On Thursday, May 3, 2018, St. Bernard Parish has lost one of its best known and most vocal civic leaders, Henry Joseph “Junior” Rodriguez Jr. at the age of 82. “Junior” passed away peacefully at his home while surrounded by family and friends. He is survived by his loving wife of 51 years, Jessie Evelyn Phillips Rodriguez. Beloved father of Henry Joseph Rodriguez III, Jeff McClain, Shawn Rodriguez Barbay, Kimberly McClain Kramer and Rhonda Rodriguez Hannan. Proud grandfather of Brandon Lee Steward, Henry Joseph Rodriguez IV, Joseph Henry Rodriguez, David Jeffery McClain Jr., Amanda Lynn McClain, Michaela Jessalyn Kramer, Amy McClain Butler, Gavin Matthew Goldsby and Glenn Thomas Kramer Jr.. Great grandfather of Hayden Arielle Steward-Clark, Jace Lee Steward and Mason Blaine Martinez. Brother of Judy Rodriguez Borne. Predeceased by his parents, Henry Joseph Rodriguez Sr. and Myrtle Nunez; and his sister, Sandra Barbara Rodriguez. He is also survived and fondly remembered by many nieces, nephews, cousins, dear friends, and especially Gregory “Buffy” James.
“Junior” was a native and life-long resident of St. Bernard Parish with his heart in Verret. He was a graduate of Holy Cross High School and attended Loyola University in New Orleans. His distinguished public service to the people of St. Bernard Parish extended over three decades from 1976 to 2008, as a member of the St. Bernard Parish Police Jury, Ward K, Police Jury vice president, Police Jury president, St. Bernard Parish Council, District E, councilman-at-large and parish president – he served as a member of the governing authorities of St. Bernard Parish and had one of the longest consecutive tenures in office of any elected official in St. Bernard’s history. He was a founder of Los Islenos Heritage and Cultural Society and vigorously involved himself in the development of Los Islenos Museum Complex over many decades, actively supported The St. Bernard Historical Society and became nationally recognized as a forceful, highly vocal advocate for wetlands stabilization and restoration in St. Bernard and Louisiana. He was equally vocal in calling attention regionally and nationally to the catastrophic devastation wrought on St. Bernard Parish by Hurricane Katrina and began the recovery/rebuilding process.
“Junior” descended from Canary Island colonists who founded St. Bernard Parish in 1779 – 1780. He spent much of his childhood in Toca Village, nestled along the banks of Bayou Terre-aux-Boeufs where the parish was first settled. Always an individualist, “Junior” established himself as a “force of nature.” His penetrating wit and sense of satire were hallmarks of his personality, for friend and foe alike felt its sting regularly. “Junior” was a loyal and generous friend, always present to offer a helping hand to those in need. His career included working as a carpenter, construction and heavy equipment operator, trapper, commercial fisherman and restaurateur – he was eclectic in his talents and interests.
“Junior” was sworn into office in 1976 as Ward K police juror. Coastal erosion, community pride, enhanced maintenance of public property and resources, replenishing trees and plant life in wetland areas, the rights of commercial fisherman, preservation of cultural legacies and the development of new resources which benefitted eastern St. Bernard were among “Junior’s” priorities upon assuming office as an elected official. “Junior” battled through a tough political environment during his entire career to deliver the very best to the people of St. Bernard Parish. He knew how to capture and hold the attention of state and federal government administrators and the press government officials as no one else could. He was known and respected by many, particularly the Canary Islanders or Islenos of St. Bernard. He “told it” as they, his constituency, saw it – no other elected official in St. Bernard was a more astute observer of his constituency than “Junior.”
Serving more than 31 years consecutively from 1976 to 2008, “Junior” had one of the longest tenures of service in the governing authorities of St. Bernard Parish. He was elected to the Police Jury and transitioned to the parish council, serving as a member of the first St. Bernard Parish Council in 1992 until 2004. “Junior” elected parish president in 2003 and led St. Bernard through the catastrophe of Hurricane Katrina. “Junior” fit no mold – he was a populist, a conservative, a libertarian, a preservationist, an environmentalist but most significantly, “Junior” was always first and foremost “JUNIOR.” “Junior” was a true force of nature, always larger than life, a great friend and worthy adversary. His passing signifies the end of an era.
In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation in memory of “Junior” to: The Los Islenos Heritage and Cultural Society, 1357 Bayou Rd., St. Bernard, LA 70085 or The St. Bernard Wetlands Foundation, P.O. Box 164, Meraux, LA 70075.
Relatives and friends are invited to attend an evening visitation to be held at The Frederick J. Sigur Civic Center, 8245 W Judge Perez Dr., Chalmette, LA on Thursday, May 10th from 4:00PM – 9:00PM. A private Funeral Mass will take place at ST. BERNARD CATHOLIC CHURCH, 2820 Bayou Rd., St. Bernard, LA on Friday, May 11th beginning at 1:00PM. A public celebration and Repass will take place following his burial at Los Islenos Museum Complex, 1357 Bayou Rd., St. Bernard LA. He will be laid to rest with Military Honors in St. Bernard Catholic Cemetery. To view and sign the Family Guestbook, please visit www.stbernardmemorial.com