Luling pediatrician who took care of generations of children passes away

A longtime pediatrician in Luling who took care of generations of St. Charles Parish children has passed way at the age of 88.

Dr. Eboo Banerjee moved to Luling in 1978 and opened her clinic on Paul Maillard Road. For more than 25 years, her small, tidy building bustled with families from all walks of life whose children needed everything from serious medical interventions to ear piercings.

At the office on Paul Maillard, Banerjee and her staff gave out warmth, laughter and lollipops during visits to take away some of the fears children might have, according to the longtime pediatrician’s daughter, Neela Banerjee. 

“She adopted the affectionate ways people in south Louisiana spoke, and her talks with families were dotted with ‘honeys’ and ‘sugars,’” Neela said. “She saw her patients grow up, have children of their own and then bring their families to her office.”

Since Banerjee took care of so many children in the area, Neela said her family was often noticed went they went out around the parish.

“Any time someone heard my last name, especially if it was a woman, they would say, ‘You’re Dr. Banerjee’s daughter? We go to her! We love her,’” Neela said. “Even recently, when she was in local hospitals, there would be younger staff who knew her because they had grown up in St. Charles Parish.”

While living in Luling, Banerjee and her husband, Neil, nurtured a tight-knit, vibrant Indian community in the greater New Orleans area. The Banerjees had roots in the Bengal region of South Asia. They threw huge dinner parties in their Willowdale home, filled with children, lavish spreads of food and often, the singing of Bengali songs after dinner in the den. The Banerjees also helped organize local Hindu religious festivals.

Banerjee was born in Taunggyi, Burma (Myanmar) in December 1934. She was the youngest of four children to Bengali parents who had immigrated to Burma when the country was part of the larger British colony extending across South Asia.

“Taunggyi is in Burma’s hill country, and her family lived in a house tucked into woods,” Neela said. “She grew up loving animals, especially dogs, and at one point had at least a dozen living in their yard.”

Banerjee lived through the Japanese occupation of Burma during WWII and the Allied bombing in response. The war interrupted her education. but she returned to school afterward, graduated at 15 and enrolled in Rangoon University to study medicine.

In 1963, she married Neil Banerjee. Their marriage was a “love marriage,” not an arranged marriage, which was even more common in Indian society 60 years ago than it is now, Neela added. 

When a new military junta imposed authoritarian rule, the Banerjees left in 1971 for the United States. Because she was foreign-educated, Banerjee repeated residency in the US to practice medicine. 

“She worked 24-hour shifts, and dealt with everything from the flu to gunshot wounds to the bigotry of people who couldn’t grasp that a petite immigrant woman was a doctor,” Neela said.

After her residency, she briefly practiced in New York before joining the U.S. Air Force. The military stationed her at the now-closed England Air Force Base in Alexandria. Upon her discharge from the Air Force, she joined her husband in St. Charles Parish, where he had found work in the construction of the Waterford 3 nuclear plant.

Banerjee passed away peacefully in her Algiers home. She was preceded in death by her siblings in India and her husband, Neil, who passed away in August 2021. She is survived by her son, Joe Banerjee of New Orleans, her daughter, Neela of Washington DC, and a granddaughter.

Neela added that there are so many memories about her mother that stick out to her to this day.

“One early memory of mom is from when I was about seven and we lived in Indio, a town in southern California. Mom couldn’t work yet as a doctor, and when Joe and I came home after school every day we would see Mom reading at the dining table with her back to us, her long black hair undone and spilling down to her waist, with stacks of medical textbooks around her,” she said. “She was studying to pass a test that would let her go through residency again. Even as a little kid, I understood how grueling all this was for her. 

“But what I saw every day was just this grit, this determination, that she would be called Dr. Banerjee again in this new country she’d landed in. I can’t tell you what it does to a little girl – especially back in the 1970s – to see that.”

Despite all the extra studying and long work hours, Neela said her mom was an excellent cook who found time to excel at many different hobbies.

“She would always make our favorite foods when we came back from college or were visiting from out of town: Indian dishes like lamb curry and biryani…Burmese dishes,” she said. “Mom always was creating, doing: she cooked, gardened, crocheted.”