Hemelt: ‘Spencer Chauvin Memorial Bridge’ keeps memory alive

Published 12:03 am Saturday, June 24, 2017

Jennifer Chauvin and family recently gave out a scholarship in Spencer Chauvin’s name to a graduating St. Charles Catholic senior, doing so during a ceremony at St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church in LaPlace.

“My kids and I both stood up by the altar, and my son said next time he is going to speak on behalf of his dad, that way I don’t have to do it,” Jennifer said. “That is fine with me.”

Jennifer Chauvin, along with many others, keep Spencer Chauvin’s memory alive by speaking of him often. Their efforts and the numerous honors — small and large — that have followed Spencer’s death 10 months ago have allowed so many to hold on to the veteran fireman, who was uniquely committed to St. John the Baptist Parish.

Spencer was killed while on the job responding to help at a wreck scene, struck by a speeding driver.

“He loved what he did,” Jennifer told me this week. “He would never trade it for any other job. He liked to help people. He died doing what he loved to do.”

She said her 8-year-old son Jude and 5-year-old daughter Jade often see signs of their father in everyday life.

“It is not any one thing more than another thing,” she said. “Whenever we do find a sign or a penny on the ground or things like that, we always say, ‘Dad is with us.’”

Spencer is going to be with all of us a lot more thanks to signed legislation from Gov. John Bel Edwards, naming the three-mile bridge that spans the Reserve Relief Canal as “Spencer Chauvin Memorial Bridge.”

It’s a fitting tribute for a man known for giving and supported by those closest to him.

Spencer’s mother Donna said her son was known for giving back to others.

“It didn’t matter what you asked him to do,” she said. “Even if it was a difficult job, he would never tell you ‘I can’t do it” or ‘I will do it later.’ If he saw somebody struggling to do something, he was the first one to jump in. If he saw an elderly person getting ready to open the door, he would rush to the door to open it for them. He was just that kind of person.”

To this day, Donna still can see her son’s smile.

“He had a beautiful smile,” she said. “I don’t care what your day was like, if he walked in the door and smiled at you, he lifted you up.”

Spencer’s dad Sonny Chauvin, started as a junior fireman, as did all of his sons.

“They all became paid firemen, working for St. John Parish,” Sonny told me of his sons. “Really, the fire department was our life. We liked helping people.”

Sonny said Spencer was always looking to do something better for the fire department.

“There is risk with the profession,” Sonny said. “You always have that chance. You don’t ever want it to be like that, but that is the way it is. After this happened, our family definitely looks at all firefighters as our sons. It’s one big family.”

Sonny remains proud of Spencer’s many contributions to the community, adding the bridge recognition is an honor appreciated by all his family. He remains thankful to the legislators who supported it.

Stephen Hemelt is publisher and editor of L’OBSERVATEUR. He can be reached at 985-652-9545 or stephen.hemelt@lobservateur.com.