The man who has a reef on the other side of Marsh Island named for him is, I’m sure, reminiscing about the good old days on the water and as a conservationist with fishing buddies who died before he took his last breath on Monday.
Dr. Donald Pavy died at age 88 on July 15. Lydia, where he practiced medicine for most of his career, isn’t going to be the same. Louisiana, where he made a mark as a dedicated conservationist and an author on a mission, won’t be the same.
“This loss is going to be felt around the state,” Jeff Angers of Baton Rouge, a Teche Area native and director for the Center for Sport Fishing Policy, said Wednesday.
Pavy’s Reef, where speckled trout, redfish, flounder, drum and other fish live along the northern edge of the Gulf of Mexico, will continue to be a popular destination, one that bears the name of the great man whose foresight paved the way for significant sport fishing regulations in Louisiana.
I was a young outdoor writer when I met Pavy in the late 1970s and chronicled his efforts to preserve speckled trout fishing for future generations with the startup of Save Our Specks. He was my hero, a true conservation giant, then and now.
“He was a great advocate for fisheries. He inspired many more people to become advocates along the way,” said Kirk Sieber, a St. Martinville native who counts himself as one of those outdoorsmen inspired by Pavy.
Sieber, a local accountant who fished for speckled trout often with Pavy, co-founded the Sugar Chapter of the Coastal Conservation Association of Louisiana.
In a March 14, 2010, Overtime Outdoors column in The Daily Iberian, Pavy praised the late Albert Bankston, who was inducted into the CCA-Louisiana Hall of Fame along with Angers, Jimmy Jenkins and Rusty Vincent.
“I think it’s marvelous, wonderful. He’s well-deserving of the honor. He worked tirelessly and put a lot of time and treasure into that,” Pavy said about Bankston.
At the time, Pavy wasn’t as active in CCA-Louisiana as he once was and a bad back had forced him to end the fishing trips he enjoyed so much out of Cypremort Point. At 78, though, he still was practicing medicine and continued to practice medicine in Lydia.
The Tulane University graduate’s career as a physician began in 1959 when he put his shingle on the door of an office at Weeks Island. Ten years later he relocated his practice to Lydia, where he was beloved and regarded as a compassionate doctor for the duration of his career.
All the while, Pavy fished for speckled trout and became concerned about the future of the species along our coast.
Pavy’s close friend, the late Lester Gonsoulin, and others helped Bankston get Save Our Specks off the ground in the Sportsman’s Paradise. SOS was the forerunner of the Gulf Coast Conservation Association, which evolved into CCA-Louisiana.
His attention also was directed at the Teche Area, which he loved. In November 1998, after speaking up at a public hearing two years earlier, Pavy realized one of his achievements as a conservationist when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released a Preliminary Restoration Plan in October 1998 to restore the eroding eastern shoreline of Weeks Bay.
The bay’s saltwater ecosystem was being ruined by erosion, Pavy said in Nov. 8, 1998, in The Daily Iberian. He blamed a crumbling “land bridge” that separated the eastern side of the bay from the Intracoastal Waterway. Erosion gouged three huge gaps in the narrow isthmus, he said, and countless gallons of fresh, turbid water poured into the bay from the Intracoastal Waterway.
“What’s happening is we’re getting a tremendous amount of water coming our way from the Atchafalaya River. Intracoastal Canal has become a river,” Pavy said at the time.
The Corps’ proposed project to enhance and restore the marsh involved building a 3,200-foot retention levee on the canal side and a 16,000-foot retention levee on the bay side.
“I think this is a wonderful thing. It looks like the Corps is going to take the ball and do the work,” Pavy said.
Of course, there was a public comment period through Nov. 16, 1998. And, naturally, it was costly because the project area covered 89 acres.
A request was made for $200,000 to complete a feasibility study, which, if the money was granted, would start in October 1999 and take about a year. If approved by the Corps, the project could get underway in February 2002, according to the story in The Daily Iberian.
Pavy devoted the latter years of his life to writing. The passion he showed as a pioneering conservationist surfaced in his research for “Accident and Deception: The Huey Long Shooting,” a book published in August 1999.
Pavy’s goal was to clear the name of his first cousin’s husband, the late Dr. Carl Weiss, who was gunned down in a hail of bullets after Louisiana Gov. Huey Long was shot to death Sept. 8, 1935. Weiss was accused falsely of killing the governor, Pavy wrote as he detailed medical evidence and other information pointing to a coverup about what happened that day at the State Capitol in Baton Rouge.
He kept me abreast of the progress on the book and was so excited and proud when it came out. It shed light on a lot of dark areas in the state’s history.
The revised first edition of “Accident and Deception: The Huey Long Shooting” was published by in July 2018 by Beau Bayou Publishing Co. owned by Tom Angers.
Pavy also wrote “Alligators, Marshes, Mining, and Medicine: Life on a Salt Dome in the Marshes of Coastal Louisiana,” which was published in 2013.
I’ll think about the good doctor always, especially when I’m at Pavy’s Reef. Like so many people said, he will be missed.
DON SHOOPMAN is outdoors editor of The Daily Iberian.