New Orleans — Elliot “Doc” Willard, the patriarch of a political family and an educator who served on the Orleans Parish School Board and as a coach, teacher and principal, died on Monday due to complications from pancreatic cancer. He was 81.
A statement released by his family expressed thanks to the community for the outpouring of support and love, and said that “Dr. Willard taught his family morals and values utmost of which was service. Judge Ben Willard and former City Councilwoman Cynthia Willard-Lewis followed in his footsteps and continue to serve the New Orleans community.”
A native of New Orleans, Willard was a star athlete and graduate of Xavier Prep High School and then Xavier University, where he also received his doctorate. He was a football and track coach and teacher at Joseph S. Clark High School and was the principal and a coach at Booker T. Washington and St. Augustine High Schools. He served on the School Board from 1998 until 2004.
“ ‘Doc’ Willard leaves a legacy as an outstanding educator, a community leader and a supporter of public education,” School Superintendent Stan Smith said in a release. “We believe that he will be long remembered for his many achievements.
Constable Lambert Boissiere Jr., a former New Orleans City Council member and state senator, knew Willard both through St. Augustine as well as the political arena.
“He was a very conscientious educator — he always wanted to look out for the welfare of all the kids,” Boissiere said. “He was always for the benefit of other people, and never was self-serving.”
Son Walter Willard said that as a dad, Willard was a fun to be around and could always make his kids roll on the floor with laughter.
Known as a passionate orator, Boissiere said that he “could deliver a message — he was not short of words.” Walter Willard said his speeches fired up and motivated his children, whether on the field or in the classroom.
“He inspired a whole lot of young people to do incredible things,” Walter Willard said. To this day people regularly tell him that they stayed out of trouble and accomplished their goals because of his father.
“He could turn a kid who came from the streets into a gentleman,” Walter Willard said.
Willard is survived by his wife, Mary Jane Willard, his twelve children, 32 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren.
Willard will lie in state today from noon to 4 p.m. at the St. Augustine High School Chapel at 2600 A.P. Tureaud Ave. A public ceremony and memorial service will take place today from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the St. Raymond/St. Leo the Great Catholic Church at 2619 Paris Ave.
On Saturday, a Mass of Christian Burial will take place at 11 a.m. at Mt. Olivet Cemetery preceded by a visitation at 8 a.m. and a reciting of the rosary at 9 a.m. A repast will be held following the burial at St. Mary’s Academy at 6905 Chef Menteur Highway.