Legendary coach, respected leader dies

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 8, 2009

By Ryan Arena

EDGARD—The River Parishes and West St. John community lost one of its most beloved and respected figures on Friday with the death of Rudolph George “Bill” Dinvaut, who passed away at Ochsner Medical Center-Kenner at the age of 80.

The Edgard native was one of the most successful and influential figures on the local prep sports landscape as a coach with 200 career football coaching victories to his credit.

But he’s perhaps just as known for his contributions as a mentor and a supporting figure for those at West St. John.

“When I reflect on my dad, I think about the dignity, character and integrity he always possessed,” said Bridget Dinvaut, one of his three daughters. “Yes, he was a father, but more than that he was a hero to our family and we loved him dearly. It will be a challenge to get over his loss.”

A native of Edgard, Dinvaut made his name on the sports landscape with a sensational run as football coach at Second Ward High School (now West St. John) from 1956-1978, compiling a career record of 200-42-4. He led Second Ward/West St. John to two state championships and 15 district crowns. His team’s peak seasons may have come in 1971-1972, when his team won 29 straight games and captured two undefeated state crowns.

He also made an impact as the coach of the school’s basketball and track teams, leading the track squad to a state crown during his tenure.

Dinvaut became principal of West St. John in 1979, and retired in 1990.

“We are deeply saddened by the loss of Mr. Rudolph Dinvaut, a dedicated former employee of St. John the Baptist Parish School District. Our thoughts and prayers are with Mr. Dinvaut’s family and friends. We especially send our regrets to his two daughters, Bonnie Dinvaut-Irving and Billie Duncan, and his sister, Beverly Harris, who are current and past employees of the district,” said Superintendent Dr. Courtney P. Millet. “He will be dearly missed and always remembered for his commitment to the students of our school system.”

He made such an impression that West St. John’s football stadium was dedicated and renamed after him to Rudolph George Dinvaut Stadium in 2001.

“To have a stadium named after you while you’re still living…what an honor, said West St. John athletic director and football coach Robert Valdez. “The person has to be well-deserving. It simply lets you know about the character of the man and how beloved he was in our community.

“It’s good because down the line, for our kids that may not know who he was and what he stood for…when they see his name on that stadium, and they ask who he was, we’re able to properly educate them on that.”

Also in 2001 St. John the Baptist Parish President Nickie Monica issued a Proclamation declaring October 26, 2001, “Coach Rudolph Dinvaut Day.”

“I guess I never realized how many lives he touched outside of our home,” said Bridget Dinvaut. “I knew the love, admiration and respect that I had for him, but to hear others say it…I have just a sense of awe about him.”

His accomplishments didn’t stop at the sideline. In 2004 he established the Rudolph George Dinvaut Athletic Foundation, which raises money to award college scholarships to graduating West St. John seniors. Additionally, his foundation hosts an annual golf tournament which raises money to support athletics at the school.

“This was a man who dedicated his life to serving our community,” said Valdez. “Sometimes in life, you have the opportunity to meet special people. He’s was one of those for me.”

A graduate of Southern University, in 1998 he was inducted into the school’s Sports Hall of Fame.

He is survived by his three daughters, Bridget Dinvaut, Bonnie Irvin and Billie Duncan, two grandchildren and his siblings, Ferdinand Dinvaut III, Rosemary Sorapuru, Jacqueline Rousseve and Beverly Harris.

A wake service will be held Thursday from 6 p.m. until 9 p.m. and a funeral mass will be held Friday at 11 a.m. Both services will be held at Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church.