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Obituary: Jackie LeBlanc left genuine legacy as ‘First Lady of Bowling in Lafayette’

Kevin Foote, Acadiana Advocate, May 26, 2020

Jackie LeBlanc

Jackie LeBlanc, shown here with her sons Mike and Maurice, right, during her Hall of Fame induction back in 2008, died at 92 this past weekend after a life and career as "The First Lady of Bowling in Lafayette."

In short, the story of bowling in Lafayette just can’t be told without Jackie LeBlanc as its central figure.

LeBlanc, 92, died Sunday at her home with a legacy of treating bowlers kindly that goes back to the 1950s.

Lafayette Lanes assistant manager Ric Boudreaux calls LeBlanc, "The First Lady of Bowling in Lafayette," and for good reason.

Thousands of people have bowled at Lafayette Lanes on Johnston Street in Lafayette over the past 60 years.

Jackie and her husband Jaco were involved in bowling in Lafayette even before that.

In 1956, the couple opened up Jaco’s Lanes — located on North Pierce Street — and offered bowling there until Lafayette Lanes opened. The LeBlancs sold the equipment from those historic lanes to the Rice Bowl in Crowley and Jackie went to Lafayette Lanes to become the assistant manager for most of the next 35 years.

Ronnie Landry certainly remembers that transition. As the story goes, Landry and his siblings were part of the group that rolled the final balls down the lane at Jaco’s and then the first to roll a ball at Lafayette Lanes in the same day.

“She was an icon,” Landry said. “I never heard her raise her voice. She was always trying to promote bowling. If you were struggling, she’d come out to help you and try to get you rolling again.

“She was always there for you. She was a bowler’s bowler.”

Indeed, Jackie LeBlanc was an institution in Lafayette.

For many years, she wrote a bowling column in the Daily Advertiser to promote the center’s bowling stars. During her years at Lafayette Lanes, LeBlanc organized leagues, created tournaments and ran payroll.

But according to longtime Lafayette Lanes manager Randy LeBlanc (no relation), Jackie was a non-stop promoter of the sport.

“If you were walking in the mall, Jackie might walk up to you and ask if you wanted to bowl in a league or have you ever bowled in a league,” said Randy LeBlanc, who moved to Lafayette Lanes in 1979 and became manager in 1981. “Jackie was on duty 24 hours a day.

“Jackie was influential in getting more people bowling in this town than any woman I know.”

Jackie LeBlanc’s bowling fame stretched beyond Lafayette’s borders. In the 1970s, she created the grandmother’s bowling tournament concept. It was the first of its kind in the nation. Grandmothers from across the country flocked to Lafayette Lanes to participate.

“There were huge contingents from Texas, Florida, Mississippi and Tennessee,” Randy LeBlanc said. “It was a great event.

“She tried to make sure everybody won something. She would go around town to merchants to get stuff. She’d give away necklaces, lamps, just all kinds of stuff. It was unbelievable. The tournament was a great success.”

Boudreaux said he first experienced how popular the grandmother’s tournaments were when he and his buddies showed up during the event for a little jackpot bowling fun in the early 1980s.

“They said, ‘You can’t bowl here, the lanes are full,’” Boudreaux said. “It was like that for weeks. They took up the whole place.”

It was hard to say no to Jackie LeBlanc, because it’s something she never did when others asked for help. Her warm approach to dealing with bowlers made her special to all who crossed her path.

“It wasn’t only because of how nice she was,” Randy LeBlanc said. “She understood people. She really understood people. She understood people’s needs. Jackie had the ability to take a problem and find a way to tell that person yes. She never told anybody no. Sometimes she had to make them dance a little bit, but she ended up being able to say yes. She could get them where she wanted them. She was just wonderful.

“She was very valuable to me. She was just a terrific, terrific person.”

Renella Cormier, youth director at Acadiana Lanes, agreed.

“She was a very classy lady with genuine respect for all people,” Cormier said.

Jackie LeBlanc was honored by every local and state bowling Hall of Fame around. Another one of her life’s passions was honoring World War II survivors. Her husband, Jaco, was a survivor of the USS Bismark. The couple hosted several of the reunions of that ship’s survivors in Lafayette.

“She was just a wonderful person and a wonderful employee,” Randy LeBlanc said.

“She got along with everybody,” Boudreaux said. “That doesn’t happen in bowling or in other sports, but it’s great when it does.”

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Athletic Network Footnote by Dr. Ed Dugas.

Click here for Bowling Milestone Page posted in April, 2020.

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Jacqueline Sue Francez "Jackie" LeBlanc
Jacqueline Sue Francez "Jackie" LeBlanc Obituary

Lafayette – Funeral services will be held on Thursday, May 28, 2020 at 12:00 Noon in La Chapelle de Martin & Castille in Lafayette for Jacqueline "Jackie" Sue Francez LeBlanc, age 92, who passed away peacefully on Sunday, May 24 at her residence in Lafayette. Visitation will be held Thursday morning from 10:00 AM until the service time. Rev. Chris Fuselier will conduct the service.

Interment will be in Greenlawn Memorial Gardens Cemetery.

Jackie was preceded in death by her husband, Louis Joseph "Jaco" LeBlanc; her parents, Maurice H. and Nadine Bodry Francez; and her son, Patrick Lynn LeBlanc, Sr.

She is survived by her two sons, Maurice Sr. and his wife Brenda, of Lafayette, LA and Michael Sr. and his wife Julie, of Baton Rouge, LA; ten grandchildren, Kym and Richard Esparza, Jamie and Clint Seaux, Maurice Jr. "Marc" LeBlanc and Kristy McShan, Jodie and Allan Landry Jr., Carrie LeBlanc, Michael Jr. and his wife Crissy, Kristen and Ty Foreman, Analisa Taylor, Liee’ and Anthony Manzur, and Patrick Jr. and his wife Amanda; eighteen great grandchildren, and two great great grandchildren.

Jackie was born in Lake Charles, LA, November 17, 1927, In 1956, Jackie and Jaco opened up Jaco’s Bowling Lanes which they owned and operated for seven years and then sold the bowling lanes to Rice Bowl in Crowley, LA. Jackie then became Assistant Manager of the new twenty-four lane Bowling Alley owned by Malco Enterprises of Memphis, TN. She was very instrumental in promoting bowling in Lafayette and the surrounding parishes. In 1978, she coordinated the first Grandmother’s Bowling Tournament in the United States, held at Lafayette Lanes. In that same time period she began writing the bowling news and publishing it in the Daily Advertiser through the mid 1990’s. In the late 1990’s, Jackie retired from the Lafayette Bowling Lanes. She was inducted into the Lafayette Women’s Bowling Hall of Fame, the Louisiana Women’s Bowling Hall of Fame and a member of the Women’s International Bowling Congress. She was also a member of the American Legion Auxiliary, the National Women Bowling Writers, Inc., the National Multiple Sclerosis Association and the Republican National Women’s Club.

Among her other activities, she became involved in the Lafayette Chapter of the American Legion, the Concerned Citizens of Lafayette Association and the Petroleum Club of Lafayette. Jackie also co-chaired several of Jaco’s annual reunions of the Sinking of the USS Bismark Association, a ship Jaco served on during WWII.

In her later years, Jackie enjoyed traveling the United States visiting friends and family. She was a loving wife, a wonderful mother and caring and giving person. She will be missed.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorial contributions be made to Hospice of Acadiana, 2600 Johnston St., Suite 200, Lafayette, LA. 70503.

The family wishes to express their appreciation to Rose Broussard, Beatriz Hewel and Dianne Roger.

Pallbearers will be Marc LeBlanc, Michael LeBlanc Jr., Ty Foreman, Patrick LeBlanc Jr., Braydon LeBlanc, and Allan Landry Jr.

View the obituary and guestbook online at www.mourning.com

Martin & Castille-DOWNTOWN-330 St. Landry St., Lafayette, LA 70506, 337-234-2311

Published in the The Advertiser from May 24 to May 25, 2020