This hits home, even though I've never been to New Orleans. "Doc" is a well known BB referee here in the Rogue Valley, and is known and loved by all.
He told us a few weeks ago he was going back down there, but I, didn't expect this bleak report.... http://www.mailtribune.com/archive/2006/0123/local/stories/01local.htm
Leroi Dedeaux says the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina still haunts his New Orleans family members, who are displaced and crammed together in homes without electricity.
Mail Tribune / Jim Craven
Still suffering Katrina’s wrath
A Rogue Valley man returns to New Orleans to help family members rebuild
By JOHN DARLING
for the Mail Tribune
His family had lived in New Orleans for almost a century. Now, after Hurricane Katrina, their homes are destroyed and their jobs gone. They are the Dedeaux clan, some 90 relatives of longtime Rogue Valley resident Leroi Dedeaux.
Dedeaux, membership director at the Ashland YMCA, started a fund at Washington Mutual in Ashland and collected more than $8,000 from local residents and friends he’d made in his 35 years here. Last month, he flew to New Orleans to pitch in — and to start writing checks to family members.
It helped. All his relatives now have food, water and a roof over their heads, although 11 are crammed in the house of his sister, Gwen, across the Mississippi River in Harvey, La. They’re sleeping on the floor, are living without electricity and have endured being told by both the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the American Red Cross first that they’d have to leave, then that they could stay, said Dedeaux, 55.
"You can see it (New Orleans) on TV, but once you’re there, it’s like nothing I ever experienced in my life," said Dedeaux, who grew up in the Ninth Ward, just east of downtown. "It’s so devastated, with cars and fridges thrown on top of houses and wild dogs circling you like they haven’t eaten in forever."
Four months after Hurricane Katrina, Dedeaux had the unpleasant chore of finding a dead body "by locating the stench" and having it pulled out of debris by authorities, he said.
"How can I find a body unless they’re still dragging their feet and not really caring?" Dedeaux said. "They’ve made the devastation a tourist attraction and you see buses of people from all over the U.S. in there taking pictures."
Dedeaux’s relief fund went to help kin keep going with the basics of life, but none can relocate to their former homes, which were completely submerged and are contaminated, collapsed or completely gone, he said.
Many of his 90-member clan have relocated to nearby cities: Shreveport, Baton Rouge, Galveston, San Antonio, and also into Tennessee and North Carolina. His 93-year-old mother, whom he’d planned to bring back to his Talent home, was hospitalized with exhaustion and chest pains and was unable to travel.
The hardship in the wake of Hurricane Katrina has taken its toll on all his family, Dedeaux said. Much of his time during his 12 days in his sister’s crowded home was spent keeping the peace. His experience in New Orleans left him with enough post-traumatic stress that he’s getting therapy.
News reports of entrenched poverty, corruption and racism in New Orleans were no surprise to Dedeaux, who grew up with it and "had no question in my mind that it (the slow response to Katrina) was about racism," he said.
His relatives "don’t think about it because it’s all they know," he said. "They’re true Louisiana people. But I can see it because I got away."
Dedeaux came to the Rogue Valley in 1971, recruited for football at then-Southern Oregon College. He was defensive back, captain of the team and all-conference two years in a row, going on to a life connected with sports, including being a basketball referee with the Rogue Valley Officials Association.
"Sports is the only way a black person can get out of there. It’s not ‘Ozzie and Harriet’ down there. You have to work every day and night to survive," he said. "People say, well, why don’t you (his kin) go back there. They don’t know the hardship. There’s nothing to go back to."
An African-American, Dedeaux’s life in the mostly white Rogue Valley has been good to him, he said. "I’m a loving person and if they don’t make me feel black, I won’t make them feel white."
Dedeaux worked 14 years as manager of Geppetto’s Restaurant and has many friends and acquaintances who "have been unbelievable, opened their arms and bent over backwards" at the idea of sponsoring displaced relatives here. But, he said, "it’s like pulling teeth" to get them to imagine a new life elsewhere.
Dedeaux plans another trip back to help kin sometime in the next few months. His "New Orleans Family Relief Fund" is still receiving contributions at Washington Mutual, 243 E. Main St., Ashland OR 97520.