Rosalee Baker, 82, a freelance publicist who volunteered long hours to local jazz and journalism, died Nov. 10 at a daughter's home at Plano, Texas. A New Orleans native and life-long resident, Baker was a publicist for the UNO Sandbar Jazz Studies Series, Snug Harbor Jazz Bistro and numerous musicians. A member of the Press Club of New Orleans for 37 years, she received the Star Supporter Award in 2004. She received similar honors from the Amistad Research Center and the League of Women Voters. A retired teacher, she served as director of the Women's Office during Mayor Sidney Barthelemy's administration.
Clarence L. Barney Jr., 70
Former Urban League of Greater New Orleans president Clarence Barney Jr. was a tireless advocate for human rights. He led the local Urban League chapter for more than 30 years, retiring in 1996. He died Aug. 18. "He was an important figure in building bridges between the black and white communities in New Orleans in the 1960s and 1970s," said National Urban League President Marc Morial, the former mayor of New Orleans. "He built the Urban League of Greater New Orleans into an important, respected and effective organization that helped thousands of people find jobs and gain the skills to move into the economic mainstream. My father, Dutch Morial, and I considered Clarence a close friend and trusted ally and advisor."
Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, 81
In those final months, Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown had slowed down considerably, revealing the wear and tear of his various battles with lung cancer, heart disease and emphysema. But Louisianans can be forgiven for citing Gatemouth, whose musical palette featured an indefinable mixture of blues, swing, country, jazz and Cajun, as another victim of Katrina. Brown died Sept. 10 in his childhood home of Orange, Texas, after evacuating from his Slidell home. The latter was destroyed in the storm. "I'm sure he was heartbroken, both literally and figuratively," his spokesman was quoted as saying. Brown, who won a Grammy in 1982 for his album, Alright Again!, recorded with such heavyweights as Eric Clapton, Frank Zappa and Ry Cooder during his 50-year career. No matter how large next year's Jazz Fest will be, it won't be the same without that swaggering guitar and fiddle player, with his cowboy hat and Western-print shirt.
Joseph Casamento, 80
He was born at 4330 Magazine St., and one could make the argument that only Hurricane Katrina prevented Joseph Casamento from dying at the family restaurant at which he had been a fixture since he was a kid. Instead, Casamento died in a Mississippi motel room where he had evacuated for the storm. For years, Casamento knew only one job, one residence and one place to eat, so dedicated was he to the humble diner known for its tiled floors and oysters -- both of which he tended with care. Said one blogger online: "It killed Joe Casamento to leave the city. Tom Benson acts like it would kill him to stay."
Buddy Diliberto, 73
Bernard "Buddy D" Diliberto Jr., a sports journalism icon of New Orleans, died of a heart attack on Jan. 7. A sportswriter and broadcaster whose career spanned more than 50 years, his death prompted an outpouring of public grief. He fathered the "bagheads" -- New Orleans Saints fans who wore sacks over their heads at games in disgust. He championed sports as a bridge over racial divides. He gave voice to the city's working poor and its colorful characters. Commensurately, a grieving gambler noted Buddy died on a day Pittsburgh was a heavy favorite to win Super Bowl XXXIX (won by New England over Philadelphia, 24-21.)
Joe Giarrusso Sr., 82
Joe Giarusso Sr., who served 10 years as NOPD chief and then 18 years on the New Orleans City Council, died last Wednesday after a long illness. Forever known as "The Chief," Giarrusso was a fearless champion of the common man, and from his perch on the council he often derided "big shots" whom he suspected of taking advantage of the little guy. A conservative law-and-order politician, he also was one of former Mayor Dutch Morial's most consistent Council supporters, even on tax matters. He frequently complained that "New Orleans is a nickel-and-dime kinda town" that expects too many services without adequately paying for them. Despite his "tough cop" persona, friends remember him as a gentle, thoughtful and unassuming man.
John Hainkel, 67
State Sen. John Hainkel was a legislative lion who became the only man in America to have presided over both the House of Representatives and the Louisiana Senate during his career, which began in 1968. He died suddenly on April 15. "John could beat you up, then turn on that smile and be laughing a few minutes later," wrote Hainkel's friend, lobbyist Charlie Smith. "He could put on a suit fresh from the cleaners and, a few moments later, look as if he'd just been in a brawl." Although a staunch conservative, Hainkel will be remembered for supporting public arts funding and leading the fight to clean up Lake Pontchartrain.
Mary Hansen, 95
Mary Hansen and her husband, Ernest Hansen, co-founded Hansen's Sno-Bliz snowball stand in 1939. Thanks to Mrs. Hansen's unwavering devotion to homemade syrups and her endearment to generations of native New Orleanians, the bliz-ness became a local landmark at 4801 Tchoupitoulas St. (corner Bordeaux). Mary Hansen died Sept. 8 after she and her husband evacuated the city following Hurricane Katrina. They would have been married 73 years on Nov. 16. Their grandaughter, Ashley Hansen, daughter of Orleans Parish Magistrate Judge Gerard Hansen, will keep the snowball stand open.
Austin Leslie, 71
Leslie, New Orleans' famed fried chicken chef, died Sept. 29 in Atlanta, where he and his wife had evacuated for Hurricane Katrina. Leslie, executive chef of Pampy's Creole Kitchen, previously servedÊ at Jacques-Imo's Cafe and his own Chez Helene. The latter inspired the network television series, Frank's Place. A big man with an infectious smile, Leslie's talents exceeded his signature Cajun-spiced Cornish hens. "Leslie is more than a master of the deep fryer," Gambit Weekly food writer Todd A. Price once wrote. "His expert hand with spices and seasonings makes every entree and side dish distinct."
Fox McKeithen, 58
Secretary of State Fox McKeithen was a rare breed of Louisiana politician -- he placed loyalty to people ahead of loyalty to party. At the time of his death on July 16, he was the state's highest-ranking Republican. McKeithen switched parties to the GOP in 1989 -- a move that shocked his populist Democratic mentor and father, former Gov. John J. McKeithen. With neo-Nazi David Duke running for governor as a Republican, 1991 was not shaping up as a good year for the GOP. But McKeithen won the endorsement of former Mayor Marc Morial's political organization LIFE, won re-election, and never faced a serious challenge again. Above all, McKeithen did an excellent job as secretary of state. It is widely considered the state's most efficient and professional office.
Allison "Tootie" Montana, 82
He was the "chief of chiefs," so cited by the leaders of the other Mardi Gras Indians in honor of what became more than a half-century of masking, and he was proud enough to boast he was the prettiest Mardi Gras Indian in New Orleans. Few disputed this, so when Allison "Tootie" Montana, big chief of the Yellow Pocahontas, spoke at the special hearing called by the City Council on June 27 to address charges of police harassment of Indians during St. Joseph's night (March 19), everyone listened. But Montana collapsed during his presentation and was later declared dead of a heart attack, just after his admonition to council members: "I want this to stop." The big fear now, post-Katrina, is that the Mardi Gras Indian tradition will stop, what with the fear that many will remain displaced throughout the country. It would be the worst thing to happen to Tootie Montana's looming legacy.
E.J. Ourso, 82
E.J. Ourso, a self-made insurance and funeral magnate who sold his companies and devoted his later years to philanthropy, died Dec. 18. A former Gambit Weekly New Orleanian of the Year, Ourso gave away more than $34 million to local charities and schools before his death. The Donaldsonville native moved to New Orleans after retiring, and from his St. Charles Avenue home he donated millions in amounts that ranged from several thousand dollars to $15 million -- the largest going to LSU's College of Business, which now bears his name. For all his wealth, Ourso remained a simple man who always remembered his humble roots.
Stevenson J. Palfi, 52
Filmmaker Stevenson J. Palfi is like so many people who visited New Orleans with only humble intentions, fell in love with the city and stayed. But Palfi took that love one step further by turning his camera on New Orleans' music culture, and the result was the seminal 1982 documentary, Piano Players Rarely Ever Play Together -- featuring Allen Toussaint, Tuts Washington and Professor Longhair. Palfi won several awards for this work, and was working on Ernie K-Doe project when he died last week. For more on his life, see the News section in this issue.
"Hank" Stram, 82
"Hank" Stram, an NFL Hall of Fame head coach and one of the most innovative in the history of the game, led the Kanas City Chiefs to a 23-7 upset of the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl IV in 1969 at Tulane Stadium. He closed his 17-year career with the New Orleans Saints (1976-77), finishing 7-21.ÊAfter leaving the Saints and retiring from the NFL, he decided to call Louisiana home. Stram lived on the Northshore for almost 30 years. He died July 4 in Covington. Ê
David Tyree, 60
Radio listeners loved and respected WWL radio talk show host David Tyree as much as he loved "the world's greatest sinking city" -- as he dubbed it -- and its quirks, which he promoted constantly on his daily show. Gambit Weekly readers paid him tribute in annual Best of New Orleans issues, in 2004 voting his show "Best Radio Afternoon Show" and him "Best Local Radio Talk Show Host." Tyree was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1996 but thought he had defeated the disease until he suffered a relapse last fall. He died on Sept. 12 with his family in Alva, Okla. Friends say one of his last experiences was watching the Saints defeat the Carolina Panthers 23-20 on television the day before he died.