A weekend of celebrating the life of Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco came to an end Saturday. Family paid their final respects in Lafayette, the place she lived and began her political career.
It was a beautiful ceremony at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist.
Hundreds came together to remember a daughter of Acadiana and a mother to Louisiana.
From the moment the grandchildren of the late Governor Kathleen Blanco marched her casket down the aisle, it was clear the funeral was a family affair.
“For those who prayed for healing, you can rest assured your prayers have now been answered”, said Kathleen Blanco’s oldest child, Karmen Blanco-Hartfield.
After a two year battle with incurable cancer, she is survived by her mother, husband, and five of her children. All five took the podium.
“She was more concerned with how her illness affected us”, admitted another of Blanco’s four daughters, Pilar Blanco Eble.
Her daughter Monique Blanco Boulet recalled her mother’s political career, “Her ability to govern is what defined her”.
They also told everyone the late governor’s leadership began in the home.
“She was my calm”, said the youngest daughter Nicole Blanco III, “She was my steady. She was my safe place”
They also paid tribute to what governor Blanco called her most defining moment. The death of her sixth child, Ben, who also died young at the age of 19 in a shipyard accident.
Blanco’s surviving son, Raymond Blanco Jr. choked on tears at the mention of his name, “Through this process unwittingly you played ben’s role along, and I thank you for being grateful to do it”.
Beyond her family, one other moment defined her life.
“The storm came. A storm no one likes to talk about”.–Father Chester Arceneaux, Diocese of Lafayette
As governor, Blanco led Louisiana through the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. Though the storm washed away her aspirations for reelection, her thoughts were always on the others impacted. She fought her security to meet with flood victims in the Superdome, months before she restored the stadium for a future Superbowl championship team.
CBS correspondent David Begnaud recalls what she once told him, “Kathleen wanted to go, and so she went to hug, to hold and to console the people of New Orleans”.
A fitting send off the Diocese of Lafayette says the former governor fully planned herself during her last month of hospice care.
Mandi Mitchell entered public service about the same time Kathleen Blanco became governor. She now works for Louisiana Economic Development and says, “Watching a woman from Acadiana achieve so much, and at the same time be a wonderful wife, a loving mother, and doting grandmother all at the same time is truly inspirational”.
“Her children were lucky to have her as a mother”, Patricia Cottonham, a co-worker and friend for 30 years, told me after the funeral. “Coach was blessed to have her as a wife, and the people of Louisiana and all over the world were blessed to have a Kathleen Babineaux Blanco”.
After the funeral, Blanco’s family attended a private burial.
During the mass of remembrance, her diocese father said her prayer was that she be remembered not for her achievements or her shortcomings but for her faith in God.
“I have no regret. I’m glad I was the governor. I’m glad I had six kids. That I married the man I married.-Governor Kathleen Blanco
My life has truly been charmed and wonderful in so many ways. I did work that was necessary and meaningful.”