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Obituary: Robert Lee (R.L.) Carmouche – Special Services, 1970-2024

SUNSET ~ Funeral services will be held Monday, April 8, 2024 at a 10:30 a.m. Mass of Christian Burial in St. Charles Borromeo Roman Catholic Church for Robert Lee (R.L.) Carmouche, age 83, who passed away Sunday, March 31, 2024 at his residence in Sunset.

Interment will be in St. Charles Borromeo Cemetery in Grand Coteau. The Rev. Mark Kramer S.J., pastor of St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church, will officiate at the services.

Robert Lee (R.L.) Carmouche, a loving husband and father, beloved educator and advocate for minority students was born on March 8, 1941, to Preston and Hilda Carmouche in Shuteston near the Bellevue community in Opelousas, LA. He was united in marriage to Elizabeth (Betty) Babineaux Carmouche in 1965 and to this union six children were born.

Robert (R.L.) attended Christ the King Catholic Elementary School and St. Peter Claver High School before earning his Bachelors of Science Degree in Mathematics Education at Southern University in Baton Rouge in 1965. He later obtained his Master’s Degree at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette (formerly USL) in 1970 and pursued additional graduate work at UL Lafayette.

After graduation from UL Lafayette, he and Betty initially moved to Bastrop, La to start his career in teaching as a mathematics high school teacher. Missing home, they moved back to Sunset where Robert (R.L.) continued teaching in Church Point and Opelousas, as well as began counseling. It was that love for counseling that drew him back to UL Lafayette as one of a very few black professionals at the time, serving positions as counselor in the Student Support Services program from 1970 to 1972 and Assistant Director of Student Support Services and Upward Bound from 1972 to 1979.

As the current Director of Special Services at UL Lafayette since 1979, Robert (R.L.) was dedicated to increasing educational opportunities for low-income and first-generation students, particularly African American students. He secured millions of dollars in funding for the University’s TRIO Programs, which he initiated, and worked tirelessly to help students achieve their academic and career goals.

Robert (R.L).’s commitment to education and community service extended beyond his work at UL Lafayette. He served as Alderman in the Town of Sunset for over 25 years and was the first African American elected official when elected in 1978. He also served as mayor pro-tem on several occasions, presiding over town meetings periodically. Robert (R.L.) loved serving the town so much that, while he retired from the town in 1998, he decided to serve again later and was re-elected in his home district in 2018, serving the community until his death.

He was essential in acquiring millions of state and federal dollars to implement a federal housing revitalization program used to improve the town’s infrastructure. He also broke down many barriers during his career, serving on numerous educational committees and consulting committees to address the needs of low-income, first-generation, and disabled students.

As a husband, father, grandfather, and great-grandfather, Robert (R.L.)’s, love for his family was immeasurable. He was heavily involved in the growth and well being and events of his children when they were growing up, often taking them on bike rides in the town, with him to conferences in Washington, D.C. or just cross country family trips to California or Florida.

He loved attending his grandchildren and great grandchildren’s school events, no matter the location, as well as playing basketball with them, and/or watching his beloved Ragin Cajun football and basketball games, and of course, the New Orleans Saints. He was also a very skilled handyman and enjoyed farming. Often, he would return home from work, remove his business suit, and put on some overalls to see what kind of work he needed to do outside. That work could range from mowing the lawn, fixing something on the car, or herding cows on his farm property.

He instilled the importance of education in his children and grandchildren, siblings, cousins; in all who he encountered. In conversation with young folks, he would be sure to ask “what are your plans” and if it didn’t involve furthering your education, you better have had a good reason why not. He was the epitome of someone who did not take “no” for an answer, especially if he believed it was the right and just thing to do. It did not matter if it was for work, family, associations, or even just for entertainment purposes.

He never met a stranger and with anyone you could often find him in leisure conversations discussing sports, education, world politics, or family success stories, and more recently fond memories of his childhood.

Throughout his life, R.L. received numerous honors for his work in education and the community, including the Walter O. Mason Award from the Council for Opportunity in Education (COE), induction into the Black History Hall of Fame, and the Martin Luther King Jr. Award from the Office of Vicar for Black Catholics. He also received awards from UL Lafayette, such as the Outstanding Administrative Award from the Black Faculty and Staff Association and the annual achievement award from the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs.

He is survived by his loving wife, Elizabeth (Betty) Carmouche, and six children: Jessica (Randall) Darensbourg of Smyrna, GA; Amanda (James) Lewis of Arnaudville, LA; Christopher (Tomoka) Carmouche of Tucker, GA; Michael (Charlene) Carmouche of London, United Kingdom; Keith (Cindy) Taylor of Scottsdale, AZ; and Jude Kevin (Michelle) Taylor of Port Ludlow, Washington. He is also survived by a son-in-law, Dwayne Henry, a daughter-in-law, Letitia (Koko) Carmouche, two brothers, Herbert (Michelle) Carmouche and Preston Anthony Carmouche of Houston, TX, whom is also his godson,; nine sisters: Syble Charlot, Lori Ann (Paul) Pierre-August of Opelousas, LA, Patricia (Don) Lastrapes of Grand Coteau, LA; Rita Crane, Jeanette Crummedyo, Elizabeth (Jerome) Anderson and Sherell (Paul Jr.) Andres, all of Houston, TX; Wilda Rideau of Harvey, LA; and Pamela (Roderick) Seamster of Yorba Linda, CA; 19 grandchildren; Lauren, Jordan, and Sara Darensbourg; Miles, Cameron, and Kyelon Lewis; Devin (Sasha) and Blake (Acacia) Henry; Brandon Carmouche; Miku Carmouche; Amaya, Layla, and Alivia Carmouche; Jonathan, Jeremi, and Janine Taylor; Eden Campbell; Christian (Katherine) and Matthew (Kelly) Taylor; five great grandchildren – Kaymon and Cohen Lewis, Jayden and Jaycee Henry, and Aella Taylor; four additional godchildren, Ignatious Carmouche, Sr., Herbert Carmouche, Jr., Francis Troy James and DeMarco Anderson; and a host of nieces, nephews, cousins, and friends.

He is preceded in death by his parents, Preston and Hilda Carmouche; in-laws, Francis and Anna Mae Babineaux; one sibling, Alice Carmouche; and two children, Angela Henry and Kevin Carmouche.

Robert L. (R.L.) Carmouche will be deeply missed by all who knew him. His dedication to education, his community, and his family have left a lasting impact and a legacy of service that will continue to inspire many for years to come.

A rosary will be prayed at 7:30 p.m. Sunday in the funeral home.

The family requests that visiting hours be observed from 5:00 p.m. until 9:00 p.m. Sunday and will continue from 8:00 a.m. until service time on Monday.

Pallbearers will be Devin Henry, Jordan Darensbourg, Blake Henry, Miles Lewis, Brandon Carmouche, Cameron Lewis, and Kyelon Lewis.

Honorary pallbearers will be Peter Guilbeau, Roderick Seamster, Paul Andres, Jerome Anderson, Paul Pierre-August, Don Lastrapes, Preston Carmouche, Herbert Carmouche, Jr., Randall Darensbourg, James Lewis, Dwayne Henry, Ignatious Carmouche, Sr., and DeMarco Anderson.

Melancon Funeral Home, Evangeline Memorial Gardens Chapel, 4117 N. University Ave., Carencro, (337) 896-3232, is in charge of arrangements.