When you say you live in Lakeview, you're saying as much about your way of life as your residency. It's one of New Orleans' great family areas. On weekends, the playgrounds overflow with soccer practices, softball tournaments and scouting troops. Kids trick-or-treat by themselves. Dads coach their kids' soccer teams. Boys get their first taste of football from the annual St. Pius X Men's Club league. Girls go to their first sock-hops at the Knights of Columbus hall near St. Dominic's Church.
As a neighborhood, Lakeview took off in the post-WWII building and baby boom. Now the children and grandchildren of its first settlers live there. If a TV network wanted to re-launch the Eisenhower-era Leave It To Beaver, the show would be set in pre-Katrina Lakeview.
"It's a community unto itself," says Lakeview resident and insurance executive Gary Delahoussaye, 49. "It has grocery stores, churches, playgrounds, coffee shops, laundromats, restaurants -- everything you want and need in a community. When Judy and I first moved here 19 years ago, we had 11 houses on our block that were brand-new. In those 11 houses, there were 34 kids under the age of 9. That was part of the attraction for us, and it's a perfect example of our generation resettling Lakeview after our parents' generation built it.
"Our kids then all grew up together."
Today, Lakeview looks like a scene from a science-fiction horror flick. There is destruction everywhere. For Delahoussaye, Katrina brought a dose of personal and professional irony. He now works 12-14 hours a day, seven days a week helping his insurance clients sort through their claims to get the maximum possible recovery -- while his own house was ruined by 7 feet of water. There is black mold up to the ceilings in every bedroom, each of which looks as though it has been ransacked but not looted. The air is heavy with mold spores. Gilded plates sit neatly in a china cabinet in the dining room, but the table and chairs are falling apart and caked in moldy crust. "We're gonna tear down and rebuild," Delahoussaye says. "Two reasons for that: first, we have a small enough home to take down and put back up with our insurance proceeds; and second, our kids are mostly grown now, so our needs have changed. We can build a new home that fits us for this stage of our lives -- and the next."
Delahoussaye believes most others in his generation will do likewise. But he fears the "pioneer generation" won't return.
"I think the older generation, the first generation of Lakeview residents and the folks who built this community, is having a more difficult time with the notion of starting all over. It's a lot harder to start over when you're in your 70s or 80s than it is when you're in your 40s. It ultimately will make Lakeview younger, and some might say more vibrant, but there will be a huge cultural loss if the older folks don't come back. They were our touchstones."
One part of Lakeview culture that he predicts will return is the sports scene, anchored by Lakeview Soccer Club. "It revolved around the families and the households," says Delahoussaye, who served as a commissioner of the soccer league for many years. "If the younger families come back, Lakeview sports will definitely come back. Lakeview soccer had about 2,200 kids. Lakeview baseball and booster club had about 1,500 kids. Hopefully, there will be lots of reasons for them to come back."
His daughter Amy already offered a hopeful sign. Several weeks ago, Lakeview's under-14 and under-15 girls "premier" soccer teams cobbled together enough players to enter a tournament in Jackson, Miss. Traditionally, the Lakeview teams are heavy favorites in such tournaments. This time, it was all about giving the girls a taste of normalcy by just letting them play.
"It choked me up when I saw what my daughter had written in ink on her thigh for the game," Delahoussaye says. "It said, 'I (shape of a heart) L.V.' That says it all."
- Donn Young
- "We're gonna tear down and rebuild. Our kids are mostly grown now, so our needs have changed. We can build a new home that fits us for this stage of our lives -- and the next." -- Gary Delahoussaye, Lakeview resident, in his soon-to-be-demolished hom