Gertie would like to let ya’ll know her work here on earth is done after 94 years and 11 months. She received a call from God, a sort of offer, to go up to heaven. It was an offer she could not refuse but she tried her best to not make the appointment. She knew God was calling her home but she just liked living in Maine so much. Finally, on August 26th at 8:45 PM Gertie made her appointment with God.
Gertie was born in Eunice, Louisiana. According to the US Government and the St. Anthony Catholic Church in Eunice, LA she was born September 26, 1928. Her parents said she born on November 12, 1928. Gertie loved having this conflict of birth dates, always wanting to celebrate both so she could get presents and a cake twice instead of once a year. Gertie died in Newcastle, Maine in the comfort of her daughter’s home, Edmée Déjean, who took care of her for many months when her heart began to fail.
Gertie grew up on a farm outside of Eunice. She was always proud to say she born a sharecropper’s daughter, picking cotton and cutting sugar cane by hand until she was in her mid teens. She adored her wonderful parents and her 9 brothers and sisters. Gertie spoke only Cajun French until she was about 10 years old. Teachers in South Louisiana would paddle children for speaking Cajun French so she learned to speak broken English but maintained her heavy Cajun French accent. She was proud to be an Acadian descendant of Nova Scotia, Canada, having ventured there twice to walk where her ancestors walked.
Gertie lived the majority of her adult life in Lafayette, Louisiana where she met her love of her life, Charles Oden Déjean, Jr. of an old aristocratic French family. Together they built a home for their children and everyone else she took into that home. She raised Joyce Letieur from the age of 9, took in siblings, in laws, friends and nieces/nephews. She never turned away anyone who showed up with a suitcase at her backdoor. Gertie was a care taker of many including her father-in-law and parents, always giving of herself, expecting nothing in return. She adored her mother-in-law, Edmée Deblanc Déjean.
Gertie enjoyed having fun with her husband. She loved New Orleans, the music, the foods, the cocktails and the lifestyle of the French Quarter. On any given week you could find her and her husband at the Roosevelt or the Monteleone Hotels enjoying entertainment and the luxuries provided. Her favorite restaurant, where she retuned hundreds of times, was the Court of Two Sisters. She was a personal friend of Liberace, the famous singer/ pianist/actor who was the highest paid entertainer from the 1950s through the 1970s. She and her husband dined on many, many occasions with Dale Evans and Roy Rogers, Coach Bear Bryant, Fats Domino, Jerry Lee Lewis, civil rights leaders and Governors of Louisiana. She and her husband owned lumber yards, saw mills, pulp wood companies and logging companies throughout the State of Louisiana. Their companies built hundreds of homes throughout Lafayette.
Gertie Manuel Déjean was a southern, old fashion lady. She loved beautiful clothes, makeup and aways looked her best, which was beautiful each day. She loved to sing and dance to Jazz, Cajun and Country Western music and could cook a meal with no recipe just by tasting it. In Chicago she first tasted Chicken-a-la-King. When she flew home she cooked it perfectly from her taste buds. Gertie traveled extensively with Mexico City and Acapulco always being her favorite destinations. She and her husband would rent an entire train car and travel with their families and friends to Mexico to have a good time. She so loved life filled with fun and family. She use to always say that life gives you some hard knocks but you must always get back up to be better than before.
After becoming a widow, she worked at Vermillionville in Lafayette as a tour guide, tourist demonstration cook and taught Cajun Chefs how to cook authentic Cajun Cuisine. Her passion was cooking with a “joie de vivre.”
Gertie moved to Maine in 2005, at the age of 77 with her cat to be with her daughter Edmée and her daughter-in-law, Heather Chapman. She began a new chapter in her life. She volunteered for many years at the Lincoln Home for the Elderly Thrift Store, was a member of various civil rights and women’s rights organizations, a proud lifetime liberal Democrat and a strong believer in her Catholic faith. Gertie never missed a day without prayer, silently reciting her rosary. She loved attending St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Newcastle, ME for many years. Gertie taught herself to make beautiful quilts and sea glass jewelry and enjoyed painting primitive art. She adored the works of artist Clementine Hunter of Natchitoches, LA.
Gertie is preceded in death by her parents, Marie Jeansonne Manuel and Ulysses Manuel, her husband Charles Oden Déjean, Jr., step son and Vietnam War hero Charles Oden Déjean III, brothers Murphy Manuel and Hadley Manuel, sisters Lorina Guillory, Tessie Andrepont, Esther Pitre, Belinda Domingue, grandson Shawn Duane Buchanan and daughter-in-laws Bridget Déjean and Heather Chapman.
Gertie is survived by one son, Charles Wayne Darbonne and his wife Genevive of Scott, LA and two daughters, Margie Bendorf of Janesville, Wisconsin and Edmée Déjean of Newcastle, ME. She is also survived by two grandsons, Mark Darbonne of Carencro, LA and Shawn David Darbonne of Sunset, LA and step granddaughter Karin Déjean of Munich, Germany. Surviving siblings are Lelda White of Marrero, LA, Dudley Manuel and wife Bonita of Eunice, LA and Mary Jane Briscoe and husband Anthony of Opelousas, LA. She is also survived by numerous great grand children and great, great grand children and many nieces and nephews she adored. Lastly she is survived by Lance Blanchard of Jacksonville, FL, a young man who grew up to be like a grandson to her. Buddy Boy Eisenstein, her grand dog, was her special animal companion.
The family wishes to express special gratitude to Amedisys Home Heath
and to the phenomenal personnel of Beacon Hospice who gave Gertie first class care.
Gertie’s ashes will be buried next Summer/Fall with her husband’s body at the Calvary Catholic Cemetery in Lafayette, LA. She and her husband always wanted to hear the bells of the Carmelite Nuns ring each day.
A donation of a history book can be made in her honor to a library of your choosing. Gertie so believed that history held the the lessons we needed to learn for a better tomorrow.
Hall’s of Waldoboro has care of the arrangements. To extend online condolences, light a candle for Gertie or to share a story or picture, please visit her book of memories at hallfuneralhomes.com