Carrying the Cross
After tragic loss of son, father resurrects St. Gertrude cross
It was Des Allemands resident Norman Griffin who spearheaded the project and recruited others from the community to help install the one-of-a-kind cross.
“I had noticed a couple of months back that the cross had never been repaired after it was damaged in Hurricane Katrina,” Norman said. “It was laid on its side for years and then damaged again in Hurricane Gustav.”
The cross, originally made of wood, also fell prey to termite damage and was rotting. The statue of Jesus had both arms broken off at the shoulder.
“I contacted the church and asked if it would be OK with them if I fixed the statue,” Norman said. “They said that they didn’t have a problem with that, but were concerned about the cost of the repairs.”
With the church’s permission, Norman, who is the father of the late Jacque Griffin, began making repairs to the cross.
“A friend of mine, Kirk Matherne, let me use his shop and material, and helped me to restore the entire cross and statue in fiberglass so that it will last through the years,” he said. “After three days, we were finished and Kirk told me not to worry about paying for the material and use of his shop. He said that the cross would stand in memory of Jacque.”
Jacque, a parish waterworks employee, was killed when his work truck was hit by a train in Paradis. Norman said that Jacque was a big reason behind the cross statue’s resurrection.
“When I first began working on the cross, I did it just to stay busy,” he said. “It’s been hard since my son’s death and I just wanted something to keep my mind off of things.”
Many neighbors and friends of the Griffin family agree that Jacque’s tragic death shook the community, but feel that Norman’s feat of repairing the cross will never be forgotten.
“It is beautiful,” said family friend Joann Barrios. “When Norman does something, he puts his whole heart, mind and soul into it.”
Others who helped with the final installation included Rene’ “Poncho” Matherne, Jerry Justice, Zeke Fonseca, Robert Griffin, Terry Griffin, Jarvis Barrios and Bart Foret.
“The event was a great symbol of how God’s love pulls people together for a good purpose,” Barrios said. “Especially when they put Jesus in the center of their life.”
Griffin says that the new cross and statue should last the church anywhere from 40 to 50 years.
“At first I wanted to do it because it needed to be done and because I needed to keep busy,” he said. “And it meant a lot to me to have so many family and friends help keep Jacque’s memory alive.”
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A young picture of Buddy Keating shows him smiling and enjoying a cigarette on “R and R” in Japan. On the sleeve of his shirt are the visible three chevrons up and two stripes down of a sergeant 1st class--a rank that, today, takes an average of 12 and a half years to attain.
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