Hurricane Katrina & Its Aftermath

August 29, 2005, A day which will live in infamy for the New Orleans area. Hurricane Katrina packing winds of 160 miles per hour came ashore just east of New Odeans- After the storm had passed, three levees in the city of New Orleans gave way rapidty filling the city with flood waters. This water then flowed through the open levee at Airline Drive into Jefferson Parish flooding the Beverly Knoll subdivision. American Legion Post 350’s hall now had three to four feet of water in it. It took about a month before the water subsided, leaving debris and mold everywhere.

Many post members homes were destroyed. Some members scattered, never to be heard from again. Four members retained their memberships but now they lived in Colorado, Texas, North Mississippi, and Alabama.

One by one, a few members started to come by the post. A number of the older members, came by and tooked around and then left because they were unable to help. Led by Post Commander Will Lacaze and club president Harold Holmes, the first order of business was to get rid of all water-logged debris and strip the walls to the studs. Years of post records were thrown in to the trash. Old,outdated records stored in the attic did survive. Tables and chairs were thrown into the trash heap. The bar in the main hall was torn out. The Springfield rifles had been underwater and had been saved by the efforts of Rene Juneau when he used WD 40 on them and stored them in a dry place. When they were finished, the post was empty and gutted down the wall studs.

The first post meeting that could be held after the storm was held in the parking lot. By then an awful secret was known, the post had neglected to buy flood insurance. If the post was to be rebuilt, it had to be rebuilt with the money on hand. Thus began the slow process of repairing the post. Here is the most accurate list of the members who assisted in this effort: Will Lacaze, Harold Holmes, Eddie Davis, Jay Werner, Eddie Lassabe, Chester Poche, Russell Totora, Rene Juneau, Rickey Ashley, and Auggie Mura. The vast majority were past retirement age.

Nothing could be conducted at the hall. The whole hall had to be re-wired if it were to have electricity again. The kitchen was wrecked, and the walk in refrigerator/freezer’s wiring was destroyed. Repairs proceeded slowly, the work force began to drop off even further. lt was then that Harold Holmes called on an old friend, Lee Cox.

Lee was persuaded to transfer his membership from another post and to assist in the rebuilding effort. Lee had been a project manager and had extensive experience for the task on hand. Eventhough, Lee was only the elected finance officer, he soon found himself in charge when Will and Harold exited. Lee carefully managed what money the post still had by hiring day labor to make the repairs happen. Lee spent many hours supervising the work that was now moving along at a steady pace. Lee was assisted by John Peppo and Jay Werner when he needed some relief.

Rene Juneau and Auggie Mura were “hands on” in many repairs. Rene Juneau had been for years the repairman of the post. While Joe Kennedy was adjutant, Rene started making any repairs to the hall that was needed. He could repair just about anything that was in the hall. You could always find Rene at any time fixing what needed to be fixed. He and his wife Brenda can be found at most patriotic observances. As sergeant at arms, his efforts make all post activities run smoothly. When we have a flag retirement ceremony, Rene works with the boy scouts to make the ceremony a success…..add him to the list as an outstanding member.

ln 2006-2007, Rickey Ashley must be remembered for his selfless act. Rickey was slated to be commander when Charles (Jake) Walters requested to be commander before it was too late. Jake was very ill. Rickey stepped aside to let Jake be the commander. Rickey then stepped in to do the commander’s duties for Jake.

By late 2008, the repairs were now completed. New wiring, new walls, new floor, and a expanded front hall bar. The kitchen now had a donated used commercial stove but the exhaust system was still not complete. The refrigerator/freezer was only good now for a storage area. The front office was gone.

A new problem was becoming apparent, the post was running out of money. it was essential that post 350 need to have a income or the post would soon have to be shuttered. Lee organized a system in which the rentals could be restarted. A few contracts were written, but it became apparent by March 2009 Lee could do no more. His health was failing him.

Lee Cox is included in the list of outstanding post members. His efforts insured that the hall was repaired after Hurricane Katrina and thus the post was able to continue.