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Location: New Orleans, Louisiana, United States

Leonard Earl Johnson (photo credit Frank Parsley) covered Hurricanes Katrina and Rita (2005), and the 2010 British Petroleum oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico for ConsumerAffairs.com. He is a contributor to Gambit Weekly, New Orleans Magazine, SCAT, Baton Rouge Advocate, Advocate Magazine, The Times-Picayune, Country Roads Magazine, Palm Springs Newswire and the anthologies: FRENCH QUARTER FICTION (Light of New Orleans Publishing), LOUISIANA IN WORDS (Pelican Publishing), LIFE IN THE WAKE (NOLAfuges.com), and more. Johnson is a former Merchant Seaman, and columnist at Les Amis de Marigny, New Orleans; and African-American Village. Attended Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, and Harry Lundeberg School of Seamanship at Piney Point, Maryland. Winner of the Press Club of New Orleans Award for Excellence, 1991, and given the Key to The City and a Certificate of Appreciation from the New Orleans City Council for a Gambit Weekly story on murder in the French Quarter.

Sunday, September 01, 2019

Kathleen Babineaux Blanco ~ Obit / September 2019

πŸ’”LEJ's Louisiana, 
Yours Truly in a Swamp

a monthly e-column by Leonard Earl Johnson, 
of Lafayette and New Orleans, Louisiana

E-mail: Subscribe@LEJ.org
Archives: www.LEJ.org  
September 2019

Kathleen Babineaux Blanco 

~ Obituary ~

15 December 1942  /  18 August 2019

Seventy-seven year old 
Cajun Aristocrat

First Female Governor of Louisiana,

2004 ~ 2008 

And the States highest elected official in 2005,
 at the time of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

"What A Time It Was!"
L. A. Norma

BY  Leonard Earl Johnson
Β© 2019, Leonard Earl Johnson, All Rights Reserved

Cathedral of Saint John the Evangelist Oak Tree
Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco Reflections and Mass of Christian Burial
 Saturday 24 August 2019
Courtesy Diocese of Lafayette ~


β€œWhat do they say about an honest politician's children? 

They have to work for a living!”  
~ Raymond Blanco, Jr.,
an occupational safety professional in Atlanta, Georgia and
 Son of the late Governor of Louisiana.


A stunning 'Procession of Clergy' entered the nave accompanied by the Cathedral Choirs angelic rendering of Amazing Grace.  

Every Cloth in Lafayette Parish ~ if not all Acadiana ~ was present. 

Every Bishop in the Statedressed in their finest purple silks was there 
Ranking cleric, Gregory Michael Aymond, Archbishop of New Orleans spoke.  And Louisiana's present Governor John Bell Edwards and his Wife, Donna listened from the front pews.

Lafayette Parish Bishop J. Douglas Deshotel gave 'Greeting' to the assembled.  Bishop Deshotel is also of Cajun ancestry.  He was born ten years after Blanco, in nearby Basil, 

Evangeline Parish.

Mass was celebrated by the Cathedral's Rector,

Very Reverend Chester Arceneaux, VF

No one that day spoke Kathleen Blanco's name, nor of her time in the Governor's office, without noting her high ethical standards.  And the Hurricanes of 2005 ~ the fourteenth anniversary of which arrived five days after her Funeral.  

She was loved more than most politicians.  Born in Iberia Parish, 1942, her noblesse oblige manners melded perfectly with her school-marmish warmth, a personality she came by legitimately.  She was both.  It made her irresistible. 


"That charm, 

and Hurricanes Katrina and Rita,"  
L. A. Norma said to LaToya Cantrell, current and first female Mayor of New Orleans, as we exited the Cathedral in Lafayette ~ the Governor's home.

Cathedral of Saint John the Evangelist 
Lafayette Louisiana

Governor Blanco and her Husband, Coach Blanco, raised their family as congregants of this Cathedral, said to be the Bishopric of the wealthiest parish in the state.  

The five living Blanco children told the assembled masses about their wunderkind mother.  Most Louisianans would agree with all they had to say.  Me too. 

Pilar Blanco Eble spoke last.  She talked of friends and staff kindness in those sad and sweet final days.  She told how medical Marijuana eased the path, "And thankfully for the final arrival of medical Marijuana, she was able to enjoy that day, and with my Dad and with us. Talking, visiting, and sharing, and laughing."

The youngest Blanco son, Ben, was lost, age 19, when a crane's pallet fell on him at a construction site.  Death of your child is the second sharpest serpent tooth (rejection the sharpest).  

Clutched in white gloved hands and dangling by children's little fingers were blue commemorative programs ~ Blanco's face on the cover as angelic as she actually wore it in Life.  

Life's thorniness had not torn away her mantel of Faith.  Sturdy Roman Catholic Faith forged in Roman Catholic schools.  She was surefooted and sweet as the sugar cane that nurtured the land.  Everyone says this, though she was at the helm during that tough time when Katrina and Rita swamped her ship of state. 

The great storms strained ~ some say cracked ~ and then tempered her steel.  They flooded New Orleans ~ and literally cut The City adrift outside its own walls! 

A political battle ensued largely not understood at the time, but weighty as any Russian novel.  New Orleans' Blue-voting block was the prize, in an otherwise solidly Red-voting state. 

Mayor Nagin, President Bush, Governor Blanco
New Orleans Mayor, Ray Nagin, crisscrossed the country rallying his Citizens, and holding elections outside The City that no longer existed.  

Bush, claiming privacy concerns, refused to allow FEMA to supply the Mayor or Governor's offices with lists of where their dispersed populations were. 

In 2014, the United States Department of Justice convicted Ray Nagin of taking free football trips to Chicago, building clay-footed statues in Armstrong Park, and having children who worked for a living at the public expense.  He was sentenced to ten years, and until 2024 will be federal inmate No. 3275-034.

Blanco decided not to run for reelection to a second term.  Nagin, as noted, went to jail.  President Bush returned to Texas, and took up oil painting.  His recently published collection is titled, Portraits of Courage.  Blanco and Nagin were not included in the collection. 


Katrina's bigger ugly sister, Rita, took landfall near the Sabin Pass along the Louisiana/Texas boarder.  About a month after Katrina.  Puny early attempts at mending New Orleans' levees failed and Rita washed them away for a second time.

I was a citizen cut adrift by The Storms of '05.  Comfortably rescued and decamped across the Atchafalaya Basin in the home of college friends from fifty-years-ago Illinois.  Kind souls, who lived in Lafayette two blocks down from Coach and Kathleen Blanco.

One evening, walking past the Blanco house, I asked the state patrol in front if it would be all right to leave a note for the Governor.  He said it was, and I did.  On the back of my card I wrote, "I'm from NOLa, and I don't blame you," and dropped it in her mailbox. 

We met a few times over the next years at those points where scribes and their prey cross ~ the Hilliard University of Louisiana Art Museum, Libraries, and bank parties.  The last time was at a Vistas (now 64 Parishes) magazine party atop the Iberia Bank Tower, in downtown Lafayette.  

I told her then, indeed I did not blame her for the flood, nor my not gaining footing on her slippery 'Road Home' program ~ one of those projects that seemed more helpful to hired out-of-state administrators than to drifters, like me.  She looked hurt, and I was sorry I'd brought it up.  

I liked her very much, but...  There is no escaping it, her name is never mentioned when such matters are not brought up.

It was even noted in the Funeral Program: 

 "Although she knew that her name would be forever linked with the aftermaths of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, it was her dying wish that she be remembered for her faith in God, commitment to family and love of Louisiana." ~ Walters Funeral Home


There had been rumors passing round the oil barons at Pamplona Tapas Bar in Lafayette that, "Baby Bush might come to the Funeral."
  Papa Bush had expired the year before, and Blanco could have but did not attend his services.  But Baby Bush?  He had been President when she was Governor, but...

"Not likely," L. A. Norma noted.  

Their relationship was one of politics sorer sore spots.  Bush said she wouldn't ask properly for the lifeline to be thrown after Katrina, and he wasn't about to throw it unless she did.  She said, he wouldn't throw it without her bending her knee too much.  

Over fifteen-hundred privacy loving Louisianans perished. And an entire American City was evacuated and not truly back for years.

Bush did not come to the funeral.


David Begnaud, Lead National Correspondent for CBS News, said in his remarks:

β€œIf you’re getting ready to be run out of town,” he quoted the Governor as telling him, β€œjump in front of it and call it a parade.”
Recessional  /  Kathleen Blanco Funeral  /  Lafayette
She is survived by her Mother (age 99), Lucille Fremin Babineaux of New Iberia, by her husband, Raymond Blanco, aka Coach;
and by their children Karmen Blanco-Hartfield (Jerry), 
Monique Blanco Boulet (David), 
Nicole Blanco (fiancΓ© John George), 
Raymond Blanco, Jr. (April Springfield Blanco), 
and Pilar Blanco Eble (Michael). 
And thirteen grandchildren and many nieces and nephews.  
The entire congregation, lead by the Cathedral Choirs sang AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL for the recessional. 
Internment was at Saint Charles Borromeo Cemetery in Grand Coteau. The family shoveled the dirt themselves to fill her grave. πŸ’” 
~ Your Comments and Corrections are welcome ~

~*~    ~*~    ~*~

LEJ's Louisiana, Yours Truly in a Swamp
is a monthly e-column @ www.LEJ.org
~ Hosted on GOOGLE Blogger ~
and periodically at   
Les Amis de Marigny, New Orleans,
publication of the
The monthly column is written by Leonard Earl Johnson
of Lafayette and New Orleans, Louisiana
Archives: www.LEJ.org

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Γͺve, Baristas to the Stars

Photo credit:  Mark Konikoff
Β© 2019, Leonard Earl Johnson, 
All Rights Reserved.

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