LAFAYETTE - Funeral services will be held at a 12 p.m. Mass of Christian Burial Wednesday, March 9, 2005, at Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church for J. Rayburn (Ray) Bertrand, former Lafayette mayor and long-time business and civic leader, who died Sunday, March 6, 2005, at the age of 86.
Burial will be at St. John Cemetery with Delhomme Funeral Home in charge of arrangements.
The Rev. Monsignor Glen John Provost, pastor of Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church, will be celebrant of the Mass and conduct the funeral services.
Ray was best known for his skillful and dedicated guidance of Lafayette during 12 years of unprecedented growth. Elected mayor in 1960, he served in that capacity until 1972. During those eventful years, the population of the city increased from 40,000 to approximately 75,000, and the corporate limits were extended more than 60 times, increasing the size of the city from 8.25 square miles to 24 square miles. During his administration, Lafayette was recognized as Louisiana's fastest growing city, and as a pacesetter in economic development as well as civic and cultural advancement. His superior leadership qualities allowed him to develop the necessary infrastructure to keep pace with the remarkable growth. His accomplishments provided the foundation for the city's progress in future years.
Born in Kinder, Louisiana, Ray and his family moved to Lafayette in 1932 when his father sold his successful electrical operation to a major utility company and returned to his native parish to become active in agriculture and real estate. Ray graduated from Lafayette High School in 1936, then attended LSU and UL Lafayette (then SLI), graduating from UL with a bachelor's degree in accounting, and a major in economics. Shortly after graduation, he applied for aviation cadet training with the U.S. Air Force (then the Army Air Force) and was accepted in December, 1941 after working for a time as an accountant with a New Orleans firm.
He became a fighter pilot early in WWII, flying out of England with the 84th Fighter Squadron, 78th Fighter Group. He was part of its first mission, which was also the first combat mission of the P-47 "Thunderbolt" fighter plane. During two years with the group, he flew 88 combat missions over enemy territory, earning two Distinguished Flying Crosses and seven Air Medals. His group was honored with the Presidential Unit Citation. Flying every position from wing man to group leader of 90 ships, his missions included bomber escort, strafing, fighter sweeps, and drive bombing. He was promoted to major while on combat duty and retired as a Lt. Colonel.
Ray returned to Lafayette after being honorably discharged from the Air Force, and was active in the real estate and insurance field until his election as mayor.
Among the accomplishments of his 12 years in office were:
- Substantial reduction in pollution through major sanitary sewer extension programs.
- Installation of more than 250 miles of sanitary sewer lines plus a similar number of miles of water lines.
- Concrete lining of 16 miles of major drainage channels plus many miles of subsurface drainage improvements - eliminating most of the serious flooding problems in the city.
- Hard surfacing or resurfacing of every street in the city. (More than 40 miles of shell and gravel streets were hard surfaced).
- Initiation of an arterial street system and construction of many miles of its streets.
- Improvements in street lighting on major thoroughfares.
- Installation, in cooperation with the State Highway Dept., of modern traffic control signals at major intersections.
- Increasing electrical generation capacity from 50,000 kw to more than 207,000 kw.
- Tripling the capacity of the water treatment plant.
- Greatly increasing pay and other benefits for city personnel.
- Implementing Civil Service for municipal employees.
- Initiating a study of city government and appointing a charter commission which resulted in the adoption of the Council-Mayor form of government, thus separating the administrative from the legislative branch.
- Building of a new police station, new city court building, new central fire station and three new branch stations (fire insurance rates improved from Class 5 to Class 2); and a planetarium and youth museum.
- Expansion of convention facilities at the Municipal Auditorium.
- Cooperation with the police jury and library commission in construction of a new library.
- Acquisition of hundreds of acres of property for recreation and park use, accompanied by extensive improvements to recreation facilities throughout the city.
- Acquisition of several million dollars from the federal government for use with matching local funds on sewer, water, streets, drainage projects and park improvements.
- Initiation of computer programs for several departments of the city, including city police.
- Twinning of Lafayette with Canadian sister cities Longuefil and Moncton.
During his tenure as mayor, Lafayette went through the tense times of integration. Working in a spirit of cooperation and respect for people of all races, Ray guided the city through those times without the violence and bloodshed that marked the integration of many other southern cities.
During his career as mayor, he was elected president of the Louisiana Municipal Association and was named Louisiana's Mayor of the Year. He also received two Earth Awards from the Louisiana Association of Architects.
Retiring undefeated, Ray joined Guaranty Bank (now BankOne), serving as senior vice president and member of the board of directors. After his retirement from the bank, he continued to manage real estate properties and use his expertise in government to advise and assist boards and commissions working on municipal planning.
His entire life and career reflected an unwavering love for Lafayette and an ongoing desire to help make it a better place in which to live. He served the community in such capacities as member of the Lafayette Airport Commission, the City of Lafayette Planning and Zoning Commission, the Beavers Club, and the American Legion. He was president of the Lafayette Board of Realtors and the state Board of Realtors, member of the Board of Directors of the Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce, co-chairman of The Bishop's Services Appeal, president of the USL Foundation, executive board member of the Evangeline Area Council, Inc. Boy Scouts of America, campaign chairman and president of United Way of Acadiana, and member of the Board of Directors of the Louisiana Gulf Coast Oil Exposition.
He was very active in Mardi Gras activities, serving as King of the Krewe of Attakapas and as King Gabriel XLII among other positions of honor and responsibility.
His enthusiastic community service won him the city's most coveted honor, the Lafayette Civic Cup Award. He was also a recipient of the Evangeline Area Boy Scouts Distinguished Citizens Award and was a member of the Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi and an honorary Member of the UL Blue Key Club.
Of all of his accomplishments, Ray saw as his greatest contribution to the people of Lafayette as the establishment -- in his first term as mayor - of a funding mechanism that has continued to help the city keep pace with growth and progress.
Ray's survivors include his loving widow of 20 years, Faith Mensman Bertrand, Lafayette; a daughter, Cheryl Louise Bertrand, Lafayette; a sister, Ella Bertrand Ousse, New Orleans; a step-daughter, Dana Faith Whelchel Holladay, her husband, James V. Holladay, III and their daughter, Faith Joann Holladay, all of Lafayette; two grandsons, Joseph Michael Whittenberg, Jr. and his wife, Suzanne Abshire Whittenberg, Youngsville; and John Rayburn Whittenberg and his wife, Joanna Eues Whittenberg, Lafayette; and great-grandchildren, Amanda Whittenberg, Youngsville; and Joseph Michael Whittenberg II, and Charles Rayburn Whittenberg, Lafayette.
He was preceded in death by his father, Joseph Claude Bertrand; his mother, Ethel Marie Acosta Bertrand; three brothers, long-time state Representative Richard Bertrand, Carl Bertrand and Sherelly Bertrand; and his former wife, Martha Julie Burgin Bertrand.
Visiting hours will be observed on Tuesday from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. and will continue on Wednesday from 9 a.m. until the time of services.
A rosary will be recited at 6 p.m. Tuesday by Rev. Monsignor Harry Benefiel.
Pallbearers will be Joseph Michael Whittenberg, John Rayburn Whittenberg, James V. Holladay III, M. E. (Bo) Eagles, Michael Blackman and Charles Murray.
Honorary pallbearers will be Jules Menou Arceneaux, Arthur J. Broussard, Nancy Van Eaton Broussard, Glynn Abel, E.R. (Ray) Desormeaux, Dan Boudreaux, Howard S. Dailey, Rob Roy and Emery Domingue.
The family wishes to thank Ray's wonderful caregivers during this difficult time: Annette Nunez, Beverly Charlot, Janice Gilbert, Angie Broussard, Emma Leon and Rolanda Crouchet.
The family wishes to thank the following doctors, Edward Lyons, MD, James M. Arterburn, MD, Stephen Abshire, MD, Paul Breaux MD for their care and kindness during Mr. Bertrand's illness.
In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to Hospice of Acadiana, Our Lady of Fatima Church or The Community Foundation of Acadiana.
Delhomme Funeral Home, 1011 Bertrand Drive, is in charge of all funeral arrangements.
Originally published March 8, 2005
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