Petition asks street be named after Jay Gauthreaux

Published 11:45 pm Friday, July 18, 2014

By Stephen Hemelt

VACHERIE — The cousin of a St. James High School graduate who died fighting for the U.S. Army in Iraq formally presented a petition to the Parish Council asking for the road outside the under-construction stadium to be renamed in his honor.

Jay Gauthreaux graduated from St. James High in 1998, and his father Michael Gauthreaux said Jay enlisted in the U.S. Army immediately after, leaving for boot camp and skipping a class trip in favor of serving his country.

Gauthreaux, 26, died Dec. 4, 2006, in Baqubah, Iraq, when an improvised explosive device exploded the Humvee he was in, where he worked as a gunner.

He was serving his second tour of duty in Iraq when he was killed in action.

On Wednesday, St. James ROTC instructor Col. Linda Colar and Jill Griffin — Jay’s cousin — presented a petition that included 700 signatures asking the St. James Parish Council to rename Champion Street, which is located outside the new St. James football complex being built at Louisiana 3127 and Louisiana 20.

It was also requested one of the football stadium’s entrances be named in Jay’s honor.

The Parish Council took no formal action on the request.

District 7 Councilman James Brazan said he would love to accommodate Griffin’s request, but he also wants to work with St. James Parish Schools, which just this year asked the road in question be named Champion Street.

St. James Parish President Timothy Roussel said any decision to change the name of the road would ultimately fall under the discretion of the Parish Council.

Brazan previously told L’OBSERVATEUR that naming a road in honor of a fallen hero is a complicated process.

“The problem is when you start naming a street after the young man — and he deserves it, no question about it — we have I think seven or eight that were killed in the Vacherie-area alone in war and we haven’t named any streets after them,” Brazan said. “If the school wants to do it, we have no issue. It’s a tough issue. It’s a touchy issue, but (Jill Griffin) got so many people that signed (the petition) that I wanted to give her an opportunity to come before the council.”

Faye Crawford, Jay’s mother who lives in Missouri, said she has been working for years to get a road or highway named in her son’s honor. She does not think the fact others from the area who have lost their lives in service to the country and have not had formal naming ceremonies should automatically prevent similar actions from happening in the future.

“My argument to that is let’s say the parish president is doing an excellent job, and once he retires and dies and they want to put up a memorial for him or name a building for him, they shouldn’t do that because five parish presidents back we didn’t do it for all the parish presidents?” Crawford said.

“That just does not make sense to me. I don’t think that is a valid argument at all.”

Jay’s 12-year-old son Devin lives with Crawford, and she said she keeps active a Facebook page in honor of Jay and her efforts to name a road after him as a way to pay tribute to her son’s sacrifice and provide something tangible by which Devin can remember his father.

“Because these other families haven’t petitioned for anything, why knock us down?” Crawford said. “Jay was 17 when he joined the service. I had to sign for him. He left behind a 4-year-old child (when he died in 2006). Maybe, I’m looking at it as a mother. I have tunnel vision because I can only see my son.”

The St. James Parish School Board meets Tuesday and will have the opportunity to address the naming request.