Cover Story


FEB. 10

It was with the heaviest of hearts that we reported in February that the longtime Lafayette banker and IND Media founding partner Jerry Reaux died at the age of 53. Jerry had been beset by a number of medical complications in recent years and collapsed at his home.

Jerry was never actively involved in the day-to-day operations of the paper, having lent his thoughtful advice and wealth of financial expertise to the organization over the past 10 years.

Rather, for more than three decades Jerry made his mark on this community as a banker, among the most respected in the state.

FEB. 26

Al Berard, the award-winning multi-instrumentalist and music producer, was pronounced dead at Our Lady of Lourdes hospital after suffering an aneurysm.

A founding member of the Grammy-nominated Basin Brothers and a regular on Acadiana stages both as a sideman and featured performer, Berard was a gifted guitarist and fiddler player. As a member of the Traiteurs with guitarist Sonny Landreth, he was also instrumental in helping raise money for the Tommy Comeaux Endowed Chair in Traditional Music at UL Lafayette, an indigenous music program at the university for which he also served as an adjunct instructor.


A two-vehicle crash in rural Lafayette Parish ended the life of longtime SLEMCO board member and former president Jerry Meaux, 74, of Duson. At the time of his death, Meaux was chairman of the Louisiana Racing Commission.

A lifelong, avid horseman, Meaux began training quarter horses throughout Louisiana, Texas and New Mexico in the early 1960s, transitioning to thoroughbreds in the late 1970s. He relinquished his owner/trainer license in 2008 when he was appointed LRC chairman by Gov. Bobby Jindal following a 1996-2004 tenure as a commissioner.

MAY 25

LaPolitics Weekly and founder and Publisher John Maginnis died in May at his New Orleans residence.

According to LaPolitics protégé and IND contributor Jeremy Alford: From his first foray in the business, delivering The State-Times on his bike after school, to his first journalism job for The Catholic Commentator, John devoted his life to reporting the news. Through his three books, The Last Hayride, Cross to Bear, and The Politics of Reform, he became one of the most recognizable names in Bayou State politics.

His syndicated opinion column appeared in 21 newspapers around the state. He was also a featured speaker for civic groups and organizations across the Gulf Coast. In 2000, John was inducted into the Hall of Fame of the LSU Manship School of Mass Communications.

MAY 26

Dr. Griff Blakewood, who would tell anyone that he “taught reality” at UL, died after a year-long battle with cancer at the age of 54.

Considered a visionary among his pupils, Griff was a force of life with such a passion for imploring people to reconnect with nature, and with each other, for a more beautiful, sustainable future.

Under his tutelage and leadership, his students started recycling on UL’s campus and at Festivals Acadiens et Créoles, started EarthShare Gardens (Lafayette’s first communitysupported agriculture garden) and “Save the Horse Farm.”


The matriarch of the Abdalla family well-known for a legacy of retail success died in June in her home at the age of 100. Irma Belle Poche Abdalla, who was born in Gold Dust on Thanksgiving Day and raised in Arnaudville, moved to Lafayette when she married Edward Abdalla III.

Honored by The IND as a Trailblazer in ABiz’s annual women’s awards, Abdalla was a businesswoman with a keen sense of style and for more than six decades ran the downtown Abdalla’s department store with her husband. She was the mother of Brother Abdalla of Brother’s on the Boulevard.


Lafayette’s arts community lost a brilliant mind and immensely talented artist, and the entire Lafayette community lost a gentle, great man. Surrounded by his family, Fred Daspit died at Lafayette General Medical Center after a brief illness. He was 83.

An art education instructor at UL for 36 years, the beloved professor, author and historian emerged onto the local art scene in 2005 at the age of 74, when he first exhibited his exquisite paintings and intricate reliquary sculptures at the University Art Museum and at Gallery 549 in Downtown Lafayette.


R. Jarvis Fortier Sr. was a longtime fi xture among Acadiana’s automotive community, spending 69 years with Hub City Ford, where he made a name for himself with catchy advertising and by helping make the dealership one of the most successful in the region.

During his nearly seven decades with the company, Fortier helped bring Hub City Ford to among the top 60 Ford dealerships — out of 3,100 — for sales in the country, as well as the No. 1 selling dealership within a five-state area.

AUG. 6

The IND Media family and the entire Lafayette community was devastated by the loss of Vickie Nettles, 50, who died suddenly at Lafayette General Medical Center.

The Lafayette advocate for autism awareness was a beacon of hope for many, honest in the challenges facing the autism community and a relentless mother who sought to better Acadiana through her work with the Autism Society of Acadiana.

AUG. 16

The first words Milton “Spider” Guidry ever spoke to IND music writer Nick Pittman were in a crowd at South by Southwest in 2005. “Hey, Nick, you know what they say about me? I’m a little shakey,” he said as he laughed and shook a shaker egg — an oval percussion instrument similar to a maraca.

A longtime co-host of a popular New Orleans Saints program on AOC, the 61-year-old Spider had family in California but was 100 percent a Lafayette character —- even called the “Cajun Kramer” by some for his similarity to the Seinfeld character.

SEPT. 10

If you didn’t know Alison Neustrom, Sheriff Mike Neustrom’s daughter who died at the age of 42 after battling cancer for less than a year, you missed out on something really special.

The research director of PAR, Alison dedicated her short life to helping people who, for whatever reason, were “struggling on the margins of life,” according to her obituary. In addition to her husband and her large, loving family of relatives and friends, she left behind a 2-year-old daughter, Ceci, named after Alison’s mother.

NOV. 6

Many are the Lafayette residents who know our community’s past through L.C. Melchoir, the longtime radio personality who was a walking encyclopedia of Hub City legend and lore. Melchoir died Nov. 6 at 73. Well-known for dark sunglasses and a quirky side belt buckle, “Poppy,” as he was known to his grandchildren, was a frequent speaker before Lafayette civic clubs, waxing poetic and prosaic on the folksy history of his lifelong home.

NOV. 9

Orlando Thomas, a former All American safety in the 1990s for the U(S)L Ragin’ Cajuns and later a Pro Bowl safety for the Minnesota Vikings, died from complications related to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Thomas died two weeks after celebrating his 42nd birthday.

He announced the ALS diagnosis in 2007, a few years after being told he had the fatal neuro-muscular disease. Thomas led his high school football team, Crowley High, to a state championship in 1989 and was instrumental in the Cajuns’ back-to-back Big West Conference titles in 1993 and ’94. He was drafted in the second round of the 1995 NFL draft, led the league with nine interceptions his rookie season — Thomas was named All- Pro that year — and retired in 2001.

NOV. 14

Noted New Iberia chef Lambert Hallman Woods III died at the age of 48. No cause of death was released.

In the 1990s, he was well-known as the chef at Le Rosier in New Iberia and garnered national attention for the restaurant in 1995 when he was among nine chefs from New York to San Francisco named by Food & Wine magazine as the “Best New Chefs in America.”

He was featured in numerous publications and videos.

NOV. 17

A legend in the Acadiana Oil Patch, Jerry Lee Comeaux was 70 years old when he died.

A lifelong resident of Lafayette and former board member of LAGCOE and Bright Light Foundation, the former professional golfer — Comeaux played on the PGA Tour — helped organize the Louisiana Oilman’s Golf Tournament during his 35-year career in the business.