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George Rodrigue buried in New Iberia

Jessica Goff, Daily Advertiser, Dec. 21, 2013

Members of the New Iberia Catholic High School class of 1962 release blue balloons Friday during the burial service for their classmate George Rodrigue, the Louisiana artist well-known for his Blue Dog paintings, on Friday. / Leslie Westbrook, The Advertiser

NEW IBERIA — Renowned artist George Rodrigue was buried Friday afternoon in New Iberia, his hometown.

Nearly 200 people gathered for the brief public service in Holy Family Cemetery to pay their respects to the Blue Dog artist.

Rodrigue died from a cancer-related illness on Dec. 14 in Houston.

He was 69.

Tonight fans can catch a hint a blue on the field as the Ragin’ Cajuns square off against Tulane in New Orleans.

“On the way here, we found out that UL for the New Orleans Bowl will actually be wearing little blue dogs on the back of their helmets to honor my dad. We are so touched that UL is doing that,” Rodrigue’s son Jacques announced Friday during the service.

“In true Rodrigue fashion, I’ve already started to work on LSU and the Saints to see if they’ll do the same thing,” he said jokingly.

Those present Friday included former Gov. Kathleen Blanco, also a New Iberia native, and Catholic High principal Ray Simon. Rodrigue was a graduate of CHS’s class of 1962.

His golden-haired wife, Wendy, the subject of several of Rodrigue’s paintings, greeted attendees with tears and hugs before taking a seat with the couple’s family.

An arrangement of white and blue flowers was placed over the artist’s casket.

After the burial, a group of Rodrigue’s CHS classmates released blue balloons as the crowd joined in singing “Amazing Grace.”

The doors and fences of homes along historic downtown New Iberia’s Main Street were decorated Friday with blue ribbons and garlands in Rodrigue’s honor.

New Iberia native and fellow CHS graduate James Cross said he had known Rodrigue since grade school. Rodrigue was a cartoonist for CHS’s school newspaper.

“One of my favorite memories of him was when we were in high school and I was the managing editor of the Panther newspaper. He would draw a cartoon for every issue, but George never got his stuff in on time,” Cross said laughing. “I’d have to go to his house and sit there and make him finish.”

Both went on with their lives after high school but later reconnected when Cross, a former contractor, helped build on to Rodrigue’s gallery on Jefferson Street, he said. The two remained friends, he said.

On Friday, Cross’ wife, Martha, wore a golden oak tree pendant made by Rodrigue and given to her as a wedding present.

“He was not only a generous man, he was a great friend,” Cross said.

Musician David Egan paid his respects to the artist. Egan’s wife, Rhonda, worked in Rodrigue’s New Orleans gallery for several years.

“I just know him to be a great spirit and a very generous soul,” Egan said. “He was just a great guy.”

Blanco and Gov. Bobby Jindal were among the hundreds who gathered in New Orleans on Thursday for a public Mass at St. Louis Cathedral.

During that ceremony, Jindal read a letter from former President George W. Bush.

On Friday, Rodrigue’s son, Jacques, read a letter from Bush’s father, former President George H.W. Bush.

“His Blue Dog paintings have entertained and amused us for years,” Bush said in the letter.

“George will be missed, but we are grateful for the creative and inspirational body of work that he leaves behind.”