast marketing guru, community advocate and executive director of the American Red Cross for Southeast Mississippi — died Tuesday night.

Visitation for friends and family is Wednesday, May 24 from noon until 2 p.m. at Riemann Family Funeral Home, 11280 Three Rivers Road, Gulfport. A funeral service will follow at 2 p.m.

McFarland, of Gulfport, worked for years as the Sun Herald marketing director and became an authority on the local economy. He also served on various boards and committees over the years and is remembered as a person who made South Mississippi a better place.

He served as emcee at the annual Salute to the Military each year, at Coast Chamber of Commerce events and for many other programs. He was awarded the Pat Santucci “Spirit of the Coast” award, the American Red Cross South Mississippi Chapter Humanitarian Award and many other honors and was named to the Top Community Leaders in South Mississippi.

John McFarland bows his head when he realized that he is the Pat Santucci Spirit of the Coast winner in this Sun Herald file photo.
John McFarland bows his head when he realized that he is the Pat Santucci Spirit of the Coast winner in this Sun Herald file photo.

Annette Rowland, communications director for the American Red Cross’ Alabama and Mississippi Region, told WXXV-TV McFarland volunteered with Red Cross for 41 years before taking the executive director position in 2015.

Former NASA astronaut and Biloxi native Fred Haise remembered McFarland as a pillar of the community, noting his involvement on the Infinity Science Center Board and helping throw the annual Veterans Ball.

“My benefit to know and work with John,” Haise said on Facebook.

McFarland’s wife, Margie Ann, died Feb. 16. They were married for 45 years, according to her obituary.

Tributes to McFarland began to spread across social media Wednesday, including from those who worked with him at the Sun Herald.

“Saddened by the news of John McFarland’s passing,” Paul Morrone said on Facebook. “He was a good man and loved his Gulf Coast community. ... I’m happy that he is now reunited with his wife, who he loved dearly. Rest well John.”

Memorial donations may be made to the Southeastern Chapter of the American Red Cross, 612 East Pass Road, Gulfport, MS 39507.

September 6, 2013 Joe Farruggio, left, and Bob Collins, right, present the 2013 American Red Cross South Mississippi Chapter Humanitarian Award to John McFarland, center, at the 6th Annual Moonlight and Magnolias.
September 6, 2013 Joe Farruggio, left, and Bob Collins, right, present the 2013 American Red Cross South Mississippi Chapter Humanitarian Award to John McFarland, center, at the 6th Annual Moonlight and Magnolias.