Documenting Erath’s Stark 1964 Tragedy

Documenting Hilda's Wrath

Documenting Hilda’s Wrath

October 3, 2014 marks the 50th Anniversary of the Erath Water Tower Collapse.  Dubbed the “Tragedy of the Century” for Erath’s Centennial in 1999, without a doubt, the tragic 1964 event changed the face of the community.

Erath’s Stacy Bodin and Robert Vincent, who maintain the “Erath Echoes Historical Legacy” Facebook page online, decided they wanted to create a video documentary which offered a few firsthand accounts of the fifty year old tragedy.

Without each realizing it, both Bodin and Vincent had separate plans, months prior to the anniversary to produce a video documenting the event, until the duo spoke about it this summer.

Bodin’s plan was to create a video account of the event, if time was on her side during the summer months. With the help of former Supervisor of Classroom Technology Jude Dubois, Bodin learned about video editing from her mentor around 2003.  So, with a little experience under her belt, she felt she could create an amateur video that would document this event in the town’s history.

Without realizing Bodin’s plan, Vincent, in the meantime had contacted a company to help him with the project, however the cost was higher than he expected.  The two collaborated and decided they would try and work on one themselves. The concept was to create a documentary focusing on events through the eyes of a few who experienced it back in 1964.  Bodin stated, “in terms of work, we knew this would be huge project if we did it ourselves, however, Robert (Vincent) and I felt strongly that a historical video was needed to mark this part of our town’s history.  This was also a way to pay tribute to the eight victims who died that day. Bodin then added, “Obviously, it isn’t a professional video documentary, but we do feel it will serve a historical purpose for our town.”

Vincent stated “I have always felt that the story of these eight brave men had to be preserved so that it wouldn’t be forgotten to history. Their sacrifice was too important to be forgotten, but was unsure how to preserve this history.”

He also shared, “On May 26, 2013, I was lucky enough to attend the premiere of a documentary on Mervin Kahn in Rayne.  I immediately began thinking a documentary would be the perfect way to preserve this story, and knew that the only way this could be accomplished is if Stacy Bodin was involved. I told Stacy my idea, and we ran with it.”

During the summer of 2014, trio Stacy Bodin, Robert Vincent and Jackie Vincent, were able to set up interviews and film Martial Broussard (one survivor of the tower’s fall), Steve Granger (an Erath ambulance driver at the time of the tower’s collapse), Erath Mayor John Earl LeBlanc, (who worked at Broussard Funeral Home in Erath in 1964), and Alice Dubois LeBlanc, (daughter of victim Felix Dubois), for a video documentary of  their firsthand accounts of the disaster.

Also included is a short clip of the late Cleve Thibodeaux who was filmed by Kermit Bouillion on February 14, 2003.  Thibodeaux was an eyewitness to the water tower collapse and also served as an Erath Town Councilman during that era.  The complete interview with  Cleve Thibodeaux’s account of the disaster (filmed by Bouillion in 2003), will also be shared in a separate video on the Erath Echoes facebook page that day.

Inclusive in the documentary are interviews with Erath Attorney and Acadian Museum Board Member Robert Vincent, who speaks about the routes taken in rebuilding after this event, and the 1999 Erath Centennial Historian Stacy Bodin who speaks briefly about her experience in researching this tragic moment, as well as remembering the event through her then, five year old eyes.

With the use of passages from Bodin’s “In the Wake of Tragedy” article written in 1999 which was narrated by Jackie Vincent, the documentary was finalized and edited for viewing.

The informational documentary includes interviews, photos of the eight victims, a little insight with the (eight victim), multiple funeral, the ordeal the town endured in 1964, and steps taken to rebuild the city hall, fire station and water tower.

Local author and Attorney Warren Perrin who established the Acadian Museum  in Erath in the early 90’s and Erath Museum Board Member Kermit Bouillion, who encouraged and supported the documentary project shared thoughts on the fifty year old tragedy.  Perrin stated, “During its 115 years, Erath has overcome many disasters, but none were more devastating to the heart and soul of this Cajun community than the collapse of the water tower. The sudden death of eight very pro-active citizens together with the destruction of the town’s City Hall caused all Erathians to experience first shock, then collective depression.”  Bouillion echoed a similar sentiment by sharing “The unthinkable tragedy that the town of Erath suffered in 1964 will forever remain in our hearts.”.

Both Bodin and Vincent voiced regrets that time was not on their side to interview more people for the video.  Bodin shared that both she and Vincent had time constraints preventing them from doing more interviews. The duo did state however that if  anyone wants to share their accounts of  this event, they can send it to them using any of these routes.  (1) Email a typed story of their experience to Stacy Bodin at stacybodin@aol.com or Robert Vincent at erath1@aol.com.  (2) Mail the story (typed or hand written) to Robert Vincent at P.O. Box 64, Erath, LA 70533. (3) Video the person’s story and mail or bring the DVD to the Acadian Museum in Erath. For each listed above, please include the name of the person who is telling the story, (the name of the person sending it, if it is a different person), a phone number, email address or physical address with the information. Everything gathered will be placed in the Hurricane Hilda-ErathWater Tower Collapse folder at the Erath Museum to preserve the stories.

Vincent ended by saying ” I am very proud of the finished version. We now have the story told in a clear, concise manner that can be shown to any group that wants to know about this episode in Erath’s history. It is my hope that the Erath schools will use the documentary when teaching students about Erath. These eight brave men paid the ultimate sacrifice for their community, and we all owe them our respect and gratitude.”

On October 3, 2014, fifty years to the day of the tragedy, the 43 minute video will be published online (on or before 9:00 AM) on the Erath Echoes Facebook Page  @ https://www.facebook.com/TownOfErathsHistoricalSite

Note: Where can you view the video and story online? When can it be viewed?

1. Erath Echoes Facebook Page @ https://www.facebook.com/TownOfErathsHistoricalSite.
2. On Stacy Bodin’s Vimeo link  @ http://vimeo.com/stacybodin/1964erathwatertower .
3. On the Town of Erath’s website at http://townoferath.com.
4. Both “In the Wake of Tragedy Video” and “Cleve Thibodeaux’s 2003 interview” are will both be located on Bodin’s Vimeo Video page at https://vimeo.com/channels/erathechoes.
5. Also Bodin’s complete story of the Erath Water Tower Fall can be found @ erathhighalumniclasses.edublogs.org/2010/04/21/in-the-wake-of-tragedy.
6. When will videos go live for viewing? The feeds will be live on or before 9:00 AM,  Friday, October 3, 2014.

Where was the Erath Water Tower Located?

Where was the Erath Water Tower Located?

In 1914, a 125 foot water tower holding 40,000 gallons of water was constructed on South Broadway for the 15 year old Village of Erath. The tower was built behind what was then Bank of Erath.  The original Bank of Erath structure on the corner of East Edwards and Broadway still stands today and is currently the Acadian Museum. The town doesn’t have many full water tower photos, but several photos showing the location and massive size of the legs of the tower have been found and saved at the Acadian Museum in Erath.

The town building consisting of the City Hall, Jail and Fire Station was built in around 1946-1947.

 

 

In the Wake of Tragedy: The Collapse of the Erath Water Tower

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Erath Water Tower After the Collapse

 

In the wake of tragedy,
In the wake of a storm,
In the wake of disaster,
A small town mourns.

Triumph and tragedy lie intertwined within each community. In Erath’s history, triumph has emerged in many situations, while its counterpart, tragedy; has also played a vital role. Although the town has experienced tragic events through the decades, one horrendous tragedy in the fall of 1964 mesmerized the entire area.

During the first of week October in 1964, Hurricane Hilda made landfall along the Louisiana coast near Marsh Island, leaving behind death, devastation, and destruction. Along her path, she took with her, the lives of several local men, as well as thirty one other Louisiana citizens. The aftermath of this disastrous storm left a number of grieving parents, wives, family members, friends, and children. In the wake of this horrible tragedy, eight Erath men were laid to rest, while the rest of the community was left paralyzed with grief. The ordeal began on the afternoon of October 3, 1964, when some Erath citizens gathered in town to assist the Civil Defense Department.

The City Hall also housed the town’s Police Department, Jail and Fire Station. The building was located in the center of town on Broadway Street, with the water tower standing tall and erect above it. As Hurricane Hilda was waiting to make landfall, Erath citizens, who lived only miles from the coast, knew the full effects of a hurricane. Town officials, working in conjunction with the Civil Defense crew, were ready to weather the effects of this storm.  While Hurricane Hilda was approaching the Louisiana coast, tornadoes were spawning in the midst of the storm system, which began causing damage in local areas. Many citizens offered their services at the Civil Defense Headquarters. One helper on that bleak afternoon was David Broussard, the local funeral home director and owner of the ambulance service in Erath. He had been working the desk earlier that day, when Scotty Bernard, a nineteen year old U.S.L. student had replaced him as the CB operator. Upon being relieved, David Broussard returned home to rest.

At 1:30 P. M., David Broussard’s 17 year old son, Martial, left his home and went to the Civil Defense Headquarters at the City Hall to assist with the radio. The younger Broussard had experience with CB Radios, because his father owned the local ambulance service. So, he Broussard was on hand to help operate the radio during the storm. The CB radio was located in the back of City Hall, where many of the volunteers were sitting along the walls, waiting out the storm. When Broussard arrived, he stopped to check the plotting chart on his way to relieve Bernard at the radio. At 5:15 P.M., he walked in and said hello to Scotty Bernard and proceeded to hang up his rain coat. Within minutes, Martial Broussard heard a deafening noise, which was followed by an unending amount of water that engulfed the group. He was thrown by the blow and his arm was pinned by some metal beams and building debris. Trapped and unable to break free, water kept rapidly raging toward him. At the time, Broussard thought a tidal wave had hit.

Cleve Thibodeaux, a town councilman at the time, had been at the police station, but left to check on his home.  Upon leaving his home at that time,  he saw an image that is forever branded in his mind and in his heart. He literally saw the 125 foot water tower and giant cylinder case holding 40,000 gallons of water, “twist and fall” upon the City Hall Building. At that time, Thibodeaux.” called for help on the radio and announced that some heavy equipment would be needed because the water tower had collapsed on the small structure.

Upon his arrival at the scene, men could hear cries of help. They found the young Erath High School student trapped under the rubble of the building. David Broussard, father of the teenager, and the original ham operator that afternoon, lived about two blocks from City Hall when he heard the horrible crashing sound. He returned to the building to find the area flooded among the remnants of the brick building. The older Broussard then realized that his son was trapped under building debris and he was surrounded by water.

Stories told later stated that Steve Granger, Arthur “Booga” Sandoz,  Jackie Jesse, Vermilion Parish Deputy Sheriff Harold Dyson, and area other men managed to lift the metal beam that trapped the young Martial Broussard.  With the use of jacks, the group then was able to lift the steel beam from his arm.

Martial Broussard later learned, that the legs of the water tower standing high above the City Hall, had collapsed and literally crushed the one story red brick building under its impact. With 40,000 gallons of water in the tower rushing out of the cylinder case, the men standing at the door were literally shoved out by the tremendous force of water, but not all were as lucky. Death had called for some of the volunteers, although nothing more could be done about those who were lying beneath the fragments of the structure until the equipment arrived.

During this time, heavy equipment, including drag lines and two massive cranes were struggling in the midst of the storm, in an attempt to reach the City Hall. But the strong winds prevailed and they were hampered by the storm. The search finally began on Sunday morning. Rescue workers labored through the early morning hours to locate and remove the dead bodies, with the search concluding at 10:00 A.M. The final count of fatalities totaled eight on the morning of October 3, 1964. As the bodies on that solemn morning were located, they were wrapped in canvas tarpaulins, with their names written on the side. They were taken to a shed about four blocks away from the scene. Numb and grief stricken family members and friends sat silently outside until a truck arrived loaded with caskets. Relatives of the dead men shaken beyond belief stood as the caskets were unpacked from the pine crates. As the coffins were ready, each man was transferred into the appropriate casket.

Hilda’s deadly storm led this community toward an immense disaster, the worst seen in the history of the town. With the spin of her deadly winds, the legs of the water tower had buckled and collapsed leaving a trail of death and destruction that would haunt area residents for a life time.

Dr. Leroy Suire, Erath Mayor at the time, said most of the survivors of the crash had been standing in the doorway of the building when the structure gave way to winds. Suire also told reporters that one man had his hand on the guy wire to the tower when he felt it suddenly go slack. In the realization of what was about to take place, he fled as the building was crushed to its foundation. Some of the survivors of this tragic event were Martial Broussard, Joseph Schexnaider, Willie Bodin, Clemile Dubois, Nuda Trahan and Obrey Choates. The cause of the collapse remains a mystery. Many speculate the high winds caused by the hurricane caused the collapse, while others blamed a twister.

Victims

Victims

Eight men died horribly tragic deaths due to the repercussions of Hurricane Hilda’s wrath.

Those who lost their lives in this horrendous tragedy were: Joseph Camile Brown, 50, was a former sheriff’s deputy, city councilman, and mayor pro tempore. Surviving family members at that time included his wife, the former Sadie Broussard and his two daughters. Josie Brown (Arceneaux), and Mrs. Wilmer (Barbara) Dugas. He had one brother L. J. Brown and four sisters, Mrs. (Beatrice) Wiltz Leblanc, Mrs.(Regina) Simon Dubois, Mrs. (Rosie) C. L. Quoyser, and Mrs. (Euphemie “Mimi”) Lloyd Guillot. He was preceded in death by his sister, Mrs. Priscilla Harrington. He was the son of Camile and Aelmire Brown. He was a veteran of World War II. Brown’s nephew Richard Dubois followed in his uncle’s political footsteps, when he served as Erath Mayor. Joe Brown’s great nephew Jimmy Domingue served as the Vermilion Parish Registrar of Voters and his brother Bob (‘T-Bob”) Domingue is presently an Erath Alderman.

Brothers Vernice and Duffy Broussard were two other victims in the water tower tragedy. Vernice Broussard, (a 1963 graduate of Erath High School) was a twenty year old hardware store employee. His brother Duffy, 28, was a 1954 Erath High School graduate, who worked as an appliance store employee. Their parents were Mr. and Mrs. Jules Broussard. The brothers left behind a sister Vivian Broussard (Gilbert). Maternal grandparents were Mr. and Mrs. Nollie Menard and their maternal grandparents were Mr. and Mrs. Edias Bouillion.

The fourth victim was Eutis “Noo Noo” Menard who was 53. Mr. Menard was the Erath High school janitor. Surviving him was his wife. Noelia Dore Menard, a daughter Nora. his mother Mrs. Ubal Menard and his sister Mrs. C. D. (Eola) Goutierrez. He was preceded in death by his brother Murphy Menard and his father Ubal Menard.

The fifth of the eight victims was Otto “Cowboy” Bourque who was also 53. He was the patrolman at Erath High School. He was survived by his foster mother. Mrs. Amedia LaSalle. He was the son of the late Mr. and Mrs. Ovey Bourque of Erath. “Cowboy” had four brothers. Paul, Otto, Larsay and Durphy Bourque.

Clifton J. Dugas was the sixth. He was a 33 year old construction worker. Survivors at the time of his death included his wife. the former Anna Mae Morvant, a son Clifford Lee, two daughters, Ledia Mae and Wanda Marie Dugas had two brothers, Stafford Dugas and Jimmie Lee Romero and five sisters; Mrs. Eluse Choate, Mrs. Isidore Broussard, Mrs. Mary Spandoni, Mrs. Gladu Badeaux and Theresa Ann Dugas.

The seventh life lost was Felix Dubois who was a 53 year old farmer. Survivors at the time of his death included his wife, the former Mabel Boudreaux and four daughters, Alice Dubois LeBlanc, Gladys Dubois Romero, Verline Dubois Bernard and Helen June Dubois. His parents were Mr. and Mrs. Theophile Dubois and his sister was Mrs. Gladue Perrin.

The final and youngest victim found was that of the young nineteen year old college student who was working as the ham operator at the time of the crash Rane Scott Joseph “Scotty” Bernard was a student at the University of Southwestern Louisiana. The 1963 Erath High School Graduate was the only child of Mr. and Mrs. Voorhies Bernard. His maternal grandparents were Otis and Elias Landry and his paternal grandparents were Mr. and Mrs. Henry Bernard Sr.  Scotty was a member of the “Five Watts” Club who trained him as a ham operator. He was also a U. S. Civil Defense Member. In 1982, Bernard’s goddaughter Telisa Bernard Lege’ gave birth to a son and he was given the name Scott in memory of her late godfather, Rane Scott Joseph Bernard.

Upon locating and identifying all eight bodies, a multiple Catholic service was held. The Services were held at 10:00 A. M. on Monday, October 5, 1964, at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church, only blocks away from the scene of the tragic event. All eight men were exposed in the Catholic Church in Erath. With photographs surrounding the eight caskets lined up in the front of church, family members and friends gathered to bid these brave men good bye. Governor John J. McKeithen, on an aerial inspection of the Louisiana southern coast, stopped by briefly to attend part of the service held for the town’s eight victims. The governor extended his sympathy to Mayor Leroy Suire.

Monsignor Gustave Berube, pastor, was celebrant of the solemn requiem mass. Father Charles Dubois, (Joe Brown’s nephew, who was a Transitional Deacon at the ‘time) and Reverend Carroll Lee Dupuis, the associate pastor at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church preached the funeral eulogies. Reverend Emery Labbe, a former priest from Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, returned to Erath for the Funeral Mass. During the service, Reverend Labbe was quoted as saying, “that these men had died a hero’s death. They were brave men 8 who stayed to protect what belonged to others.” Assisting in the services were Reverend Charles Soileau, associate pastor at the Erath Catholic Church and Reverend Kenneth Morvant, of St. John’s Cathedral in Lafayette.

Present in the sanctuary also was Reverend Raphael Gauthier, Pastor of Our Lady of the Lake in Delcambre. Eutis Menard’s body was taken to the Delcambre Catholic Cemetery, while the other seven were buried in the Erath Cemetery.

Almost the entire town gathered to offer it’s prayers for their neighbors taken from them in this tragedy. At the time of the service, mourners filled the church yard, as well as the school yard located across the street.

On October 5, 1964, a mesmerized town watched parents bury children, wives bury husbands, and young ones bury fathers. A tragic turn of events, eight deaths and a multiple funeral service, which forever changed lives in a small town. A mark in Erath’s history labeled “The Tragedy of the Century.”

Citizens of Erath will never forget the stories, multiple funeral or the loss of so many human lives. Although a vast number changes have occurred since the collapse of the 125 foot water tower details are vivid in the minds of residents, the crash of the giant cylinder case containing 40,000 gallons of water onto the old City Hall Building will be remembered as a bleak time period for this community.

The 1964 funeral service, which captured the attention of the state, was held at 10:00 a.m. on Monday, October 5th, only blocks from the tragic scene. With no funeral parlor large enough to house the eight men, the caskets were exposed in Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church. Photographs surrounded the eight caskets, which were lined up in the front of church. At the time of the service, mourners filled the church yard, as well as the school yard located across the street. Though categorized as a “group” who experienced similar deaths, the memorial mass and reception allowed families to gather and remember the lives of each man they loved. Through this reunion, each man’s legacy of “life” became evident, not his death.

Without a doubt, this stark tragedy tied these men in death, however family and friends were the ties that bound them in life. As individuals, each man lived in his own right, just as each possessed an individual spirit, heart, and family. As with a sunrise, the horizons brightened as fond memories were shared. Amazingly though, no longer physically present, each victim managed to live on through the love experienced during their lives. In short, these were men who loved their families and who were loved in return.

On the morning of, October 3, 1999, as part of the Erath Centennial, a new day dawned at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church, as one hundred sixty relatives and community members gathered to remember the lives of the eight men who died during Erath’s Water Tower Collapse in the mid sixties. The memorial mass and reception paid tribute to the eight victims, survivors and the families.

Pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Community, the Erath Mayor, Town Councilmen and Centennial Committee, hosted a memorial ceremony and reception this past Sunday. Celebrant Reverend Wayne Duet presided over. the 35th Anniversary Mass, which reunited families of the eight victims. The 11:00 a.m. Memorial Mass which was held on the actual 35th anniversary date of the accident. Family members and friends gathered from Houston, Sulphur and connecting Acadiana areas, to remember their loved ones. Though not a celebrated moment in time, this historical date was part of Erath’s Centennial Program. Following the mass, family and friends gathered at Erath City Hall, which was dedicated to these victims when the new City Hall was built in 1966.  Many later stated that the memorial mass held in 1999 brought closure to the old wound still alive in their hearts 35 years later.

An unusual twist of fate brought unexpected disaster to Erath that unforgettable October evening in 1964. Walking hand in hand, grief, and death claimed Erath. The harsh reality of the multiple deaths numbed the rural community when Hurricane Hilda hit the Louisiana Coastline bringing with her, tremendous disaster.

On October 5, 1964, many relatives buried a part of their family, as well as a part of their heart. On that tragic autumn day, family pyramids changed…work places changed…Erath changed. Yet, among the changes, intense sadness, and tears which accompanied this accident, family legacies were born. In fact, never to be forgotten legacies, which have been passed on to younger generations within each family structure. Stories of grandfathers, fathers, relatives, and friends surfaced within each family unit. Just as the first ray of sunlight peers through the darkest of nights at the break of dawn, light eventually entered hearts through the years. While family members gathered to remember loved ones, the dark atmosphere present so long ago disappeared into a new day, as the love of each man managed to transcend time to touch the next generation.

A different tide has seemingly turned fifty years later.  The raging force of Hurricane Hilda’s natural disaster brought a horrendous moment in time. Disaster spawned darkness in 1964, but after five decades, it appears that healing has finally brought light to Erath community.

Portrait of a Grandmother

Portrait of a Grandmother
Lilly Bouillion Hebert
February 13, 1916 – July 31, 2002

For many of us, having a framed picture of our grandmother or our grandparents is considered a treasured item. It’s strange to think how the simplicity of a single photograph placed behind a piece of glass is considered a treasure. However, for those of us who grew up with loving grandparents, the reality of a portrait is essentially priceless.

In her lifetime, our grandmother truly touched the hearts of her twelve grandchildren. From Brian, all the way to Alaina, she made us each feel special. Despite the age differences, which lie between our even dozen, there is also a commonality. Individually, each of us has been blessed with wonderful memories of MawMaw Lilly that we hold dear in our hearts.

As with a large patchwork quilt each representing a different square, twelve personalities exist, each possessing a different vision in life. However, the single common thread running through our quilt is our grandmother. Unlike many people who never had the opportunity to experience their grandmothers, we were blessed, to not only know, but to love ours, as well. Today we each hold close to our hearts, memories and stories, which have affected our lives. It is often said, that grandchildren are a God’s gift to grandparents. With us, that love came full circle because we feel that Mawmaw Lilly was God’s gift to us. With the unconditional love lying deep within her, she shared her heart through laughter, stories and at times, tears. In Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem “Psalm of a Life”, there is one specific passage that states,

“Life is real,
Life is earnest
And the grave is not it’s goal.
Dust thou art
To dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.”

Mawmaw Lilly never tired in sharing her soul in life, nor will she in death. Her faith of God, as well as her love of life and family was real. Without a doubt even in death, that love will transcend boundaries to be with us.

Now I ask you again to focus on the frame sitting with a grandmother’s picture and the attached memories. Once you envision the image of a grandmother’s entire existence, the picture somehow changes. For us, the transformation of a simple photograph into a portrait is captured in the giving of her heart and soul. It is an image all twelve of us will forever cherish. We do have a number of pictures of her, however, God in his glory, graced us with her portrait as well. She was indeed, a true portrait of a grandmother.

Written for Lilly Hebert’s Funeral Mass by Stacy Bodin

 

Bernice Mary Shiner Gera

Can you name the first Professional female umpire?

Well, here are a few clues… she was an avid baseball lover, as well as a pioneer for women’s rights. This is a woman who lived in a time when women were not accepted as umpires in the Professional Baseball League. That is… until this baseball lover stepped up to the home plate with a dream deep in her heart. The name of the 1st female Professional Baseball Umpire was Bernice Mary Shiner Gera, and she was a 1949 graduate of Erath High School.
The Shiner family was originally from Ernest, Pennsylvania. Four members of the family were connected to the Erath Community.
During World War II, Betty “Liz” Shiner met Pervis “Bill” Mergist, a native of Erath. They met in Brooklyn, New York and were married. At that time, they moved to Erath.

Later, Betty’s sister Helen “Helk” Shiner came to Erath as a visitor. She met Edward Suire of Erath. They too fell in love and were married.
Soon, a third sister came to Erath. Her name was Bernice Mary Shiner and was born on June 15, 1931. Bernice remained in Erath and attended school here. She graduated with the Erath High Class of 1949.

(Note: Only three graduated from Erath High that year due to the “new” twelve year curriculum which was implemented in 1950. In 1949, there were still eleven grades. Students that year were offered the option of graduating in 1949 with an eleven year curriculum, or they could choose to remain and graduate with 12 years under the belt. Three chose to graduate in 1949. The 1949 class graduation was held with the 8th grade ceremony that year with three 11 year curriculum EHS graduates).

While in Erath, Bernice met Louis Thomas Jr. whom she later divorced. She remarried Stephen Gera.

The girls’ brother Edward “Eddie” Shiner also came to visit and met his wife Erath native Judy LeBlanc. Judy LeBlanc is the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. George LeBlanc. George Leblanc was the mayor of Erath at that time. Ed and Judy married and had three children (Richard, Mary and Karl).
The final Shiner sibling Henry remained in Pennsylvania.

Bernice Shiner Gera graduated from the Jim Finley Umpire School in 1967. Unable to voluntarily be accepted by professional baseball, she filed a lawsuit. Bernice Gera waged a six year legal battale to get into organized baseball as an umpire. A New York Court of Appeal ultimately ruled in her favor and and on April 12, 1972 she signed a contract.

Gera officiated a Class A Professional Baseball Game in Geneva, New York on June 24, 1972. After umpiring only one game (breaking the long gender of prohibition against women participating), Bernice resigned from baseball.

Bernice Shiner Gera died on September 23, 1992. She is buried in Indiana, Pennsylvania. Her tombstone reads “Pro Baseball’s First Lady Umpire.”

In Cooperstown, New York, there is an exhibit at the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame that was erected in her honor.

Bernice Shiner Gera traveled a long road since her days back at Erath High in the latter part of the 40’a. With an intense love of baseball in her heart, she fought for something she believed in and was able to leave her mark in baseball, as well as for women everywhere.

Who was the 1st female Professional Baseball Umpire? Well… it was an Erath High graduate from the 1949 class named Bernice Shiner Gera.

 

ERATH’ S OUR LADY OF LOURDES GROTTO TOUCHES HEARTS

A familiar and memorable sight for many Erath residents is the grotto located near Erath’s Catholic Church. The Church grotto built as a memorial honoring Our Lady of Lourdes, has captured the hearts of many children and adults through it’s forty seven year life. The blue and white Our Lady of Lourdes statue, stands encircled within a wall of large stones, above the small pond of water with its tiny bridge. Through the years, the grotto’s legacy has won the hearts of many area children. With fond embedded roots, it has become a memorable landmark in the Erath community. Many are able to testify to the excited squeals of children heard after each weekend mass. Echoes of excited young voices asking parents or grandparents, “can we go see the fish now?” Though the grotto’s statue, small bridge and goldfish captured the attention of the youngsters, it’s the bond of sharing cherished moments with friends and family that gently touched souls. In the mid fifties, Mrs. Edward (Helen) Suire Sr. was responsible for the promotion of building of the grotto at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church. Upon completion, the grotto was then dedicated in honor of Father Justin Mirat, the Pastor at the time. Father Mirat, a native of France served the Erath Catholic Church from 1932 unti11956. An inscription stone located near the Virgin Mary Statue reads:

NOTRE BIEN-AIME
PASTEUR-PERE JUSTIN MIRAT -SES PAROISSIENS”
LE 9 0CTOBRE,1955.”
(To Our Good Friend, Pastor Father Justin Mirat Your Parishioners, October 9, 1955)

Still located on church grounds, four and a half decades later, the grotto has become a memorable structure for many Catholic Erath residents. With memories still alive in many sacramental photographs, as well as in hearts, many find themselves returning as parents now, sharing memories with their own children. Though just a simple small replica of the Lourdes Structure in France, this tiny grotto somehow, seems to own a part of the heart, of those who grew up in the Erath Catholic Church community. It’s a place located just outside the doors of Erath’s Catholic Church. It is a place which memories of family and tradition solidified through the years. A place which is truly embedded in the heart of Erath….

2013-14 Vermilion Parish Middle School Teacher of the Year Melanie Alleman

Melanie Quirk Alleman was recently named the 2013-14 Vermilion Parish Middle School Teacher of the Year. The current Erath Middle teacher is a 1987 Erath High graduate who also graduated from ULL in 1989. Upon certification, Alleman then became a legal secretary for nine years. After returning to college, she received a BA in Education in 1997.

Her career began when she taught half a year at Seventh Ward. She then moved to Herod where she remained for 6 years. At that time, she transferred to Dozier Elementary where she remained until 2011. In August of 2011, she transferred to EMS.

This is her 2nd Teacher of the Year award. Alleman was named the Dozier Elementary Teacher of the Year during the 2009-2010 school year.

She is married to Jason Alleman and together they have two daughters, Morgan and Emily.

Alleman is the daughter Jimmy and Pat Quirk. She comes from a family of educators. Her father Jimmy Quirk was a teacher and principal for thirty one and a half years. Her sister Charlotte Quirk Domingues was also a long time educator who recently retired in Vermilion Parish. She has two brothers Tom and Tim Quirk.

Shana LebLanc Named LeBlanc Elementary Teacher of the Year

On Friday, March 15, 2013 Elementary Principal Dawn Amy announced to a surprised Shana Bernard LeBlanc, that she was the “LeBlanc Elementary 2013-14 Teacher of the Year.” With family present, LeBlanc was greeted with flowers and balloons.

The current 2nd grade teacher is a 1996 graduate of Erath High, and a 2000 UL graduate in her 12th year of teaching. In December 2010, LeBlanc earned her Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership from McNeese.

LeBlanc began her teaching career at Eaton Park in 2001 and moved to LeBlanc Elementary in 2009.

The dedicated teacher states on her school faculty page I teach because each moment is a new adventure. No two days are alike. Each morning you are met with new obstacles; new challenges; but you are also greeted with the best reward; children.”

LeBlanc comes from a family of educators. Her mother Margaret Viator Bernard retired from teaching in 2007 with more than 30 years of teaching experience. Her godmother (and Aunt) Telisa Bernard Lege, taught at Dozier Elementary two decades until she accepted a job in the Special Ed Department for Vermilion Parish several years ago. Shana LeBlanc’s younger sister Ashlie Bernard Landry is currently a teacher at Dozier Elementary. The two sister duo taught several years together at Eaton Park Elementary.

The next level of competition for the LeBlanc Elementary teacher will now be at the parish level.

Shana Bernard LeBlanc and her husband Nathan have two sons, Griffin and Pierce. She is the daughter of Kevin and Margaret Bernard of Erath.

Dozier Elementary Band Makes Parish/School History

 

2013 Dozier Elementary 5th Grade Band

2013 Dozier Elementary 5th Grade Band

On Wednesday March 13, 2013 the Dozier Elementary Band traveled to UL Lafayette to perform in the District Concert Festival. Though District Festival is a normal occurrence for middle school and high school bands in the parish, it is rare for 5th grade elementary bands to participate. So much so, that the Dozier Elementary Band was the first 5th grade band in Vermilion Parish to ever participate in a District Festival event, making history for the school and the parish.

Upon hearing Dozier Elementary’s first band concert for Christmas, Vermilion Parish Music Supervisor Madeline Dehart approached DES band director Kylie Veazey to consider taking the group to this year’s District Festival. Veazey, a 1st year band director admitted she was a bit apprehensive, but decided take a leap of faith with her young musicians and it paid off. Veazey shared, “if nothing else I felt, this could be a great experience for the students.”

Though Veazey had never participated in a District Festival as an actual band director, she had indeed participated many times with the Erath High band under the direction of her (former) EHS Band Director Kenny Broussard. Broussard, who has a daughter in the 5th grade band, was on hand to experience the event, not only as a parent, but as a proud band director watching his former student, who is now a band director herself.

The festival is used as an assessment for bands in District III. Ratings for assessment are on a scale from 1-5. A rating of “1” is the highest level of performance, and a rating of “5” is the lowest. Though it was their 1st district concert performance, the Dozier Elementary Band managed to receive all superior ratings (1’s), as well as receiving a plaque for making “Sweepstakes,” for all superior ratings.

The DES 5th grade band consists of sixty five 5th grade students who have been playing their instruments a mere six months.

As a 1st year band teacher an excited Kylie Veazey shared “Not only did everyone comment on how well the band performed, but also on the discipline and manners of our band member. I am extremely proud of the students!”

On Tuesday, March 12, 2013, Kylie Veazey and her DES 5th grade band participated in a “practice run” at 6:00 for the District Concert for the parents and community in Dozier’s cafeteria as well.