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Stories that will make you laugh and cry- from Uncle George- an old hippie

My heroes ain't always been cowboys

A tribute to Duke Andrepont, Founder of Opelousas Daily World and Louisiana Peace Officer's LPOA Magazine. I found this old story hidden on some old computer files. I wrote this story on Feb 11, 1999 about one of my life long friends, Uncle Duke Andrepont. Uncle Duke told me years ago about how his family got the name Andrepont. His great grandfather immigrated to Louisiana from Nova Scotia, like most Cajuns. The Cajuns refused to swear allegiance to the King of England. They would just swear at him. When Duke's grandfather left Nova Scotia, his name was Andrew Pont. An immigration clerk made a typing error and his name instantly became Andrepont.

Well here is the story as it appeared in 1999. Duke Andrepont died yesterday, Feb 10,1999. He was 80. He was sitting in their small kitchen at the table preparing the income tax return. Flo was dressing, because they were going out with friends for lunch. Duke called her name. She came into the kitchen to see what he needed. As she came into the door he slipped from the table and out of this world. I guess the moral of the story is that the crises of life can't kill you but the IRS can.

I remember the very day in 1956 when I first met the Duke. I was 6 years old. Mamma, Daddy, my brother Ricky, and I were watching The Millionaire on our black and white oval screened Sylvania Television.

In the show, a Mister Michael Anthony would go to some needy persons house and knock on the door. He would always wear a sharp looking black suit and carry a briefcase. He would present the residents with a check for a million dollars from an anonymous donor.

Just about the time Mister Anthony walked up to the television door, a knock sounded on our front door. I rushed to the door and low and behold a man was standing there in a black sharp suit with a briefcase. I ran around and a round the house screaming  "We are Rich".

When I visited the white frame Andrepont house across our quiet oak tree and magnolia tree covered Baton Rouge street last night, Flo was taking it pretty good. She was on the phone talking to their many very close friends and retelling the events of how Duke passed away. I saw the hint of tears, but she managed her usual smile and a few bits of laughter. The house would not be the same without the sound of laughter.

 

Back on that day in 1956, daddy explained that Uncle Duke (not related to us) was here in Monroe to sell advertisement and to write stories for his police magazine, The Louisiana Peace Officer. Daddy said that the Police Chief Kelly had assigned him to accompany Uncle Duke to introduce him to the other cops and to the business owners in the community.

Well Duke did not give us a million dollars, but he did give me something much more valuable, a friendship that lasted me through the Viet Nam war and three marriages. Uncle Duke was one of the chief reasons I moved to Baton Rouge after leaving the Air Force. He called me when this house came up for sale and we have been neighbors now for 13 years.

Duke and Flo built their house in this neighborhood in 1946. They lived way out in the country then. Baton Rouge has spread all around them. Just a few blocks away the people and cars are speeding to and fro with horns blowing, and tires squealing. The sirens from the nearby fire station and paramedic unit wail though the night. But right here on this small street, it seems that time stood still. The freshly planted pines, oaks, and magnolias are quiet large. Some are 100 feet tall and proud. The limbs on the live oaks have gotten lazy and lean down across the ground. The flowers on the magnolia trees get fat and white. Their bark is like elephant skin.

 

The kids grew up, moved away and have kids of their own. New kids have come and some of them have moved on. Newer ones take their place. They walk the street in peace, they ride their bicycles freely, and they still play baseball, basketball, or football in the vacant lot or in the front yards. People still sit in the shade or on the front porch swings and sip ice tea. We have a neighborhood unlike any other. We frequently have crawfish boils, pig roasts, or barbecues.  When someone dies or gets married in the neighborhood, Duke and Flo would walk through the neighborhood collecting  money for flowers.

Anna Lynne, Duke's beautiful granddaughter, was taking it well. She was missing classes at USL in Hammond, where she is studying to be a kindergarten teacher. She was lying on the couch covered with a smooth, soft, home made, patched quilt and watching the local news. She said she would miss Duke's ways. The way he would take them out to Dinner at their favorite Italian and Cajun Restaurant and order a Martini, then tell the waitress exactly, but politely how to make it.

She said one of the things she would miss the most was Duke's smell. He smelled like Old Spice, Aqua - Vela, and Vitals Hair Tonic, which he used to neatly groom his jet black, never dyed, head full of hair.

Back in 1956, Uncle Duke would become our closest friend. We hunted deer together at my grandfather's logging camp near Esperanza Point. It was 20 miles south if Natchez, Mississippi in the deep oaks and cypress woods along the river. At night the only sounds you could hear were the screech owls, the old Model T engine of the camp light generator, and the sounds of cards hitting the table as the grownups played penny anti poker. Later we moved the camp to the hills and swamps on Castor Creek near Columbia, Louisiana.

Duke loved to hunt. He was a great hunter. I remember when I shot my first deer while taking leave from the Air Force. I could see the deer in spots coming through the thickets and picked out an opening where the deer would step into the logging road where I was leaning against a huge white oak tree. The spike buck was about 90 yards away when I squeezed the trigger. The deer never flinched, so I figgered I missed it with the 12 gauge shotgun my daddy had given me for Christmas. I tried to trail the deer, but couldn't.

A few minutes later, Duke came walking though brown and red autumn forest on the carpet of leaves on the logging road, snapping leaves and twigs as he walked. "Did you get him?" he whispered. I turned and said, "Nope, don't think so. But, I don't see how I could have missed him. I was leaning against that tree, taking good aim, and squeezed of the trigger just like yawl taught me."

Duke pondered the statement and said, "Well, lets have a look." He bent down and looked at where some of the leaves had been turned over. He could tell the leaves had been turned over because they were wet on the top, while the others were dry. He trailed the deer for 75 yards and said, "Here it is."

Anna Lynne said that she wanted to be a kindergarten teacher, because she wanted to be like Duke. She said she wanted to give of herself. She said too many people come into this world to take. They take and they take, and they never give anything back. She said that Duke was the most giving man she had ever known.

Duke gave Flo 60 years of love, understanding, and great companionship. He gave love and he gave himself to his family and friends. That is the greatest gift a man can give. Give of yourself.

Duke gave America the ability to see color photographs in the local daily newspaper. He told me that in 1939 he and John Thistlewaite founded the Daily World, an Opelousas, Louisiana newspaper. Opelousas was the home of Jim Bowie (the Bowie Knife, the famous knife fight on the Mississippi River in Natchez, Remember the Alamo).

I cant think about Jim Bowie without thinking about the wreck daddy had in Bunkie Louisiana. Daddy was working traveling teaching law enforcement to Louisiana Cops and State Police. At one time every cop in Louisiana had attended one of daddy's classes. It got me out of quite a few tickets. The cop would look at my drivers license a long time, then say, "That name rings a bell. Oh I remember your daddy, the funniest man that I ever seen. I took his class 12 years ago and I remember every word he had to say. He saved my life a few times." Now you see where Uncle George got his personality. I wish daddy was still living and still teaching law enforcement for LSU. I get paranoid every time I see a bubble light in the rearview mirror.

Any who, Daddy was driving through Bunkie and had a coughing attack related to his past open heart surgery.  He passed out and crashed into a cafe plate glass window and into several occupied booths where people were eating lunch. Luckily miraculously no one was hurt at all. When daddy came to, the cafe manager was hovering over daddy's head telling him that Jim Bowie had eaten lunch there and the building was on the historical record. LSU paid a large sum for that window.

LSU restricted daddy from driving state cars for 6 months after he got medical attention. Daddy's boss had a difficult decision. Daddy's classes were scheduled well in advance. He had to travel. I wish I had a boss like that, who could think on his feet fast. The boss made my momma an honorary state employee without a salary and let my momma drive the state car so daddy could work.

Duke had just graduated from the Louisiana State University in journalism when he and Thistlewaite traveled across the country to learn about offset printing, a technique used by commercial printing shops at the time. Duke said offset printing was a method of putting color photographs in the newspaper by using offset press and creating lithographs using metal plates and ink. The Daily World was the first daily newspaper in America where families could see their daughter's or son's wedding pictures in color in the local news. The sales of the Daily World doubled above the other 2 town papers. The Daily World remained the only paper in America to use offset print for 12 years. The original paper is now on display at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. Duke showed me an article form an old New York Times about his contribution to the newspaper industry.

Duke gave the police officers of Louisiana a magazine, The Louisiana Peace Officer. He gave the cops a method of reading about and telling stories of crime prevention. He gave them a way of keeping up with the ever changing laws of the state. He also reported the events of the Louisiana Peace Officers Association, LPOA. He told them who came to the meetings, and who won the shooting competition. Duke and Flo made many great life long friends with the cops of Louisiana. One may say that Duke gave his life to law enforcement. But he gave a lot more.

Eleven years ago, I was standing beside Duke's deathbed at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital when the priest came in to gave Duke his Last Rites. His heart was bad and the doctors said to call the family in, because he would not live through the night. The doctors found some problems with the medications he was taking. They made some quick and desperate changes. I  guess God figgered Duke had a little more giving to do.

Duke was a member of Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church in Baton Rouge, and a member of Capitol City Lions Club, where he and Flo were very active in working at the Rebel Shopping Center Bingo Hall. They raised money for the Lions Club Crippled Children and for the Eye Foundation. Again he gave of himself so kids could run and play and see the world more clearly.

Amongst other things, Uncle Duke gave me the craving of good OLE Cajun Gumbo. He made the best pot of seafood gumbo the world has ever known.

I guess the one who took Duke's passing the worst was his son, Cote. (Pronounced Co-ty as in Buffalo Bill Cody). Perhaps he felt a twinge of guilt and regret. Because in the beginning, Duke had high plans for Cote to get into the business of the magazine and/or to get into law enforcement. He wanted his son to one day be the sheriff of East Baton Rouge Parish.

But Cote had other plans. He has developed a thriving business breeding, raising, buying, selling, boarding, and showing prize horses. What else can you expect from a boy growing up with a name that sounded so much like one of the great American hero cowboys, Buffalo Bill Cody of the wild, wild west.

What else could you expect from a boy who everyday came to dinner at a western designed dining table that was under a mural of Buffalo Bill riding his pony out into the sunset.

Cote was crying openly when I was there last night. He was talking on the phone to the Montana Lady that owned a dude ranch where Duke loved to walk the canyons and hunt deer nearly every season for years. Cote did not like hunting. But a few years ago he took his daddy to Montana to make one last hunt. It came a blizzard and the hunting was miserable.

Cote was crying while talking on the phone. After he hung up he said she is a wonderful lady. He said I never really wanted to go back there until now.

Well here's to you Duke. We will miss you.

Update, Feb 19, 1999

Looking back at Duke's sudden death, the funeral and all, I decided that at least one hero arose out of the situation. Anna Lynne Andrepont, the college student granddaughter who cut her classes, missed time with friends, and being with her boyfriend to be with her grandmother day and night for days. She helped with calling all the friends and family, she helped with the meals for the visitors, she did the dishes. But most of all she was there for her grandmother. In this day and age when you hear of the generation x, I think that is heroic.

ANDREPONT, SR.  I. D.  "DUKE"
Retired editor and publisher of Louisiana Peace Officers Association magazine and a resident of Baton Rouge, he died Wednesday, Feb. 10, 1999, at Baton Rouge General Medical Center. He was 80 and a native of Opelousas. Visiting at Welsh Funeral Home, 6700 Florida Blvd., 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday-day. Visiting at the funeral home, 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday. Mass of Christian Burial at Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church at 1 p.m. Saturday. Burial in Greenoaks Memorial Park. He is survived by his wife, Florence Ball Andrepont; stepmother, Billie Johnson; a son, I.D. "Cote" Andrepont Jr.; two sisters, Marjorie Dial and Dona Ordello; a granddaughter, Anna Lynne Andrepont; nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents, Lawrence and Beah Andrepont; and a sister, Marie Landry. He was a member of Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church, Capitol City Lions Club, Louisiana Peace Officers Association and Municipal Peace Officers Association. He was cofounder of the Daily World, the first daily paper in the United States to be printed on an offset press.

The above obituary appeared in  The Baton Rouge News, Advocate on Line

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