Editor’s note: The following is an excerpt from the columnist’s recently published book, “JEANERETTE: My Hometown.”
Allow me to introduce my late father, Earl Wesley Deare Sr. In February 2019 he would have celebrated his 109th birthday.
He may have celebrated it in his own time and his own way in a galaxy “far, far away” with a fifth of Old Crow whiskey and a beer chaser. He’d have liked that. Alongside probably were some old pals: Odis Sikes, Ernie Pirnie, Joe Minvielle, Amos Landry, Joe Guillotte, and Able Trimble — his employees who worked as servicemen for him at CLECO in Jeanerette — plus the hundreds of others with whom he came in contact during his 78 years on Earth.
He also would have been offering to buy rounds. “That’s on me,” he’d have said to the bartender. He was jovial and friendly and generous in quiet little ways. He may have nodded toward the quiet people standing in the shadows.
Often poor people, both black and white, came begging at his house on the weekend, pleading, “Mr. Deare, your men cut off my lights yesterday. No, sir, I didn’t pay my bill. I promise I can pay you next week when I get paid. I got little children, Mr. Deare. We need ours lights…”
The electricity would be back on in an hour — and his wallet would be thinner because of it. He knew better, but he did it anyway.
He had a soft heart. He cared.
He cared for his invalid wife and four children. He could have packed up and left, given the unusual circumstances of his marriage. She was ill, and they did not speak to one another. But he chose to stay and provide a home and food and clothing for us, and a person to care for his ailing wife.
As married partners, they had little in common, except us. If I could engrave his mausoleum tombstone, I would add, “He stayed.”
He stayed at his job with the electric company for 48 years before retiring. Starting as a lineman when he was just 16 during the Depression, he had ascended the ladder (pun intended) from being a lineman to becoming local manager in Jeanerette, despite not having graduated from high school.
He stayed at his job during hurricanes when nearly every line serving the town was downed. It was his duty, and he took it seriously —coming home to catch an hour of sleep then returning to work alongside those who were stringing new wires from pole to pole in seemingly endless lines.
He stayed and never took a vacation, preferring to save the days to be used one at a time when family duties called.
He stayed until it was time to go. He finally left us in 1988 because it was time to leave his earthly duties behind. No more responsibilities to work or family. I hope he is laughing and joking quietly at some long wooden bar in heaven, and wordlessly smiling across the room at those he helped during his service on Earth.
They know — and he knows — he stayed for them.
JULAINE DEARE SCHEXNAYDER is retired after a varied career in teaching and public relations. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.